December 8, 2015

Death by food: truffle and blood edition

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It's been just about 6 months since my friends and I experienced some disastrous service at (my formerly beloved) Caprice, and I had pretty much written the place off until who-knows-when.  None of my regular crew were going back any time soon, so it ceased to be on my list of dining choices.

But I got a ping from The Man in White T-Shirt last week, asking me whether I'd wanna go to Caprice to have lièvre à la royale.  I have a special place in my heart for this dish, and we had shared a spectacular version of it at Amber last year.  So the three of us showed up for lunch today to see what the kitchen can do.

When I first sat down and looked around the room, at first I was amazed that I did not see a single familiar face.  Thankfully that changed when Timothy came over to greet me... and soon Sebastien Allano - as thin as always - also came by.  A little bit of that warm and fuzzy feeling came back.

Sebastien was kind enough to offer us some Champagne to start, and poured us some of my favorite Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru.  This bottle was disgorged in July 2015 after 48 months on lees.  Nice and crisp on the palate, still very young and vibrant, and a little yeasty.  A little on the lean side at first, but the finish displayed more ripeness with a little time.  After the temperature warmed up more, and after mouthfuls of oyster and caviar, this became much more full-bodied.  Delicious.

L'huître Gillardeau, les coquillages - poached Gillardeau oyster on a bed of oyster and shellfish tartare, with a layer of sea water jelly and Kristal caviar.  A beautiful dish to start our lunch with.  Gillardeau is undoubtedly my favorite oyster, and the sea water jelly complemented its flavors perfectly.  The Granny Smith apple - in julienne as well as in diced form mixed into the tartare - added the right amount of sweetness and a hint of acidity, together with crème fraîche.  All the different ingredients just seemed to come together harmoniously in one mouthful.

L'oursin, le cœur de saumon fumé d'ecosse - a layer of smoked Scottish salmon, plus a layer of fennel jelly with sea urchin, topped with a thick layer of fennel mousse.  Garnished with sea urchin, caviar, croûtons, and crème fraîche with a few sprigs of dill.

Almost ethereal on its own, but even more satisfying on blinis.  While not exactly Café Anglais' Blinis Demidoff from Babette's Feast, I'm sure this was no less enjoyable.  I simply shoved the whole blini into my mouth... and somehow, a smile just appeared on my face.

This soup came with chestnut purée, raw and cooked chestnuts, quenelles of pheasant, foie gras cubes, and black truffle.  Love the soft, truffled quenelles, and of course the chestnuts whose sweetness helped temper the slightly-heavily seasoned soup.

I was getting a little full, and had hoped that the next course would be our main event but, alas, it was not to be...

In the middle of the bowl was a custard made with pike perch, monkfish, and egg which had been pan-fried (with a very thin layer of bread?) until crispy on one side.  The accompanying onion consommé was made with Château-Chalon.  Garnished with some sautéed mushrooms.

Then these beautiful white truffles from Alba magically appeared...

It's no surprise the dish with white truffle on top smelled heavenly.  But even without the truffles, the alluring fragrance of vin jaune in the consommé came through.  The consommé itself tasted simultaneously sweet, acidic, and a little alcoholic.  As for the custard?  Silky and fluffy, but ever-so-slightly crispy on one side.  Just gorgeous.

Enfin!  Il est arrivé!  La pièce de résistance!

Lièvre à la royale - this was what we came for, but I didn't have much room in my stomach anymore... And this, of course, would be the heaviest dish of all.  It came with the classic sauce that gleamed in the sunlight - made with hare blood, pork blood, offal, Sherry, and Cognac.  Apparently a Thermomix was involved...  Sooo rich.  So heavy...

2007 François Villard Saint Joseph Reflet - served chilled so it's more refreshing.  Nice acidity here with sharp precision.  A little smoke, a little mineral and metallic.  A great wine to go with a heavy, gamey dish selected by Sebastien.

The hare was wrapped in caul fat, and stuffed with a block of foie gras surrounded by a ring of blended hare offal and black truffles.  Classic textures and flavors.  The chefs said that they made the roll shorter in diameter and cut thicker slices to make the experience more satisfying.
Tagliolini with black truffle - this was a "side dish" to the heavy main course, and... surprise, surprise... it was actually heavier than the main course!  I don't think I've ever had a pasta course that used more rich cream and butter... this was bordering on the ridiculous.  So rich, in fact, that it almost put me over the edge.  The only reason I persevered and ate all of the pasta?  All those little bits of black truffle in the sauce, and there was a lot of it.  Oh and those shavings of black truffles didn't hurt, either...  The fragrance from the truffles was just incredible.

I knew the kitchen wouldn't let us off so easily, given that they've recently gotten themselves a brand new pastry chef.  Sure enough, Chef Nicolas Lambert delivered three deserts to our table.

Baba au rhum, mandarine Corse - the baba is soaked in mandarin juice and vanilla, then it's hollowed and stuffed with mandarin segments, Corsican mandarin sorbet, and topped with chestnut cream with mandarin tuiles.  I love citrusy desserts because they're so refreshing, and this was no exception.  The chestnut cream was so light that it went perfectly with the mandarin.

Le chocolat Tanariva - chocolate meringue at the bottom with white truffle ice cream, Tanariva chantilly, and white truffle cream.  Plus white truffle shavings, of course!  What's not to like?!

La tarte au choclat - ganache made from Macaé chocolate sandwiched between two layers of chocolate feuillantine, with chantilly made from Guanaja (dark chocolate) and Tanariva (milk chocolate), and cocoa tuiles on top.  A chocolate lover's dream.

Mignardises came, and yes, we finished these, too...  We've got cream puffs filled with confit pear and cream, chocolates with vanilla ganache, and citrus macarons with lemon, lime, and orange ganache.  The macarons even look like oranges.  Cute.

Even though we started to complain about having too much food when the pike custard arrived, we nevertheless managed to power through and took down each and every subsequent dish.  It's amazing how much one's stomach is able to expand...

This was a fantastic meal.  In my two previous visits after Chef Fabrice Vulin's arrival, I had been impressed by the quality level of his cuisine.  Today the kitchen took it up to another level, and we gave our compliments to Chef Vulin and Sous Chef Jonas Noël.  As for the desserts, I do agree with what The Man in White T-Shirt said: in all these years, the desserts at Caprice had never looked as pretty as they do now.

(Un)fortunately for me, it seems there is now another chef in town besides Uwe Opocensky who has tried to kill me with too much food...


Unknown said...

Do they have a new Chef Pâtissier? The desserts look very different and very promising. (I'm more impressed by the desserts when looking at your photos)

Peech said...

Yes, Nicolas Lambert joined recently, and everyone raves about the new desserts. I've never been shy about telling everyone that I didn't like Marike's desserts...

Unknown said...

It seems that Nicolas Lambert used to work at Plaza Athenee, so I assumed he might have learnt something from Christophe Michalak.

Anonymous said...


You have a tough job. Excellent review.



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