April 28, 2018

Springtime in the south of France

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My mission to spread the word about Ricardo Chaneton's cuisine at "the new Petrus" continues, and tonight I managed to convince the Film Buff to join me.  Like many others, his last visit to the restaurant - under a different chef years ago - was not memorable... but he was willing to give the restaurant another try.

Our amuse bouche tonight was lobster with smoked herring roe, borage leaf, and finished with oil extracted by pressing black olives from Aix-en-Provence.  There seemed to be little bits of diced fruit mixed in... some type of melon, perhaps?

Otoro tartare, Gariguette strawberries, dill and white balsamic - OK, Ricardo asked me about allergies ahead of time, and I said "just the usual".  I did not ask whether this was bluefin or yellowfin, but I'll assume the worst and treat this as bluefin - which Hello Kitty and I actively avoid whenever possible.

Having said that, this was delicious.  The very fatty tuna belly had melted somewhat after being diced up, and came with not just slices of fresh Gariguettes but what seemed to be crunchy bits of freeze-dried strawberries.  Very interesting.

King crab warm salad, aloe vera, ginger, cucumber and Oscietra caviar - there was something familiar about the flavors of the Alaskan king crab... something that seemed "Asian"... then I realized it reminded me of the way Chinese people stir-fry crab with ginger and spring onions.  The cucumber flower and herbs came, of course, from the rooftop garden.

Fario trout from Roquebillière - France, escargots and herbs sauce - the brown trout came from just outside of Nice, and was very, very tender.  Some trout roe was served on mashed potatoes, which were pretty nice.  A few escargots were hidden underneath the trout, and these were surprisingly under-seasoned.  The tarragon sauce seemed to come to a little anise flavors.  

Morels, white asparagus, fava bean and vin jaune - YUM!  Besides the tips of white asparagus on the plate, little bits of them have also been stuffed inside the morels, along with what seemed like finely diced green asparagus... or was there also broccoli?  The fava beans, new potatoes, and mushroom purée complete this "vegetarian" dish - along with what tasted like chicken jus with vin jaune.

Grilled monkfish and veal sweetbread, confit Menton lemon sauce and veal jus - I had seen pictures of this dish, and always wondered how the two ingredients would work together.

As it turned out, the monkfish and the sweetbread had similar textures - both were bouncy and springy.  With shavings of Menton lemon zest on top, I cut the block into strips so that I would have both proteins in the same bite.  What was even more interesting, though, was having the Menton lemon sauce on the monkfish along with the veal jus on the sweetbread in the same bite... and it somehow worked together.

The "crumble" on the side was apparently made by pan-frying sweetbread trimmings, gradually reducing the size of the bits and going through repeated rounds of frying.  Interesting idea.

Aveyron lamb saddle, green asparagus, petit pois and kumquat - Ricardo brought out this beautiful hunk of lamb saddle, and we were just salivating over it...

And it was beautiful.  Thanks to the beautiful layer of fat underneath the not-quite-crunchy crackling, the lamb was deliciously gamey.  Naturally the asparagus on the side was beautiful and delicious, as were the petit pois.  The real surprise?  Those paper-thin wafers of kumquat, which brought a nice touch of zing that none of us expected.

In the middle of enjoying our lamb, Ricardo brought out the pieces of kidney, which came with very finely diced raw onions that had been marinated in what may have been vinegar.  The acidity here really helped neutralize the very strong and pungent flavors of the kidney.

Thin chocolate layer, Mascarpone mousse and praline ice cream - this reminded me of the dessert I had here about 8 years ago.  So we've got thin wafers of white chocolate, followed by wafers of milk chocolate, with a Marscapone mousse center.  Served with a scoop of delicious hazelnut ice cream, along with a few dots of salted caramel.  Pretty nice.

Petits fours - chocolate and hazelnut crunch, mini tarte citron, strawberry sphere, and a chocolate and passion fruit macaron.

We each brought along a bottle to stay within the 2-bottle allowance.

1997 Coche-Dury Meursault Les Rougeots - popped and poured.  Beautiful right off the bat, with a big, toasty nose.  Attack slightly on the acidic side, but very smooth and elegant on the palate.  Lemon citrus notes.  Never dipped from the plateau the whole time.

1981 Penfolds Grange - served about 2 hours after opening without decanting.  Nose very minty, sweet, lots of coconut, tropical spices, and fragrant woodsy notes.  Even after nearly 40 years, the alcohol is still apparently in the nose... with a hint of sharpness.  Overall, though, a beautiful wine... and exactly what you would want from an old Grange... which is to say that the tannins and alcohol have softened with age, but the wine was still youthful and lively.

About an hour after we started dinner, who should I see walking in but Hairy Legs and Nicolas Lambert... being seated at the most secluded - and most romantic - table in the house.  So I sent over 2 glasses of the Grange.  In exchange, we got 2 glasses of one of the reds they were drinking...

2001 Sassicaia - pretty smoky, fragrant, with cedar notes.  Still alcoholic with some fruit, and still pretty tannic.  Later on this fell apart in the glass, and there was nothing but smoke.

This was a pretty good meal, and Hello Kitty liked the dishes tonight more than her last visit.  The Film Buff was very pleasantly surprised, but given that he had a very good meal at Mirazur 2 years ago, perhaps it wasn't so surprising after all...

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