July 12, 2018

Europe 2018 day 13: 10 white men

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There's an outlet of Eric Kayser just around the corner from the apartment we are staying in, so naturally this became our go-to place for coffee and viennoiserie in the morning.  It won't be the best in Paris, but it's good enough to keep us happy.
This morning, though, I had something else to sample: the Pierre Hermé x L'Occitane macarons I bought from 68 Champs yesterday.

Pamplemousse and rhubarbe - fruity, but dominated by cloves.

Jasmin, néroli, immortelle - could clearly taste the jasmine, but overall it tastes like L'Occitane hand cream... so I guess that would be the immortelle.

Miel, immortelle and mandarine - much more orange, very sweet.

Afterwards we put on our Sunday best and headed out to Musée de l'Orangerie.  I wanted to bring Hello Kitty here to see Monet's giant paintings of Les Nymphéas.  These are works that one needs to behold with one's own eyes in order to really get the full impact.

Once again the Insta360 ONE comes out and we try to capture the experience.

We leave Jardin des Tuileries via the exit facing Place de la Concorde, and I am approached by a group of dark-skinned girls each holding a clipboard, ostensibly asking for my signature on a petition regarding Syrian refugees.  I had seen other women doing the same a few days ago, and I smile but gesture my refusal.

But they don't go away, and soon I was surrounded by about 6 of them, and at least one started to tug at the sleeve of my jacket.  Alarms go off in my head, and my senses begin to sharpen to see whether any one of them reaches for my pockets or tries to open my messenger bag.

That's when I saw THE Hello Kitty for the second time in my life.

Sensing that I would be unable to fight off the girls on my own, she screamed "GET AWAY!!!!" at the top of her lungs.  At this point a lady who had been selling souvenirs at a stand nearby came out and yelled at the girls, and the girls reluctantly withdrew... with smiles on their faces and not a hint of shame or remorse.

From then on, Hello Kitty would remind me to walk around Paris holding the selfie-stick for Insta360 - which is like a lighter version of a monopod, and could be extended and used as a weapon.

Soon we found ourselves in the safety of Le Meurice, and sat down in the grand dining room for lunch.  We didn't want a big lunch today, so we dispensed with the menu and just ordered à la carte.

2004 Pommery Cuvée Louise - nicely integrated together.  Mature and softer on the palate.

Crispy bread with sorrel, goat cheese, and honey - initially the flavors were slightly strange and unpleasant, with pronounced acidity and fermented flavors.  I got used to those flavors eventually...

The bread came on a trolley, and was sliced to order.

Vegetables steamed with Himalayan rock salt, black olive and Parmesan dip

Spider crab, tomatoes/almonds, gold caviar - Hello Kitty's choice.  This dish came in three separate parts.  First was crab meat with fresh almonds, tomato, shellfish foam, topped with caviar.

This was a little salty from the caviar.

Then we have crab legs with tomato and fresh almonds.

Ravioli with shellfish bouillon.

Each of the three parts of the dish was delicious. Hello Kitty was very, very happy with her choice.

Langoustines from Scotland, fennel/lemon - nice to have the shredded fennel for my veg intake, and the lemon paste was a surprise.  But overall... ho-hum.

These crispy things were a lot like deep-fried wonton (雲吞) skins we see in Cantonese cuisine, and they were attached to the tops of the langoustines.

'Ikejime' line-caught sea bass on the scale, green peas and rhubarb - the sea bass was pan-fried with the scales on, so it was pretty crispy on that side.  Plenty of cucumbers, rhubarb, peas, and pea tendrils.  The mousseline on the side was tarama, and this was made with the head of the sea bass.

Honestly... I found this dish boring like I did the last dish.  It didn't fail, nor was it poorly executed.  I just didn't think the flavors were that interesting.  Just no magic here... at all.

Silk grain veal, smoked eel - this was basically a hunk of côte de bœuf, which our waiter took time to slice up in front of us on the trolley.  Served with smoked eel and steamed vegetables.

Hello Kitty had asked for the veal to be done 'rare', although I was tempted to say 'bleu' as I always do when ordering beef in France (I was told later that veal is white meat, so one should not say 'bleu' but 'rosé').  Well... what we got was not rare at all.  OK, maybe the middle 20% was still pink and rare, but the rest of it was definitely overcooked.  In fact it was so overcooked that the texture had turned chewy and grainy.  And no, the grain did not feel "silky" as stated on the carte.

We asked our waiter whether this was, in fact, 'rare'.  And he very confidently told us that, yes, it was certainly rare.  He did not bother to ask us whether we were unhappy with the doneness.  And he certainly did not offer to have the kitchen send us a new piece of veal.  He just assumed that we should take his word for it.

I looked around the dining room, and noticed that of the 10 front-of-house staff, all were white men.  And at this point I'm getting kinda pissed off, and I feel that the waiter's attitude was that us Asian tourists carrying cameras just don't know any better.  But we chose not to make a fuss, and didn't bother sending the dish back.  Both dishes I had ordered for myself were uninspired, and I didn't see the point of having the kitchen cook a new dish.

You wanna see a piece of beef that was cooked rare?  This one from last night was just about perfect.

When the waiter came to take our unfinished plates away, he didn't bother asking us why we had left so much of our food untouched.  Three-quarters of the veal was still on the plate, and not a word from him.

The staff came to prepare a dashi with lots of herbs, in the same way that one would prepare siphon coffee.

We were then offered some cheese from the trolley, and I asked for very thin slices of Beaufort, Ossal Iraty, and Cantal.

An Asian female pâtissière comes out pushing an ice cream trolley, and offers us a pre-dessert of lemon sorbet, lemon espuma, lemon granité, and lemon zest.  W-T-F.  I know it's made from lemon and I should expect some acidity, but the espuma was so fucking sour that I was wincing uncontrollably.  I don't remember having tasted anything so sour... and this put Sour Patch Kids to shame.

Refreshed melon, redcurrant, verbena - the melon sorbet in the center was very smooth and sweet.  The melon granité provided a slightly different texture.  The groseilles provided the acidity to counterbalance the sweetness of the melon.  Garnished with thin, dehydrated wafers of melon as well as verbena.  Certainly my favorite dish from this meal.

These wafers at the end were kinda nice. And we also got a small box of Alain Ducasse's chocolates, which we took away and carried all the way back to Hong Kong... only to have our dog find them to chew through the box.

When I was choosing my restaurants for Paris, I knew I wanted to dine at an Alan Ducasse restaurant, and debated whether I should book the 3-star at Plaza Athénée or this one with "just" 2-stars.  As we had originally planned on staying in Le Meurice, I chose to have a meal here.  Unfortunately this turned out to be a huge disappointment.  When a restaurant has two Michelin stars, one would expect the meal to be more than just decent.  It is, after all, "worth a detour"... which this meal most certainly was not.  But the worst part was the service.  I certainly did not expect this poor level of service from a restaurant in such a legendary hotel, and certainly did not expect it from one of Monsieur Ducasse's restaurants.

We left with bitter tastes in our mouths, and the only solution to take the edge off was to go shopping at the boutiques nearby...

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