July 16, 2018

Europe 2018 day 17: escape from Paris

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It's our last day in Paris and we have a few errands to run.  After storing our luggage at Gare du Nord - which involved a 1½ hour taxi ride with our luggage as a result of Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées being completely blocked off and jammed - we crossed the river for a quick errand, before coming back to the 8ème. I was looking for an easy lunch spot that wasn't an obvious tourist trap around the Place de la Madeleine when Hello Kitty came upon Chez Nicolas, the wine bar above the wine shop.We got ourselves a table by the window overlooking L'église de la Madeleine, in the comfort of air conditioning. Lo and behold, they even have something that's totally up my alley!

Andouillette Duval 5A, sauce moutarde poivre maison - I get to eat andouillette for my very last meal in Paris!  I would never have imagined that!  This was completely smothered in mustard sauce, which was really rich.  The fat fries on the side were pretty nice, but there was just waaay too much of it.

Just look at all those layers of intestines stuffed inside the casing!  So stinky.  So good.

I was very, very happy.  And shortly after, Hello Kitty also had her happy moment with the acquisition with boîte orange numerous deux.

We had changed our departure schedule to a later train, and suddenly had a couple of extra hours to kill.  The staff at the station were not helpful at all regarding how to change our train tickets, so we ended up hanging out at the Burger King across the Gare du Nord...

After arriving back at Gare de Bruxelles Midi, we are back at the Hilton Brussels Grande Place.  A shower and a quick change into respectable clothes, and we stroll down a few blocks to the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Brussels for dinner.

We had missed an invitation earlier in the year to try Chef Yves Mattagne's cuisine at the Solaire Resort in Manila, so I decided that this should be our last formal meal of the trip.

We were running a little late because of our schedule change, but the staff were nevertheless gracious and welcoming.  After 17 days' of dining out, I assumed that Hello Kitty would want to take it easy and choose the smaller set menu.  How wrong I was.

I started with a glass of Ruinart Brut - a Champagne I have never found to be remarkable or interesting.

Fried calamari / espuma with calamari ink / horseradish - pretty interesting, especially the combination of espuma with horseradish.

Dauricus caviar, gambero rosso: white pearl / sour cream / dill / lime / Brussels waffle with seaweed - such a pretty dish!  The dauricus caviar came from China, of course, although the staff couldn't tell me the brand.  The little white pearls on top of the caviar were actually made of cucumber.

Brussels waffle with seaweed - Hello Kitty was amused that the second waffle we had in Belgium also came in a restaurant with Michelin stars... although this was savory and made with seaweed.  We were meant to have it with the caviar and cream, but I think I was happier putting some of the seaweed butter (from Bordier, perhaps?) on it...

Underneath the caviar was a mixture of sour cream, diced White Pearl oysters, Sicilian gambero rosso, crunchy raw onions, and shellfish gelée.  The oysters were nice and briny, and brought along flavors of the ocean.  The combination of gambero rosso with the gelée was amazing.

When I first saw this dish my initial knee-jerk reaction was "Oh, another chef trying to impress me by putting Chinese caviar in front of me."  I was ever so happy to have been pleasantly surprised.  This was a beautiful dish, both in terms of presentation as well as flavors.

Char : smoked / sea urchin / peas / chanterelle / spring onion / mint / basil - the char was not fully cooked and had a very soft and lovely texture.  The treatment of the skin was interesting, as it was partially peeled and rolled back... with a slightly springy and chewy texture.  Served with peas, pea emulsion, charred leek, basil, girolles, pearl onions with sea urchin foam, and charcoal olive oil.  This was very, very good.  It's an excellent dish that was so much more interesting than what I had at Le Meurice...

Royal langoustine : baked on stone / saké / goose liver / duck consommé / Chinese cabbage / black fungi / wakame - our waiter told us these were "rocking langoustines" on "hard rock", which brought chuckles from both of us...

The langoustine was placed on a hot stone and flambéed with a dash of sake. When I took it off the stone it certainly looked mi-cuit. Very, very tasty.

Pan-fried goose foie gras and ravioli with Chinese cabbage, Chinese black mushrooms in duck consommé.  The foie was cooked perfectly.

Brill : oyster maki / leek / ratte potatoes / romanesco / cockles / hazelnut butter mousseline - the brill had a flaky texture but was honestly a little bland.  The accompanying hazelnut butter mousseline, however, was fucking awesome.  The oyster was still mostly raw and came wrapped in nori (海苔)Pomme purée with wasabi. The cockles were delicious but unfortunately there was a little sand inside.

Anjou pigeon : harissa / lemon / pastilla / humus / artichoke / Ras el Hanout juice - I have to be honest... I was very disappointed when the dish came, because I had so wanted this to be a big pigeon-stuffed pastilla.  But the pastilla was just a tube of filo with the pigeon leg inside.  Served with chickpeas, hummus, and a small pita with cheese inside.

The beautiful piece of pigeon was certainly rosé and actually still oozed a little blood when pressure was placed on it while cutting. There was a pretty sweet brûlée on top with Ras al Hanout, along with diced mint leaves.  Although this wasn't what I was hoping for, it was nonetheless very delicious.

Creamy blueberries : lemongrass and ginger perfume / mango / exotic fruit sorbet - the yogurt mousse definitely had ginger and what I thought was cardamom (lemongrass?) flavors, with blueberry filling inside and sitting on a chocolate cookie base.  There was a ball on the side made with hazelnut soy, as well as chunks of mango.  The sorbet was made with passion fruit and certainly pretty sour.

Taïnori chocolate soup : vanilla espuma / coffee granita / Choco Pops - on the bed of chocolate mousse was the fluffy vanilla espuma in the middle, with a sphere of coffee granita, chocolate truffles with nut ganache, Choco Pops, and chocolate soil.  Pretty nice.

And finally, some mignardises for us to finish...

Madeleine with lemon zest

Not sure what this was as I didn't taste it...

Religieuse with red currant - a little savory.

White chocolate truffle

Macaron with ganache of salted caramel and vanilla.

As we were inside a hotel in Brussels city center, the wine list didn't seem to offer as many bargains as the other places we visited in Belgium. I almost picked another bottle of my go-to white Burg, but the sommelier suggested I take the other bottle I was considering... and I'm certain that was a good call.

2004 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste.-Hune - what a beautiful wine!  Big nose of petrol, white flowers, and polyurethane.  Good ripeness and a little round on the palate, with good acidity levels to boot.

This was a most excellent dinner to cap off our long trip.  In fact, Hello Kitty said that this was her second-favorite meal of the entire trip, and that's quite something.  The cuisine here is certainly very refined, with lots of modern touches.  Thank you, Belgium and France, for delivering so many fond memories over the last 17 days.

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