July 7, 2018

Europe 2018 day 8: the Rubik's Cube

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Like many others, I have been following Cedric Grolet on Instagram for a while.  During this time I have been deeply fascinated by his creations, which have ranged from fruity desserts made to look like fruit, to his beautiful apple pie, to that most Instagrammable creation of all - the Rubik's Cube.

I knew that he's the pastry chef at Le Meurice, and that his desserts are being served during tea at Le Dalí.  But neither restaurant lists the Rubik's Cube on their menus, and I couldn't figure out where to go and try it.  And there wasn't a whole lot of information available on the Internet...

Out of pure desperation, I decided to contact someone working with Alain Ducasse - with whom I had the pleasure of dining last year - and inquired about the possibility of trying this special creation.  Thankfully this person came to my rescue, and put me in touch with the right people who secured a table for me at Le Dalí today.

I found out in May that the Ho's would also be in Paris today, and we had discussed the possibility of doing tea together.  I figured that the kiddies would be interested in having some sweets, and the creations seemed pretty fun.  So the four adults and two kids came dressed (well, some of us, anyway...) for the occasion.

The desserts we ordered came in quick succession, and soon the entire table was occupied with various plates, pots of tea, and cups.  Mrs. Ho was ever so helpful by keeping the kiddies in check while I tried as quickly as possible to take pictures and record a few videos.

Tomate - one of the seasonal items on offer as part of tea service.  Like the others in the same series, the shell was created the look like the fruit (yes, tomato is a fruit) while the inside was filled with pieces of the same fruit.  This was surprisingly tasty, but some people - including the kiddies at our table - were probably not used to having savory flavors as dessert.

Fraise - another seasonal item.  Nice chunks of strawberries inside.

Rubik's cake - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR. Zee pièce de résistance. The special item which required advanced order.  There are many different versions with varying flavor combinations, and so I wasn't sure what it was going to look like... until now.

There are a total of 25 cubes in the 3 levels, and today there were a total of seven different flavors.  These were:

- green: pistachio, with crunchy sugar crystals.  Definitely a little savory.
- gold: lemon, with confit lemon zest.
- varnished red: strawberry jam.
- velvet red: strawberry chunks.
- white: coconut, with crunchy biscuit.  Least favorite flavor.
- yellow: grapefruit.  Very nice.
- orange: apricot, with confit lemon zest.

La tarte au pomme - the other item we pre-ordered... and what a thing of beauty!  I had seen pictures of this in different sizes, and wasn't sure what we were getting... but in the end we got the full-size tarte which serves six.

Hello Kitty tried cutting it so that I could take a video, but it turned out to be more difficult than expected... so we had to ask the staff to take it back to the kitchen.  They managed to salvage it and cut it into six slices.

The tarte is actually made with very thin slices of apples, and the apple is actually fresh instead of cooked like a tarte tatin.  Beautiful AND delicious.

The kiddies were, surprisingly, not big consumers of desserts.  So we ended up ordering waaaay too much, and asked to take the leftovers home.

I was so, so, so happy that we managed to do this, and ever so grateful that the Ho's indulged me.  We did get a little bit of sticker shock at the end, though... Earlier research had shown that the Rubik's Cube cost around EUR 170, but it was for EUR 250 today, which was the price for dining in instead of buying to take home... and worked out to be EUR 10 per little cube.  I thought that the apple tart cost EUR 25 per serving, and for some reason thought we would be getting ones which serves two.  Well, the big one we had serves six, so that came to EUR 150 for the whole tart instead of the EUR 66 it costs to take home.  Adding the separate fruits we ordered plus all of our pots of tea, and Mr. Ho and I ended up splitting a bill of over 500 Euros for tea.

With our bellies stuffed full of goodies, we needed to work some of it off... so we crossed the road and went into the Jardin des Tuileries so that the kiddies could hit the playground for a bit.  From then on it was a short stroll to check out the boutiques on Rue Cambon and Rue Boissy d'Anglas.

We returned to our apartment for some rest and digestion.  I knew we would probably be full from tea, so I hadn't made any plans for dinner.  When we finally started feeling a little peckish, Hello Kitty decided to look to Anthony Bourdain for ideas on where to eat - browsing through locations from his Paris episode of The Layover.  I whittled the list down further by proximity, and booked us a table at Au Passage - which turned out to be pretty close to Clown Bar.

This was yet another casual dining spot - also without any air con - and the menu appeared even more succinct, but it seems the items change by the day. Given how heavy our meals have been, Hello Kitty thought we should order a few veggie dishes.

Terrine de cochon aux noisettes - pretty old school, dense and solid.  Good to have the cornichons provide acidity for balance.

St Pierre ponzu charbon sésame - the John Dory was nice with a little bit of chewy texture, or what the Chinese would describe as 韌.  Got the acidity from ponzu (ポン酢) and a hint of sesame, and seems to have some charcoal powder on top, too...

Petit-pois haricot vert camomille - these petit-pois weren't the tiny and tender ones I'm used to having at fine dining establishments, but they were still tasty despite their harder and grainy texture - although they were certainly less sweet.  I found it interesting that the kitchen added chamomile to the dish.

Courgette echalote nouvelle crème fermentée laitue de mer - this was very nice.  The courgettes came with fermented cream which delivered some acidity, and there was plenty of sea lettuce on top to deliver some umami.  They also managed to sprinkle bee pollen on top, although I wasn't sure if I liked the powdery texture.

Pigeon fumé girolle myrtille sauvage - of course we had to order pigeon in France whenever we see it... This was a little too smoky, with red shiso leaves and also wild blueberries delivering some acidity to balance out the butter and girolles. 

The pigeon was very tender and perfectly rosé

Cochon rhubarbe préservée tomate datterino aneth - this was a little bit beyond what I normally prefer in terms of acidity, with both datterino tomatoes and rhubarb. 

This place, too, has a wine list which was long on #bongwater.  I saw a very rare magnum from a producer I know, but I knew that the two of us wouldn't have a chance to finish it.  So I took something else from the same producer instead...

2013 Ganevat Cuvée Florine - a little oaky, good acidity, good depth of flavors, and long finish.

This was a surprisingly good dinner.  The place was totally casual and unpretentious.  The servers were inked up, bilingual, friendly, and knowledgeable.  The kitchen certainly seemed to know what they're doing, and we were happy that we ended up here at the last minute.  The cooking may not be at the same level as Septime or Clown Bar, but for the price we paid we felt they more than delivered.

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