November 16, 2023

The French triangle day 7: a Table in Paris

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As I was planning this trip, arguably the first meal I actually booked was tonight's dinner. The name of Bruno Verjus has been known to me for quite a few years as we have a number of mutual friends, and I've heard praise of his cooking for the last few years. Then two of my close chef friends put on four-hands dinners with him this year, and that put Table at the top of my list for Paris. The added bonus was that, unlike another restaurant which has been on top of my hit list, they accept bookings from single diners.

The restaurant is a short walk from my hotel, passing the viaduct along the way. I arrived a few minutes before the restaurant officially opened at 7:30 p.m. so I waited patiently to be seated. Once through the door, I was surprised to find Bruno seated just inside, greeting all the guests as they came in. He inquired where I came from, and we had a short but friendly exchange.

From what I could see, most of the seats in the restaurant consisted of counter seating, and I was led to my seat in front of the open kitchen. From there I could see all the ingredients before and during the cooking process. While I'm normally nonplussed about getting a view of the kitchen, this turned out to be very nice when one is dining alone.

I was asked whether I had any interest in taking the white truffle menu in lieu of the "regular", and some of the dishes would have white truffle shaved on top. As it's in season and I am much closer to the source than I normally would be, I agreed to the premium and wondered why the extra 300 Euros on top of the 400 I have already paid would get me.

La couleur du jour: l'exposition de quelques légumes mûrs, plantules, fleurs et fruits sauvages en une palette colorée, vinaigrette légumière, huile de fruilles de figuier - the welcome dish with seasonal vegetables, fruits, and flowers which change daily. Well... when I first sat down they asked me about my dietary restrictions. I told them that I don't eat beetroot. Guess what was on my plate besides the delicious carrots, red kiwi, radishes...? Yup, BEETROOT! The ONE THING I told them that I don't eat.

Les mer veille : Chuître, huître naturelle raidie, mole vert en condiment rémoulade - I wondered if the green mole was made of sorrel. Crunchy hazelnuts added texture. The Champagne brought out the minerality and briny flavors of the oyster.

Bouquet rose décortiqué à la seconde, tarama Table - these crevette rose bouquet were pretty small but still larger than crevettes grises, and came with "taramaTable" as well as finger lime caviar, with the latter's acidity balancing out the richness of the former.

Orgasme en bouche: sardine de Saint-Gilles, à cru, huiles chaudes et froides - the sardine from Saint-Gilles Croix de Vie was oily and very tasty. This came with two different condiments, and the reddish oil was almost like an X.O. sauce or mala (麻辣) sauce, made with hazelnuts, black sesame, and piment (d'Espelette?) for its spice.

Langoureustine: belle langoustine et langue d'oursin en salade tiède, émulsion de riz aux notes florales - the langoustine was nice; the hand-dived sea urchin from Brittany did not bring very strong iodine flavors. Instead the iodine flavors of the sea came from some purple seaweed, and this was paired with some finger lime. I thought the dill flowers were a little strong when thrown into the mix, and I really didn't like the powdery texture of the rice emulsion. Something here just didn't work for me, making it my least favorite dish of the night.

The langoustine was cooked à la plancha on wax paper so that there's no direct contact with the cooking surface. I hadn't noticed that in other kitchens before.

C'est laqué: Saint-Jacques de Dieppe grillée à l'unilatéral, laquée des sucs de bardes, chou en frisotis, sotolon - the emulsion was made with the skirt of the scallops as well as sotolon, the aromatic compound found in vin jaune. We've also got frizzy Savoy cabbage, bacon bits, and golden kiwi. There was a nice sweetness that was all natural with no added sugar, and I loved the foam.

The hand-dived scallop was of pretty decent size and grilled on one side - with about 1/6 of it cooked while the rest ranged from mi-cuit to raw. Brushed with the reduction of the juice of the scallop skirt. What a wonderful dish!

Mille et une feuilles: légumes racines, persil tubéreux, panais en mille feuille crémeux de comté hors d'age, chataignes grillées en écailles - a millefeuille of sorts with various root vegetables such as parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, parsley roots... topped with slices of chestnuts cooked in beurre noisette which hardened into scales. Six slices of white truffle from Alba were shaved on top.

I thought everything worked very well, and you've got the nutty flavors together with sweetness... and of course the fragrance of white truffle.

Brume matinale: en hommage à la soupe VGE de Paul Bocuse, foie gras comme un pot-au-feu en consommé de crabes verts, poutargue de Trikalinos, feuilletage en laque de raisin muscat - as mentioned in the description, this is an hommage to the iconic soupe VGE from Bocuse. The duck foie gras has been poached in a vegetable consommé, topped with bottarga produced by Trikalinos in Greece.

The puff pastry came brushed with red grape juice. To be honest, I had been watching the chef brush this... and after the initial experience of having them forget that I don't eat beetroot, I was sure the red liquid was actually beetroot juice. I'm so happy that it wasn't.

OF COURSE this would have to come with truffle, only it's white and not black truffle in this season. Just two slices here. That crab consommé was soooo good! And it was so interesting together with the foie and bottarga. The sweetness from the grape juice on the pastry just worked with everything here. A really good dish.

Moussetage: mousseline de carotte sanguine et lime infusée de beurre noisette, potage d'herbes de cueillette - the name of the dish is a portmanteau of mousseline and potage. The carrot mousseline was pretty thick and rich, and unfortunately the herb emulsion didn't help. I suddenly felt like I hit a wall... the feeling of being full came so fast. I didn't finish this course, but I did enjoy the single slice of white truffle.

Mi-cru-mi-cuit: homard de casier d'Yeu, céléri-rave Monarch, rémoulade d'orties et câpres, jardin halophile - the lobster from Île d'Yeu was poached at 40°C in a clarified butter infused with cooked (roasted?) shells of the lobster to give it extra flavor. The execution was perfect so it's exactly mi-cru-mi-cuit as described. The caper remoulade was pretty rich, but the few drops of tosazu (土佐酢) seasoned with "smoky chili from the south of France" was certainly more rich and intense. I didn't bother finishing the Monarch celeriac at the bottom.

20 000 lieues sous les mers: lotte d'hiver effeuillé en marinière de palourdes et herbes de cueillettes, pétoncles, oreille de cochon - the monkfish was cooked in a pan at high heat with herbs like bay leaves, then doused with a splash of water to create that "flash in a pan". The sauce grand bonheur is their version of sauce grand veneur, except this was made with monkfish bones. While this was being plated, I saw the chef pick up the smaller chunk from my plate, move it to someone else's plate, then giving me the biggest piece of the lot...

This was very moist, and soft, and fluffy i the middle. The rich sauce actually worked very well with the fish... since it was made from the bone of the fish.

Laque de Chine: en hommage aux artisans du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, belle volaille ancienne Gauloise grise, rôtie en patience, laque de bouquet rose, jus de court, mousseline de coing beurrée - I spent more than an hour watching this bird being "patiently roasted" on different sides. Then I realized that they didn't serve this delicious-looking fowl to me, because they were giving me something better to suit the truffle theme.

Instead I had the classic "surf and turf" for fine dining French cuisine.

The ris de veau from Hugo Desnoyer - which I missed out at lunch yesterday - was (smoked?) with veal jus, brushed with a shrimp glaze, and garnished with pistachio and capers. Then it gets 5 or 6 slices of white truffle. Very, very nice. Almost as good as the stunning version from L'Air du Temps a few years ago, or maybe at the same level. Unfortunately I'd had too much food by now so I couldn't finish this...

The langoustine from Brittany came with girolles and a sabayon made with langoustine claws and citrus. The sabayon was really light and fragrant.

This was just was barely cooked on the shell. I was told by friends that Bruno's lobster or langoustine is usually stunning, and they weren't wrong.

Tahitian vanilla ice cream - with white truffle, of course! Four slices this time. Lots and lots of vanilla seeds so the flavors were real nice.

Tartelette au chocolat Pérou: infusion de câpres de Linosa et caviar osciètre, huile de noisette. Hommage à Claudio Corallo et Jacques Genin - the chocolate is mainly from Peru with a portion sourced from Venezuela. The ganache has been infused with some capers from the Italian island of Linosa as an hommage to both Claudio Corallo and Jacques Genin. I actually didn't really taste the capers much, as the acidity in the ganache could have easily come from the chocolate itself. Salt brings an added dimension to this dessert, and is provided by the oscietre caviar from a 15-year-old sturgeon which gave its life for our pleasure 11 days ago.

"Magneleine", souvenir d'un printemps dans le Magne: Madeleine à la confiture d'olives, amandes et agrumes, huile d'olive de Kardamili - the madeleine comes with confit olives inside, and served with Kalamata olive oil from Kardamili.

Citrus curd tartlet - with a slice of French red kiwi on top. The curd was made with 12 different citrus varities, and this was lovely.

I was in no position to take a whole bottle of wine by myself, and let's be honest, the pricing wasn't exactly friendly... Thankfully the sommelier could offer me some selections by the glass, after I browsed through the wine list and mentioned a few choices I might have taken.

Brocard Pierre L'Égarée - full-bodied with plenty of depth from the pinot. A little bitter and slightly grippy on the palate. Clearly showing that zero dosage.

2020 Guiberteau Saumur Clos de Guichaux - very fragrant nose, with a little flint. Good acidity on the palate.

This was a lot of food... or maybe it was just my jetlag hitting me. Nevertheless, I was really happy that I made it here to get a sense of Bruno's style of cuisine - which was very seasonal and at times a little whimsical. Till we meet again...

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