mercredi 23 avril 2008

Ramsay, yeah!

So I just went to Ramsay's new mid-range restaurant IN VERSAILLES, "La Véranda". It has a view on the park of the castle, the part that looks like some very neat country-side, with horses, sheeps, cows and benches. And it was good. It was very good.

All I knew from Ramsay was "Kitchen Nightmares" -a show that I love and find admirable- and his autobiography. I admire the man, and I really hoped that his food would not disappoint. Now it is of course too soon for me to judge Ramsay on the whole (unlike Ducasse), and I hope to be able to report on the gastronomic restaurant soon. But meanwhile, the meal I and other bloggers had at la Véranda was very perfect.

I started with a dish that looked, I must say, quite English. But this tagliatelle with blue lobster was remarkably good. Pasta were very tasty, with this mix of melty and firm typical of good fresh pasta. Maybe the half lobster tail was a tad overcooked. But the mix of sage, saffron, parmesan and tomato was the trademark of a really good chef. It was subtle and powerful, and mostly, did I mention, very good. My young neighbour had a very good risotto with chorizo and parmesan, which was remarkably good too -- it's easy to have a dish named risotto in Paris, but having one that is better that boiled rice is difficult. This one was.

The star of the show was a veal T-Bone that could have reminded many French top restaurants what perfect and precise cooking means. Everything was simple and perfect, starting with the melty potatoes on the side, a salad of many herbs that was well sorted and joyfully fresh. The béarnaise was perfect too. Thyme and rosemary were actually fried and edable.

(The risotto kid had a lamb too, that was delicious.)

Desserts were no disappointment either, especially a vanilla crême brulée with granny smith apple that was super fine tuned and well made. It is a really thought through dessert, well implemented. Another star was the famous coulant au chocolat, let me show you. It was perfectly dosed too, with the exact amount of sugar that tames the bitterness of the cocoa but adds no sugar taste. The caramel ice-cream on the side was smartly and vigorously salted, presenting another approach to the famous chocolate-salt pairing that Conticini put forward.

My overwhelming impression was that there is a really good chef in this kitchen, one that could teach lessons to many of us arrogant frogs. This was all simple and well made. Plus there is tons of room. Couches could seat Horton the elephant, table of five could seat twelve, and there's that very pleasant view and light. The wine list is short but hard to chose from because of its careful selection. That was an 85 eur meal, including one bottle of Chateau Simone (80 euros) for five.

You know, on the one hand, it was so good that I want to try the gastronomic restaurant asap. On the other hand, I am not sure how it could be much better with the same style. Anyway, stay tuned

jeudi 17 avril 2008

Gérard Besson: some things in France never die

La version française est ici.

There is a starred restaurant in Paris where you can still have quenelles in a white asparagus soup, where the chef cooks omelettes where the dessert tray still offers of Paris Brest AND Saint Honoré. Gérard Besson is an impeccably classic chef. A uniquely classic one, as I cannot think of any example of a comparable restaurant in Paris nowadays.

There is a really nice bargain for lunch. This season, there were also the only good truffles I had. The chef is obviously a truffle insider : he knows how to get them, choose them, negotiate them. Oh, and he also knows how to cook them, and that there are different many different, as his remarkable whole page of truffle specialties demonstrate. This is truffle that flavours the whole room – I was even told that some allergic woman just could not stay in the restaurant room one winter night.

It’s an old style of cooking, but it is not Rostang (or Escoffier) : it is actually clearly related to the Bocuse style, rooted in classic recipes and alliances, only with simplified recipes and clearer taste. Ptipois, from whom I unapologetically stole the title of this post, had thus a pigeon with foie gras that was overcooked by modern standards. But, in this recipe, it could not have been better, and a rosé pigeon would not just have been as good, strangely.

The red mullet dish was a celebration of spring, with its fava beans, mint, salad and olive. It is one of the most simply superb-looking dishes I ever had, as I hope that my picture partly reflects. I couldn’t help but thinking of the choc that this kind of recipe must have been in the early Bocuse or Troisgros days, when they were reinventing the traditional cuisine yet continuing it, and putting ingredients forward like never before.

This is a real foodie place. Of course you shouldn’t come if you’re looking for innovation. But if you like truffle or game, if you believe that the real classics, based on seasonal ingredients, flawless execution and yes, some tradition, never die, then you should enjoy Gérard Besson. We did and the table next to us, including a very famous and very drunk food writer did too, very explicitly. They had some specially ordered Dombes quail whose scent made me regret that I was not a part of their not-so-secret society.

Oh and I forgot to mention that rabbit in a blanket. I should have.