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.

2 commentaires:

alifewortheating a dit…

Looks to have been a very satisfying meal. It is great to find such chefs who are happy executing the classics well. Continually trying to reinvent the wheel, or in this case, say, the omelette, is something I find quite sad really. Innovation and tradition each have their place, to be sure.
Your comment about what starred restaurants offer an omelette was also a bit surprising to me. Certainly here in the US one could say that, but I would think there should be many such restaurants there in Paris, or in other parts of France. Then again one sentence of yours said: "I cannot think of any example of a comparable restaurant in Paris nowadays." Very interesting.
Last time I had an omelette in a Michelin starred restaurant was at the 2* Manresa here in California last month. I know your first meal there was less than stunning, but I think Kinch is a chef who deserves a second (and third and...) look the next time you find yourself in this neck of the woods.
Lastly, that rouget is gorgeous...

Julot-les-pinceaux a dit…

I agree: innovation and tradition have each their place. And the one of innovation and fashion is, to my taste, in general disproportionate. Actually, I would not so much oppose innovation and fashion as I would oppose sincerity and soulless imitation. There are "faiseurs" on both sides. Besson is not one.

Indeed finding such a traditional restaurant in Paris is unlikely. There are parts of the French countryside where that is still possible, but that's about it. This is, after all, the capital of fashion.

I don't consider that I actually went to Manresa -- I was sick that day and I probably should not have gone. I'll definitely give it a serious try when I'm in California again and healthy. Actually what you told me about the French Laundry kind of eliminated the competition for me.

Rougets were georgeous, but you absolutely need to come to Besson next time you're around during truffle season. He knows the gig.