Pierre Gagnaire, Paris 3

July 20, 2009

As I have reported before, Pierre Gagnaire has been a favorite chef of Linda and mine since 1993. On July 5, 2009, we were happy to be joined by Blair and Karyn for dinner at Pierre Gagnaire on the last night of their month in Paris.

We started with flutes of Champagne. A little tray with three hors d’oeuvres for each of us was passed around.

The menu offered a choice of à la carte dishes or, our choice, “Le Menu Pierre Gagnaire d’Eté/01/.” This was not a surprise or chef’s choice menu. It was all written out for us and was on the website, which made my providing the complicated names below a lot easier and more accurate. I assume that the 01 refers to this being the first version of a Summer Menu, which will last all season. (It was July 5.) We asked for a copy to be left on the table for us to consult during the meal. The service was always friendly and efficient; the pace of the meal was just right. The ambience is formal enough that you know you are in a special place, but is not stuffy.

I have not made an effort below to translate or describe all of the ingredients in each dish. In general, there was a main ingredient and a dominant flavor in the sauce; the others added bits of sparkle or exoticism. That is how Pierre Gagnaire succeeds in not overcomplicating his elaborate cuisine despite the apparent complexity. If you read French, enjoy the poetry of the descriptions. Some of the words are so exotic they defy Googling, although sometimes Pierre Gagnaire‘s menu comes up as the only hit. Poetry on the plate is one way of thinking about this cuisine.

We were each given three breads which were quite different in character.
We looked at the extensive wine list and chatted with the sommelier. We ordered bottles of:
2006 Condrieu Chéry, A Perret.
2004 Morey-St-Denis blanc, “En la rue de Vergy,” Bruno Clair.
gno2001 Beaune 1er Cru “Les Reversées, Nicolas Rossignol.
They were all excellent. The Beaune came through with strong Pinot Noir characteristics even though our palates had already had quite a workout by that point.
A multi-part amuse-gueule was put on the table. This wasn’t a part of the written menu so I do not have descriptions. There was so much going on I did not take notes. The glass had anchovy sticks and anchovy oil. They were all interesting, creative and good.

Le menu d’Eté

Murex, thon rouge et gambas obsiblues enrobés d’une bisque au cerfeuil ;
ventrèche laquée d’un caramel aux pignons.
Infusion douce-amère de fenouil.
Moutarde de céleri-rave Cramone, pointe de persil fumé.

The large sea snails, red tuna and shrimp (a large, rare, new, trendy variety raised in lagoons on the French South Pacific island, New Caledonia) were topped with a chervil purée.
Cured pork belly (on the right) in a caramel lacquer with pine nuts.

Laitue farcie de tourteau :
fèves, haricots verts du jardin, courgette serpent, main de bouddha, merinda et herbes insolites.
L’ensemble est assaisonné devant vous d’un crémeux d’araignée de mer.

A “bowl” of lettuce is stuffed with crab meat. A “bowl” of a crab shell is filled with a cream of crab sauce which is spooned over each plate at the table. Underneath are fava beans, green beans, Merinda tomatoes. Buddha’s Hand is cedrate, an oriental citrus.

Goujonnettes de sole voilées de farine de maïs.
Pourpiers, pousses d’épinard, amandes fraîches et beurre Kientzheim.
Olives andalouses, pâte de pomme Ariane au cidre fermier et fondue d’oseille au curry vert.
Soupe de petits pois au gingembre noir du Vietnam.

Strips of sole and peas were served in a ginger flavored broth. On the right are tempura of vegetables.

Truffes blanches d’été, copeaux de gruyère Etivaz ; gratin d’oignons nouveaux au foie gras rôti.
Mousseline de poisson de lac, salade de jeunes poireaux.

Slices of white summer truffles top a mound of onions, foie gras and Gruyère cheese, Fish mousse and leeks are around the edges.

Rouelles de homard bleu presque crues, beurre noisette ; navet kabu, carpaccio de gras de seiche.
Radis noirs et roses râpés, gelée de carcasse et mascarpone.

The round almost-raw slices of the tail of a Brittany lobster were delicious as was the jelly in the bottom of the little bowl which had been made from its shell.

Pavé de cabillaud cuit doucement sur un lit de sel, crumble végétal.
Jus court de rouget de roche aux aubergines.
Côtes de blette et choux kailaane.

The piece of cod was nicely enhanced by the rock fish broth. Chard and cabbage are included.

Pièce de veau de lait rôtie à l’origan:
Mousserons grillés à la betterave rouge.
Feuille de béchamel, rognon blanc au noras.
Velouté maraîcher parfumé de tagette, pointe de rhubarbe et riz basmati.

A round piece of milk-fed veal is roasted in an oregano flavored crust. It is on top of a bechamel flavored wafer. Underneath are small wild mushrooms cooked with beets. In a separate bowl are basmati rice and rhubarb flavored with tagette oil, distilled from a South African weed.

Biscuit de roquefort, lait de brebis ; wurtz au citron.

Roquefort cheese has been formed into a triangular wafer. Underneath is a firm airy lemon flavored egg-white and gelatine mousse. It is called a Wurtz by its inventor, Hervé This, Gagnaire’s molecular cuisine advisor, after a German chemist.

Le grand dessert Pierre Gagnaire.

Roasted apricot with passion fruit

Peach ice cream in a verveine flavored broth; a little pancake. Mignardises across the top.

A jelly of pear and turmeric with a row of wild strawberries on crème patisserie on a puff pastry strip.

Variations on chocolate. The rich, warm sauce was poured over the multi-layer cake at the table. The little one on the right was chilled with a liquid inside.

A black current cream.

I have not made judgments on each dish above, nor have I tried meticulous description. They are somewhat beyond criticism as they are so different in concept from what anyone else is cooking. A lot depends one’s attitude. If you have decided to relax and enjoy the creations, you will. If you are trying to pick apart the pieces, the magic will be gone. The exoticism is all part of the drama; the molecular techniques are in the background, but add to the sense of unfamiliarity. None of these dishes will be memorable to me individually because I never formed enough of an image to remember. I didn’t find that any of them were failures either, which is extraordinary in view of all the experimentation etc. But the entire experience, where the whole is more than the sum of its parts, was memorable. Finally, and most importantly, the four of us had a wonderful time all evening.

To see our second post on Pierre Gagnaire click here.

To see our first post on Pierre Gagnaire click here.


2 Responses to “Pierre Gagnaire, Paris 3”

  1. Dinah Sue Says:

    Thanks for allowing us to “sit in” on your dinner. What taste treats. ” )

  2. Blair Says:

    It is easy for me to say that this was the finest restaurant experience I have ever had. The point you make about just relaxing and accepting whatever is brought to you is a particularly good one. I will say however that the jelly in the bottom of the cup that was paired with the briny lobster was quite memorable. I now have a reference point for the concept of “essence of the sea”. It was the most intense yet cleanest seafood flavor I have ever had, truly remarkable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.