Le Cinq, Paris

January 14, 2010

Three years ago Le Cinq lost its third Michelin star. The chef was fired and Eric Briffard was brought in to regain it. He has not succeeded in getting the third star back although some of my fellow restaurant bloggers think that Le Cinq is now one of the best tables in Paris. So it was with great anticipation that Linda and I took the chilly ten-minute walk from the Hotel de Vigny to the Hotel George V on January 12, 2010.

The welcome was warm. We were seated in the middle of one side where Linda could see all the other tables. Shortly after we sat down, the Champagne cart was wheeled over. There were five bottles from which to select. Linda had a 2002 PerrierJouët and I chose a Blanc de Blancs. They were very nice and set the stage for the evening. A bowl of hot Croustillant de calamars et crevettes was put on the table.

A fresh lemon was squeezed over it. These tempura of shrimp and squid pieces were excellent and were a perfect match with champagne.

Bread was passed and two kinds of excellent butter provided. We looked at the menu, which offered an à la carte selection, a six course Menu d’Hiver and, our choice, a Menu Gourmand. We looked at the enormous wine list and picked out a bottle of 2005 Louis Carillon, 1er Cru Les Perrières, Puligny-Montrachet. This was superb. The front of the wine list had a page of surprisingly reasonably priced sommelier’s recommendations. I picked a red wine from this, but the sommelier suggested a slightly higher priced 2006 Domaine Lorenzon Mercury Champs Martin 1er Cru, which he said was a more logical successor to the Pugligny-Montrachet. It was fine for the price, not very assertive, but it had to go with a lobster course, a lamb course and the cheese, which is not easy.

An amuse-gueule arrived:
pumpkin soup with a layer of sorrel and a sorrel foam, eel on a chestnut blini, mushrooms

I was having such a good time and was distracted by all the ordering that I forget to take my photo until I had finished the soup. The smoked eel on the chestnut blini with horseradish cream was particularly good.

The first course was
Crevettes Sauvages Carabinéros, à La Plancha au Chorizo de Bellota,

Seiche en Barigoule de Légumes Acidulés

This was served on a very long thin plate so I took two photos. The big shrimp in the middle is in both of them. Despite the excellent seafood and the slice of Spanish sausage, this was really a winter vegetable dish. The red wedges which look like tomato are really beets. The flavors were nicely drawn out by the very light vinegaring. Bravo.


Truffe Noire de Richerenches
Risotto acquerello crémeux à l’artichaut poivrade

I thought this would be the perfect occasion for black truffles: January is the height of the season; Richerenches is a famous truffle market in the Vaucluse and the budget at Le Cinq should be ample. But the truffle flavor was not assertive and the risotto was oversalted, probably through the veal stock added around the edges.


Ormeaux Bretons et Saint Jacques
Au Beurre d’algues, Fondant au Cresson,
Bouillon de Poule à la Citronelle, tartare au caviar

On the top right is a whole abalone from Brittany. It is smaller than the Pacific abalones we are used to. (The stuffed shell on the lower left is of a Breton abalone.) I do not know if it is a different species, or if the colder water slows growth or if they are simply harvested younger, but this one showed that it still needed the pounding or slicing or marinating used elsewhere to tenderize it. It was rubbery and unpleasant. On the other hand, the scallop was excellent. The scallop and abalone tartar had its flavor enhanced by the nice dab of French caviar. The little bowl of chicken broth seemed pointless. It had a nice lemongrass flavor that would have complemented the seafood, but was too separate from them for the effect to be real.


Homard Bleu « Pêche Au Casier »
Cuit sur Sel aux Aromates, Sauce Civet
Pinces en Ravioles / chou vapeur au gingimbre

The Breton lobster was presented to us in the cast iron pot in which it had been cooked on top of what looked like seaweed. It was a superb piece of lobster. Civet sauce is traditionally served with game; the red wine is thickened with the blood of the beast. I don’t know how it was prepared here, but it went very well, bringing out the wild meatiness of the lobster. The more delicate claw meat was served under pasta rounds with gingered cabbage.  This needed to be eaten first with the last of our white wine. We could then start the red wine with the lobster civet.


Agneau de Lait des Pyrenées au Piment d’Espelette,
Rognon Grillé au romarin
Premières asperges vertes / gnocchi /caillé de brebis

The lamb had an excellent flavor which was brought out by the slightly peppery sauce. I would guess from the soft texture that it had been cooked sous vide. The grilled lamb kidney provided a nice textural contrast. I don’t know where the “first green asparagus” come from in January, but they were meaty and good.


Sélection de nos Maîtres Fromagers

The cheese cart was huge. My Epoisses (left) was gooey and pungent, as it should be, but the wedge of Camembert was overripe. The slice of tomme de brebis with black cherry conserve was very good.


The predessert had sort of a soft meringue on top of grapefruit.


The first dessert was
Poire Louise Bonne Pochée à la Vanille Gousse,
Nuage Parfumé à la Fève Tonka, Sorbet Poire, Gingembre

The whole pear poached with vanilla bean was flavorful and refreshing. The pear and ginger sorbet went well with it. The mousse in the chocolate cylinder was flavored with Tonka bean, the fragrant fruit of a South American tree. (It is banned in the US due to its anti-coagulant properties.)


Croustillant au Gianduja lacté,
Riz soufflé pétillant, Sorbet citron jaune

The chocolate-hazelnut disk covered crispy puffed rice. The lemon sorbet made a nice contrast to the unctuous chocolate.

Linda, who avoids chocolate in the evening, asked for a substitution for the gianduja. She was served
Pomme Reinette Confite Au Four,
Crème Glacée Aux Pistils De Safran,
Meringue Au Miel De Romarin,
Sorbet Pomme Verte

The excellent apple tatin round was topped with two slices of pain perdu and an unusual saffron cream. The rosemary honey macaroons were filled with green apple sorbet. Our desserts did not produce the feeling of a sugar overload which we frequently experience.

The ornate cart of mignardises arrived. Although I had already eaten too much I asked for a nougat and a marron glacée; I was served two of each; they were nice, not overly sweet.

We had a very enjoyable evening, but were quite surprised that only half of our courses were up to the three-star standard which Briffard is trying to achieve. There were failures of design and of technique. We know that Briffard was there as Linda saw him stepping out very briefly several times to speak to staff or quickly survey the dining room, although he did not circulate among the diners. The room was only two-thirds full, but it was a snowy Tuesday evening.

On the way out we admired the Christmas decorations in the lobby of the hotel.


3 Responses to “Le Cinq, Paris”

  1. bo frederiksen Says:

    Always a pleasure to read about Le Cinq and George V. It brings back good memories. I have been lucky to stay there 4 times and enjoy the restaurant and the service at two dinners. Looking forward to explore your blog further. You are the couple that invited Trine out in Copenhagen arent you ?

  2. felixhirsch Says:

    I was there a few days before you it seems, if for lunch.

    It’s interesting to see, that you came to more or less the same conclusion as I: Some of the food is excellent, whilst some features mistakes, or is a little strange in terms of conception.

    The asparagus in January surprised me too.

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