Le Bristol, Paris
June 14, 2010
Le Bristol received its third Michelin star a year ago, continuing the trend for restaurants with this top rating to be in luxury hotels. Linda and I went for dinner on April 28, 2010.
The ambience is certainly grande luxe with old wood panelling, tapestries, crystal chandeliers, flowers etc. The oval dining room is located right off the main lobby in the interior of the Hôtel Bristol. If we had been there a few days later, the restaurant gastronomique would have moved to its summer location with a glass wall looking out onto the hotel’s enclosed garden.
Shortly after we sat down, the champagne cart was wheeled up and we made our selections from its six bottles on ice. We looked at the menus while enjoying our champagne, but inevitably chose the tasting menu: Saveurs Printanières, Spring Flavors. The enormous wine list was presented and we faced the challenge of the first three courses being asparagus, foie gras and sole. Looking for a white wine with a bit of evident fruit we decided on a Condrieu, as we frequently do. The sommelier endorsed the idea and recommended the 2006 Vernay “Côteaux de Vernon” Condrieu. It was very good and fulfilled its role with the three courses. I asked the sommelier what he would have suggested if I hadn’t mentioned the Condrieu. He said probably a Pinot d’Alsace. Interesting. We did not want to be so ambitious with the red wine as it was only for the veal and the cheese so we selected a 2006 Domaine Cuilleron “Amarybelle” Saint Joseph. We found it quite insubstantial, contradicting my idea that one can always count on Cuilleron.
A selection of hors d’oeuvres arrived:
a spiral feuilletée with shallots and bacon;
a dome of cucumber and mint yoghurt;
a lollipop of foie gras in cotton candy with a crisp wafer;
a velouté of asparagus.
All four were interesting in themselves and made more so by the wide differences between them.
The amuse-gueule was a mousseline of sweet red peppers with piment d’espelette on top of diced vegetables in a vegetable gelée.
This was very good, refreshing with cool flavors and textures being sparked up just enough by the hotter espellete red pepper.
The first course on the menu was
Asperges vertes de Pertuis
en fin velouté, sabayon léger, glace à l’essence de truffe noire
At the bottom were fresh, firm, flavorful asparagus pieces in a light cream sauce. This was topped by a sabayon, a warm whipped light custard with its flavor enhanced by truffle jus. On top was a scoop of black truffle ice cream. This dish was a mix of complementary elegant flavors with a temperature contrast that added an unusual point of interest without distracting. Bravo.
Foie gras de canard
cuit en papillote, huîtres fumées, bouillon de canard au thé vert
This dish was presented in a cellophane wrapping. We were asked to appreciate the aroma as it was cut open in front of us: nice, mostly tea. The contents were then put into a plate for us. The technique of adding smoked fish to foie gras as an indirect way of getting the smoky flavor to the foie gras is not new, but it is more often done with eel. The oysters worked well and were more assertive. The duck broth with green tea reinforced the other flavors.
Filets de sole
farcis champignons et épinards, cuits au jus de moules, sucs d’écrevisses
The filet of sole was wrapped around a filling of mushrooms and spinach cooked in mussel juice. The sauce was on a crayfish reduction. This course was good, but wasn’t at the extraordinary level of the first two.
Ris de veau
braisé au fenouil sec, carottes au pain d’épices et citron, jus de cuisson
The big lobe of sweetbread had a stick of lemongrass through it, which adds a gentle flavor, but is not unique to Le Bristol. The carrots and fennel quarters had been individually spiced, but everything had the same texture and the flavors blended.
Les fromages affinés de saison
The cheese tray was the right size to offer enough variety without excess which would make it hard to have them all in good serving condition. Note the two big blocks of Beaufort and Salers, which seem to be very trendy now. My plate had Beaufort, Coulommiers, a dry goat cheese and a preserved apricot. Everything was in perfect condition.
A predessert of coconut sorbet on a tropical fruit gelée.
pochée à l’hibiscus, fromage blanc allégé, sorbet fraise
Rhubarb and strawberries are a classic combination, but the hibiscus added an exotic note.
La noix du Brésil
caramélisée, feuilletine praline, légère mousse de lait, crème glacée Jivara
Jivara is a milk chocolate, which is unusual in upscale desserts, but it lends itself to ice cream.
Chocolate macaroons and dark tea bubbles.
The service was excellent and the pace just right. We were surprised that six of the nineteen tables were empty. The meal lived up to its three-star rating and price. It did not have the panache of Pierre Gagnaire, but had some imaginative touches to liven up the basically classic French foundation of the cuisine. We are happy we went.