Sur Mesure, Paris
November 19, 2013
At the age of 18, after completing an apprenticeship as a pastry chef, Thierry Marx became a paratrooper and he served as a UN “blue helmet” soldier during the 1980 Lebanese civil war. Back in civilian life he worked in a variety of jobs, finally returning to the kitchen. He cooked in Sydney, Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo. Thierry Marx earned a Michelin star as head chef in three different restaurants in France finally gaining a second at Cordeillan-Bages near Bordeaux in 1999. In 2011 he opened Sur Mesure in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on the rue Saint Honoré in Paris. It received two Michelin stars the following year. Linda and I went for dinner on October 9, 2013.
At Cordeillan-Bages he was known for Japanese-influenced “molecular cuisine.” We were curious how much that would be evident at Sur Mesure.
The genial young sommelier offered us four Champagnes for apéritif. Although we had never heard of it before, we ordered glasses of Egly-Ouriet Les Vignes de Vrigny 1er cru; it lived up to its description of complex flavors from very ripe grapes. This was served with warm, soft gougères and crisp black sesame seed wafers.
There is no à la carte menu, just a menu dégustation with nine courses, although one can choose to have just six of them. There are alternate selections in three of the courses, but Linda and I chose the same ones. After considerable discussion with the sommelier we ordered a bottle of 2007 Pommard 1er Cru “Clos des Epeneaux” Comte Armand.
This seemed disappointing at first, but after it opened up in the decanter, it was very good.
The first course was
Chou-fleur structure & déstructure.
There were three cauliflower-based dishes in this course: a sort of dumpling topped with a dab of caviar, a foie gras dome on a cauliflower disk with dabs of white plum and a soup. All were very good. We were told to start with the soup, which set up the palate with the cauliflower flavor then picked up in the other two.
There were sautéed cèpes inside the striped raviolo. Underneath was a chestnut and pumpkin purée with dots of walnut oil. The foam was flavored with ossau-irauty cheese. This lovely dish brought together complementary fall flavors. Cèpes, known as porcini in the U.S. and Italy, were in four dishes this evening. Thierry Marx does not neglect seasonality in his modernist techniques.
Escargots / ravioles végétales / Noilly Prat
There was a snail on a garlic-flavored bread chip inside each of the three parsley-jelly ravioli: a classic French flavor combination. The foam was vermouth-flavored.
Carbonara de poche
The cylinder formed from pappardelle was filled with frothy cream topped with a soft-boiled quail egg that spilled lusciously into the cylinder when opened. A grilled cèpe was topped with shredded cheese threads. A crisp slice of bacon completed the carbonara theme.
« Risotto » de soja aux huîtres / cèpes
Although not photogenic, this is a signature dish of Thierry Marx. Soybean sprouts are cut to the size of a grain of rice, as is the meat of cèpes, shallots and oysters. A « risotto » is made of this and then thinned with the juice of the oysters and soy milk.
A rich piece of lobster tail is cooked in white miso. It is served with a garnish including a leek cylinder, crisp shallot threads and a violet. On a smaller plate are pieces of lobster claw cooked in a tempura batter colored with squid ink, served with a thick lobster bisque dip.
Sweet Bento & Ylang-ylang
This was a four part dessert, all presented together.
The first was a « sweet bento box » with a frozen meringue flavored with ylang-ylang, the oil of a tropical tree; an avocado cream and a vanilla panna cotta ball with a stripe of grapefruit jelly inside.
Aubergine cristallisée / aubergine confite / parfum d’herboriste
This was described as an eggplant dessert, but I didn’t find any eggplant flavor. Nonetheless, it was very good, like everything else.
On leaving, we were given canalés to enjoy with our morning coffee.
The service was friendly and efficient; the pace was just right; the noise level was low. The dishes were described in detail as they were served, but it was difficult to retain so much and I have probably made some errors in the descriptions above, but none which will be misleading in understanding the dish. I did not write “excellent” after each dish as that would be boringly repetitive; they were all excellent with no exceptions.
There were undoubtedly many subtle uses of molecular techniques in the meal to make things hold together etc, but they were not obvious except for the light foams. We had no digestive issues afterwards as we have in more pronounced “modern” meals. The Japanese influence was limited to the lobster dish. The successful imagination and creativity in this meal were exceptional. A third Michelin star for Sur Mesure is surely merited.