Pierre Gagnaire, Paris 5
October 21, 2014
Our last visit to Pierre Gagnaire was almost five years ago, even though we often say that it is our favorite restaurant in the world. At that time I wrote:
“It was a mistake to go back to Pierre Gagnaire on this trip to Paris, even though it is our favorite restaurant there. It was our third time in twenty-two months. That is too often; the magic wears off; one gets too analytical. But I wonder how long we can stay away.”
Linda and I returned for dinner on October 14, 2014.
We have been going to his restaurant since 1993, when it was still in Saint Etienne. We returned in 1996, when he reopened in Paris, before our blog started, and have been going ever since.
This time we were seated at the same table as before, just up on the raised area. We started with glasses of Alfred Gratien brut Nature Champagne. An elaborate selection of little, almost precious, hors d’œuvres was put on the table.
Looking at the menus, we were intrigued by the elaborately described à la carte selections, but chose the big tasting menu, Esprit de Pierre Gagnaire, Automne. We ordered a bottle of 2011 Domaine Georges Vernay « Coteau de Vernon » Condrieu. It was delicious. Eventually, at the suggestion of the sommelier, we had glasses of 2007 Domaine Lignier-Michelot Morey-St-Denis with the one meat course. I had a glass of 2011 Domaine Desonche Jurançon with the desserts. Both glasses were very nice and perfectly matched. We were both served three breads: a buckwheat roll, a soft brioche and a conventional small baguette.
The first course was
Fondant de poularde gauloise blanche et foie gras d’oie au cidre fermier, baies de sureau.
It was served with
Liqueur de betterave rouge à l’hibiscus.
Endive et pomme reinette rôties, gelée de raisin muscat à la mélasse de caroube.
The diced beets were served on top of the cup of endive and apple ; these were good, and are meant to be a condiment for the unctuous slice of goose foie gras topped with elderberries, but it was gone by the time I got to them.
The second course was
Crevettes impériales raidies à l’eau-de-vie de houx, pain plancton à la crétoise ;
mangue jaune, maïs, concombre.
Two large Atlantic shrimp were served with diced mango, corn kernels and little plankton cakes. They were dressed with a reduction of the shrimp shells. Alongside was a
Bisque émulsionnée au poivre Timut.
A thickened shellfish bisque had been flavored with an aromatic Nepalese pepper.
Eau de cœur de bœuf légèrement citronnée ;
lait glacé de brebis à la menthe chocolat, cocos de Paimpol, courgette.
Ox heart tomato water with a touch of lemon had been jellied. It was served with a scoop of sheep’s milk ice cream, and big white beans.
Steak de tomate ananas, aubergine de Florence au cumin.
In this assembly was a thick slice of a pineapple tomato and a slice of eggplant with cumin.
Green zébra farcie de côte de blette.
A small green zebra tomato had been stuffed with diced chard stems.
Grosse huitre Tabouriech aux girolles, voile de seiche ;
beurre Kientzenheim et julienne de céleri-rave.
Marinière de clam, kokotchas, amandes coquillages.
An oyster raised in a special technique to be large was served atop a floppy, thin slice of cuttlefish with girolle mushrooms and celery root sticks. On top was a disk of a kind of mayonnaise. Underneath was an enhanced clam broth. This dish was especially good.
Cannelloni de bar de ligne mi cuit aux cèpes ; gnocchi de potimarron, cornes d’abondance, oignons Roscoff et câpres La Nicchia.
When we arrived at the restaurant, a basket of lovely cèpes was displayed on the counter. We saw it carried into the kitchen shortly before this dish was served. The top photo shows how it was served to us; underneath is the photo when I had turned it around. A cylinder of sea bass was barely cooked in an edible film. It was served with little pumpkin gnocchi, capers and horn of plenty mushrooms.
A thick slice of Galician Blond beef from Spain was served atop small kohlrabis and snails in a red wine sauce. The swash was a purée of nettles and shallots. Alongside was a complicated condiment to enhance the beef decorated with a faux chestnut leaf tile. This dish was excellent.
The last two were more substantial and were served after the other six, which were served at the same time on small plates. The desserts were all absolutely delicious. Although they were not overly sweetened, the cumulative effect at the end was of too much sugar.
We enjoyed all of our courses, although they did not have the same poetic quality that had made such an impression on us before. It is not clear if that is because the chef has evolved or we have aged. The last three courses before the desserts were the most substantial, the least complex and also the ones we enjoyed the most. This is surprising to us.
The service, pace and ambiance were excellent, as one would expect.
Pierre Gagnaire himself was present in his restaurant that evening, not at one of his other eleven restaurants around the world. He came around mid-meal to shake hands with everyone. We were invited at the end of the meal to see the kitchen, but by then it was all stainless steel being cleaned up. It was much larger than in our first kitchen visit at this location many years ago.
The restaurant’s website is part of a general Gagnaire website, http://www.pierre-gagnaire.com/fr, but it doesn’t seem to work very well.
To see our post before that click here.
To see the one before that click here.