Le Grand Restaurant – Jean François Piège, Paris
June 14, 2016
Jean-François Piège did his military service in 1991 as a cook at the Elysée Palace, the residence of the Presidents of France. He then worked for Alain Ducasse for twelve years. In 2009 he became chef at a brasserie in Paris and a fine dining restaurant the following year. In September of 2015 he opened Le Grand Restaurant a short walk from the Elysée Palace. It received two Michelin stars in February of 2016. Linda and I went for dinner on May 11, 2016.
The décor of Le Grand Restaurant contrasts with its name. The walls are roughly painted, unadorned boards. There are no flowers. Paris Match described it as “the cold esthetic of an Icelandic airport.” It is understandable that Piège, who is the owner of this restaurant, needed to hold down the startup investment, and wanted the focus to be on his cuisine, but his choice of a name is interesting. It is unusual nowadays in Paris for the chef of a top restaurant also to be the owner.
We started with glasses of the house Champagne, J.L. Vergnon blanc de blancs brut, which was ready in the spherical ice bucket.
We had a second glass to go with the first menu dish, which featured caviar.
Un épi feuilleté arrived. This puff pastry stick glazed with egg yolk was still warm from the oven.
The amuse-gueule arrived in three parts.
The bread basket was passed.
We chose the Menu Signature Mijoté Moderne. We ordered a bottle of 2007 Bruno Clair Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Gevrey-Chambertin.
This was superb.
The first course was
Pomme de terre Agria soufflé craquante,
nage émulsionée de crustacés, caviar.
When we took the top off of the silver egg, we found a mid-level tray with a generous dollop of good caviar on a crisp egg-shaped potato souflée. Lovely.
Lifting off the tray we found a shellfish jelly and potato purée separated by more caviar. Lovely.
Alongside the egg was this bitter herb flower which we were instructed to eat last in one bite. It provided a conclusion to all the preceding luxury.
The second course was
Ma version du gâteau de foie blond selon Lucien Tendret,
baigné d’une sauce aux écrevisses.
A little cake made from the livers of Bresse chickens was surrounded by crayfish tails and napped with a crayfish-lobster sauce. On top was a lobster foam. The combination seems illogical, but it is classic, going back to 19th century cuisine writer Lucien Tendret. This was a successful updating.
Homard bleu de Bretagne mijoté sur des carapaces,
feuilles de choux cuisinées dans une essence de champignons,
hareng, citron, châtaignes.
Pieces of the famous blue lobster of Brittany have been cooked slowly on their shells. They were garnished with braised cabbage leaves, herring, lemon and chestnuts.
Ris de veau de lait mijoté sur des coques de noix,
mousseline de noix,
morilles au Château d’Arlay,
jus perlé d’ail sauvage.
The sweetbreads were grilled over walnut shells and presented to us. Our slices were served quite plainly with some thyme. Alongside were a thick walnut cream and a bowl of morels braised with garlic.
The flavors were lovely and worked well together.
Podium de fromages fermiers de chez Xavier, affinés pour nous.
A multi-level wooden podium with an assortment of cheeses was put on our table. They were in perfect condition, but we could only eat about half.
The pre-dessert was:
Blanc à manger
Linda’s dessert was
Fine gavotte croustillante, jus de rhubarbe glacée,
fraises Garigette, marjolaine.
Rhubarb and strawberries are a classic combination in the spring. This was a baroque version.
My dessert was
Chocolat pure Origine de l’île de Java, croustillant-moelleux,
assaisonné de vanilla, ananas.
The rich chocolate was in several different forms in this dessert. It was garnished with a vanilla cream and pineapple bits.
The mignardise was a little cup of crème bergamote.
On the way out we could see the cooks finishing the cleanup of the kitchen.
We enjoyed our meal. The cuisine lived up to its “Grand Restaurant” name more than the décor did. There were caviar, crayfish and lobster. The preparations were successfully elaborate and French. The service was efficient, the pace fine and the noise level quiet. Bravo, Jean-François.