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Pierre Gagnaire in Paris - 3 Michelin stars

Rating: 100.
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Extraordinary (96-100)
Outstanding (93-95)
Very good to Excellent (89-92)
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With restaurants in Paris, London, Dubai, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Moscow, Hong Kong and Seoel, Pierre Gagnaire's cuisine is present all around the world but obviously he's still most famous for his eponymous restaurant in Paris. His success story didn't start in Paris however. It was in Saint-Étienne that Pierre Gagnaire was awarded three Michelin stars in 1993. A few years after that however, his Saint-Étienne restaurant unfortunately had to close and Gagnaire moved to Paris. In 1996 he opened his (by now iconic) restaurant in the Rue Balzac, just off the Champs Elysées, and within two years Gagnaire was back to three Michelin stars. The restaurant is also featured in the World's 50 list. After maintaining a top 5 position for years the restaurant is at no 17 in 2012 list.

Pierre Gagnaire is also well-known for his close collaboration with Hervé This, a French chemist who is one of the founding fathers of molecular gastronomy and who has been an inspiration for many great chefs among whom Alain Passard and Heston Blumenthal. Pierre Gagnaire himself has been an inspiration for many chefs too. In his latest book 'Sergiology', Dutch three-star chef Sergio Herman relates that Gagnaire has been one of his main sources of inspiration and he even mentions that a visit to Gagnaire's Saint-Étienne restaurant many years ago literally changed his life.

Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire is open for lunch and dinner Monday till Friday and you can choose between the a la carte menu and a 9-course seasonal tasting menu. During lunch the restaurant also offers a lunch menu. I had lunch there with my husband on Tuesday 29 May 2012 and we both had the 'Spring" tasting menu. As this restaurant still clings to the old tradition of handing women a menu without prices (how wonderfully old-fashioned, how deliciously unfeministic and how fabulously romantic) and as the restaurant's website doesn't mention prices either, I can't tell you the price of the tasting menu for certain. After much emotional blackmail and arm-wrenching my husband revealed however that it was € 280. I think I believe him.

We kicked off our lunch with no fewer than 7 delicious amuses bouches.

Photo 1: Watermelon, spinach and banana, fresh and summery flavours (small bowl) - Lardo di Colonnata with hazelnut (small spoon) - Tuna, carrot and olive mixture with a squid ink cracker; fantastic tuna mixture, lovely bitters from the olive and a perfect squid ink crisp.
Photo 2: Ginger and lemon shortbread and a beetroot crisp, gorgeous caramelised ginger flavours and perfect shortbread.
No photo: Crispy bread with olive oil - Blackberry meringue - Celery with anchovy puree. 

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The first course of the tasting menu was Spider crab, Omiza and ginseng consommé, cockles, celeriac, sea fennel. A gorgeous creamy spider crab sauce with lovely fresh and sweet crab flavours, served with a wonderfully fragrant Omiza consommé that was lightly flavoured with ginseng. The paprika marinated celeriac provided flavour and texture. A very exciting dish that combined very intense crab flavours with sweet and bitter fruity flavours into a synthesis that was actually quite extreme. This dish definitely got the taste buds going and announced that  we were in for a ride.




The second course consisted of 3 dishes intended to be enjoyed together:
(i) Pike mousse with Savagnin and frog's legs (photo 2). Beautiful pike mousse with terrific succulent frog's leg meat. A lovely dish with elegant butter and garlic notes.
(ii) Nettle flan with white mushrooms. The flan had a perfect consistency and the white mushrooms in the flan were delicious (small dish photo 1).
(iii) Char fillet, lardo di Colonnata, walnuts, black trumpet mushrooms (photo 3). A wonderful piece of char fillet with a perfect crispy finish. Lovely bitters from the trumpet mushrooms and great texture and flavour from the walnuts.
All dishes worked really well together; the pike mousse with the flan in particular was a beautiful combination.

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Third course, King prawns, Madras curry, lemon caviar, piquillo pepper, pink grapefruit, avocado, radishes, ewe veloute. A fantastic, juicy prawn gives rise to a stunning dish with amazing flavours. Subtle Madras flavours, fantastic bitters and tanginess from the citrus fruits, the piquillo pepper and avocado delivering sweetness and there is wonderful warmth from the ewe veloute. A dish with many flavours but balanced out masterfully. A triumphant dish: it's got texture, it's got richness, it's got freshness.


On to the fourth course, Green and white asparagus, bream flavoured with citrus peel and agastache, asparagus cream, cabbage 'Coeur de Boeuf, watercress ravioli. Excellent asparagus, lovely crunch from the green asparagus and nice bitters from the white, asparagus in all it's naked sauceless beauty. Wonderful pure and clean flavours. The bream was delicious and almost had a texture as if it were cured. Terrific ravioli made with Belle de Fontenay potatoes. An extraordinary dish with elliptical flavours.


The fifth course, Octopus, white and red tuna, artichokes, aubergine, anchovies. Perfectly cooked tuna with a beautiful caramelisation and fantastic soft octopus. Perfectly prepared and delicious aubergine and artichokes. A comforting dish with very elegant bitters and a terrific interplay of flavours and textures.


Next, the sixth course, Morel mushrooms, Macvin, Comté cheese (aged for 24 months) tartlet with braised tomatoes and white carrots. A sublime dish with stunning flavours. Lovely meaty flavours from the juicy and plumptious giant morel mushrooms (the largest I have ever seen), absolutely wonderful sweetness from the carrots and tomatoes. Amazingly the Comté cheese tartlet played a very significant part in this dish in that it not only provided crunch in a dish with mainly soft textures, but it also really lifted the dish.


Seventh and main course, Veal (roasted and then finished en Cocotte), garden peas, cream, sorrel, Dijon mustard (by Fallot), physalis, raspberries, lightly smoked beetroot juice and 'kitul' juice. An incredibly tasty and juicy piece of veal. Wonderful fresh crunchy peas and a delicious pea puree which had a hint of sorrel and mustard. Lovely sweet and tart flavours from the raspberries and physalis which combined beautifully with the veal. An sensational and colourful dish, electrifying even, with beautiful textures and depth of flavour. Exceptional cooking in all respects.


On to the desserts. First the cheese course (eighth course). The cheese course came in three different dishes.
Photo 1: Apple crisp, sesame paste 'melba toast' and Abbaye de Tamié cheese - beautiful thin apple crisp and great texture from the toast.
Photo 2: Anneau du Vic Bilh goat's cheese, rhubarb juice infused with barberry and confit celery - lovely balance of flavours, sweet, sour, salty and wonderful well-matured goat's cheese.
Photo 3: Nasturtium leaves stuffed with Fourme d'Ambert and sprinkled with stevia - nice and spicy.

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Ninth course, Desserts Pierre Gagnaire, a parade of five desserts.
Photo 1: Blood orange puree, meringue, citrus and apricot Campari - wonderfully fresh and tart.
Photo 2: 'Frangipane' and black fruit marmelade - incredibly intense fruit flavours and lovely elegant almond flavours.
Photo 3: Fresh strawberries and red pepper puree - powerful flavours, a daring combintation: sweet, bitter, spicy but somehow they seem to work.
Photo 4: Monaco cocktail: red cabbage, rhubarb and rose mousseline and jelly - airy mousseline with lovely floral notes.
Photo 5: Chocolate - a wonderful luxurious chocolate dessert with lovely textures and different intensities of chocolate.
Photo 6: A selection of Pierre Gagnaire chocolates, sweets and other delicacies.

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Pierre Gagnaire was born in 1950 and consequently he now is 62 years old. But make no mistake: he's still cooking like a young god. This is gastronomy at the very highest level. Cutting edge flavours, creative and innovative flavour combinations are and have always been characteristic for this chef who has travelled wide and far throughout his career in search of inspiration. Gagnaire truly has an incredible sense for flavours and flavour combinations and this allows him to maximise flavours without overworking the ingredients. Top-qualitiy ingredients (e.g. sublime vegetables) and innovative and precise cooking deliver outstanding dishes with a modern and artistic presentation.

The dishes that I tasted were dishes from the Spring tasting menu, dishes built around a main ingredient, complemented by the most beautiful seasonal produce, on which this grand master then stamps his personal signature. In my book, at 62, Pierre Gagnaire is still at the forefront of gastronomic developments in haute cuisine. He produces dishes that are so modern, energetic and vibrant that they might be the work of a chef 30 years his junior.

Posted 14-07-2012




 
 
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