Just as Taillevent lost its third Michelin star in 2007, so did Le Cinq, the 10-year-old crown jewel at the Four Seasons George V hotel. A few Paris insiders told me they thought the food had declined recently. In fact, in the months leading up to this trip I’d heard about a movement by young French chefs who were trading Michelin Guide ratings and hard-wired traditions for (arguably) equally great food served in a more relaxed environment; perhaps it was having its effect. Plus, given the economy, how many people are putting places like Taillevent and Le Cinq in their restaurant rotation? But enough chitchat; let’s eat!
Ooh, evil French butter everywhere we go. This one we guessed to be black olive–anchovy butter; normally something I would love but it became overpowering after a couple bites.
Oysters with citronella, green apple gelée, and caviar. I thought this was nice, but the gelée overpowered the simplicity of a great oyster for me. A couple of my family members were still talking about this dish weeks later, however.
Next course, pictured at top: Vegetables with black truffle, chestnut cappuccino (in glass), and puff pastry brioche. This had me perplexed: dry root vegetables with just a drop or two of dressing around the plate. The accompanying chestnut cappuccino was delicious, however.
Sea scallops with ginger, Acquerello risotto, and black truffle. To my surprise, since it had so many wonderful ingredients in one dish, this was my least favorite. The scallops were bland, the Acquerello rice (which I use at home and know how creamy it can be) was insipid and undercooked. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it; maybe my taste buds had gone on sensory overload.
Blue lobster in minestrone with aged parmigiano reggiano cream and foam (in espresso cup). Okay, the taste buds were back; here’s a dish I could get behind. However, the portions were so large (that must have been half a lobster!)—some deep breathing ensued.
Young Barbary duck and foie gras in a pastry crust ingeniously lined with Brussels sprouts, and spiced pumpkin nougat. This was the best duck I think I’ve ever had (though the pumpkin nougat didn’t do much for me), but who could eat more than a few bites at this point? I tried my best.
Andrew and Oliver check to see if I’m still breathing.
Uh oh, is that Mont d’Or I see on the right? Must…make…some…room…
Aged Vacherin (Mont d’Or) (top) and 36-month-old Comté (bottom) with quince jelly. I must say that Taillevent wins the creamy Mont d’Or battle on this one. But yah, you know I finished it.
Enter the palate cleanser. Is this larger than usual? Hibiscus-raspberry-grapefruit gelée with vanilla-bourbon foam.
And then the “real dessert” arrives, oof. Bûche de Noël: Nyangbo dark chocolate log cake with mango–passion fruit crème brulée.
Petit fours arrived, and I believe a jar of chestnuts in syrup was wheeled over, which we all waved off, and the waiters knew they had achieved their goal of feeding us until we raised that white flag. France 1-0.
Other Paris restaurant reviews:
Joël Robuchon’s 3-week-old L’Atelier Etoile
Frederic Simonin: An Excellent Secret
Nomiya: Art Installation or Lunch?
Christmas Eve dinner at Taillevent
Casual Paris: Le 404 (Moroccan) and Café de l’Alma
Passage 53: We’re going out with a bang
Bonus Paris post: Le Chateaubriand, Darling or Dud?