Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ledoyen, Paris (***)

In the heart of Paris, near Le Petit Palais, overlooking the Champs Elysees, there is a 3 Michelin star restaurant, Ledoyen since 1792.

Maybe you have seen the movie Le Grand Restaurant, where the famous actor Louis de Funes, in the role of Septime, an haute cuisine restauranteur, is doing anything to keep the glory of his restaurant. 

It is indeed Ledoyen.

The restaurant was first located near place de la Concorde but then moved in 1848 to its present place to the other side of the avenue. The restaurant belongs to Group Epicure, although the building is a property of the City of Paris. Many great chefs have passed from Ledoyen during the last two centuries. The last one, now being the head chef of the restaurant, is Christian Le Squer. Born in Brittany, after training at Lucas Carton, Taillevent, the Ritz Paris, and gaining two Michelin stars at the Restaurant de l'Opera at the Grand Hotel Intercontinental, he took command of Ledoyen where in 2002 he was awarded a third michelin star. The talented pastry chef is Nicola Gras.

Many were also the famous guests-customers of the restaurant with Napoleon Bonaparte or Robespierre at the early years and later Picasso, Manet, Degas, Cezanne. 

The building, a Greek inspired neoclassical renovated some 20 years ago, has two stores with a big rectangular salle in the second surrounded by large windows. You can see the sunlight in the photos. This must be one of the most majestic dining rooms in Paris, along with the great dining room of the Hotel le Meurice, renovated by Philippe Stark. The tables are huge and remarkably well spaced out, comfort at its best. Looking at the decor with the heavy curtains, the double bordeaux and white table cloths, the big wooden armchairs, the monogrammed and engraved napkins and menus you would expect the food to be traditional french haute cuisine, like it is at L'Ambroisie for example. You would be wrong as the food here is modern with even some molecular techinics, and infuences from all over the world. 

There is a dejeuner menu available every day for lunch with starter, main course, cheese course and dessert; the a la carte option and the menu ''La decouverte des specialites'' which consists of 5 courses, the specialities of Christian Le Squer, both available for lunch and dinner. In some restaurants they will not allow diners on the same table to chose different course menus, but in Ledoyen this is not a problem. We had one lunch menu and one menu decouverte. I am also not a friend of sweetbreads so I asked for a replacement dish. They offered me some dishes to choose but I wanted the famous spaghetti. 

We started with some nibbles and an amuse bouche. Horseradish and squid ink potato chips, ginger and campari formed into a bubble, crispy sandwich of mousse de foie gras with meringue on top, filo pastry with cheese and mushroom filling and an apple sphere. It was a first taste of the quality and the mastery of the kitchen. 

Bread was of 3 different kinds. Small baguettes were very hard and crunchy but had very good flavor, small pain with olives was very light and a sesame roll like a brioche had little crust and moist interior. Butter was just good. 

The amuse-bouche was sea urchin covered with crystallized milk and dill cream. Like a variation of the chaud-frois, the warm sea urchin with the distinctive iodine taste was pairing well with the cold milk. 

My first course was Grosses Langoustines Bretonnes avec Emulsion d'agrumes. This half portion plate consisted of one large langoustine tail in its shell cooked a la plancha, as well as langoustine meat covered with kantaif and then deep fried. The emulsion of ''argumes'', olive oil and citrus, was quickly transformed into a sauce, giving the acidity to the dish. The langoustines, sitting on a gelee made by its own broth and agar, were of remarkable quality, extremely fresh and spot on cooked, very tender, juicy and well seasoned. 

The starter of the menu dejeuner ''saveurs terre et riviere''. You can say this is also a Le Squer's classic. Smoked eel and eel tartare as river at the base of the dish, beetroot in different textures as the earth on top. Again excellent ingredients paired properly. 

The second course of the menu decouverte was Blanc de Turbot de ligne braise avec des pommes rattes truffees. You could imagine by the size of the fillet (there is an even bigger one if you order a la carte) that it should come from a huge turbot, but this is in fact two fillets precisely cut, put into a ring and then into the oven for 15 minutes. Under the turbot the potatos are pressed by fork, combined with milk, butter and covered with black truffle butter sauce and foam. On top of the fish the diagonal stripes are from black truffle. Minimalistic looking dish with precious ingredients. When it arrived hot on the table, it had strong black truffle aromas, but the taste of the fish was a bit bland. It may had the gelatinus texture of turbot, it may be as fresh as possible and of highest quality but I wasn't blown away as I expected just by reading the description of it. The best one I had remains the one at Paul Bocuse

The main course of the menu dejeuner was suckling pig with its crispy skin, potatos puree, shallots and brown sauce. The pig had strong garlic flavor and was really tender. 

Third course of the menu decouverte was Truffle Noire, Jambon, Champignons aux Spaghetti. The most famous dish of Ledoyen and Le Squer, a spaghetti castle that holds into shape with egg and Parmesan, cooked in the oven, filled with white jambon, mushrooms and black truffle in a white sauce. The waitor then poured more sauce and added a generous portion of shaved white truffle. The spaghetti was cooked al dente and every element was precisely prepared and put in its correct place. Even though it was the truffle season and it still is, the flavor was not that strong. Maybe this has to do with the year as a waiter at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay informed me that this year the cost of white truffles is 2000 pounds per kilo, in contrary with last year's 4000 pounds. Overall a great rich dish and itself a reason to dine at Ledoyen. 

Before dessert, both menus had a cheese course, Fromage frais et affines par notre Maitre fromager. Supplied by Bernard Antony and Quatre Hommes, all were in perfect condition. I chose Comte, Mimolette, Mont d'or and Roquefort. Comte is one of my favorites cheeses and here it was very good. The bread accompanying this course was either black bread with walnuts or bread with raisins which I took and it was really outstanding. 

The dessert of the menu dejeuner, a five layer chocolate gateau, consisted of a crispy chocolate base, with vanilla cream, a caramel layer to separate it from the chocolate ganache and a thin layer of chocolate. 

My first dessert, Levure glacee, rape de chocolat blanc et d'amande. Yeast ice cream, white chocolate and almonds, with sugar made thin sheets, decorated with a silver leaf. I found the taste a bit flat, it was too light, too airy like eating a cloud, and I would be disappointed if this was the only dessert, but as part 1 of 3, no problem at all. 

The second dessert course, a speciality of Ledoyen, Croquant de Pamplemousse cuit et cru. Five different preparations in different textures of grapefruit. Even thought I don't like grapefruit this was delicious and very refreshing. The portion was not as big as the normal a la carte one, luckily, as it was still too much for me. In order from the base, grapefruit, confit giving the sweetness, marinated in lime for the acidity, rephresing sorbet, croquant, marmalade. 

The last part of the desserts medley had to be something with chocolate, and it was. Two bars with croustillant base and chocolate ganache, similar to the Louis XV au crustillante de praline, salted butter caramel in the middle, cold creme fraiche and chocolate pop up candy. I didn't expect to find pop up candy in Ledoyen and it actually reminded me of Heston Blumenthal and the numerous videos on YouTube I have seen that he used it. This chocolate dessert was sublime, easily the best one of the meal and one of the best I have ever had. 

The mignardises that had already been served before any desserts came out of kitchen were a sphere from sangria, a biscuit with passion fruit creme and a pistachio macaron. The last was chewy and hard in the middle, the sangria was just interesting, and the first was very good. 

At that time we were pretty much stuffed, but we couldn't help trying the kouign amann (kouign is the Breton word for cake and amann for the butter) avec des amandes caramelises that came at the end. A Breton pastry similar to croissant, with layers of puff pastry separated with much butter and more sugar that caramelizes it. It was perfect. 

In many reviews I have read, some were unsatisfied by the service. I really don't have a clue why. At the time of my visit the service was flawless, well organized, professional and friendly. Our Asian waitress was really excellent. You really can't get any better service than that. The restaurant had 2 or 3 empty tables, the dishes kept coming without any delays and the whole meal lasted two and a half hours. 

From the description of the restaurant, by the restaurateur, I quote: Ledoyen, le plus secret des restaurants 3 etoiles. Again I have no clue why they say that, I will be glad to have your input on this. The setting is magnificent, the location is in the most famous (and prettiest) avenue of the world, the Champs Elysees. The products used are pretty much the best you can find anywhere in the world and they are also prepared and cooked accordingly, with huge attention to detail. Christian Le Squer seems to have found the golden section is some of his dishes, making them everyday without any changes. 

So would I suggest this restaurant? Even if I wasn't blown away by any particular dish, everything was from good to excellent. This is a true 3 star restaurant as for the food and if you take into account the service and the setting, then it's a place you shouldn't miss.

*As of the 1st of July 2014 Yannick Alleno replaced Christian LeSquer in Ledoyen. The latter is currently the executive chef of Le Cinq restaurant in the Hotel Four Seasons George V, since Eric Briffard left. 

No comments:

Post a Comment