Friday, October 17, 2014

Paris, Fall 2014: The New Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenee, Es, Semilla, Le Coq Rico, Restaurant David Toutaine, Akrame.

I looked foward to eating at some very new and potentially exciting restos in Paris, particularly the "New Alain Ducasse". This new restaurant is focused on plant based cuisine, a very forward thinking philosophy reflective of the very serious current research in a form of eating/nutrition that optimizes good health, and is now becoming the prime directive of many leading physicians to their patients. 

The New Alain Ducasse

Walking in to this newly renovated room of luxury, refinement and very modern design, one is transported into a dream-like space. Chandeliers and small crystals sparkle and dangle from the high ceiling.

When presented with the menu, I could not help but notice that there was no meat or fowl offered on the menu. The dishes are either all plant derived, plant and shellfish or plant and fish. This is a first for such an important dining establishment.

Despite the limited number of dishes on the menu, guests are regularly plied with unexpected treats.

After getting settled, we were asked we wished to drink, before the alcoholic drinks arrived we were presented with a chilled glass of vegetable and beet water flavoured with hibiscus and flower of ginger (above). A delightful and refreshing beginning that was accompanied by toasted, mixed cereal crackers.

While relaxing and enjoying our drinks, the orders were taken and more "treats" followed.

Gherkins and a truly baby zucchini with it's flower were presented on a black radish puree.

Mullet sashimi with shaved marinated bottarga.

Marinated and lightly grilled sardine. The spine, head and tail were crispy deep fried and we were encouraged to eat them all. Delicious!

Sea bream tartar with chick pea mousse.

My first "ordered" course (3 images above): pan fried buckwheat pancakes with jellied eel, very rich, thick and tart sour cream served aside pressed caviar and lentils. A fabulous dish.

A presentation of baby artichokes, carrot, turnip, fennel, baby green beans, shallot, spinach, radish, all from the garden at Versailles. A hot broth made from carrot and turnip juice is pored over all.

Concentrated corn juice and lemon with corn kernels, sea kelp, cockles and razor clams and all topped with an intense shellfish reduction.

 A simple grilled mushroom salad for my dinner partner.

Turbot (ordered by my dinner partner), exceptionally well cooked with a wonderful firm texture and flavour, accompanied by watercress and champagne sauce and turnips..

Quinoa, quince, baby turnip, black trumpet mushrooms, root vegetables and mushroom juice. An exceptionally well composed and flavourful dish.

Then, a house treat, the Japanese tradition of serving rice at the end of the meal, is followed. A presentation of black Japanese rice, shellfish, kelp, "soup" fish and red wine had a wonderful nutty crunchiness. What an enjoyable and novel finish to this exceptional meal, before the desserts.

 A selection of cheeses to taste, another "treat".

Caramel parfait, fresh sheep cheese, fresh pepper, scattered cereal and Darbousier honey.

Rum presented with the cake below.

Savarin (baba au rum) is the second dessert, another "treat". Remarkably, this example of baba, although good, does not hold a candle to the flavour of the baba at Edulis restaurant, Toronto.

My dinner partner's dessert, lemon and mint with kombu and tarragon.

 A fig treat.

The final dessert is an Alain Ducasse dark chocolate bar, now commercially available, each cube is filled with chocolate ganache.

The bill, presented in a shagreen folder (the ultimate luxury presentation).

Restaurant Es

Chef Takayuki Honjo worked at several very important restaurants, including L’Alstrance in Paris, Quintessence in Tokyo, Le Petit Nice in Marseille, Mugaritz in Spain and Noma in Copenhagen. Just fyi, Mugaritz and Noma are 2 of my 3 favourite restaurants in the western hemisphere!

The first thing one notices, arriving at the correct address is that there is no sign on the street to alert you that you are in the right place. Walking in the restaurant one immediately notices the immaculate appearance: six tables, isolated from the street by a white curtain with nothing on the white washed walls. The seating is a continuous, stained white, hard wood bench with multifolded blankets placed appropriately for each place setting. 

During the beginning of the meal, delightful Poujauran bread and the wonderful Ponclet butter are a remarkable distraction from what is presented on the plates.  To summarize what follows, we found the cuisine simple but highly refined. Each plate held a piece of food perfection.

Beet spheres with a citrus like, physalis fruit interior.

Caramelized jerusalem artichoke with a hazelnut emulsion, topped with a dill flower.

Sliced black tomato (probably kumamoto) with a mildly smokey scamorza cheese sauce, a very tasty and complementary combination.

Slightly roasted foie gras topped with a nasturtium leaf and sea urchin, all surrounded by a turnip and sea urchin sauce.

Grilled brill with black trumpet mushrooms, squid ink and tapenade sauce, girolle mushrooms and sauteed zucchini.

Yellow Lande chicken, presented properly cooked medium rare, was very juicy and tender and deliciously flavourful. The chicken was presented with braised cabbage, sauteed celery root and peanuts.

Juicy and remarkably tender, delicately flavoured Iberian pork was presented medium rare with grenaille potatoes, grilled onion, smokey eggplant puree and a sweet onion sauce.

The first dessert was different textures of pear with rum and grape ice cream.

The final dessert was different textures of coffee held in a thin sugar crystal cylinder accompanied by hazelnuts.

Mignardises consisting of orange tartlette filled with raspberry and chocolate; a kirsch cream puff and a strawberry raspberry puff. Each one a petit delight.

The very elegant, well executed desserts were from pastry chef Yukiko Saka.


 Grilled leeks with fresh cheese and spiced vinegar.

Royale of onions with mushroom, shavings of onion and cooked foie gras.

 Carpaccio with figs, chickpeas and nuts.

 Langostine tartar with coriander, pomelo and peanuts.

Filet of duckling, pot-au-feu style with vegetables from the garden. A wonderful dish combing the best flavours of the seared duck and the harmonious simmered range of veggies..

Le Coq Rico

Le Coq Rico is chef Antoine Westermann's culinary expression for his passion about great poultry. Here, he is endeavoring to supply the best quality, flavourful farm and game birds available. At this restaurant, he makes available the best from the most important poultry raising regions of france, as regions, and with some birds, the season, will make a great difference to the flavour of poultry in France. Very ambitious!

The food is supervised by executive chef Thierry Lebe, who has "interpreted" the style of Antoine Westermann at Le Coq Rico.

A platter of giblets to start: stomach, part of the wing, croquette and heart. They were very good.

Whole poulet jaune from Landes. Very flavourful, but a touch over cooked.

Whole Bresse chicken, very flavourful, perhaps slight less full flavoured than the Landes chicken, but again, slightly over cooked, in my opinion.

Very well flavoured and gamey Auvergne guinea fowl. Again, slightly overcooked in my opinion, based on my experiences at some of the best restos in Paris.

Good french fries. However, please note that I ordered what was referred to on the menu as "home style fries". I expected what we North Americans refer to as home fries and got french fries.

This resto is a great place to sample various fowl from the best regions of france. Other Fowl offered were whole birds from Challon, Gers yellow chicken, pigeon from Mesquer, cou-cou de Rennes and Dombes duckling. Just make sure that you ask for your fowl to be cooked medium rare to medium (if you are concerned with fowl risk. I prefer great fowl, properly raised and butchered, medium rare to rare.).


Akrame is a good restaurant where the owners really care. But, it did not reach the levels of excellence of Es or David Toutaine, in my view. They tried hard, perhaps too hard in some ways with the food.

Oreo like, thin disks of cookie like sardines filled with parmesan cream. Original, and I liked this a lot.

Fermented milk tartelette on a napkin and to the left, a pureed veggie stuffed brioche.

The house made butter presentation from which we were served: salty butter and tarragon and lemon flavoured butter, 

The butters. 

Salad of heirloom tomatoes, tomato jelly, wild spinach and vodka tonic granite. 

Tagliatelle with thinly shaved white Alba truffles and parmesan cream. 

Mediterranean oyster with lemon, foie gras powder and fresh hazelnut. 

A fried egg with girolles (mushrooms) and fried black squid ink. 

Cockles in a lightly vinegared red wine sauce. A terrific combination of flavours served with this wine below that was particularly noteworthy because remarkably, it has a slightly salty flavour

Raw lobster from Brittany with a celery, lobster consomme, with seaweed and caviar des champs, a seed from the Akita prefecture of Japan that resembles fish eggs, has a crunchy texture and tastes a bit like artichoke or broccoli. 

Pollock, a rather large piece for such a many coursed meal, perfectly cooked, with artichoke and peanut sabayon sauce. 

We were then serve an intermezzo of frozen mojito (no photo).

Chicken from the region of Challon, cooked over charcoal. 

The chicken is plated with potatoes, brown butter (beurre noisette). The tragedy was that the chicken was a bit overcooked.

Tete de Moine and paper thin beet root in layers.

Tete de Moine and paper thin beet root in layers in chicken consomme in the final presentation.   

Caramel sugar biscuit with milk ice cream and lemon zest. 

Avocado puree, white chocolate, bananas and crispy rice.  

Ravioli with marzipan and strawberry ice cream. 

Petit four, the ones on the left made to look like a sliced hard boiled egg.

David Toutaine

David Toutaine is another relatively new resto that does not have a menu. The entire menu is a "surprise" and all one is asked is if one has any allergies or any foods one particularly dislikes. This has become somewhat of a trend in Paris and elsewhere. In Toronto, this method is also newly used at the 2 renown restaurants, Edulis and Splendido. 

The decor is rather sparse and minimal. It is the food on the table that is expected to hold your attention, and it does. I found this chef a master of flavour combinations.

Oxidized and dried salsify with parsnip and white chocolate puree. A wonderful combination of flavours and textures.

Very thin, beet root sugar crystal cylinder filled with beet root and blackberry foam, all resting in beet root powder. The flavour of the beet root blackberry foam was slightly smokey. A very good and intriguing starter.

Beef carpaccio, finely ground beef flavoured with raspberries and sided with ground hazelnut and topped with oxalis, which has a flavour somewhat reminiscent of sorrel. The beef is dipped in the ground nuts and eaten in one bight. A remarkably good flavour and quite original.

Egg yolk in a sweet corn emulsion with finely diced chives, topped with cerbe cumin flavoured caramelized corn/salt drizzle and sided with a piece of corn bread. A great combination of highly enticing flavours..

Tomatoes with almond cream, purple  and green basil powder, strawberry jelly and crystallized strawberry.

Salted Normandy butter with warm brioches. This combo went quickly! 

Lightly grilled mackerel, almost raw, with coffee powder and a slightly smokey eggplant puree caramelized onions and nasturtium leaves. 

Cod (rare-med rare) with a very thin, crusty caramelized salt and sugar top crust, lemon verbena, lemon verbena oil, lemon verbena and lemon mayo, dill flowers, coffee butter and a very long, slow cooked, very sweet carrot.

Bouillon of shrimp and carrots, very reduced and sweetened by that, with a touch of dill. 

Squid stuffed with chopped speck, speck, fermented garlic and kale. The speck lent a wonderfully smokey flavour to this dish. 

Slightly smoked eel in a creamy black sesame sauce with diced pickled green apple. Loved this course.

Roasted and seared coucou de rennes chicken done medium rare (as it should be), parsnip, and parsley/parsnip vegetable sauce. The chicken had a wonderful intense chicken flavour.

White chocolate, coconut and cauliflower cream with coconut ice cream. This was a terrific and refreshing finish, and highly original.

Chocolate and thyme ice cream with chocolate shavings and chocolate sauce.

Financiere with cherry. 

Buried in the powdered chocolate, coconut, hazelnut and coffee mixture was a chocolate truffle.

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