Thursday, December 28, 2017

Maison Berthillon (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★☆☆

Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité, the two remaining natural islands in the Seine River, are two of my favorite places to visit whenever I come to Paris. 

When I set foot on these islands, one of the first things that came to mind would be Maison Berthillon or Berthillon Glacier, the century-old manufacturer of luxury ice-cream and sorbet.

I had a terrible experience with their milkshake last time around so I kept reminding myself to stick with their ice-cream and sorbet. Two scoops of ice-cream (or sorbet) do cost a fortune here at Berthillon but the experience itself is certainly worthy of the heavy price tag.

My little nugget has been grumpy all afternoon so while Jelloman tries to put him to sleep, I have myself some extra time to enjoy my hazelnut and salted peanut butter caramel ice-cream.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: €€€
Address: 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, 75004 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: Pont Marie
Tel: +33 (0)1 4354-3161

Grand Cœur (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★☆☆

As a fan of chef Mauro Colagreco's refined cuisine, it would have been a huge disappointment for me to miss out on his interpretation of a modern brasserie at Grand Cœur.

Hidden in a courtyard in the Marais, Grand Cœur (literally means "Big Heart") is a delightful brasserie that serves an exciting contemporary French menu designed by chef Colagreco himself and executed by stand-in chef Rafael Gomez, who is an alumnus of Eleven Madison Park and Gramercy Tavern, two of the finest fine-dining institutions in New York City.

Pumpkin velouté (15 euro) - Lunch started off brightly for me with a small bowl of warm pumpkin velouté. There's a bit of coconut milk in there, along with a pair of roasted scallops, a long strip of poached pumpkin and some pumpkin seeds. The soup was really flavorful and velvety and what has made this even more enjoyable was the tiny bit of unexpected spicy kick (which was lovely by the way).

Guinea fowl terrine (13 euro) - What would a brasserie menu be without guinea fowl terrine as one of the starters, right? This came with a bit of black chanterelle in the middle and was served with some country bread and herbs salad on the side. Not bad but I definitely like my pumpkin soup a little bit more.

Wild fish of the day (29 euro) - I took a flyer on the wild fish of the day which turned out to be wild grouper which was slow-cooked and then roasted. Chef Colagreco loves to add fruity flavors to his dishes (especially seafood) and it was in full display with this grouper dish. A very intense raspberry sauce made its mark there with sharp acidity which was complemented nicely with radish, onion and pickled carrot purée. 

Suckling pig (27 euro) - The pork belly was nice and soft but a crispy skin was missing in action (otherwise would have been perfect). There were different textures of sweet corn there to balance the richness of the suckling pig.

Grand Cœur's Mediterranean-accented menu was truly as good as advertised but unfortunately, it was their service that let us down. Throughout the meal, the staff were friendly but service was very slow which took a little something away from our dining experience (example, our main course took more than 45 minutes to arrive but our server didn't try to do anything about it.).

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: €€€
Address: 41 Rue du Temple, 75004 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: Rambuteau / Hotel de Ville 
Tel: +33 (0)1 5828-1890

Boulangerie Joséphine (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★☆☆

I know the neighborhood around Avenue Marceau like my own backyard coz after all, this is the second time I'm staying in this area. Like yesterday morning, I was asked to go out and get everybody breakfast in the morning. I was initially planning to go back to Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac Chaillot but ended up at Boulangerie Joséphine, a place I fell in love with during one of my previous visit to Paris.

Paris-brest - On top of some brioche I'm getting for my family, I also got this Paris-brest. It was a little heavy for breakfast for most people but for me, it's about right.

I thought it was reasonably okay. The hazelnut cream was definitely not bad but the choux pastry could be better.

Food Rating: 4.5/10
Price: €€€
Address: 69 Avenue Marceau, 75116 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: George V
Tel: +33 (0)1 4720-0596

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Le Clos des Gourmets (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★★☆

We decided to test our luck on our way to Eiffel Tower by randomly picking out a restaurant as our dinner venue tonight. Not that there were a ton of options on that part of the city anyways so we tried not to get too picky.

After checking out a number of restaurants and their menu, we zeroed in on Le Clos des Gourmets on Avenue Rapp, a cozy little restaurant with contemporary décor with the perfect contemporary cuisine to match it. There's more to it too, it's within striking distance to Eiffel Tower.

They have a fairly interesting menu that doesn't break the bank (42 euros for 3 courses).

On a cold winter night, there's really nothing better than having a bowl of warm chestnut soup to kick off the meal. 

Having chestnut velouté with chocolate squash-filled ravioli was a whole new experience for me and it was one that I thought I enjoyed very much. I especially love the toasted hazelnut in there to give the soup a little more texture to work with.

We offered the second starter the same ringing endorsement. Tasty pan-fried petit-gris snails were served with crunchy celeriac and mushrooms on top of a savory baba. An aniseed-scented mushroom infusion provided a lovely finishing touch.

There were much fewer contemporary twist in the main course section of the menu. Both of the dishes we picked were classic French bistro favorites. We first had crisp pig's head with fresh herb vinaigrette and small Ratte potatoes in a lightly salted butter, which was pretty tasty. 

It was followed by roasted young Gers chicken, new potatoes confit and bay leaf jus. Pretty simple dish but definitely too bad at all.

For 3 euros extra, we got to choose one dessert from the dessert menu which would have been a very attractive deal on any given night but since it was getting a little late, we turned down the offer and opted for a walk to the nearby Eiffel Tower to wrap up the night.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: €€€
Address: 16 Avenue Rapp, 75007 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: Alma-Marceau
Tel: +33 (0)1 4551-7561

Le Pré Catelan (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★★★

Life has its way of making unexpected turns at times. In 2013, we had our highly anticipated dinner at three Michelin starred Le Pré Catelan cancelled at the very late minute due to an unexpected illness. What we didn't realize was that, it would take us another 5 years before we got another crack at it.

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Paris, Le Pré Catelan is about a 10-minute ride from the centre of the city. The restaurant is housed in a beautifully decorated Napoléon III pavilion. Tough to imagine such elegant space used to be a dairy farm a little while ago.

Le Pré Catelan is the flagship fine-dining restaurant of the Lenôtre group, a world-renowned restaurant, catering service, bakery and cooking school empire, which was founded back in 1947. Executive chef Frédéric Anton has been around since 1997 and is responsible for bringing the restaurant from its 1-star status to the ultimate accolade of 3-stars in 2007.

The restaurant offers 3 different menu at lunch these days. For those pressed with time, an express 4-course menu is available at 130 Euros but otherwise, more comprehensive menu with 6 and 8 courses are available at 220 and 280 Euros respectively. The 8-course set meal was the one we went with this afternoon.

Amuse bouche was ready almost as soon as we made up our mind. This consisted of two small nibbles, the first a pumpkin soup on a bed of onion mousse with pumpkin seeds flowing on top and then a small salmon roll with lemon and what I thought was parsley powder.

That was followed by our first starter, a foamy crab bisque with loads of fresh crab meat and some fennel cream served on the side on a spoon.

The second part of our crab themed dish came in a traditional caviar container.

On the bottom of the container was a bit of crème fraîche, followed by a layer of fresh crab meat and crab consommé jelly while they finished it off with a layer of French caviar on top. It was a dish with a great deal of textures and flavors all coming together in perfect harmony. The creaminess of the crème fraîche, the freshness of the crab meat, the sweetness of the crab consommé jelly and of course, the saltiness of the caviar all contributed to this brilliant dish without a single ingredient dominating the others.

The second course of the menu was Japanese pearls (tapioca) "risotto" with mushroom cream and parmesan cheese shaving. There was a thin slice of foie gras on top to give the risotto a bit different texture and flavor.

Next up was cod fish cooked with seaweed and served on creamy butter which has been infused with lime zest. The cod was beautifully cooked with the lovely scent of seaweed further enhancing the depth of flavors. There was a wonderful citrusy kick provided by the lime zest to tie things up. What looked like a pretty simple dish showed the great attention to details by the talented kitchen.

For my meat course, I traded my veal sweetbread away for a slice of roasted vension and what a wonderful trade that turned out to be. The vension was roasted to absolute perfection and meshed so well with the caramelized pistachio (on top), light lime cream and young celery sauce.

Following our meat dish, we were offered a wide range of cheese from different regions of France.

But I was a little stuffed at this point so just a couple thin slabs of goat cheese and Comte cheese did it for me.

A small pre-dessert in the form of a crème brûlée soon followed. 

Dessert was "Le Citron", a lemon themed dessert with lemon cream, lime foam, basil sorbet and meringues (lots of them) all sitting on a crispy biscuit base.

Our server explained this was kind of like a layered lemon tart.

Coming together with our lemon dessert was a tiny little yuzu tart which I took down in one bite.

Next we had a trolley full of sweet canapès including macarons, candies, lollipops and marshmallow.

I got myself a little bit of everything.

I came in with the high expectation that it's going to be a very good meal but I ended up
getting so much more. Not only does this classy French fine-dining restaurant impressed me with its elegantly decorated dining room, the same level of elegance could also be discovered in Chef Anton's cuisine. The cooking was precise and every dish showed off great finesse and top-of-the-class techniques using extraordinary food combinations. I could only wish we were here 5 years ago.

Food Rating: 9/10
Price: €€€€
Address: Route de Suresnes, Bois de Boulogne, 75016 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: Gare d'Avenue Henri Martin (But I recommend taking a cab or just UBER)
Tel: +33 (0)1 4414-4114

Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac Chaillot (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★★☆

I don't normally wake up early on my road trips (especially on a rainy day) but for one of my favorite pâtisseries in Paris, I will gladly make that exception. Sitting at the corner of Rue de Chaillot and Rue Freycinet directly facing Place Rochambeau with Musée Galliera in the background, Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac is one of the most elegant bakery and cake shops you would ever find in the city.

And it's not just the products that're elegant. Look around at the décor, you knew they have put a lot of thoughts into it.

You will be surprised to find a lot of classical French desserts here like rum baba and lemon pie and all of them come with some sort of contemporary take and elegant twist. 

This branch, which is like a 3-minute walk from our hotel, opens at 7am. On this rainy day, I was entrusted with the task of getting everyone breakfast here. And this is my idea of a perfect breakfast (Sorry, no bread)!

Noisette - Almond biscuit topped with hazelnut cream and coated with a crispy layer of milk and almond chocolate. Last but not least, decorations with ganache flavored with hazelnut and milk gianduja cocoa. This is like having a premium version of a magnum ice-cream bar!

Equinoxe - The first signature pastry created for Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac. This is made with light Bourbon vanilla cream with fillings of salted butter caramel on a crispy speculoos biscuit. I love a silky smooth Bourbon vanilla cream! On any given day!

I swear I could taste something crunchy like almond dacquoise in the middle but I couldn't find it anywhere on its description.

Marron Mandarine - Light chestnut mousse and cream with tangerine compote and orange speculoos biscuit.

They have got an interesting blend of chestnut and tangerine here. I don't think I have had this combination before. It was a surprisingly good match though personally, I would still prefer their L'Equinoxe.

Like it's been written on their website, Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac's creations are steep in tradition with a modern touch. I just can't think of another way to put it.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: €€€
Address: 2 Rue de Chaillot, 75016 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: Alma-Marceau
Tel: +33 (0)1 5587-2140

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Zébulon Palais Royal (Paris, FRANCE) ★★★☆☆

Paris loves their Japanese chefs. Perhaps this could explain the growing number of new generation Japanese chefs who have arrived in the food capital of the world to master their French cooking.

There are a lot of amazing Japanese chefs who have received critical acclaims for their brand of French cuisine in Paris. That list is headed by Shinishi Sato (Passage 53) and Kei Kobayashi (Restaurant Kei) who made a name for themselves in a place which has normally been difficult for foreign chefs. I have also heard great things about chef Takashi Aoki who helms the kitchen at Zébulon Palais Royal, which is the reason why we're here tonight.

Zébulon's tasting menu is one of the most talk-about ones in the city. 

We went with their 3-course menu Zébulon (€45) because everyone wanted to crash early tonight. Starting things off was our amuse bouche, cream cheese topped with pistachio powder and puff rice. It was served with a small salad and Japanese radish on the side.

The first thing that stood out from chef Aoki's cuisine was his bold choice of ingredients. Take my starter as an example. The cauliflower velouté was nicely paired with prawns, chorizo cream and dried grapes. There were also different textures of cauliflower in play. Not bad. 

Our second starter was scallop tartare served with burnt Chinese cabbage, pink berries, lemon cream and quince vinegar. There was a fair amount of acidity there which was offset by a fairly flavorful cress and leek foam.

Next up was slow cooked cod fish with clams, pickled seaweed, daikon and leeks. I thought this was a little less tasty than the two starters. The shellfish foam in particular was a bit of a misfire (lacking flavors and overpowered by the leeks).

The roller coaster ride continued with our second main dish. This was a pretty busy dish with the guinea fowl as the centerpiece and chanterelle mushrooms, chicken purée, celery and cheese crumble in a supporting role. But the guinea fowl was a bit on the hard side and the cheese crumble way too cheesy for the rest of the ingredients.

Our first dessert was another dish full of various ingredients with contrasting textures and flavors.

In the middle of the action were pieces of soft chocolate cakes, which worked reasonably well with the white chocolate cream with anise, caramelized jerusalem artichokes, streusel and blackcurrant sorbet. Personally, I won't mind having less acidity in there so trading the blackcurrant sorbet with a scoop of salted caramel ice-cream would have been perfect but this one was pretty decent.

We were equally pleased with the second dessert which featured sliced pear, quince jelly, chestnut cream and pear with Gewurztraminer wine sorbet.

As expected, chef Aoki's cuisine looked rather different from most main-stream bistro food in the city. There were some hit and miss but for the most part, we like the concept.

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: €€€
Address: 10 Rue de Richelieu, 75001 Paris, France
Closest Metro Station: Palais Royal Musee du Louvre
Tel: +33 (0)1 4236-4944