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Le Chateaubriand – Paris, France

May 14th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Gougères Small potatoes in smoked herring broth Fresh peas, yuzu, and white radish salad Fresh peas, yuzu, and white radish salad John Dory with white asparagus and fish eggs Steak with beets Steak with beets Chocolate Mousse Chevre ice cream with strawberries and rhubarb

During her extensive research prior to the trip, D found a list of popular prix-fixe restaurants in Paris that had very good food. Le Chateaubriand was our first outing.

Inside, Le Chateaubriand looks like it could have come out of 1945. Sparse walls, chalk boards with wine prices, that yellowed paint that looks like it’s wearing the remnants of a million Gitanes – dark wooden tables and chairs definitely not designed by Philippe Starck. We’re greeted by one of the friendly servers, shown to our table, and left alone until the other two members of our party join us. Once they arrive, the menus are out to show us what we will be eating – a wine list is provided to make a choice, and within 15 minutes, the gougères arrive to start the meal.

And what a great meal it was.

The gougères are perfect – gently crispy on the outside, but with a chewiness on the inside that showed (along with the full flavour) that the folks in the kitchen put some serious time and some serious cheese into these. A dusting of herbs and salt basically made these perfect.

I’ve had the pleasure of eating at some exceptional restaurants – that served exceptional meals – but never one that served gougères as good as these. Amid the sparse beginnings, with the meal starting this way, I knew the rest of it would go just fine.

And so it did. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to snag a photo of the menu, and many of the ingredients in the courses were not already in my food vocabulary, so I will have to go by fairly rough descriptions for the courses. We started with a small dish of perfectly-cooked miniature potatoes, each the size of the end of a miniature carrot; this was served in a broth made from (I’m guessing) smoked herring. The potatoes had neither the crunch of being undercooked nor the mush of being overcooked and so with their firm, almost chewy, perfect texture, and seasoning – this was a very small dish to begin the meal that had some very big flavour and was something extraordinary made from some things that would otherwise seem very ordinary.

If a chef can take smoked herring and potatoes and do this – he or she definitely has my attention.

This was followed by a delicious salad – slices of radish (I think) with a flower I can’t identify, with the freshest, barely-blanched peas you can imagine served in a yuzu-oil dressing – we could have ended the meal here and it would have been perfect. But no – next was a fish dish to remember for all time – I think it was John Dory – but I could just go with ‘whitefish’ – a thick fillet – perfectly cooked (?sous vide) then seared – it had a fattiness and flavour with a perfectly-seared crust that made it like no other whitefish I’ve ever had. It was served with a huge stick of white asparagus, with a sauce of beurre blanc and fish eggs (I forget the fish), and little bits (the droplets from a citrus fruit) of lemon that would pop in your mouth. This dish – also worth the price of admission.

The red meat main was next – one of the most beautiful dishes that I’ve ever eaten. Served on dark grey/slate plates, with a broad strip of red beet puree across the plate, was a piece of what I think was flank steak, and while cooked perfectly, it didn’t have the flavour I had hoped – but the little radishes, greens, and beet puree made up for the flavour that the beef lacked. Perhaps I’m setting my bar too high here – I’ve had the pleasure of eating some great beef – so perhaps the chef knew this and that was why this was served with such a rich array of flavours coming from the vegetables.

Dessert was x2 – a dish of chèvre ice cream, in a very thin ?rhubarb sauce with slivers of extremely fresh rhubarb and strawberries – and a chocolate mousse that was on top of – ahem – roasted red peppers and a candied black olive. The red peppers and olive to me ruined what would have otherwise been perfect chocolate mousse, but people at our table – even those who love chocolate – still enjoyed the dessert. The chèvre/strawberry/rhubarb dessert however was wonderful and was a cold, not overly-sweet, with the grassiness of the chèvre making the dish interesting and nicely offset by the bittersweet of the fresh rhubarb.

This was a busy restaurant – I think they take one reserved seating at ~7:00 – 7:30 and then those who are willing to wait can have the second seating. By the time we were eating our first course, the restaurant was full and there were those diners who were well into their meals. Regarding service – don’t come to Le Chateaubriand and expect the ingratiating waiter to ask you, “ahhnd how izz everyone enjoying zere meals?” – it’s not going to happen. The servers are there to get the food and wine to you from the kitchen – and to get the tables ready for the next seating. The food you have will be spectacular, the setting is relatively basic but definitely charming – so why do you need anything more than this? You come to Le Chateaubriand for the food and the company of your guests – if you choose the latter wisely, the food will make it a perfect evening.

Verdict: I’d come here anytime. Innovative, delicious food in a spartan atmosphere. Bring good friends who know and appreciate food. I usually don’t want anything else.

Le Chateaubriand
129 Avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris, France
Tel: 01 43 57 45 95

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Tags: France · French · Paris · Prix-fixe · Western Food

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