Monday, January 17, 2011

Paris - Le Chateaubriand

I do believe Le Chateaubriand was the crown jewel of our dinners in Paris. Part of that is due to the enthusiasm leading up to the meal. I read so many amazing reviews of the restaurant and of chef Inaki Aizpitarte, saw both showcased on the No Reservations Paris episode last September (I think), saw that it was placed on the 50 Best Restaurants list (at #11!)...all these accolades, plus the fact that it's a casual, modest, moderately priced place and not a hoity-toity restaurant had me really excited. And the waiting, waiting...waiting...and finally a reservation secured by Amex for us was like a little bit of Christmas morning before we left for our trip.

Here is the review from the 50 Best list. Yeah, I'm taking the lazy way out here but they describe Le Chateaubriand better than I could.

Le Chateaubriand breaks the mould of top French restaurants serving haute cuisine. Its classy, wonderfully inventive food would grace the tables of the swankiest venues the world over but is served instead in a simple bistro setting, complete with zinc bar, chalk boards and hard wooden chairs. Chef-patron Iñaki Aizpitarte always maintained he wanted to create a restaurant where his friends could afford to eat. So this is fine dining at its most democratic; the prices, together with the young, cool staff and the simple, unintimidating décor, draw an eclectic clientele and the atmosphere is all the better for it. Aizpitarte’s dishes are influenced by his Basque roots but also draw on his extensive travels. He has a particular penchant for deconstructing classics and reworking them, and also a focus on pared-back simplicity. There are plenty of bold, imaginative flavour combinations but many dishes employ very little ‘cooking’ – unadulterated, raw (and usually colourful) ingredients are a significant feature of his menus. A five course prix fixe menu changes daily. You get no choice in what you eat but it’s this system that allows Aizpitarte to keep his prices so low. Affordability and creativity together in one great neighbourhood restaurant, not to mention one of the best-looking brigades in the business. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Let's get to the photos, shall we? The menu (which is just a xerox on a piece of white paper) simply says "amuses bouche" to start with. First up, some little cheese and poppy seed puffs.

Second amuse bouche: ceviche, heavy on the fish water. Really refreshing.

Third: lentil soup.

Fourth: pouce-pieds. There is no English translation for what kind of seafood this is, because as far as I can tell they don't exist here. They are found on the Atlantic coast of Europe and North Africa. It literally translates to inch-foot, which doesn't tell you much, but I'm sure it's a play on this crustacean's size. They are quite small, and also kind of look like a toe. A little dinosaur or turtle toe. Basically you tear the outer dark covering off and it's like a little clam attached to the green claw part, which you then bite off.

Fifth and final amuse bouche: veal kidney. I know! Me? Eating veal kidney?! Yes. And it was very good. Tender, salty, with almost Thanksgiving-like spices.

And now onto the second course: a soup with foie gras and mushrooms. A very soft piece of foie gras and thin slices of mushrooms were placed in a bowl, and then a really flavorful mushroom broth was poured over it.

The third course, in my opinion, was the most spectacular. Line-caught pollack with a walnut cream, endives, and ham. Would you ever think to pair fish with walnut cream? Never. But it worked. The saltiness of the sauteed fish with the cream was perfect.

Fourth course was Limousin beef with potato crisps, sesame seeds, and chives.

And now, dessert. A choice of a true dessert, or a cheese course. If I remember correctly, my dad, my sister, and Peter had the cheese. I don't remember what kinds there were, but there were 3 - hard, blue, and soft.

My mom and I had the dessert. Which was actually two desserts. The first was an icy concoction of apple, mango vinegar, coconut, and pineapple.

The second part was chocolate and celery. I don't remember the exact make-up of the dessert, but I do remember I cleaned my plate.

And the very last thing - pineapple pieces covered in fennel seeds, and candy-coated fennel seeds. Strong flavor but very interesting combination.

The creativity level, and the flavors were off the charts. But maybe what impressed me the most was how attainable such wonderful food was. For a restaurant that's the best in France (at least according to the 50 Best list), you think of similarly ranked places in the U.S. - places like Per Se, or Alinea, or Daniel that yes, are unbelievable, but will also set you back a good amount. Le Chateaubriand's set menu is 50 euros. And an equally affordable wine menu (also xeroxed and stapled together). On the way there our cab driver said he's been there several times and loves it. There's definitely something refreshing about being able to experience such amazing and unique food in a relaxed, low-key setting. Bravo!

Le Chateaubriand
129 Rue Parmentier, Paris 75011

1 comment:

  1. hi there,
    those crustaceans are called goose neck barnacles...
    thought you would be interested to know...