Thursday, July 17, 2014

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Le Chateaubriand, Paris

"I know what I'm getting for dinner tomorrow night," professed my friend Kenny, then a 2-year resident of Paris. Then I had to explain to him that Le Chateaubriand is not, as the name might imply, some stuffy, starched-linen tablecloth, overpriced, old-school Parisian joint that specializes in its namesake hunk of beef. Not at all. When I told him that it's an experimental, prix-fixe modern bistro, headed by a young culinary wiz and autodidact, he rolled his eyes and said, "Oh no, a 'Drizzled Walnut'!" -- his term for any frilly restaurant that serves walnut-sized pieces of protein drizzled with a sauce that requires the waiter to invoke 4 verbs and 17 adjectives in describing it. "No, it's not like that," I reply. "You can wear jeans!" And so dinner, as they say, was on.

After enjoying aperitifs in a nearby cafe-bar, my 3 American, Paris-dwelling friends and I proceeded to Le Chateaubriand just after the designated 9:30 arrival time -- they take reservations up to their 8:30 seating, and it's a free-for-all from 9:30 onward. It was in line outside the restaurant that we met an American couple honeymooning in Paris, after hitting some traditional honeymoon hot spots in Italy. They, like many Americans, had seen the restaurant featured on the final season of Anthony Bourdain's food-travel show, "No Reservations." He and top toque Eric Ripert, of NYC's best seafood spot Le Bernardin, found Le Chaueaubriand's food to be exciting, fresh, and genial: high praise coming from as renowned a chef as Ripert, and as seasoned an eater as Bourdain. I suspect that episode fueled many a traveler like our Long Island honeymooners to show up in line here. And so we waited, but only for about 20 minutes: it turns out our group of 4 got seated more quickly than the several two-tops in line ahead of us. A happy circumstance. We were famished.

Le Chateaubriand offers a single prix-fixe meal each evening, and you can order wine and cocktails and beer by the glass, or go for the accompanying drinks menu -- which of course we selected -- for an additional 60 euros. I recommend this, not so much for value purposes (often times you get more bang for your buck by wisely selecting bottles from the wine list), but because here you get truly interesting pairings.
And it goes beyond wine to offer sparkling wine, cider, and beyond. Now, there are certainly repeat dishes that the chef puts on offer (to wit: his famous egg dessert. More on that later). But the menu is seasonal and changes with such frequency that you'd most likely be unable to order much of anything I'll describe here. This is more to give you a feel for power chef Inaki Aizpitarte's French cuisine that has been labeled "daring and challenging." I find it innovative, beautiful, often exhilarating, sometimes baffling...and the experience is a lot of fun, a memorable Parisian evening.

MENU

Amuse bouche:
-Liqueur de tomatoes L. Cazottes: This was a ceviche in fresh tomato and onion water with coriander flowers. Delicious and fresh.
Chambolle Musigny, 2010 (pinot noir) Bourgogne Fred Cossard


-Bonite de Saint Jean de Luz, fenouil, sauge: Bonito is a fish in the mackerel and tuna family, sort of a cross between the two. This one hailed from southwestern France, the Basque coast. Beautifully cooked to pink and covered in fennel, artichokes, baby carrot, and fried sage.
Anfora, 2007 (Vitobska) Venezia Giulia Vodopivec



We had a few off-menu courses that were tossed into the mix, gratis -- more like snacks, really. But these were some of the most delicious elements of the meal. They brought us a gorgeous little plate of teeny whole shrimp, shell intact and everything, which were dusted with a tamarind powder. These were lip-smackingly good -- an innovative take on peel-and-eat shrimp that left me wanting to devour several plates all by myself.
We also enjoyed an interim "salad" of sorts, which was a small, charcoal gray earthen bowl filled with a study in vibrant green. The flavors were vegetal but varying: tender early summer baby greens, sweet fresh peas (I am not a pea fan by any stretch, but these were raw and and sweet without the mealy starch I dislike), and sea asparagus or samphire, probably my favorite vegetable around.


- Barbue, sureau, beurre noisette: This is brill, a flat fish much like turbot, with elderflower, Japanese eggplant, and brown butter with sesame seeds. On the plate, it looks like a study in one-note pallor. The appearance belies the tremendous amount of flavor of the entire dish, not to mention the wonderful texture between the firm, flaky fish, the soft fleshy eggplant, the crunchy nuttiness of the sesame, and the floral sweetness of the elder. Unlike anything I've ever tasted.
Sous la Lune, 2012 (Grenache,carignan) Cote du Rhone Nicolas Renaud

















- Ris de veau, pampelmousse de Corse, tournesol: These were delicious and delicate sweetbreads on a bruleed grapefruit, with sunflower and long, elegant baby onions.
Cumieres (Chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot menier) Champagne 1st Cru George Laval


















- Citron de Sicile, concombre, liveche: This was a sort of palate-cleansing entry into dessert, with Sicilian cedro (citron) granita, cucumber, and lovage (a citrus-scented green). Apparently I enjoyed it so much, and so quickly, that I didn't take a photo of it. Pardonnez-moi!
Biere Blanche Philomene

-Tocino del Cielo: We're back to this signature dessert dish of Aizpitarte's. And it's light and lovely and a cute visual/gustatory "trick" of sorts. It's a candied egg yolk atop a meringue egg shell with yolk "powder." It's barely sweet and delicious. (I could have used some chocolate, however. This is France, after all.)
Palo Cortado Fernando de Castilla
The egg dessert as it arrives at the table

The candied yolk is broken


And so our wonderful, interesting meal was over. My Parisian-dwelling friends have returned several times since then, and they're always guaranteed a dining experience unlike any other in the City of Light. That summer evening at Le Chateaubriand, we were quite happy to have enjoyed it together. Bisous mon ami!

 












LE CHATEAUBRIAND 129 Avenue Parmentier 75011
Paris, France
+33 1 43 57 4595
www.lechateaubriand.net







3 comments:

  1. you have never done a better piece

    now a know why I like Kenny; no drizzled walnut, thank you !

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  2. Great post. We went here recently but didn't get the matching wines. What did you think of them? Did they go with the dishes well?

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  3. Thanks! I thought the wine pairings were great -- they were unusual, generally well-suited to each dish, and exposed us to drinks (there were more than wines, there were ciders etc.) we probably wouldn't have selected otherwise. And I had a tomato wine (!!!) for the first time ever. Delicious.

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