Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester ***

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
53 Park Ln, Mayfair,London
W1K 1QA, UK
+44 20 7629 8866
Official Site

Alain Ducasse is one of the most decorated and influential chef/restaurateur in the world. He holds an astronomical 21 Michelin stars (only bested by Joel Robuchon), including three restaurants in different cities with three stars; a feat that he was the first to accomplished. This was no easy task, but Chef Ducasse remarkably managed to achieve this twice. His dining empire stretches continents and his restaurant can be found in every major global city like New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo. In London, he has the three Michelin starred Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, and Rivea in the Bulgari Hotel.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester opened its door in 2007. Within two years, it was awarded two stars by the Michelin guide. A year later the ultimate third star came; joining the ranks of Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, The Waterside Inn and The Fat Duck as the only restaurant in the UK to have three stars. Taking charge of the kitchen from day one and responsible for the restaurants ascession to the top was head chef Jocelyn Harland; who has since been dispatched to lead Le Meurice in Paris in early 2016. Sous chef Jean-Philippe Blondet, a veteran of the Ducasse restaurant group was promoted to head chef. He was tasked to maintain the Ducasse standard and under his leadership Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester retained its three stars in the current UK Michelin guide.

This flagship restaurant of the iconic Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair has an understated interior, with a touch of contemporary elegance. The dining room is surrounded by wooden paneled walls;, the tables are dressed in beige and white cloth, and the chairs are draped with lush leather. Its center piece, “Table Lumiere”, a private table for up-to-six guests is surrounded by fiber optics strand. Separated from the main dining room next to the windows is another area with additional tables. The space has plenty of natural lights, and Hyde Park serves as its background. Chandeliers shaped in metallic leaves stretched from one end to the other and hangs above its tall ceiling.

A la carte, tasting menu and a seasonal tasting menu are offered for both afternoon and evening while a special three course is available for lunch. On this visit, I had the seven course tasting menu for 145 GBP that started with a handful of gourges or cheese puffs. Soft and airy cheese puffs are flavored with either paprika or pepper was nice to snack on while waiting. First course was the Dorset crab celeriac and caviar. Thinly sliced celeriac rolled and stuffed with tasty crab meat are topped with caviar. The caviar topping was a great way to elevate the crab meat, giving it a bite of saltiness. As a bonus, a extra crispy crab claw fried in tempura batter is added to the already savory plate.

Next were the Guinea fowl and duck foie gras terrine rhubarb.  The terrine was scrumptious and had delightful richness. Providing a certain tartness to complement the terrine was the rhubarb. The third course, saute gourmand of lobster truffled chicken quenelles, was the signature dish of the restaurant. Lobster, chicken and pasta drowning in cream sauce packed of wonderful deep savory flavors. This course was the highlight of the meal.

Line-caught sea bass cucumber and juniper came after. The sea bass was firm yet delicately tender and was seasoned beautifully. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same with the cucumber on the plate as it was a tad too salty for my palate. For the main course, I was served the Milk-fed lamb green peas and mint.  Perfectly cooked lamb chops were extremely succulent and flavorful. Along with the peas and the green vegetable puree on this dish, the mint accompanied the lamb fittingly.

The cheese course was an Assortment of four French cheeses with varying types of textures and sharpness. Served with different condiments, the spicy puree worked particularly very well with all four cheeses.

The sweet course started with Mignardises & Gourmandise; consisting of macaroons, homemade caramel candy, coated almonds and chocolates all presented at the same time while desert followed shortly. Marking the end of the meal, I was served Berry contemporary vacherin that was mightly sweet and almost syrupy. However, the sweetness was wonderfully subdued by the vacherin, and its savory and acidic features. There was also a cold aspect to desert that was quiet refreshing.

With the exception of the cucumber in the sea bass course, this was a very good meal where the cooking standard is equally as high as the execution. I find their Modern French cuisine to be light and satisfying. In each course, the individual components worked together harmoniously, striking the right balance on the plate. To go along with this tasting, I requested for the 95 GBP wine paring that included Alain Ducasse’s own champagne label. The pairing was perfect, all seven individual glasses enhanced the flavors in each course it was paired with. The restaurants wine list is plentiful and consists of predominantly French wines and some from continental Europe and Australia. I was extremely surprised to see US wines on their list.

The service was polished and faultless. The multicultural staff exudes calm and confidence. They worked the busy dining room flawlessly and discreetly, glancing unnoticeably at every table often assuring diners were properly looked after.

Wine Pairing:

This was my first foray to an Alain Ducasse establishment. The service and the setting is what I anticipated. The food, though it was very good it just did not exceed what I was hoping for.  Perhaps it was the name associated with it or the three Michelin stars that set my expectation too high.  Nevertheless Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, is still worthy of the label as one of the finest dining venue that London has to offer.

 

2016 Dining Recap

 

Having visited a handful of Michelin starred, World’s 50 Best and other top restaurants in Asia and Europe, 2016 was great dining year. My journey began at Hong Kong where I dined at Lung King Heen, the very first three Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in the world. Needless to say, it had an extremely high quality Cantonese food. The restaurants location on the fourth floor of the Four Season hotel boasts a panoramic view of Victoria Harbor. The two Michelin-starred Amber at Landmark Mandarin Oriental offers a terrific weekend wine lunch which consists of five courses paired with four glasses of wine. This was one of the best deals out there at 928 HKD for a restaurant at this caliber. Dinner at the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the only of the L’Ateliers with three Michelin stars) was also quite superb.

I waited in queue for hours at Tim Ho Wan in Sham Shui Po, which at that time was the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world (until that distinction was awarded to Singapore’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken in the summer of last year). The dim sum was tasty and I enjoyed every single dish that I had. Frog legs and chicken congee at Tasty Congee & Wuntun Noodle Shop in the IFC was nothing short of delicious. Even better was the chicken and fish congee at the concierge recommended Sang Kee Congee Shop in Sheung Wan. 208 Ducento Otto serves up wonderful cocktails while Angel Share Whisky Bar & Restaurant and its expansive list of whisky is a must-visit for enthusiast while in Hong Kong.

That same journey through Asia led me to Tokyo, Japan. I had my very first meal in this sprawling metropolis at RyuGin, Chef Seiji Yamamoto’s flagship restaurant which has three Michelin stars and ranked number 31 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant. The modern kaiseki that it serves is a reflection of the agricultural bounty of Japan. With each dish skillfully prepared, this was one of the best meals I’ve had. In Ginza, the Omakase at the three Michelin-starred Sushi Yoshitake did not disappoint. The fish and other seafood used in every single piece of Nagiris were extremely fresh. Sushi might be star of the show at this restaurant, but the cooked dishes were equally sublime. It was highlighted by the abalone liver sauce mixed with sushi rice which was a mind-blowing dish that still resonates in my memory.

Hideki Ishikawa is Japan’s most decorated chef/restaurateur with three restaurants under his belt totaling eight Michelin stars. He also has the distinction shared by the likes of the Robuchon’s , the Keller’s and the Ducasse’s to have two restaurants at the same with the maximum rating from the Michelin guide. At his eponymous Ishikawa, I was served a wonderful contemporary style kaiseki that shows simplicity with plenty of subtle flavors. I also visited Kohaku the other three star restaurant of Chef Ishikawa, which is located in the same area and within walking distance from each other. The kitchen is under Koji Koizumi a disciple of Chef Ishikawa. There are many of similarities between them, but the two are distinctly different at the same time. Kohaku is a more modern prepared kaiseki that incorporate foreign ingredients, which are not usually use in Japanese cuisine.

Japan is surprisingly home to one of the finest French restaurant outside of France. Others can argue that it might better than its home country due to the high quality of ingredients it uses produced by Japan. Many of the top French chefs has an outpost sprinkled throughout country, but a large number of them are concentrated in Tokyo. I had a superb tasting menu at Chef Pierre Gaganaire, Two restaurant Peirre Gagnaire Au Tokyo on the 35floor of the ANA Intercontinental, which was awarded two Michelin stars. Each plate were carefully crafted, using only the finest local ingredients. As a bonus, guests enjoyed the scenic view of the whole city as the backdrop while dining. In Roppongi Hills, I dined at Chef of the Century Joel Robochon L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Along with Paris, the Tokyo branch is one of the first L’Ateliers. Having previously gone to the Hong Kong location, these two Michelin starred restaurant are a lot more casual, yet the quality of food is equally top-notched.

Inside the train station in Ginza, resides a minuscule ramen shop called Kagari Echika, which has garnered a lot of following. They served me tasty bowl of ramen, with a broth that has a certain delightful creaminess. In Shinjuku, high above the mall of the train station is Tenichi, where I had some delicate fried tempura accompanied with fresh sashimi. While at Sushi Mamire, I was served with affordable yet enjoyable pieces of sushi and rolls. Pagliaccio Due in Shiba, is an Italian restaurant that serves pleasant dishes like the Seafood Rissotto, and the spaghetti with fish. Night caps in the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, were made lively with tunes from a funky jazz show. Soon after I feasted with the hotel famous weekend brunch. Finally, visiting Japan is not complete without trying the world famous Kobe beef. At Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511, I had a magical experience without breaking the bank. The beef was as good as advertised, and every bite was heavenly like cotton candy that melts in the mouth.

From Izakaya’s, to noodle shops, to high end kaiseki, sushi (as well as low end), and to fine French restaurants, I had the greatest time dining in Tokyo. The uncompromising use of quality ingredients in this city restaurant makes Tokyo the gastronomic capital of the world. The two weeks I spent there was simply not enough.

The next stop in my search and passion for fine dining was a short trip to Basel, Switzerland. I had the opportunity to dine at the three Michelin star, Cheval Blanc. The restaurant is located in one of Europe’s oldest hotel Le Trois Rois. Bavarian chef Pete Knogl, is in charge of the kitchen and under his leadership Cheval Blanc was elevated to culinary stardom. The tasting menu has global influences and shows the precision cooking technique of Chef Knogl. Each dish was light and has a fantastic complex combination of flavors and textures.

I couldn’t end 2016 without grazing the home front for some great eats. After all, no one can beat New York City in anything, (at least to a New Yorker that is). I had very good meals at the Upper East Side’s, The NUAA. This beautifully decorated restaurant serves refined Thai fare that’s geared towards the Western palate. Last year, I saw an onslaught of new eateries opening up in the Financial District improving the neighborhood’s restaurants scene. Among them is Eataly Downtown which opened to the public last summer. Much smaller than its older siblings in the Flatiron, this mega food market brought a slew of dining options that includes another outlet of the seafood haven, Il Pesce. The restaurant offers appetizing sustainable seafood prepared in the simplest form. As the last stop of my 2016 journey, West Village Carma Asian Tapas, served an unmatchable creative Far Eastern fare in small plate format. I enjoyed the way the kitchen recreated classic Chinese dishes, as well as using other Western ingredients that aren’t usually found in Asian cooking.

Though 2016 didn’t boast much of my hometown’s variety of eateries, it was a star studded year of dining in the international level. Overall, I would say it was great and successful year of eating. I’m looking forward to an even better 2017 where I plan to focus on New York City, its outer boroughs and state side. Hopefully, I can sprinkle few international trips here and there.

The NUAA

Dining Room

The NUAA
1122 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10065
(212) 888-2899
Official Site

The NUAA is a Thai restaurant in the Upper East Side next to the famous Dangerfield Comedy club. The owner and chef is Bangkok born Pitipong Bowornneeranar, a veteran of the New York City restaurant scene with over 20 years of experience working at different kitchens throughout the city. At the NUAA Chef Bowornneeranar serves modern Thai fare prepared with a great deal of attention to details.

Dining Room

The NUAA can’t be missed, with its red, wooden double doors along First Avenue. A lounge area with its own seating and a bar welcomes guests as soon as they walk into the restaurant. Toward the back is the dining room, decorated with detailed wood work, smooth dark table tops, coupled with matching armless leather padded chairs. Covering the ceiling and illuminating the space are metal plates shaped in petals with light bulbs. The stylish interior is made for a venue that can be found in the Meatpacking rather than the Upper East Side.

Lounge Bar

Though extensive the menu is not overwhelming. It’s broken down to soup/salad, starters, entrée’s and classic dishes. A cheaper prefix for $15 is available during lunch time with items that are also available during dinner.

SOM TUM-Green papaya salad, dried shrimp, peanuts, bird-eye chili vinaigrette KHAI LOK KHAEY Son-in-law fried quail eggs, Black pepper Brioche, crispy shallots, plum sugar-tamarind sauce

Salad like the SOM TUM-Green papaya salad, dried shrimp, peanuts, bird-eye chili vinaigrette was tremendously fresh and crunchy. Its vinaigrette dressing provided an extra depth of sourness and piquancy. Sprinkle of dried shrimp added textures as well as some saltiness to the salad. For appetizers the KHAI LOK KHAEY Son-in-law fried quail eggs, Black pepper Brioche, crispy shallots, plum sugar-tamarind sauce, was a classic Thai food that was reinvented at the restaurant by using quail eggs instead of regular eggs, and served on top of a brioche. The plum sugar-tamarind sauce sweet and sour elements were terrifically mixed with the savory quail eggs. LARB PLA Yellow fin spicy tuna tartar, Thai crispy taco, green herbs, red chili-kaffir lime vinaigrette, came in three delightful mini tacos with freshly chopped tuna. PO PIA TOD Crispy celery root-wild mushroom rolls, mixed vegetable, glass noodle, red Holland pepper-tamarind sauce, were spring rolls with tasty vegetables stuffing.

LARB PLA Yellow fin spicy tuna tartar, Thai crispy taco, green herbs, red chili-kaffir lime vinaigrette PO PIA TOD Crispy celery root-wild mushroom rolls, mixed vegetable, glass noodle, red Holland pepper-tamarind sauce

For entrée I chose the PLA NUENG Steamed Chilean sea bass, Soya bean, tender cauliflower, ginger soy reduction. A wonderful steamed fish that had a dense yet tender texture and was asserted by its tangy sauce of ginger soy. An accompaniment of colorful cauliflowers and vegetables created a visually appealing plate that tastes as good as it looks. PLA TOD Crispy skin whole Branzino, Caramelize cashew nut, green mango salad, spicy chili-lime vinaigrette was the most expensive item in the menu at $31. A whole Branzino fried precisely to have the skin side extra crispy while the inner part was pleasingly firm. Dipping sauce of spicy chili-lime vinaigrette provided an extra layer of flavor.

PLA NUENG Steamed Chilean sea bass, Soya bean, tender cauliflower, ginger soy reduction

PLA TOD Crispy skin whole Branzino, Caramelize cashew nut, green mango salad, spicy chili-lime vinaigrette

The KA NOM JEEN Colossal crab curry noodle Fedelini, pickled mustard green, sweet basil was a bowl of noodles mixed with delicious crab meat covered in curry. This was a well balance dish where each ingredient worked together without overpowering one another.  GAI YANG Kaffir lime infused Cornish game Hen 44 hours marinade, Brussels sprouts, eggplant caviar nam prik.  The hen was cooked beautifully and packed with flavors. Brussels sprout, eggplant and other vegetables was a pleasing addition to this dish.

KA NOM JEEN Colossal crab curry noodle Fedelini, pickled mustard green, sweet basil

GAI YANG Kaffir lime infused Cornish game Hen 44 hours marinade, Brussels sprouts, eggplant caviar nam prik

There were only two desserts on the menu, the White Chocolate Coconut Mousse Mango passion fruit, pandan jelly, coconut coated chiffon which had a blend of refreshing and fruity sweetness and the Cream Fraiche Vanilla Cheesecake Walnut brittle, short bread, strawberry jam, jasmince cream was rich and sugary. Both dish were good enough to end a meal on a sweet note.

White Chocolate Coconut Mousse Mango passion fruit, pandan jelly, coconut coated chiffon

With an average price of $23 for the entrée The NUAA is a tad pricier for a Thai restaurant that New Yorkers are usually accustomed to but also reasonable by New York City standard. Justifying these prices was the skillful cooking techniques that the kitchen displays. The successful mixtures of sweet, spicy and sour produce bold and intense flavors while having a strong emphasis on appearance.

Cream Fraiche Vanilla Cheesecake Walnut brittle, short bread, strawberry jam, jasmince cream

After a year between visits, the menu has changed with some of the dishes I had previously were no longer available. Having been back to The NUAA a couple times in the last few months the food had remained particularly very good and the service, as always, pleasant and welcoming. The staff are always on point in addressing my needs and answering my questions.

Restaurant

Thai food is known to be one of New Yorkers quintessential fare. The love for it created a buffet of Thai restaurants in the five boroughs. The saturated market produces an even keel of terrific eateries, with some earning a Michelin star like Somtum Der, Pok Pok, and Uncle Boons. The NUAA, on the other hand, not only impresses diners with their flavorsome Thai food but also with its stylish interior and excellent service.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon **

The Counter

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
2F Hillside, Roppongi Hills
6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan
106-0032
+81 3-5772-7500
Official Site

In 2003, super star chef Joel Robuchon came out of retirement to launch the first L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Tokyo. The success led to outpost in major cities like London, Paris, Hong Kong,  Shanghai, Singapore and will soon re-launch in New York. The concept of the L’Ateliers dining style was inspired from the chef’s admiration of Japanese dining. This typical setting is where the guest sits around the counter behind an open kitchen providing the front row seats to their meal. Most of the meals consists of small plates which is an influence from Spain’s notorious tapas. Coincidentally, Spain is where Chef Robuchon currently calls home.

The Restaurant

Located in the upscale development of Roppongi Hills,  L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon has earned two Michelin stars. He ensures that this standard is kept by leaving it in the hands of Japanese chef, Kenichiro Sekiya. Chef Robuchon expects nothing but the best as he maintains his accolades along a string of other venues in Tokyo, all of which totals seven Michelin stars.

Dining Room

His taste for high quality does not end with the combining the styles of Europe and Asia into his dishes, his knack for class flows into the designs of his venues. L’Atelier for one is designed with a long glossy dark mahogany counter that stretches the length of the space providing guests with a sense of ease and comfort. These warm tones are paired with high chairs with short back rest, accented with two top bar tables.  The interior color scheme is a theme of L’Ateliers black and deep red branding. This particular location also houses, La Boutique de Joel Robuchon, which is a pastry and bakery shop.

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner where one can find many set- menus to choose from. A popular choice is the a la carte, in which guests are able to design their meal from a large number of items in the menu.

On the night of my visit I came with a dining companion and we each ordered a different set menu. We were thrilled to be able to sample multiple dishes. To start the meal, we had morsels of fried quinoa balls, very similar to what I had in the Hong Kong branch a week ago. Then came the renowned L’Ateliers breadbasket, a carb monger’s delight for sure. For the appetizer we had LA BETTERAVE-Beets and apple duo served with an herb salad and a green mustard sherbet. The distinctiveness of the beets was perfectly paired with the intensity of the green mustard sherbet. The cauliflower mousse served on snow crab with caviar had a wonderful consistency. Its luxurious topping of caviar presented a deep salty undertones to this excellent dish.

LA BETTERAVE-Beets and apple duo

Cauliflower Mouse

The soup courses like LA CHÂTAIGNE- Chestnut cream soup with smoked bacon and celery had a lavish blend of creaminess. LES RAVIOLES-Duck Liver ravioli in a warm chicken broth, with herbs and spicy cream had a marriage of many savory flavors with just the right hint of herbal and spicy presence.

For entrees, LA PINTADE -Roasted guinea fowl served with pastoral salad and natural gravy was roasted with fantastic crispiness. The inner part of the meat was moist and juicy. An accompaniment of the world famous Robuchon mash potatoes was served with this dish. LE CHEVREUIL-Roasted venison accompanied with stewed red cabbage, brown butter sauce, and venison had to be prepared with utmost love. The scrumptious venison meat seemed to have been painted with gorgeous colors that were indicative of its bursting flavors.  LE BLACK COD – Black cod with Yuzu Daikon velouté, spice scented oil, was a beautiful tender piece of fish that had a bit of sweetness while also having a citrus and spicy notes.

LA PINTADE -Roasted guinea fowl

 LE CHEVREUIL-Roasted

 LE BLACK COD - Black cod

To top it off, the cheese course offered were intricately concocted of cheeses imported straight from France. I allowed my server to choose it for me, I was served with three types of cheese with different textures and pungency. The desserts that I had was the Chocolate soufflé which was made to order. This chocolaty delight was served warm and had a soft spongy textures. EL-ANDALUZ -Strawberry marinated with lime, tequila sherbet and tomato-strawberry coulis was fruity and cold that also had a noticeable refreshing tequila presence.  Who wouldn’t want a tequila presence in everything, much less dessert?

The service was interactive and relaxed. The well-trained staff in their black and red uniforms managed the restaurant guest that comprised of both foreigners and locals effortlessly. We had a French man served us through the whole dinner who had a friendly personality and conversed in perfect English. He was extremely helpful and honest when it came to his recommendations. The Japanese servers that occasionally came to us were pleasant and tried their best to communicate.

 EL-ANDALUZ -Strawberry Marinated with Lime

Chocolate Soufflé

The different L’Ateliers serves similar dishes all across the board, but the Tokyo location on the other hand might have a slight edge from others due to the quality of ingredients that it uses. The dishes were not only presented with such class but the combination of taste and quality was effortlessly served, and of course, welcomed.

Sweets

I found that the dining at this restaurant was less of the upper class nature and approachable compared to the Hong Kong outpost (which have three Michelin stars and the only other L’Ateliers ive been to) where I dined a few days prior. This casual and yet interactive atmosphere at Tokyo’s L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is quite enjoyable.

Pierre Gagnaire **

Dining Room

Pierre Gagnaire
at ANA Inetrcontinental Tokyo
36 Floor
1-12-33 Akasaka, Minato 1070052
Tokyo, Japan
+81 3-3505-1111
Official Site

In Tokyo, French is a cuisine that is well represented. Some may even argue that of the shear top quality of ingredients that Japan produces, French food is slightly better here than anywhere else; even in France! The crème de la crème of French chefs have set up restaurants in this city, like the super star chef Pierre Gagnaire, who’s been in Tokyo for quite some time now. He first opened Pierre Gagnaire a Tokyo in Aoyama back in 2005, before closing it three years later. In 2010 after a two year hiatus he returned to Tokyo in partnership with the Intercontinental Hotel Group to open Pierre Gagnaire at the ANA Intercontinental hotel in Minato-ku. Immediately the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars which it maintained ever since. Executive Chef Yosuke Akasaka leads the charge in this kitchen. He has worked with Pierre Gagnaire at his eponymous restaurant in Paris and was also the head chef at the old Tokyo location.

Pierre Gagnaire

Occupying the 36th floor of the hotel, Pierre Gagnaire offers a fantastic view of the city and Tokyo Tower through its massive windows. In the afternoon, the restaurant has plenty of natural lights while at night the bright lights of Tokyo serves as it’s the back drop. The spacious dining room has tables that were covered in neatly pressed linens, and they are distanced far apart enough from one another for a more intimate setting. Comfortable royal purple velvet chairs and curved banquets with tall back rest were paired with the tables. Wood panel walls adorned with beautiful artwork adds to the sophistication of the interior.

Dining Room Dining Room

There are many set menu options in addition to the a la carte. On my visit I had the “Petit Esprit de Pierre Gagnaire” for YEN 22500, which consisted of five courses. A series of canapes  started the meal, beginning with Roots vegetable soup:salpicon of Botan shrimps and lotus chips. This soup was rich with wonderful flavors of root vegetables. It also had a little sourness that was palpable. Sauerkraut in Espuma, red cabbage and apricot salad, cubes Gewurtzraminer was a cup of thick savory creaminess. Buried underneath, was the apricot salad bursting with a unique musky sweetness. Green brandade, petals of cod, thin slice of red/black radish was a salty dish, but with a nice light watery crunch coming from the radishes. It also offers a hint of bitterness that balanced out the salt. Chaud-Froid of chicken from Nagoyakochin perfumed with tarragon, salmon eggs and campari yogurt sauce, is a creation in which each tiny piece of chicken was carefully selected, as they are usually the finest and priciest in Japan. This type of chicken comes from Nagoya and is an epitome of what a bite of luxury taste like. To cleanse the palate, there was a refreshing citrus Champagne sorbet flavored with lime and frozen clementine.

Petit Esprit de Pierre Gagnaire:

The first course was the Abalone slice and poached in shellfish broth-Saffron braised turnips. Excellent tender chewy abalone had a terrific apparent marine taste.  Next was the Brittany sole  roasted in Sarawak pepper, small shrimp Shimaebi seared with Cognac Galette of Satoimo endive leaf. It had beautiful well rounded flavors with some spiciness. The sole has firm, yet soft textures. All the elements in the dish were in synch with each other.

Abalone slice and poached in shellfish broth-Saffron braised turnips Brittany sole roasted in Sarawak pepper, small shrimp Shimaebi seared with Cognac Galette of Satoimo endive leaf.

For the main course I was served the Lamb Saddle cooked in crepine perfumed with marjolaine flower, cauliflower puree and black garlic, green lentil gnocchi. Scrumptious lamb meat was prepared with a lot of care and has plenty of flavors that were complimented greatly with other component on the plate such as the puree and the sauce.

Lamb Saddle cooked in crepine perfumed with marjolaine flower, cauliflower puree and black garlic, green lentil gnocchi

Quelques dessert de Pierre-Gagnaire was a composition of different desserts served at the same time. This tantalizing platter was highlighted by the chocolate cake. The cake was rich, sweet with layers of different types of chocolate while the rest of the dessert was chilled, refreshing and fruity. The petit fours were enjoyable small bites of sweetness that ended this meal.

The “Petit Esprit de Pierre Gagnaire” was a superb tasting menu. A fusion of French cooking technique and high standard Japanese ingredients morphed together to create fascinating flavor profile. Both small and large plate exhibits focus and details. The servings were adequate that left me satisfied rather than full. There was no set wine pairing, but the wine list is vast and was made up of primarily French wine from different regions of the country. The restaurant also had a decent wine by the glass offerings that were reasonably price. Wanting red for this meal the sommelier recommendation of Bordeaux Pauillac was on point.

Petit Fours

The restaurant is very formal but with Japanese sincere hospitality. The service was particularly attentive and faultless. English were spoken well that servers were able to explain each of the courses and answered my questions clearly.

Bordeaux Pauillac

In the Far East Pierre Gagnaire has a restaurant in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul in addition to his others in Europe. It was said by those that had visited all three the Tokyo location is the better one. What separates it from the rest is the superior quality of ingredients that are being used, but also an extremely skilled chef in Chef Akasaka. The chef is very well capable in upholding Pierre Gagnaire cooking standard and mirrors the excellence of a living legend.

RyuGin ***

Dining Room

RyuGin
7-17-24 Roppongi, Minato
Tokyo, Japan
106 0032
+81 3-3423-8006
Official Site

It is the uncompromising standard of the Japanese culture of using only the finest ingredients in their culinary master pieces that has produced world renowned restaurants biggest names in the culinary world. Japan is booming with multitudes of up and coming places to wine and dine. Tokyo, the capital, is not only the gastronomic epicenter of the nation, but also in the world. The city has more Michelin stars than anywhere else on this planet, and holds the record with thirteen restaurants awarded the three-star status. One particular three star restaurant that piqued my interest was RyuGin in Roppongi.

RyuGin

The restaurant opened in 2003 by a very talented chef, Seiji Yamamoto, who previously spent eleven years at the ultra-traditional  Aoyagi in Tokyo. RyuGin received two stars in 2009 from the Tokyo’s Michelin guides inaugural edition and then the third star in 2010 which it has maintained since. Regarded among the top dining destination the restaurant is constantly included in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and in Asia’s 50 Best.

Tea Room

Japanese restaurants require guests to be on time when it comes to their reservation and many do not have a waiting area for those arriving early. RyuGin is different, when I arrived about ten minutes early I was escorted to a second floor waiting area, also known as their tea room. The cozy room had a live owl enclosed behind the bar. When my table was ready the hostess led me to a quiet dining room with no windows. The atmosphere was nothing short of serene. A thick black cloth covered the table and chairs with wooden backrests were surprisingly comfortable. The space is small, with only eighteen seats, and has a separate private room with its own sliding door. Like many Japanese three Michelin starred restaurants in Tokyo, this lacks the opulence interior that their western counterparts have. Only open during dinner service, RyuGin offers a keiseki menu at YEN 27000(a shorter version for YEN 21000 also available only after 9 pm).

Dining Room

“Beginning with a variety of Sensation. Seasonality, Aroma, Temperature, Texture and Assemblage” was the appetizer course which started the meal. It came in two parts, first was the Cod Milt, Turnip Yuzu. This bowl of Japanese delicacy had an interesting custard like texture. The milt’s richness was complemented well by the yuzu tea zest that serves as the broth. The second was a salad, Surf Clams, Assorted Vegetables and Dried Sea Cucumber. The mildness of the clams where fittingly mixed with wonderful vegetables. Dried sea cucumbers were added to give the dish some crunch.

The next course was “Longing for The Moment, Winter Story. Bathing Hotpot”Matsuba Crab and Seiko Crab. This was a flavorful hot pot with two delicious type of crab meat. Served on a separate plate was a crab claw with exposed meat, I was instructed by my server to dip it in the hot pot for the meat to absorb the crab infused broth. Extremely fresh bonito, red rock fish and squid sashimi makes up the “Sashimi: A Message from the Coast of Japan. Richness of the Sea, Tidal Current” Ocean Delicacy Displayed in 3 Plates. This seafood pleasure had an assortment of features, like the vibrant reddish meat of the bonito which has a unique taste while the red rock fish was full of beautiful fatty flavors. The squid on the other hand had a slight sweetness that went along with the rubbery textures.

Matsuba Crab and Seiko Crab Matsuba Crab and Seiko Crab Sashimi Grilled Sea Pech Seasoned with Assortment of Chilli Powder and Sprinkled Chestnut

That was followed by “Binchotan- A Powerful Scent of Charcoal grill” Grilled Sea Pech Seasoned with Assortment of Chilli Powder and Sprinkled Chestnut . The sea perch was grilled elegantly maintaining its delicateness. Chestnuts and other herbs not only gave the fish an additional crust, but also exuded an appealing fragrance. Giving this course a different aspect was shark fin fried tempura style with shiso leaf and uni, a terrific crispiness which had excellent flavors that included some slight herbal notes.

Goemon Tofu

Then came “What’s inside once you open the lid… A sense of relaxation” “Goemon Tofu” “Sprinkled Chestnut”. The attributes were very much akin to tofu, but more refined and of greater quality. Chestnuts added texture and also provided the tofu its distinct sweetness.

Famous Sanuki Olive Beef with small balls

The meal continued on with the “Grace of the Hometown as Ambassador of Kagawa’s Heritage” Famous Sanuki Olive Beef with small balls, a tribute to the prefecture of Kagawa, home to olives and high quality beef called sanuki that had been fed part of olives. This outstanding dish was prepared by smoking the beef in olives, giving the gorgeous meat an extra touch of smoky olive flavor. There was a side of olive salt which was interesting and quail eggs which was unexpectedly good when eaten with the beef.Sea urchin Rice. National Flower of Japan “Chrysanthemum” SoupA rice dish towards the end followed by a soup was the typical order in a keiseki meal. It was combined in “The land of Rice plant. Pleasure of eating off the same trencher “New Rice”.Sea urchin Rice. National Flower of Japan “Chrysanthemum” Soup. Served on a round wooden tray was a rice bowl topped with decadent Hokkaido sea urchin and a bowl of miso soup. The soup had a clear and clean taste. For visual appeal and aesthetic, in the soup was a piece of tofu that was methodically cut in a shape of chrysanthemum, homage to Japan’s national flower.

Mandarin Sanshou Hot Sake and Cold Sake Sweet Flavors

Moving on, the pre desert course was a mouthful to read off the menu, but did not disappoint. The “Lusciousness. Coolness, Warmth, Playful Spirits, Nostalgia and Temptation” Sunshine Filtering through Foliage, Mandarin Sanshou definitely lived up to its name. On the plate was a perfectly peeled mandarin with black tea ice cream and sprinkled with sanshou. It has a nice contrast of spiciness and sour sweet the small cubes of Japanese cheese were spread throughout balancing the sweetness of the sauce made from wasanbon. This was a simple dish but with a lot of complexity. For dessert, Oryzae “National Fungus” Pride of Japan. Hot Sake and Cold Sake Sweet Flavors . An inventive method in creating a soufflé made from sake. The soufflé had an airy texture was served warm where the sake could be profoundly recognized, the same can be said about the ice cream. There was a good sweetness in both while also having a slight bitterness. Chef Yamamoto showcased the versatility of sake by using sake as the main component of a sweet dish was a stroke of genius. Finally ending the meal was a fantastic bowl of matcha tea.

Matcha Tea

Every plate of each course in this kaiseki menu is chef’s Yamamoto reflection of the agricultural richness of Japan. The flavor profiles are strictly Japanese, subtle and minimalist but prepared with modern techniques. There was a high standard of cooking and creativity shown. The quality of ingredients is second to none as they only use the finest seasonal ingredients that were sourced locally and throughout Japan. From the food preparation to kitchenware all the way to the sequences of dishes that follows the traditional kaiseki there were many intricate details that were executed with precision. Accompanying beverage pairing, consisting of eight glasses of European wines and sakes were paired brilliantly.  Each drink brought a different dimension of taste at the end of every bite.

WIne Pairing:

Throughout my meal I was served by an English speaking staff who also handled a large majority of foreign guests that were dining during my visit. Its Japanese counterpart was equally pleasant and tried their best to communicate at a rare time when they were the ones that brought my food. Service was focused yet at the same time approachable with a willingness to engage in quick conversation without taking too much of the guests time. On my way out I was handed a parting gift, a bottle containing water from Mount Fuji. Before reaching the exit Chef Yamamoto came out hurriedly to say his goodbye, thanking me and to see me out the door. The chef and the staff at RyuGin exemplify the humbleness of Japanese hospitality.

Water from Mount Fuji

Many self-proclaimed amazing restaurants rely on their aesthetics for measure, but the great ones will always rely on the food they serve. Authentic gems such as New York’s Eleven Madison Park, Peru’s Central and Italy’s Osteria Francescana, all serve muti-course menus that tell tales of their roots. Chef Yamamoto’s creations are grounded by his culture, and yet his ability to embrace the modernity that surrounds him, and express this fusion into his ingredients, has garnered him many praises. His accomplishments throughout the years created a mini restaurant empire that includes the two Michelin starred Tenku RyuGin in Hong Kong and Syoun RyuGin in Taipei. His devolution still lies in Tokyo where he continues to run the kitchen. With a plethora of great places to eat in Tokyo it was very difficult to choose one, but without the journey of trying many other places, I wouldn’t have experience the magic of RyuGin. It has left an incredible impression on me, and will consider my dining experience there one of the most unique and unforgettable.

 

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon ***

 

Dining Room

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
at The Landmark Atrium
15 Queen’s Road, Central
Hong Kong, China
+852 2166 9000
Official Site

Chef of the century Joel Robuchon has the most Michelin stars than any chef in the world and shares a distinction to only a handful of chefs to have more than one three Michelin starred venues at the same time. He has built a culinary empire that stretches continents and his L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon has branches in major cities such as Paris, London, Tokyo and previously New York (closed in 2010) with all being awarded multiple Michelin stars. The Hong Kong location on the other hand is the only of the L’Ateliers to receive the maximum ranking from the Michelin guide as well as being rank in the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. After missing out in Paris last year and not able to visit the New York City location before it closed, I made sure to try this one when I visited Hong Kong this year.

Entrance

Like many of Hong Kong’s top restaurants, which are housed inside the malls or hotels, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is situated on the fourth floor of The Landmark, one of the city’s most luxurious malls. As I emerged from the escalator to the restaurant a beautiful hostess welcomed my arrival. She then led me through a walkway with walls of wine racks enclosed in glass and into the hushed dining room. Dominating the room is a counter with three even sides surrounding the open kitchen. A glossy, dark cherry wood counter top with deep red high chairs, polished black flooring and dimmed lighting gave the interior certain sexiness. Behind the counter I was treated by French born Chef de cuisine David Alves cooking, a veteran of the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon chain. Prior to settling in Hong Kong he was at the Etoile branch in Paris.

Counter

Foregoing my normal practice of always requesting for the tasting menu, on this evening I had the a la carte as per server recommendation. There are more interesting items in the a la carte which has a price range of around 290 HKD per plate, pretty pricey but so is everything else in Hong Kong when it come to this types of restaurant. So to start, was the heralded bread basket with multiple kinds of freshly baked bread. There was a lot of effort put for just the bread but it’s also a good sign that this will be a beautiful evening.  For canapé I was served a fried quinoa ball with a small cup of parmigian cheese foam and foie-gras. It was followed by the L’OURSIN-Sea urchin in a lobster jelly, topped with cauliflower cream. Served in cold temperature, it had an essence of the deep sea. This dish had different layers of contrasting flavors that worked accordingly together while the chilled gelatin texture was soothing to the tongue. The LA LANGOUSTINE – Crispy langoustine papillote with basil was next. Covered in a thin crispy batter, the langoustine was complemented beautifully with a bright peppery sauce made from basil.

Continuing the meal was the LE FOIE GRAS Pan-fried duck foie gras with mango, coriander and crispy peanut chips. The foie-gras outer layer had an excellent fried crust with sprinkled peanut chips on top, for extra texture. On the other hand, the mango purée on the plate seemed out of place but it was added appropriately to give a fruity component that went well with the buttery foie-gras. I was then served the LA SAINT-JACQUES – Hokkaido scallop with green curry and coriandre sauce, squid ink farfalle. A large piece of scallop with dense flavors and topped with squid ink pasta for a facet of saltiness. The sauce gives the scallop a lovely piquancy. The following dish was LE RIZ – Risotto style rice with pimientos and vegetable couscous. A dish with a saturated yellow color was a different type of risotto that is savory and pleasing. It had an even creaminess while the garnish of vegetables exuded a beautiful aroma.

LE FOIE GRAS

 LE BLACK – Black cod with Malabar black pepper sauce, Chinese cabbage and coconut emulsion, was a delicate piece of cod with a terrific balance of both sweet and spicy. The coconut emulsion was brilliantly added to provide an extra dimension to the dish. LE BŒUF Braised Wagyu beef cheek with miso, seasonal baby vegetables was served as the main course. This was a sumptuous braised beef cheek covered in thick sauce packed of flavor. As a supplement to this delicious dish was the famous Robuchon mashed potato served in a small pot. The mashed potato was a fine smooth texture with refined taste. I regretfully decided to skip dessert but the magrindanaise were good enough for a sweet finish.

In the beginning of the meal my server informed me that he would arrange the order of dishes in a way that it would not complicate my palate. At the end, each plate was timed perfectly in between and the succession of taste was in harmony one after the other. The cooking was skillful, especially when incorporating Asian ingredients to provide extra depth of flavors and aromas. There was a lot of emphasis on the sauces to compliment the ingredients on the plate and not to overpower them.

Mashed Potato LE BŒUF

The restaurants award winning wine list is vast and can be overwhelming. Letting the sommelier choose the appropriate wines will be a wise thing to do. For white I was recommended the Château Musar, Lebanon 1999 for HKD 190 ($24), it was paired properly with the fish and seafood dishes. And for the wagyu cheeks and foie gras I had a glass of red Cabernet Sauvignon, Janzen Estate, Napa Valley, U.S.A 2006 for HKD 235 ($30). Wine mark up in Hong Kong is over the top but it was worth it for this meal.

Mignardise

The atmosphere at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon was relaxed and interactive, which the restaurant encourages between the staff and guests. Service was formal yet approachable. The staff was knowledgeable and had a genuine sense that they wanted the guest to not only enjoy the food but also the service that they provided. For those that prefer the traditional sit down dining there is the Le Jardin on the same premise, located towards the back. It offers the same menu as the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon but with a more formal setting.

Chef Robuchon sets a standard that is met and maintained by all of his restaurants. With the L’Atelier, each location has identical offerings and atmosphere. When the Michelin guide awarded this restaurant its third star in 2011 (making it the only of the L’Ateliers with such honor) while the rest only have one or two it was surrounded with controversy. Even the two original posts in Tokyo and Paris only managed to secure two stars and many have stated that they were superior to this. Although this was my first visit at any of the L’Atelier or any of Chef Robuchon restaurants I believe that no two restaurants are alike. They might have similarities but there is always something different about them. But as far as my visit goes at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong, I was impressed with the cooking and the impeccable service as well as having a superb dining experience.

 

 

 

 

Steirereck **

Dining Room

Steirereck
Am Heuemarkt 2A/im Stadtpark
A-1030 Vienna, Austria
+43 713 31 68
Official Site

Austria’s capital city of Vienna is the cultural center of the nation. It is the birthplace of Viennese cuisine and the epicenter of Austrian gastronomy. There are nine venues awarded a Michelin star including Steirereck, the country’s most decorated restaurant and is considered among the very best in the world. Set along the River Wein in Stadpark, it has two Michelin stars, a score of 19/20 from Gault Millau and ranked number 15 in the San Pelligrino’s 50 Best Restaurant the Worlds list for 2015. The man responsible for its global ascension is Chef Heinz Reitbauer. He perfected his skills cooking under some of Europe’s greatest chefs like Anton Mosimann, Alain Chapel and Joel Robuchon before taking over Steirereck from his parents’ back 2005 when the restaurant was relocated to the capital.

In 2014 Steirereck was expanded adding more space that also houses another restaurant called Meierei Stadpark which faces more towards the river. The façade was given modern futuristic aspect, built with metals that reflect the lush greenery of the park. After entering the restaurant, guests are drawn to the kitchen next to the hostess desk where Chef Reitbauer directs his brigade. The swerved layout of the dining room provided a personal space with unformed round tables with ample distance from one another. Grey herringbone chairs gave a clean contrast to the white ceilings, blonde wood paneled walls and ivory mosaic tiled floorings while the large windows had the park as its back drop setting the tone for an intimate dining space.

Serving modern Austrian cuisine, Steirereck offers a six, seven course tasting menu and a la carte for both lunch and dinner. Additionally, there is a shorter five course option available for lunch only. The seven-course EUR 142 was the choice on my visit. I was served a made to order refreshing non-alcoholic aperitif prior to starting the meal. Then came a parade of small bites made from fish, sea food, vegetables, and eggs. Afterwards a cart of an assortment of freshly baked bread was rolled in-front of me.

The first course, CARROTS-Young Carrots with Fennel, Coconut & ‘Reinanke’, glazed in its own juice, ginger and lemon, yielding the carrots with some citric spiciness. “Reinanke” or white fish was just another facet to this dish that went well with all the other elements. Served two ways was the second course of CRAYFISH- Crayfish with eggplant, hemp & fennel pollen. A whole roasted crayfish cut in half was a bit messy and out of place for a fine dining considering that using both hands to crack shells in order to get to the meat but never the less the crayfish was very good. The other was with eggplant; it had very good textures with some lime undertones. Then came the third course, TENCH- Tench with Cauliflower, Spelt Sprout and Isabella Grapes. The tench was confit in brown butter which added some richness to the muddy essence of the fish.

Tasting Menu:

Non-Alcoholic Aperitif
Non-Alcoholic Aperitif
Amuse-Bouche
Amuse-Bouche
Amuse-Bouche
Amuse-Bouche
Bread
Bread

After all the sea food courses were finished, the tasting proceeded with the next two courses consisting of land proteins. PHEASANT-Pheasant with Salted Lemon-braised Onions, Chard & Ground cherry, a confit of lean pheasant breast and legs that was soft and scrumptious. It was enriched with sauce from potato with Peperoncini, baby leeks, and salted lemon. The main course was the MILK FED VEAL-Milk-Fed Veal with Young Cabbage, Turnip & Bone Marrow, the veal was cooked to perfection, juicy, and tender. The vegetables that were braised and grilled was a great addition to a flavorful veal. There was also a hint of buttery context on the plate lurking in the background of every bite.

CARROTS
CARROTS
CRAYFISH
CRAYFISH
CRAYFISH
CRAYFISH
TENCH
TENCH

Instead of having the traditional cheese course I had the FRESH CHEESE–Sweetened Vanilla, Fresh Cheese, with Physalis and Cereal. The dish was prepared on my table, one at a time the server slowly put together all the components while explaining about the dish. A more savory sweet course that has different types of fresh cheese, one was frozen darkened by black sesame seed and with hint of coconut the other was with unpasteurized vanilla. It also had dried Physalis for added textures and cherry sweetness. The dessert course was ROTER MOND- Roter mond apple and preserved walnut with spiced Amaranth, this was a Russian apple that has a distinct redness. Though sweet it also has some tartness, sour cream was added to balance the fruity nature. There were traces of gingery taste and preserved walnuts were for additional crunchy textures. Then finally the sweet petites course of chocolates and small pastries rounds up the tasting.

PHEASANT
PHEASANT
MILK FED VEAL
MILK FED VEAL
 FRESH CHEESE paired with Limoncello
FRESH CHEESE paired with Limoncello

This seven course tasting menu was with a wine pairing for additional EUR 89. The pairing consisted of all Austrian wines which I applauded as Austria makes excellent wines. Most of my meals in Europe the wine pairing usually included a French wine but the sommelier at Steirereck fittingly enough paired it with beautiful local wines that not only enhanced each dish but was also enjoyable on its own. Even the one cocktail, Limoncello , that was paired with the cheese course had a pleasing alcoholic zest to go with it.

Lasting three hours, the tasting menu allowed Chef Reitbauer to display his cooking repertoire to his guests. His attention to detail and creativity to develop a plate with a complexity that involves putting together different elements produces interesting flavor combinations. He put a lot of emphasis on vegetables as all the savory courses included different root and leafy veggies. The ingredients are quality and was sourced from the chefs own farm and other local farmers.

ROTER MOND
ROTER MOND
Chocolate
Chocolate
Sweets
Sweets

While Chef Reitbauer is responsible for the kitchen, the dining room is under the guidance of his wife Brigit Reitbauer. She was handling the multinational guest at the dining room from the beginning, in the middle of the meal, all the way to the end with assurance that each guest will have an excellent dining experienced. The staff was efficient, cordial and well trained. Service was flawless and is expected from a restaurant of this stature.

Wine Pairing:

Wine Pairing Wine Pairing

At Steirereck, Chef Reitbauer was able to provide a dining experience that is unique to Vienna. He is redefining Austrian cuisine and recreating classic Viennese fare while showcasing local ingredients. With this, he sets the restaurant apart from the handful of Michelin starred places in Vienna as it sits on the pinnacle of the dining echelon. Steirereck has been “THE” dining destination in the country for some time now and will continue to be in years to come.

Restaurant Initiale

Dining Room

Restaurant Initiale
54 Rue Saint-Pierre
Quebec, QC G1K 3Z9
Canada
+1 418-694-1818
Official Site

In the French speaking Canadian province of Quebec, Montreal, their excellent restaurants from fine dining to casual bistro and talented chefs tend to get all the gastro praises. The province’s capital of Quebec City on the other hand, with its European charm, feels like a little brother that doesn’t get enough credit. The city has an outstanding gastronomic scene that is anchored by Restaurant Initiale. Guide books and food blogs recommend and also recognize this as the best restaurant in Quebec City. A member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux, one of only two restaurants here to be awarded the CAA/AAA five diamond and is considered amongst the top dining venues in all of Canada.

Restaurant

In charge of the kitchen is French born chef, Yvan Lebraun from Cancale, Brittany who moved to Quebec in 1986 while the dining room is handled by Rolande Leclerc. The co-owners worked together at Hilton Quebec prior to Restaurant Initiale. They first opened the restaurant in 1990 before relocating to its current location in 1998 below the old city and away from all the hordes of tourists. The building that the restaurant is housed in was once bank; it was then transformed with neutral tones designed with a contemporary elegant interior. Its dining room has large windows, brown carpet that covers the whole space, and tables with neatly pressed coverings are positioned with enough space from each other along with sizable cream leather seats. The dimmed lights with very soft music provide an intimate setting. A relaxing lounge upon entering is where pre and post drinks are held and is often used as additional seating on busy nights.

Dining Room

There are different set menu options for both lunch and dinner to go along with a la carte, but to get the full experience of Chef Lebrun the tasting menu was my choice. For aperitif, I was offered the “Initiale”, an in house concoction named after the restaurant made from bubbly wine with a slice of orange peel resembling a kir royal.

Degustation:

A light and refreshing amuse-bouche of chilled beet root, cantaloupe, and radish started the tasting. This was then followed by another amuse of mushrooms with quail eggs, salmon roe on top of potato almond cream which had a sensational earthiness. For the first course I was served scallops lamelles, oxalis and horse radish with marinated lobster, verjus and cameline, pousses de mme Allison. It had an enthralling floral essence and distinct notes that suited the sliced raw scallop. An added item on the plate was the chopped marinated lobster filling on half circled crispy rolls creating a superb first dish. Next was the dice of halibut and caviar de British Columbia with leeks and potato, dried yolk powder, and lemon confit. The delicate clean tasting piece of halibut was topped with caviar providing a touch of saltiness while the creamy sauce gave it some richness.

For the third course, I was served Royale d’ail nouveau and breast of pigeon-petits pois, concentrated juice buckwheat and galette. Flavorful tender pigeon breast meat with a vivid pink middle was intensified with the boldness of the buckwheat juice. While the heavy cream custard prevented the juice from overpowering the rest. An accompaniment on the side of the plate was a pastry rolled up with chopped pigeon meat stuffing, showing the versatility of the meat and the creativity of the chef.

Seared Foie-Gras

Continuing on, a seared foie gras-cauliflower purée, blueberries, chanterelles and duck juice. The foie gras was seared perfectly giving the outer layer a beautiful seared texture while keeping the inside buttery. Complimenting this was creamy cauliflower puree and a strong duck juice sauce. The dish also had nice undertones of sour and sweet. Then came the veal loin -fried medaillon, roasted tomatoes and green olives condiments and almonds. An excellent course where the veal was impeccably prepared and succulent. As complex as this dish may seem with all of these elements on one plate the chef was able to make it work in harmony.

Veal

A cheese course of Tomme sheep de Kamouraska-vegetal tartare-fruits & vegetables, oil of anis-hysope and pourpier that is made locally from the region had a defined nuttiness. The toast with spread and tartare of fruits and vegetables supplemented the cheese and can be eaten together or individually.

Cheese Course

Dessert courses began with the eggnog buttermilk and lemon thyme-Langue de chat and fleur de sel. The light eggnog with a pastry stick coated in chocolate and a sugary cookie at the bottom of the bowl was a beautiful combination of sweet and savory while also slowly acclimating the palate for a sweeter course. Gourmandise-entremet lemon and pistachios biscuit, raspberries and rose sorbet. It was more refreshing than sweet. A chilled sensation from the rose sorbet while also maintaining a citric fruitiness from the rest. Then finally the Mignardise, sweet pastry with blueberry adding saccharine richness ended the meal

At CAN 139 (at the time of my visit but has gone up to CAN 149) this was the most expensive tasting menu in Quebec, but with a strong US exchange rate this is a bargain and well worth it as I was treated with a fine multi-course meal by Chef Lebraun while showcasing the bounty of the region and its artisans. Most, if not all, of the ingredients were sourced locally and within Canada. He uses high quality ingredients prepared with meticulous and intricate combinations to create a contemporary French-Canadian cuisine. Each plate had multiple features that managed to complement one another to produce well balance flavors. There was a CAN 119 wine pairing arranged by Isabelle, the sommelier, that I opted out of and instead I gave her my price range that she was able to work with. It was a wonderful pairing that was spot on and interesting, especially when she paired one of the desserts with a sparkling rose that cut down the sweetness and gave it an additional taste.

Wine Pairing:

On the weekend evening of my visit the dining room was full of locals and tourists. Rolande assured that each guest was serviced to the utmost and that they were given a top notch dining experience. The staff was proficient, pleasant, and engaging. She visited every table often and even assisted in serving the food. Her hospitality from the time I spoke to her over the phone for my reservation and until my visit was unparalleled.

Restaurant Initiale is an outstanding restaurant, the cuisine identifies with Chef Lebrauns and the sublime hospitality by Rolande provided an unparalleled dining experience. It is the apex restaurant of Quebec City’s dining. And, just like every city in the world that has at least one or two restaurants that represent their city, Quebecers can proudly call Restaurant Initiale as their own.

Restaurant A.T.

Dining Room

Restaurant A.T.
4 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine
75005 Paris,France
+33 1 56 81 94 08
Official Site

Guides like the Michelin and Gault Millau are a good way to choose a place to dine especially in a city like Paris. In this instance Restaurant A.T. is nowhere listed in those guides, it was from The Forbes magazine where I learned about this restaurant when it published an article “The 12 coolest places to eat in 2015”. Japanese born chef and owner Atsushi Tanaka previously cooked at Quique Dacosta in Spain and De Pastorale in Belgium but working with Pierre Gagnaire at his Parisian three Michelin starred restaurant is what laid the foundation to Chef Tanaka’s restaurant, Restaurant A.T.

Restaurant A.T. opened last year in the Left Bank close to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Its humble store front and décor defines simplicity. Bright ceiling lights are assisted by clean white walls and stone ash wood flooring to brighten up the dining room. The fixtures of assorted heavy tables with table tops that are either made of concrete or black rubber, and steel chairs with black leather cushions seemingly built for an office space rather than a restaurant add sleekness to the interior.

Exterior

There were different set menus for lunch while in the evening there’s only the tasting menu that consist of twelve courses for EUR 85(at the time of my visit but has since increase to EUR 95) which I requested. The first to arrive was a charcoal chip served on a bed of rocks, it was quite crunchy with a fascinating burnt taste. Leeks sautéed in brown butter was next. The leeks with the toasted nuttiness of the brown butter was interesting. Following the leeks was parsnip cake, a creative dish, using a root vegetable that had a hint of sweetness along with an undertone of bitterness.

Tasting Menu:

Afterwards a combination of sea food and animal proteins arrived. Kicking it off was a lovely piece of oyster drowned in a pungent citrusy light sauce made of kalamansi (a small citric fruit found in the Philippines) that was counteracted by the harshness of the kholabari creating a balanced dish. Then there was a wonderful bowl of veal tongue with thinly sliced radish, mushroom, and green leafy vegetables. Its subtle broth was infused with vegetables and absorbed by the juicy pieces of veal tongue. The next course, Artic char, had a robust essence and the chips covering it, made from juniper and parsley, created a very good dish.

To continue was an excellent marinated beef that was nearly raw and served with Jerusalem artichoke and hay. This was a savory dish where the scrumptious beef had plenty of flavor. I was then served whelk, also known as sea snails, with salsify chips on top. It had a nice briny sweetness that went perfectly with its light and tangy consume.

A lovely piece of Hake drowned in cockles broth was next. The broth had a strong deep sea taste combined with the clean tasting Hake meat. For added texture was dehydrated oca plants leaves. Beautifully prepared and tender pieces of lamb meat with rosemary and turnips was the final course before dessert.

Lamb

Dessert courses consisted of raspberry with beet root and timut pepper, although not as sweet as I thought it would be, the combination of berry fruitiness and lemon added a slight soily texture. The chocolate and lavender with its sweet chocolaty and distinct floral aroma rounded the tasting in a wonderful way.

With this tasting I decided to go with the wine pairing for EUR 55. There were seven glasses all together that consisted of French wine and a single Scandinavian beer. Arranged by Sommelier Thibault Simon (formerly of Michelin starred Agape Substance) they were paired perfectly with each course and provided an extra jolt to the palate.

Wine Pairing:

Wine Pairing

Chef Tanaka prepared a very good meal with wonderful creativity that matched its refined flavors. His cuisine is neither French nor Japanese and the ingredients that he uses are international. He manipulates textures and taste that is similar to the molecular gastronomy style of cooking while his plating depicts modern artistry.

Wine Pairing

 

Service was competent starting when I arrived at the restaurant. I was greeted pleasantly by the staff in their uniform gray shirt and black apron and through my time at Restaurant A.T. they were attentive and engaging. Chef Tanaka served some of the courses himself to my table and even found time to chat on a busy evening during and after my meal.

With so many dining choices in Paris there tends to be a number of restaurants that are often overlooked, but as the dining scene changes more Parisian chefs are steering away from classic cooking to new and more experimental methods. Underrated Restaurant AT will get its recognition in due time, especially with a chef in the kitchen that has a strong pedigree and cooks some of the most creative cuisine in Paris.