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Eating At Aimo e Nadia just before their Summer Closing

As I searched my pictures for the past Euro trip, I noticed that I missed to write a review of one restaurant in Milan – Il luogo di Aimo e Nadia. The fact that I forgot, this implied that my meal was not really memorable; anyway, I’ll make the report. This family restaurant has been in operation for about 50 years or so (if not mistaken) and its location was not in the strategic/fashionable area of Milan. Perhaps because of this or the fact that it was on Monday, the restaurant was relatively calm – about a dozen people showed up. Therefore, the diners were probably the fans of aimo nadia’s food or some foodies like us who didn’t mind making an extra effort to go ‘out of the way’ a little.

The simple dining room with ornamental white ceiling was not big and surprisingly very modern. Additionally, there are plenty of art works (paintings and sculptures) by Paolo Ferrari adorning the walls as well as guest tables – I neither liked nor disliked them. Both the founders, Aimo and Nadia Moroni were no longer working in the kitchen; their daughter – Stefania has been in charge of the business with the help of a couple younger head chefs, only Fabio Pisani was available on that night. For the food, we decided to go for the tasting menu. The cooking was more into traditional Tuscan cuisine (the owner’s native region) instead of “alla Milanese” cooking.

The meal started quite good with fried porcini & eggplant with cocoa powder and mozzarella. Followed by a fresh, tender and tasty san remo shrimp with creamy pistachio mayonnaise. After that, we had ‘eturian’ soup with some seasonal vegetables (carrot, bean, wild fennel etc.); the veggie stock/broth was thick and rather heavy – alright.
The staffs brought the next dish seemed to be proud of it: “ravioli” of raw cuttlefish with its black ink. The presentation was quite unique, but it tasted too strong and not that delicious; the tomato ice cream and almond cream on sides did not help either. My favorite dish of the night was next: tortelli with veal ossobuco and white truffle. It was classic, pretty and delicious – also love the ‘cheesy & creamy’ flavors; pasta dishes in Italy were generally amazing!

The main course was rather disappointing. The smoked young duck (pleasing on the eye) was a bit too salty and overcooked, hence dry – it was ‘saved’ by its jus and sour cherry sauce. When we brought this up to Chef Pisani (he’s walking around the tables), he just said ok and left to the next table. We noticed that the restaurant was not too pleased when receiving non-positive feedback from customers. No big deal since I would be very unlikely to return here anyway. Both of us opted to skip cheese and as a replacement, we were given the specialty of Puglia - cream of chickpeas with wild chicory, onions and ‘biscuit’; it was fine. Then we had the easy to eat pre-dessert in fennel ice cream covered with chocolate and nuts. For the dessert itself, we had velvety chocolate mousse with red grape ‘soup’, biscuit and wine sorbet; quite pleasant.

I heard plenty of good things about this restaurant in particular when both Aimo and Nadia Moroni were still around, which unfortunately we did not really experience it based on this lone visit. The founders’ ideas of combining tradition and creativity were still there, but not so much on the execution and the resulting dishes. We did not have bad meal per se, but it was nothing remarkable either. The food was alright; the staffs just did enough but not so much tried to please/elevate guests’ experiences. Unless you’re a hardcore foodie, taking the extra effort to visit here would not be necessary even when you’re in Milan. I still prefer the classical Milanese menu I had at Cracco several years ago. I don’t mind giving this meal a (low) 2-star Michelin level. I wish them good luck maintaining it, somehow with the current team; I just didn’t see it would attain the 3rd macaroon … ever.

For pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357...

Mar 25, 2015
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Pierre Gagnaire Paris

I'm afraid so
This dish is usually only available around mid Oct until end of the year or early Jan
Nevertheless, you would still have a good meal(s) at Gagnaire Paris in April especially if you enjoy asparagus and morels
(any) fish is generally really good there

Mar 10, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Pierre Gagnaire Paris

You're welcome
Do you love/like lièvre à la royale or any la chasse in general? If you do, then I'm sure you would very much enjoy this classic version

Probably a regular at Gagnaire, I observed one guy was allowed to order only the 3rd serving (pie pastry) of hare a la royale dish and consumed half of them

The more modern re-interpretation with 'lighter' sauce was probably more suitable for me such as the one prepared by Philippe Rochat below

Mar 10, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Pierre Gagnaire Paris

Pierre Gagnaire has become a “celebrity” chef recently. His restaurants are all over the globe (from Paris to Tokyo, from Las Vegas to Moscow). Despite this, somehow he’s not as ‘famous’ as Joel Robuchon or Gordon Ramsay. However, when discussing among the world’s grand chefs, Pierre Gagnaire, nearly 65 years of age, is very likely to be the most admired and respected. Until now, he seems to still have the energy of chefs who are 20-30 years younger than him. When visiting his empire ‘collection’, Gagnaire prefers to be at the kitchen leading his team and quite often getting his hands dirty as well to create dishes that will please his customers.

Ever since I tasted Pierre Gagnaire’s creations at his main restaurant on rue Balzac in ’07, visiting his other restaurants was something I never considered. Last year was no exception. I had another meal at Gagnaire and it took place in his flagship Paris restaurant. Unlike my previous visits, I was a man on a mission this time. I knew exactly what I wanted to order. It was a late autumn season and in French cuisine it meant 2 things: gibier and truffe. When dining with my spouse, I think I have the tendency to look at special dishes (usually a la carte) served for 2 people because I often dine alone too in which this kind of item is usually out of option.

After having decent amuse-bouche consisting of several items, my first course arrived. I had smooth, tasty and light parmesan cheese soufflé (the portion was quite big). On top of it, there were rich and velvety spinach ‘soup’, fragrant & strong white truffle (the shavings’ results look a bit ‘ugly’; I think the assistant manager did not really do a great job) and crunchy roasted hazelnuts. It was a pretty and delicious dish featuring texture, color and flavor contrasts. This dish had 2 side items: pain soufflé with mascarpone cheese & crunchy cabbage; nice sweet and sour of lemon jelly with pear/pecorino ice cream. It was a well-executed and interesting dish; I was pleased to have chosen it for my truffle dish instead of the more ‘predictable’ risotto or chicken. My wife did not want any appetizer since she anticipated the main course would be heavy.

Following the soufflé above, come the supposed to be the main highlight of our meal: Lievre a la Royale in 3 servings to be shared for 2 people. Pierre Gagnaire showed his talent and skills in preparing classic French dish in the old-fashioned way. After all, he used to work at Paul Bocuse and Tante Alice.
1st part was the ‘easiest’ to savor meaning not too gamey. The saddle of hare was perfectly cooked, tender and delicious. It was accompanied by sweet & tasty sauce (a combination of lard-deglazed with marc brandy as well as orange marmalade with barberry); the vegetable side dish was good and added some complexity.
2nd part was really intense. The hare leg and its fat cooked a la royale served with heavy sauce (a right proportion of hare’s blood, solid red wine quality, foie gras etc.) and some cube of duck liver (really rich). Truly a robust and powerful dish, it was not easy to finish all of it. To reduce its intensity, there was parsnip puree with a hint of chocolate as side dish
3rd part was nearly as rich/’strong’ as the 2nd part. It was a buttery puff pastry pie filled with hare’s meat and its powerful jus. To “balance” it, Gagnaire provided pineapple & papaya sorbet flavored with cardamom. I only managed to consume ¼ of the pie because previously in addition to my portion, I also eat my spouse’s dishes (1/4 from the 1st serving and 1/3 from the 2nd serving) – she did not have strong appetite for this kind of dish. An instant classic of French pithivier

The technique applied and preparations taken for this dish were nearly flawless. However, I think I came to understanding that generally wild game stuffs were neither my passion nor really suitable for my palate with some exception on wild duck meat and venison. This legendary dish did not disappoint at all, but I would pick Gagnaire’s more normal dishes (lamb or turbot) over this. Similarly, I believe the partridge dish I ate at L’Arpege was probably as good as it gets and in the same manner, I would easily choose Passard’s duck or pigeon anytime over his game dish. That being said, Gagnaire’s hare a la royale was one of the dishes I must have tried at least once in my life and I achieved that from this visit

To close our meal, we shared Gagnaire’s famous le grand desserts (8-9 small desserts altogether) and unfortunately, I was not too impressed this time. The presentation was pretty but about half of the desserts gave “extreme” flavors. For instance, the coffee ice cream was really bitter; the red currant sorbet with caramel was very sweet while the citrus with orange was too sour. To reduce the many bold flavors and enjoy these desserts more, we simply got to ‘jump’ from one plate to the other – not really a nice way to indulge ourselves. At the end, we only managed to finish 2/3 of them simply because we did not really enjoy them.

Staffs at Pierre Gagnaire were friendly, patient, and efficient although not everybody would fully understand and remember the ingredient details of each course – it’s very challenging to do so here given Gagnaire’s mercurial nature. Save for the restaurant director, I hardly remembered the same people serving at this dining room even having dined here 4x. The restaurant was very busy that night, even the private room was occupied for an event attended by a dozen people or so. The young waiters taking care of us sometimes looked lost but tried to be calm. One gentleman kindly offered that we took away the left over pastry pie from our main course; when we’re about to leave the restaurant, we waited and looked at him for 1-2 minutes yet he did not remember that he had forgotten to give us our “pie” until we reminded him. One ‘glaring’ weakness, in my opinion, about the service here (and increasingly in many other institutions) – the restaurant director (in this case Herve Parmentier) stood out most of the times near the bar and entrance talking to his colleagues - rarely supporting his team directly. I experienced similar thing at Pre Catelan where JJ Chauveau only greeted guests upon coming and leaving, but missing in the dining room. That’s why I really admire people like Denis Courtiade or Jean-Claude Breton who consistently engaged the guests and empower his team; they’re truly iconic maître d’ maison

All in all, I was very pleased with my meal except for the dessert. However, this was not my best one – I’ve had better dinner experiences at this restaurant. As explained above, it’s not mainly due to the kitchen’s fault but with the fact that wild game stuff was not “my things” especially when served in the size of an a la carte portion. I bestowed 95/100 for the food (worthy of 2 ½* by Michelin standard). I’m not sure if I will return here in my next Paris visit; I’ve been here plenty of times. I could not recall there are dishes I really want to eat that I’ve not savored yet. Sadly, after this meal, L’Arpege with L’Ambroisie became the only restaurants in the world that deserved to have “4-star” in my notes – Gagnaire Paris used to be in that same ‘league’

You can see the pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Mar 09, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

The Ledbury, Notting Hill, London

For people like me who did not have vast knowledge about London’s food scene, I might consider The Ledbury (probably named after the road’s name and located in the quiet residential corner of Notting Hill) to be “new” with rising star chef in Brett Graham. However, apparently that the Ledbury already received 2-star Michelin more than 4 years ago and ranked among the very best dining place in London according to restaurant magazine/S. Pellegrino.

Our dinner here was our last gastronomy restaurant to visit in late Nov ‘14. We could be a bit ‘tired’ of eating, but then I decided to ‘complete’ our initial plan. We eventually showed up 10 min late on Sunday evening. The restaurant was not too big, with dark & thick drapes and plenty of mirrors making the room looked more spacious; the ambiance was pleasant and rather relaxed despite the fact that many people formally dressed. The restaurant was busy and I noticed, including us, there were about a dozen “Asian” diners – indeed, it’s a popular restaurant. We decided to have the shorter and cheaper degustation menu because it seemed lighter and I would like to try the beef main course (enough of game meat from this trip)

I will go straight with our menu.
1st course: it looked like a salad for refreshing. The chef prepared contrast of colors and textures throughout in artichoke, grapes, hazelnut and grated duck liver (interesting combination but only tasted ordinary on our palates)
2nd course: thin and translucent white beetroot baked in clay accompanied by decent cured & dried mackerel (looked like in ‘sashimi’ style). It was light and alright; the beetroot was not at the level I ate at L’Arpege
3rd course: things get better from here. The manager offered us to have 2 different dishes and we complied with his suggestion. I had the original course in the menu: tender roast turbot with yellow wine sauce, seaweed and brassica. Turbot and vin jauce was the favorite combination of Alain Passard and Chef Graham did quite a good job here; I did not find the vegetables truly enhanced the overall experience of this dish.
My spouse had the special dish: tender and flavorful grey partridge served with its jus, chestnut and truffle. It was a very pleasant and well-balanced dish; tasted better than my turbot

4th course: slow cooked dexter beef ‘tasting’ (short rib, roasted rib, ribeye cap) with truffle. The beef was perfectly cooked and every part was delicious; the puree would intensify the beef. I enjoyed the aromatic smell from the onions and juniper, and they tasted just fine. I was glad to keep my reservation due to this dish
Nothing really memorable about the blood orange granite and sweet custard as the pre-dessert
5th course: dessert time - nicely poached pear belle Helene (A Parisian menu staple) served with chocolate and vanilla ice cream covered with almonds. Well execution and quite tasty, a great way to end our meal

The service was professional and staffs were friendly and attentive; they got the basic stuffs right but we did not feel anything special. I noticed at least 2 staffs were Australian. The food was generally good. While it may be ‘worse’ when compared to Ramsay RHR or Ducasse Dorchester, I felt that the Ledbury’s food was more exciting and ‘lively’. I believe Chef Graham’s cooking had more potential and would simply get better. I don’t mind re-visiting the Ledbury should I return to London in the future. As of now, I think the 2-star was a correct assessment by Michelin. Getting a third one will be challenging. However, among the current London’s 2-star; the Ledbury is the only one with a decent chance in the next 3-5 years

Here are the pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357...

Feb 27, 2015
Bu Pun Su in U.K./Ireland

tokyo trip report feb2015

nice report - thanks
did you have your 'best' meal at seizan this time?

Feb 24, 2015
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Latest Opinions on L'Arpege??

Paris and L’Arpège have been synonymous things for me. Whenever I am in Paris, coming and having a meal at Alain Passard’s legendary restaurant is part of a ‘ritual’. Fortunate enough, I’ve had wonderful meals here for 5+ times and the restaurant has always been full house including my recent 2 visits. Yet, I never had any difficulties to secure a table at L’Arpège, perhaps due to the fact that they allow guests to book as far as 3-4 months in advance. As I arrived at the restaurant near 8:30 PM (considered early by Parisian standard), half of the seats was still empty; the staffs allowed us to choose any table for 2 that we liked. After ordering a glass of Rose champagne for my wife, I casually observed the restaurant and found that I pretty much recognized no one from the service team; suddenly my “home” in Paris became a rather strange place until Alain Passard walked around the dining room and greeted us several minutes later. The Chef, luckily, still recognized me and we had a short conversation – the charming and charismatic Passard was always friendly, sincere and caring to his customers regardless you’re a regular or not. During our latest meals, I could comfortably say that Alain Passard was also the main star for the restaurant’s hospitality. I will discuss more about the service later.

As a restaurant that strictly adhered to seasonality, there could be times when the ingredients were rather limited. It happened during our dinner concerning the poultry items. I was informed that the kitchen at L’Arpège only had duck and partridge (no other meat either); the duck was excellent but I opted for the small bird because I never had any game dish cooked by Alain Passard. Similar thing happened to the fish, only turbot was available. Because of this, we decided to go for the degustation diner menu – the last time I ordered this full tasting menu was more than 6 years ago. We’ve had more than 30 courses from our 2 meals here, thus this time I will not write the dishes in details. You could read them from my blog (see the link at the end of this write-up).

The summary of what we had - I’ve eaten half of the dishes served to our tables. L’Arpège’s signature/regular dishes that consistently showed up were: hot-cold egg, onion gratin, vegetable ravioli, ‘colorful’ vegetables with couscous & argan oil etc.; they’re all consistently great. Some outstanding new dishes were: sweet and fresh raw scallop served with thin radish and geranium oil (pretty and delicious); the partridge, served with its jus, was mild in flavor, tender with grassy notes and served with chestnut, leeks and aromatic herbs (elegant with nice complexity) – it was good, but not better than Passard’s duck, pigeon or sweetbread. My spouse’s favorite dishes were: beetroot sushi (moist & well-seasoned rice and tasty beet, but don’t compare it to the sushi served at Tokyo’s top sushi-ya) and flavorful and fresh lobster served with excellent dressing and turnips, her best shellfish dish in the entire trip. Lastly, for desserts – I loved the intensity, bitter and pure flavor of chocolate millefeuille and its sauce yet balanced by the star anise ice cream. In addition, the classic Paris-Brest was delicious and in harmony (The cream's sweetness was contrasted by the salty caramel and nutty & crunchy walnut. It was flavorful without feeling heavy unlike the one dimensional kind served at Pre Catelan)

Generally, I had another unforgettable meal for the dinner. However, for the 2nd meal during lunch, there was a slight drop in my satisfaction. The waffle had good smoke salmon and ‘whipped ham cream’ but the waffle itself was kinda dry and bland. The main course, a pristine Codfish was smooth but lack taste except from its wine sauce – it was not up to the standard of L’Arpège’s monkfish, turbot or sole. I gave 96 pts (the lowest score I’ve ever given) for my lunch and 98/100 for 1st dinner meal. Yes, my lunch was not good enough in light of the sublime meals I’ve had here in the past few years but when compared to other meals, that lunch was still better than my experiences say at Guy Savoy, Gordon Ramsay or Maison Pic.

Now come to the service. In spite of the fact that I was no longer with familiar with nearly everyone in the dining room, the ‘new’ staffs were capable of delivering stellar service during dinner. It might not as personal as before, but they’re friendly, generous and accommodative. The difference was an action by the Chef-owner. Alain Passard not only greeted every table at least once, but also he brought and served one dish to every table throughout that evening. In our case, he said that he cooked and personally delivered the Partridge dish to our table. On the way back to kitchen, Passard often helped clear dishes – I thought it was a noble gesture and great leadership by example to his staff. A small hiccup took place during lunch when
sommelier: would you like to have a glass of red?
Me: are we going to have a meat dish?
Sommelier: yes, and it should be a squab
Me: alright, then
10-15 minutes passed by (I already had a glass of Riesling and Chardonnay at that time) and suddenly I was told by other staff that there would not be any squab or other meat course for this lunch. Then I politely declined the red wine. The sommelier looked confused and apologetic. I know the restaurant can ‘make up’ the mistakes and give us more food as usual, but for this meal I already promised my spouse that it would not last more than 3 hours – my shortest meal at this place. It was our last full day in Paris and she would like to explore the city + we still had dinner later at 9 PM.

It was a very busy lunch and the restaurant director, Ms. Helene Cousin was around (I was told that she only does lunch nowadays ever since she had kids). Somehow, it was more intensive than the service during our dinner. Staffs moved fast and looked a bit stressed at times but they’re still professional. Again, when I said the service was not as good as before, I referred this with respect to the superb hospitality I used to receive here. Prior to 2014, whenever I dined at L'Arpège, 2 of these people (Helene, Nadia and Laurent, the former director until 2008) were always in the dining room and they always did fantastic job. They simply set the bar very high and I could not help to usually compare the service when they’re still around – Nadia also had left the restaurant. Ms. Cousin seemed tired but still tried her best to be helpful & cheerful; the motherhood seemed to take much of her energy though.

After these meals and despite some ‘imperfections’ at lunch, L'Arpège is still my favorite and best restaurant in the world. The dinner here and at L’Ambroisie, as far as the food was concerned, ranked at the top during my foodie trip in late autumn last year – both were spectacular and memorable. I still yet follow Passard’s suggestion when he said that the “best” produce of his gardens (quality and variety) was in the summer. I tend to think that summer was ‘boring’ and many restaurants are closed; perhaps I should listen to his suggestion one day

A more detailed review, please visit: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
Comprehensive dishes’ pictures were here: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Feb 23, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Alain Ducasse at Le Meurice

towards the end of Nov '14

Jan 31, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Alain Ducasse at Le Meurice

About EUR 550 for 2 with a glass of white wine if I recall correctly

Jan 31, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Alain Ducasse at Le Meurice

Alain Ducasse, nearly 60 years old next year, is never satisfied with his already remarkable empire. Around late summer 2013, he accepted the challenge to take over the restaurants at hotel Le Meurice (the acclaimed chef Yannick Alleno left the hotel in early ‘13). Ducasse has plenty of capable and talented brigades at his disposal; with the closing of Plaza Athenee for renovation, he sent Christopher Saintagne, a former sous-chef for JF Piege at Crillon, to become Meurice’s Executive Chef and in particular to lead the hotel’s flagship restaurant bearing his name. This restaurant is essentially the “same” establishment as Alain Ducasse Plaza Athenee (ADPA) prior to the hotel’s renovation in the fall 2013. ADPA was my initial destination, but since it would serve different kind of style (almost no meat, cream and sugar) upon re-opening, then I decided to visit Ducasse Meurice. Perhaps, my wife would also be impressed with its beautiful dining room.

In essence the grand dining room was as pretty as before (I had a dinner here under Alleno in the past). The big windows, majestic chandeliers, painting in the ceiling, and other opulent stuffs were still part of this magnificent dining place, which was modeled after a state apartment in Versailles. About half of the tables were filled, so the seats nearer to the kitchen and entrance were not occupied. We were seated at the side table near the window and facing the central dining room. It was a sunny day with plenty of natural light. My wife didn’t feel like eating a lot, so she ordered the lunch menu whereas for me, I opted for the Collection menu. Alain Ducasse was on track to probably become the first chef with two 3-star michelin establishments in the same city if ADPA managed to get back its ‘full macarons’ this Feb.

My spouse and I began with the same snacks and amuse-bouche
-fresh and briny oyster from Normandy to whet our appetite
-followed by sharing roots vegetables cooked in sea salt and served with rather sharp sorrel sauce. There were several kinds of veggies: potato, leek, radish, carrot etc. In spite of getting used to the quality of Arpege’s vegetables, we could still say this ‘au naturel legumes’ was solid (tasty, light without any trace of butter/cream)

The collection menu,
-scallops with Alba truffles prepared 2 ways. Firstly, the delicious and perfectly seared scallop in tapioca ‘bread’ with parsley and creamy sauce. Secondly, I had the pristine & sweet semi-raw scallop pasta and olive oil. A satisfying dish
-the kitchen cooked half portion of poached blue lobster with delicate artichoke for the next course. The sauce (a mixture of lobster just, bonito and vinegar) was excellent. The lobster was prepared in right texture: buttery claw and slightly firm tail; both were flavorful.
-refined chicken breast with superb albufera sauce and shaved of white truffle was the dish I looked forward the most and it was up to my expectation. The breast was moist and flavorful, covered by scrumptious and perfectly prepared classic albufera sauce plus Alba truffle shaved on top – heavenly. I liked this poached poultry better than Frechon’s famous Bresse chicken cooked inside a pig’s bladder
-I tasted 4 French (artisanal) cheeses and they’re very good. I had Mothais ala feuille, comte, Camembert and abbaye de citeaux. They’re accompanied by dry fruit & black olive breads as well as salad
-pineapple dessert in several forms such as extract, dry chips, sorbet and they’re served with avocado, coconut, chili spices and so on. I think the pastry chef should include fresh & sweet pineapple itself. It was quite ordinary and I felt a bit underwhelmed

Lunch menu
-‘semi-raw’ and fresh sea bream with beetroots and a dollop of caviar. I thought the fish was a bit too salty for my taste, but the combination worked well. My spouse enjoyed it
-my wife liked her main course a lot; it was a tender & delectable Bresse chicken with earthy & meaty cep mushrooms. I tried a bit and it was quite good, but not at the level of my poultry with albufera
-chocolate with some varieties: texture, taste, temperature etc. There were ice cream, decadent choco ‘sauce’, cocoa mousse and foam. The combination did not go as good as we expected. It was not bad, but nothing memorable either

Some notes about the food. Desserts were (surprisingly) kinda disappointing by Alain Ducasse standard – well, we would not have been had one of us ordered the legendary Baba au rhum. I could not recall Chef Ducasse created desserts, let alone delicious ones, in which he would combine too many things in one plate like what we had here. He was usually a ‘minimalist’ type and we could clearly see and taste 2-3 main items. For the appetizers and main courses, comparing here and my 2 meals at ADPA ... I found the execution at Meurice not as rigorous and precise as the one at Plaza except for the case of my chicken dish. My two previous meals at Ducasse Plaza can be found here:

In addition, the portion for each course was getting smaller. I also saw the pictures of others eating similar dish at Plaza Athenee about 2 years to confirm it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very good meal and slightly more superior than my tasting menu at Ducasse Dorchester. It’s just that I knew what Alain Ducasse was capable of and this certainly was not his finest. I would give 96/100 (2 ¾* by Michelin standard) for the food.

Lastly, a comment on the service - it was not up to my expectation. It was not a busy lunch, and they refilled the water (and bread) very slowly – we had to raise our hands a couple of times. On the contrary, the staffs seemed to be very rush as if they did not want to talk or entertain us when we asked for something. Waiters also spoke quite fast and lacked eye contacts. It was not a typical of Alain Ducasse’s hospitality. The most decent service delivered by senior sommelier who used to work under Roucayrol at Plaza. As a matter of fact, the service was also not on par with Meurice under Alleno. To be fair, they’re still professional (get most of the basic things right) and trying to be friendly but not really personable or looked too sincere even though their english was quite fluent. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable lunch experience. However, the next time I return to Paris, it will not be in my list. It will be the time to re-visit Barbot’s Astrance and/or Alleno + Le Squer in their new restaurants.

You can follow this link for pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Jan 31, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Le Calandre, a Report

Italian fine dining restaurants tend to be quietly under the radar, with the exception of Osteria Francescana where its charismatic chef and the media successfully creating buzz that helped the publicity of Italian cuisine. 2006 was the year I began my gastronomy trip in Europe and Le Calandre was one of a few restaurants I happened to visit. Like many other 3-star places in Italy, Calandre was situated in a small and unassuming town of Rubano, not too far from Padua. I instantly fell in love with that place though the not-so-strategic location has prevented me from returning there until Nov last year. My spouse would really love to visit the floating city of Venice. It should always be romantic there and November would be quiet, so I managed to squeeze time out of Venezia to re-visit (lunch) the most beloved restaurant of the Alajmo’s brothers.

Le Calandre’s address was still the same but the interior tremendously changed. It became very dark (the restaurant covered up the natural light) with spot/low lighting directed at each of the 8 big circular tables uniformly cut from the same 180-year-old ash tree. The table had a dip in the centre to hold bread basket. There was no more the typical Michelin white cloth. The decor was still stylish and elegant, but without any extravagant feeling. The unique and specifically designed tableware and glassware were still available. The restaurant introduced “Carpe diem” concept in which guests who were certain to order one of the 3 tasting menus could do advanced payment and received 15+ % discount. We took advantage for the offering and this time I ordered the ‘longer’ version of the Autumn seasonal menu. Even after the discount, Calandre appeared to be more expensive than the other 3-star Michelin establishments in Italy but they really gave lots of food. I had to request for a break just before the meat course, which hardly happened for my usual appetite.

After some bread, snacks and amuse (involved plenty of cheese), then come the courses from the Fall degustation menu below,
-small and sweet sea scallop was in harmony with the apple agretto acidity and celery meringue delicate flavor
-flavorful langoustine & squid were wrapped by velvety raw piemontese beef; this dish was served with lobster cream/mayo, vegetable salad and caviar
-one of my best dishes was fresh burrata having buttery flavor. Under the burrata, there were fish and clams that were complemented by delicious salty & fragrant squid ink – simple and delicious
Good antipasti then followed by pasta & risotto
-an innovative creation of tarragon pasta with flavorful pistachio sauce, snails, octopus and herbs served in a copper pan. The smart part: the pasta was not the star and acted more as a rich emulsion
-wheat linguine was prepared slightly too “al dente” for my taste. The ‘dressing’ was quite interesting, made of pine nut, pumpkin and beef stock producing intense flavor – not bad
-in Autumn, the risotto dish was served with chicken stock jelly, subtle colatura di alici and shaved Alba truffle. It was creamy & rich yet not heavy with the rice having perfect texture with slight saltiness. Very good and a bit more superior to similar dish served at dal Pescatore
-as the first timer, the kitchen gave my spouse the classic version: risotto, cooked perfectly, with saffron and liquorice. It’s still the finest risotto in the world, even better than the one above. The saffron and licorice powder gave balance of sweet & bitter flavor, while the added parmesan was delightful

Delightful primi. Now it’s time for the secondi (seafood and meats)
-seared fresh & top quality of succulent lobster served with smooth no-cream sauce (made from sea urchin and crab) as well as meaty & earthy mushroom. A sublime dish and love it very much
-juicy, thinly cut and flavorful lamb was prepared ‘alla Milanese’. This beautiful meat was accompanied by aromatic almond & herb, fresh salad and red beets
-lastly, tender & gamey baby squab in tasty ‘rustic’ sauce was served with cabbage, mango and sauteed peppers – enjoyable and luckily in small portion
For the dolci, the restaurant prepared:
-truffled egg, another Autumn specialty. It consisted of egg white, white chocolate, white truffle and vanilla ice cream. It was decadent as long as the truffle’s distinct smell and taste was still there. Without it, it became rather monotonous, sweet and (very) eggy
-my wife had Calandre’s new dessert called pollen. It’s a show contrast in temperature, flavor and texture. There were several elements inside such as elderflower gelato, pistachio, ginger granita and mango
-to close, each of us got a portion of Massi’s interpretation of Tiramisu, served in a specific designed glass. We got to zip through to savor the chocolate, coffee, and mascarpone flavors – clever and stunning

A remarkable “symphony” by a gifted Italian (kitchen) maestro. Chef Alajmo’s versatility has enabled him to create high quality classical and contemporary Italian dishes with ease. No wonder that he became the youngest chef ever to have received Michelin’s 3-star award in 2002. For this meal, I had 3 glasses of wine: 2 whites (2013 Niedrist Riesling and 2011 Monte lessini from Veneto) and 1 red (2009 Corto chianti) to be precise. The restaurant was very quiet; only 2 tables were filled, comprising of exactly 7 people. Massi Alajmo came to the dining room a couple of times and he likes to engage and listen to guests’ comments. He sincerely (still) wanted to be better and ensured diners’ satisfaction all the times. The Alajmo brothers had a few restaurants nowadays and this “forced” the older Alajmo, Raffaele to travel around and unable to stay put at Calandre anymore. The current restaurant manager named Andrea Calzavara who was friendly but he only met guests at the beginning and the end of the meal. In between, 1 waiter and 1 junior sommelier served all the 2 tables. They did a decent job by delivering good service in a professional but relaxed manner. We were pleased although I admitted it was not as polished as when Raffaele still lead the FOH. All in all, it was an incredible experience especially the quality of the food – I bestowed 97 pts meaning (in my notes) it’s the only restaurant serving Italian cuisine that deserved to be at the 3-star level without any reservation. Given Massi Alajmo’s talents and seasonal cuisine, a return to Calandre is necessary should I find myself around the Veneto region.

A more detailed review, please visit: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
Comprehensive dishes’ pictures were here: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Jan 24, 2015
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Noma in Tokyo?

Interesting feed backs
May I know your blog? I would be interested in seeing the pictures - thanks

Jan 15, 2015
Bu Pun Su in Japan

has anyone been to ducasse at dorchester lately?

In the Fall ’08, I completed my mission to visit all of Alain Ducasse gastronomy restaurants (including the one in NY). Things did not stay constant in the restaurant industry; after the closing of Ducasse Essex House, apparently the current Monégasque chef still had a strong ambition to hold 3-star Michelin for three different restaurants. I believe this might be important for him after knowing Joel Robuchon, possibly his main ‘competitor’, achieved that. Thus in ’07, he opened another restaurant bearing his name - Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester London (ADL) with the intention to attain Michelin’s highest rating. The rest was history and he managed to get that. As a matter of fact, Ducasse had chances to be the first chef with four 3-star restaurants after the takeover of Le Meurice. It could be interesting since Robuchon seemed to have similar goals by opening La Grande Maison in Bordeaux by putting one of his most capable chefs – Tomonori Danzaki to lead his only fine dining restaurant in Europe.

The journey of ADL was not that different from ADNY. There were strong critics/oppositions and plenty of negative reviews in the first couple of years before it eventually settled down and ADL seems to be doing very well now. The restaurant is relatively big for fine dining standard (probably can sit around 70+ people); it was a busy Saturday night. The dining room was, as expected, luxurious and well-appointed though not over the top as its Paris and Monaco counter parts. There were some wood panels, yellow/green “macarons/buttons” on the wall and the famous table lumiere. Additionally, the room was also decorated with good quality materials in light colors (tan + cream). I was told the table looking out over Park Lane during lunch time was fantastic. As far as the food was concerned, I think ADL was pretty much Ducasse Essex house moving to London with ingredients, whenever possible, were sourced in the UK and the service/decor was less formal. The essence of the food here is the elegant and traditional French cuisine with some modern twist. The menu’s was concept was almost the same as ADNY: the basic ones were appetizer + fish and/or meat + dessert; then there were a seasonal tasting menu and premium menu (usually involving truffle and caviar). As per the recommendation of Denis Courtiade, the maitre de maison of ADPA, we should consult with the restaurant director – Damien Pepin. We followed his suggestion and let him ‘surprise’ us.

Essentially, we were supposed to enjoy 7 courses – sometimes my wife and I would eat the same dish and the other times we had different items. Note that I somehow did not feel really well towards the end of the meal (in particular after the meat course that I can merely consumed ¾ portion); so I skipped the cheese, and only managed to eat less than half of the dessert. It got nothing to do with the food, more due to fatigue and perhaps the cold weather after an intense 2-week travelling in Europe. This meal was near the end of the trip and unfortunately I fell sick here. That being said, I believe I was still well enough to give “fair” judgment about this dinner experience. So we ate the following:

As soon as we’re seated, we were given a generous portion of gougeres in (emmental) cheese flavor, paprika and pepper – airy and puffy, good but I slightly prefer the one served in ADNY several years ago with bechamel sauce inside the choux.
1st – both of us started with seared of a plump North Scotland scallop served with rich sautéed cauliflower and pungent Alba truffle. It’s well-executed and very yummy
2nd – My spouse E had succulent Scottish langoustine that was nicely complemented by granny smith and coral vinaigrette dressing; my raw & cooked mushrooms was so-so; lacking in distinctive flavors and textures. I also found the parsley reduction too dominant
3rd – E received creamy and not-so-rich seared foie gras served with good quality artichokes and hazelnuts; I had a fabulous sauté gourmand lobster dish with flavorful and balanced sauce. The supporting stuffs were very good too such as the al-dente homemade semolina pasta and soft chicken quenelles. Deserved to be the restaurant’s signature dish

4th – wife: delectable sea bass with roasted cep, mushroom sauce and almond; it was solid and but not wow. The kitchen served me a firm and tasty seared turbot, ‘the king of fish’, served with root vegetables and light-flavored sauce.
5th – the main course was the classic duck (from Burgaud house) dish with turnip, beetroot and an excellent rouennaise sauce. The duck breast, cooked pink, was delicious though a bit ‘chewy’ nevertheless overall it’s very enjoyable
6th – each of us had an exotic fruit dessert: refreshing with great contrast in flavors and temperatures. It was very lovely after heavy & rich dishes.
I felt dizzy at this moment and simply asked for the bill, then rushed for a taxi to get back to our hotel. So we had no mignardises this time, simply receiving a box of chocolate produced in Ducasse Paris factory.

Throughout the meal, we shared 2010 Meursault clos de la velle Domaine darviot-perrin put in a carafe (more or less half a bottle) whereas for the duck, I drank a glass of 2008 Morey saint denis rue de vere perrot-minot; both were enjoyable. The markup was, of course, really high. Back to the food, I thought generally it went well. From appetizers, fish/seafood and meat as well as dessert – ADL went from strength to strength though nothing was absolutely mind blowing; simply tasty, consistent and well executed. For me, it’s the best restaurant in London, better than Gordon RHR. I scored 95/100 (2 ¾* Michelin level, about as good as Osteria Francescana), but still below Ducasse flagship restaurants in Hotel de Paris and Plaza Athenee. You won’t be disappointed if you come with the right mindset and expectation. Unlike me, my spouse liked this place even more; she said that ADL was even better than Dal Pescatore and Gagnaire Paris, which I didn’t quite agree. The service was friendly and efficient. Because it’s a busy weekend, Damien could not come that often to our table, but one young staff in charge of our table was doing well (always anticipated our needs) – unfortunately we forgot his name. He used to work at Guy Savoy Paris and was very passionate about the world of gastronomy, especially French cuisine. Despite a big challenge earlier after the opening, Ducasse Dorchester ultimately thrived in all sectors. We were told that Chef Ducasse was very supportive across the board (from food & wine to service & decor). Whatever the staffs need, it was not too difficult to be fulfilled. Maybe Sultan Brunei had no (budget) limit to make his Dorchester Collection hotels among the world’s best.

You can see the pictures here: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Jan 15, 2015
Bu Pun Su in U.K./Ireland

(Paris) L'Ambroisie, any recent review/report ?

One of the most polarized gastronomy places in the world probably belongs to Bernard Pacaud’s L’Ambroisie. Some guests, in particular first timers, were often turned off by the stiffness or intimidated by the formality/seriousness of the staffs. And sorry, (often) diners were not “kings” here. On the other hand, lots of people are blown away by the kitchen’s superb creations and not too picky about the restaurant’s hospitality. I think I fit in to the latter group especially after my latest visit in Nov last year. After nearly 5 years of absent, I was glad to finally be able to return here.

This visit was different than my earlier ones in a few ways: I went to dinner with my wife instead of a solo lunch like in previous occasions; I was told that securing a table for dinner at L’Ambroisie was very difficult, but fortunately it was not really the case for us – I had no issue reserving a table for 2 about one month before. Booking for dinner understandably more challenging as during this visit, the restaurant was full-house including the 3rd room in the back; at my previous lunch meals, at most 60% of the tables were occupied. These days, Mathieu Pacaud, Bernard’s son, was an integral part of L’Ambroisie kitchen – not sure since when. They would try to follow the steps of other successful father-child chef team such as in the case of Bras, Arzak and Marcon family.

The service, this time, was the best I’ve ever experienced and it was rather unexpected given I’ve been here 3 times before and did not see significant improvements in the past. The maitre de maison - Mr. Pascal was, as always, professional, elegant and focused. However, unlike my previous visits, he's more relaxed and much warmer this time. He smiled more often and talked with us in a few occasions; at the end of our meal, he even encouraged us to re-visit during winter to savor Bernard’s legendary roasted Bresse chicken with black truffles butter. There was also a younger staff that still recognized me, even though my last visit was more than 4 years ago, and his English has improved tremendously. Perhaps, it's true after all that, L'Ambroisie is the kind of restaurant where diners eat better and feel more comfortable after several visits. The only ‘fault’ of the service that night was when I returned to my chair from a rest room, I found my main course was already on the table although it’s still warm.

Similar to my other meals here, I usually have one amuse, 3 courses and a dessert. It went as follow,

Amuse-bouche: flavorful red mullet with its crispy skin served with veal juice and celery & apple puree - a ‘lavish’ and good start. Well, prior to this, we’re teased with light paprika and cheese short bread – it replaced the restaurant’s famous gougeres
1st course: (big) soft-boiled egg, flawlessly executed, with white truffle and cep ‘sauce’ was amazing! The egg white was really soft, but nicely held the pretty & tasty runny yolk inside. Egg and Alba truffle was like a match in ‘heaven’. The truffle and cep mushrooms were intoxicating (in a good way); they added some complexity and enhanced the overall taste. An excellent dish and somehow it tasted even better than Passard’s legendary egg

2nd course: blue lobster fricassee (with the shell fish in beautiful red color) was the reason I had to decline Pascal’s idea of having scallop with broccoli & truffle and it did not disappoint. I love Brittany lobster and I had personal mission to savor all of Bernard Pacaud’s losbter dishes. I “gave up” demanding the kitchen to cook and serve tender lobster; it’s almost always a bit too firm for my taste. However, this time ultimately Pacaud got the right texture of the tasty blue lobster (quite tender for the tail and rather firm for the claw). This homard dish, served with pumpkin puree and chestnut, was rich, intense (but not heavy) and complex but balanced. I could taste the variation of sweet, nutty, & slightly spicy flavors altogether. This is the 4th creation I’ve ever had, did I still miss any?
3rd course: I was excited knowing my request of having the ‘peerless’ pithivier dish of wild duck pie (served with salad) had been approved. There was a group of French business men (8 people) who also enjoyed and shared this pie dish. When I saw the tourte, it was not as ‘big’ as I initially thought. But, as I savored the duck meats, duck liver and veal inside the golden and airy pie – it looked as if it never ended. Furthermore, I ate about 1 quarter of my spouse’s portion. The meat was indeed succulent and flavorful; an ethereal dish and probably among the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten at this restaurant.

My dessert: sugar in sphere shape with apple, sabayon, sorbet and pistachio. The sphere was thin; I kinda enjoyed its light texture and taste after intense courses. A decent dessert
My wife’s: a classic hot souffle in pralin flavor with mango coulis. It’s perfectly executed resulting in an airy and fluffy souffle with balanced flavor – an extra ice cream on the side should be nice
Bonus: flourless chocolate cake - I finally understood why Monsieur Pascal didn’t recommend this signature dessert for my wife ... because they would give each of us a tasting slice of this heavenly chocolate tart. It was as scrumptious as before, incredible consistency. However, this time it’s accompanied my mocha ice cream to intensify the chocolate flavor

A wonderful meal from start to finish and the hospitality was top notch this time. We felt very welcome in the house of Pacaud and left felt very happy and satisfied in terms of both food service. My meal at L’Ambroisie was simply getting better and better – a difficult task for any restaurant (which I’ve visited at least in 3 occasions) to achieve such feat. In my notes, I bestowed the food 98 pts (undoubtedly 3-star Michelin quality); as a matter of fact, it’s one of the two restaurants in the world with Michelin’s highest rating that I thought should receive “4-star” instead. If one day, there’s a restaurant that could topple my passion toward L’Arpege, L’Ambroisie (and possibly Matsukawa Tokyo) is probably the one .. Given Bernard Pacaud is not retired yet. With such great experience, I will certainly make a conscious effort to come here again in the future when I return to Paris.

For more detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
If you want to see the pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Jan 07, 2015
Bu Pun Su in France

Pre Catelan

Le Pre Catelan (LPC), in the centre of the Bois de Boulogne (west side of Paris), is a respectable fine-dining restaurant with a rich history. It’s often associated with Gaston Lenotre, the guru of modern French patisserie. In 2007, Pre Catelan became increasingly popular in the gastronomy world when it, along with Barbot’s Astrance and Alleno’s Meurice, was elevated among the finest restaurants in France. However, despite having received 3-star michelin, Pre Catelan has not been considered to have the most delicious food in town. Probably for this reason, in addition to its location that’s a bit off from the Paris, LPC has not been under my radar. But this changed when last month, I finally had the opportunity to visit this grand pavilion located in the middle of lovely gardens.

There are not that many French chefs with more impressive ‘pedigree’ than Frederic Anton, the current head chef of Le Pre Catelan who recently has become a jury in the MasterChef France. He used to work for the legendary chefs such as Gerard Boyer (for a short stint) and Joel Robuchon for about 7 years. Some even have claimed that Frederic Anton was Robuchon’s most talented and capable protégé and he’s pretty much Robuchon’s right hand man during the peak of Jamin and avenue Raymond Poincare in the early 90’s. Ultimately, Anton was the recipient of prestigious Meilleur ouvrier de France and Chevalier the Legion of Honour. With these impressive CV’s, how would his creations be like when translated into dishes served at the splendid Pre Catelan’s dining room? I ordered the full menu of Le menu du Pre and let’s dive...

-The tasting menu began with crab serving 3 ways: the foamy and flavorful crab soup with crab meat inside; a container consisted of succulent crab meat mixed with cream fresh cream, sour lime and topped with the salty caviar – fresh and quite rich; the last part was a light salad (nutty & crunchy) with Asian sweet dressing and crab meat. A decent start
-Langoustine prepared 2 ways: the delicate ravioli of poached langoustine with olive oil & pepper mint foam. The big prawn was tender but surprisingly & sadly rather tasteless. The next preparation was better; fried langoustine (with seaweed) in ‘tempura’ style. The ‘wrapper’ was light and crisp; both romaine sauce and ‘Thai’ fish sauce were flavorful but a bit too intense for my palate. Good presentation but did not taste that great. My wife’s lunch special had 1 extra langoustine item, that’s served in basil curry – she said it’s good but nothing special

-The poached turbot, wrapped in seaweed, was meaty with good texture except it’s rather bland. Perhaps it’s cooked in fillet instead of troncon (prepared with bone-in). The savior for the turbot’s taste coming from reduced sauce of vinegar. The side dish of ‘mashed’ potato with seaweed was quite tasty but I was not too fond of its texture; it was not that smooth or creamy. Overall, it’s somewhat an ordinary dish even though turbot was usually my favorite fish species to eat in any high end places
-Finding good quality sweetbread outside France or Europe was very difficult, let alone eating a good dish executed flawlessly by an expert. Luckily, we’re in good hands here. The ris de veau, cooked in a casserole, served with its juice was tender, creamy and delicious. The veal stew with mushroom and onion was also good. A display of excellent old school preparation of French rustic dish. My favorite dish from this meal
-For the lunch menu, my wife’s main course was squid in 2 ways (the portion was big): one was served with tomato confit and herbs; the other one is fried in tempura style. It didn’t reflect a kind of highly cooking technique while the ingredients were alright. Taste wise was nothing special; we felt that we could get this kind of dishes at any restaurants even outside Europe. Quite disappointing that the restaurant at this caliber would prepare this dish, you’re welcome see the picture if in doubt

-My spouse didn’t like cheese so the kitchen gave her a pretty and colorful salad instead. For me, I decided to stick with the cheese course this time. I picked 36-month comte, saint-nectaire, coulommiers and vacherin mont d'or and they’re generally very good except the comte was a bit too “young” – yes, I have been spoiled by Anthony’s 4-year-old comte
-My menu had 2 desserts and she had one; the kitchen decided to bring all of them together and we’re overwhelmed. They all were pleasing to the eyes and served in ‘giant’ portions although they’re only part of the degustation menu. We appreciated this generosity

The desserts:
+Le citron happened to be my most acceptable dessert here. The combination of meringue, sorbet, mousse and biscuit were nice, but the issue was that the sweet flavor was very dominant; I had difficulties to savor the lemon mousse distinct sour flavor, moreover the basil sorbet was a bit weak. Instead of (lemon & basil) generating a balance and elegant taste, this dessert became a one-dimensional sweetness
+I really look forward to trying the famous Le pomme. The sphere looked perfectly round without any blemish. I found the sugar encasing thick (not too pleasant to eat) though brittle enough to be broken easily. Inside was really too much ‘sugar’ – I expected to taste more of apple (tangy) flavor for a lack of better word. The overall sweetness was even stronger than the one I had from the previous lemon dessert. I could barely able to taste the saltiness from the salted caramel ice cream and when the pop rock and the sugar sphere were bitten concurrently, it’s not a fun ‘texture’ to experience. Any combination I tried, sadly, it was not that enjoyable – better to see than to eat
+Lastly, my spouse’s dessert was the classic Le Paris-Brest with praline cream. The choux was not soft, but compensated by the thick and rich cream. I thought it would be nicer had they put more fig compote and/or salted praline with rather intense salt flavor to harmonize it
To be honest, despite the generous size given, I was quite disappointed with all the desserts. It’s just sweet flavor all the ways – I bet the chocolate dessert might be the same; I like chocolate (dark/milk) to have some recognizable bitter taste; not just a hint/subtle bitterness. The same would be expected when I eat lemon, apple or salted caramel that’s to be able to savor its respective unique flavors.

Having dined at all of Joel Robuchon (JR) restaurants (except the latest La Grande Maison, but have tried Tomonori Danzaki’s cooking), I could not help but notice some similar dishes at Robuchon’s vs Le Pre Catelan – it should not come as surprised I suppose. For instance,
-the crab and caviar – the presentation was very similar (https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...) but Robuchon has superior (Oscietre) caviar quality and has more sweet flavor from the coral gelee whereas Antony’s more on the ‘sour’ note – let’s call it a tie
-another example will be langoustine ravioli. Robuchon’s version (https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...) is head and shoulder above his disciples’ creations (this will include the one from Ramsay RHR) – JR’s was sweet and succulent, well-enhanced by the rich & creamy duck liver’s sauce; it’s been proven in more than 2 occasions. Initially, I thought it was not difficult to create it given Frederic’s and Gordon’s talents but it’s not the case in reality.
-lastly, Le pomme vs Le sphere (https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...). The technique and complexity were similar, but the master won in the flavor. All the elements (flavor, texture and color contrast) at Le sphere worked well together
From this meal, my admiration towards Joel Robuchon has just grown – one of the world’s greatest chefs even in the 21st century. He’s capable of producing more superior dishes with similar concepts (to be fair, he probably created those dishes too) even when none of his top gastronomy restaurants is in Europe, thus often interpreted to have disadvantage on accessing the incredible (French) ingredients. Should I give benefit of the doubts since Antony was not in the kitchen during my lunch (He was in the meeting with the “big bosses” who own the restaurant in the suburb of Paris)? Maybe not since my meal at JR restaurants also took place without Robuchon himself present

The food at LPC was traditional and highly technical; from the artistic presentation with its details, we could see that Antony commands his brigade to be meticulous. Given his skills, I expected him to be more creative, yet we can see the Robuchon’s influence was all over the places – not really his distinguished style. Hence, I can conclude that Antony’s food rather lacks originality. In addition, I learned that the majority of dishes at Pre Catelan rarely changes over the years. The service was friendly and flexible; my maitre d’ Mr. Thierry was really hospitable - comical, kind and always made us feel comfortable. When we looked bored waiting for the food, he often came up some funny stuffs. The ambiance was without a doubt one of Paris’ finest – Belle epoque style with luxurious chandelier and marble fireplace. The tables were huge and generously spacesd. There were about 20+ guests showed up for lunch. I didn’t remember complain about anything, but the restaurant was very nice when it charged my full tasting menu at the price of my wife’s set lunch. In spite of this generosity, I have to honestly admit that, Pre Catelan is not a convincing 3-star place (more like 2 ½* level aka 94/100 – the same level as Guy Savoy and Epicure Bristol). My main reason to visit this famous institution is that by doing so, after 8 years of traveling for serious dining, I finally can say that I’ve been to all of Paris current 3-star Michelin restaurants. Yeah, more like for personal ‘achievement’. Here is the link for the pictures of this meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357...

Dec 28, 2014
Bu Pun Su in France

Trip Report

Agreed about the rice course at Matsukawa - I wish they're more creative
Since you're a regular now - could you request to Matsukawa-san for different one?

Which seasons you visited Matsukawa previously? What is your favorite one and if you don't mind, what dishes served at the time (not all, some highlights should be enough)?

What a foodie trip Silverlim - look forward to the rest of your reports

Dec 24, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Japan

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...


What would be your favorite season to dine in Italy in general and/or in Piedmont in particular? Maybe you can also mention the seasonal ingredients or special dishes 'exclusively' available during that period

Is Alba worth a visit outside white truffle season? Was the meal cost inflated a lot during the truffle fair - not necessarily due to the Alba truffle itself, but because it's a very busy period there?

Dec 24, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

No problem Ziggy41
I actually really enjoy the discussion and learned a lot from it
My experience in Italian food is rather limited
Perhaps because I'm generally more passionate towards French and Japanese cuisine
That being said, I liked my meals at Bottura and Santini restaurants

Dec 24, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

Thank you for sharing the links DavidT

Dec 23, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

Thanks you especially for the list of the restaurants
To make it easier for me (sorry for being selfish) for future reference, which of those places are 'easily accessible'

I meant I would consider going to Osteria Francescana or Calandre to be quite easy, but visiting a place like dal Pescatore very challenging

Do you notice any changes or progress of the food served at Pescatore for all these 3 decades or so?

Dec 23, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

How would you translate mostarda in English? You're more than welcome to correct my "English translation" of my dal Pescatore meal - they had no English menu and my notes might be wrong along the way

True, it's the son of Giovanni + Valentina who had just been born. But, Giovanni is in the kitchen and normally I was told that Alberto and Valentina are the ones helping Antonio at FOH, right?

Just curious Allende: what are your (top 5) favorite Italian restaurants in Italy as well as outside Italy? By the way, Massimo Bottura was very passionate and proud of his heritage and Italian cuisine as per our conversation. It's somewhat unfortunate that the Italians received him not or at least that's what Bottura perceived

Thanks for reading and some correction/additional info from my ristorante dal pescatore report

Dec 23, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

Do Italians really want to see restaurants like Francescana "dead"?
What kind of food/restaurants where Italians are willing to splurge domestically? I thought they would be unhappy as well if they have to pay EUR 50-60 for a portion of traditional pasta or risotto

Perhaps, Bottura was moving 'too fast' with his food. He still cooked excellent traditional Italian dishes. While most of his new items will be very different than the classic Italian, based on my sole meal there, the inherent taste of his food was still 'authentic' Italian - just in different forms
Many elite restaurants are also "evolving". For instance, at dal Pescatore, the kitchen utilized less butter and cheese (hence healthier; kinda a mini version of nouvelle cuisine ala Italia). Some dishes had modern influence/touch too

London or any other major cities would be lucky to have Massimo's flagship restaurant moved there. If that happened, I'm afraid it might lose some its soul since Osterica Francescana as we know today is basically still a cuisine of Emilia Romagna - the inspiration and the story are very 'regional' and that's what makes it unique. Will it still be tasty and fun? Absolutely ... Joel Robuchon fine dining restaurants in Asia and America are not really that inferior when compared to top French restaurants in France, but it's very 'industrial' - for a lack of better word

The brain is certainly Bottura's greatest asset, but in cooking, the good quality of ingredients still make up about half of it. Araki London will not be able to reproduce what he used to serve in Ginza and Araki-san knows this as well

Dec 23, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Dal Pescatore ratings fell from being in the top 10 to 70 in the World's Best restaurant list???

If any of you read my previous review (Osteria Francescana), I mentioned that we were staying a couple of nights in Modena. In addition to dining at Massimo Bottura’s restaurant, Ristorante dal Pescatore is another reason why stayed at the city known for its balsamic vinegar. Reaching dal Pescatore, situated in a village between Mantua and Cremona, was not a trivial task especially if you don’t drive. It took us about 1.5 hours from Modana, including the slow ‘regional’ train. It was a quiet and cold Saturday; when we reached Canneto sull’Oglio, the station and the hotel nearby were closed and there was not any taxi around. I called the restaurant and perhaps since they got difficulties to locate a cab for us, Giovanni Santini who was on the way to town stopped by and kindly gave us a ride to dal Pescatore. We arrived at the restaurant about 11:40 and were resting in the waiting room. Both the waiting and dining room were spacious, elegant, classic and quite colorful. There were plenty of books, mainly about cooking and Europe famous chefs, and photos of the Santini family. This small restaurant could accommodate at most 30 people, and almost ¾ of that was occupied during our lunch. At noon, we were escorted to our table. My wife and I were a little bit shocked when we found a few flies flying around in the dining room (maybe because the restaurant was surrounded by gardens); even more surprising, the servants did not seem to do anything with it as well as other guests who noticed them chose to be quiet.

Anyway, let’s talk about the food. We selected degustation menu with a few changes: replace the cheese course with another starter and have different desserts for both of us. Antonio Santini, whose face had some resemblance to the grandpa from the movie “Up”, complied with our request; in fact, the restaurant was quite flexible to change or add some dishes in the menu.
Appetizers: we got 2 items.
-The tender and tasty lobster was “wrapped” in spinach with refreshing champagne jelly; the caviar added briny flavor and luxurious feeling of the dish – a good beginning
-Warm and juicy guinea fowl was cooked perfectly and it’s combined with pleasant vegetables and fruits. The dressing was light sweet and sour sauce
Then come the pasta and ‘rice’ dishes
-A timeless dish of dal Pescatore is pumpkin tortelli. A simple and rustic dish, but very delicious with profound flavor. The handmade pasta was lovely; filled with a mixture of roasted pumpkin, biscuit, mustard and some herbs resulting in balanced sweetness with good texture. It was in harmony with the parmigiano reggiano’s salty flavor. A ‘humble’ dish that’s elevated to gastronomy level – our favorite dish
-Risotto with shaved white truffle is another traditional Italian dish in the Fall. The kitchen used Vialone nano rice that nicely absorbed the cheese ‘cream’; this worked well with the truffle aroma and flavor. I wish they had put more Alba truffle ... Even though it looked very creamy, the taste was not too rich/heavy, suitable to my wife’s taste. Personally, I still prefer the bold flavor of Alajmo’s saffron risotto

Following this were main courses: one fish and one meat
-The grilled sea bass, in a good portion, had firm texture and rather mild taste. The aromatic sauce with olive oil and side dishes helped to improve the overall flavor
-In any top restaurant with skilled chefs during autumn, it was a treat to savor their venison dish. This time the succulent and delightful saddle of roe was served in cabernet sauce and the meat’s juice as well as accompanied by blueberries and mashed potatoes – a very good stuff
Now, it’s time for desserts
-Mine was torta di amaretti and Santini’s interpretation of this traditional cake was simply perfect in almost every way. The texture of moist cake and crunchy croccante were enjoyable; the sweetness from cream and sabayon were just right; lastly there’s a hint of bitter flavor from the coffee. Every byte was a pleasure. Purely on taste, it was my best dessert in Italy (Bottura’s lemon tart had an upper hand in terms of the idea and presentation)
-My spouse had meringue with pistachio cream and marsala sabayon. It’s also a good dessert; the zabaione was particularly tasty. Too bad, the comparison was against the torta with Amaretti so it looked a bit pale in comparison
-Lastly, the array of petit fours was generous with plenty of variations and they’re remarkable; about as good as what you can get in any Parisian fine dining restaurants

Visiting dal Pescatore is necessary for those who would like to experience classic and traditional Italian cuisine prepared with care and using only top quality seasonal ingredients (many of its vegetables were grown in own premises). Despite this, Nadia Santini was also adapting the food with times and modernity. As far as I’m concerned, this is the Italian gastronomy restaurants that used the least amount of cheese and cream yet they did not sacrifice the overall delectable flavor of the dish – for this very reason, dal Pescatore was my wife’s favorite place to dine in Italy. The hospitality from FOH was kind and efficient; however, they just did the basic, which was nothing wrong but we did not really feel the kind of warmth of the Italian family; well, to be fair, we did fell welcome at the end when we visited the kitchen and the Santini chefs (Giovanni, Bruna – it’s amazing that she’s still around in the kitchen regularly - and in particular Nadia) looked pleased, full of smiles and very ‘welcoming’. Probably, the “lack” in service was due to the fact that neither Alberto nor Valentina (she just gave birth and had to take care of his 1 month old son) Santini was around to help Antonio in the dining room.

For the alcohol part, I liked my 2 glasses of wine: white from Verona the Anselmi san vincenzo ’13 and red from Piedmont Gillardi langhe ’06. The sommelier (also the restaurant manager) was generous for he kept refilling my glass with the white wine without imposing any additional charge at the end (I possibly consumed 1/3 of a normal bottle). Overall, it’s a very good meal indeed and in my view, I would put my lunch at dal Pescatore slightly above my dinner at Osteria Francescana. 2 dishes were outstanding: the tortelli zucca and torta amaretti; while the rest of the dishes were hardly ordinary. Honestly, the presentation sometimes did not do any justice. I gave 96 pts for the food (in my notes, about as good as my meals at Gagnaire Paris and Ledoyen under Le Squer). Michelin 3-star restaurants in Italy were generally more reasonably priced, probably due to their locations. Someone told me that in Italy, the good places to eat were not in major cities. The bigger the city, the worse the food is going to be most of the times – Venice (pre-Quadri) was a good example for me; even La Pergola was not strategically located in Rome. The sad part was I doubt if I would return here. The location was in the middle of nowhere, and my wife already told me she would not bother to spend 6-8 hours for such trip again. At least, I’ve been here once with Nadia was still cooking and had a fond memory of this restaurant in the village of Runate.

If you want to know more detailed descriptions of my meal: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
For the pictures of the dishes: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Dec 23, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

Thanks for the info about Vignola

Did Francescana's modern and innovative cuisine deter you from going there? Bottura still respects and is capable of executing "old-fashioned" Italian cuisine since many of his classic dishes were derived from his experience at home - that should qualify for "casalinga cibo"?

How's Hosteria Giusti? Hope you had a good meal there
True about the Osteria's location. By 8 PM, even on Friday, the surrounding area was pretty much quiet. But, well the same can be said about many of Modena areas in general, no?

Dec 17, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

Thanks for reading
Indeed, it's not "homemade food" at all - even for its traditional dishes/pasta would require good skill and high precision to be executed that way

Carlo Cracco in Milan also did similar things (innovative Italian cooking), but has not been as successful as Massimo Bottura so far. Cracco's classic tasting menu was quite good though

Dec 14, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

Osteria Francescana - Currently Italy's most innovative and popular restaurant ...

I was a little bit surprised to not find any thread dedicated to this restaurant

Modena is not the kind of city in Italy that I ever plan to stay overnight, let alone for 2 nights. During our trip to Italy last month, my wife would like to visit Venice and Milan – I’ve been to both. When I worked out the plan, I saw what’s ‘available’ in between these 2 major cities? Initially (and logically), Florence will be the next option. I loved the museum there, the city was beautiful and I’ve never been to Enoteca Pinchiorri. But then, Enoteca was not attractive enough and I really want to visit a new city this time. When I looked the map of Italy, I observed with gastronomy restaurants in mind – that’s when I laid my eyes on Modena, the home of the avant-garde restaurant – Osteria Francescana. In addition, I felt I would need a ‘base’ to visit another top restaurant in the smaller city the next day. So, staying over in Modena was not a bad choice.

In recent years, there’s an Italian Chef that has become the central attention among food journalists and foodies alike – his name is Massimo Bottura. Besides Michelin 3-star, Massimo received numerous other awards for himself and his dearest restaurant, Osteria Francescana. Yes, this establishment was my main attraction to visit the city famous for its balsamic vinegar and Ferrari. I reserved the restaurant in September for Friday evening and it’s not a problem at all. Osteria is located in the old city of Modena. We arrived almost 30 min later from our initial booking and surprisingly we’re still the first guests reaching there. At 8:45 PM or so, our dining room with 6 tables were all filled up – Italians happened to eat very late too, furthermore we’re the only table that didn’t know how speak the local language. The setting was modern with widely spaced large tables and leather chair. The dining room is windowless with modern & minimalist decor and the wall painted in some kind of light blue color. As I perused the menu, the staff brought in amuse-bouche (mortadella sandwich – smooth & fragrant) to tease our palate and bread (white, wheat and croissant).

There were 2 tasting menus offered: Sensations and Tradition in evolution. My habit when visiting the restaurant for the 1st time will be to order its classic dishes, so menu Tradition was an obvious choice – we also added Modenese tortellini in Parmigiano cream to share. The first half of our degustation menu (excluding desserts) were inspired by ancient and recent stories/incidents happening around the region; the dishes were generally clever, provocative and attractive but not too profound.
-the saba lacquered eel was soft and sweet, similar to top quality unagi one can get in Japan. The twist was that the kitchen put sour and salty variations to balance the eel sweetness from the apple jelly, polenta cream and burnt onions
-cotechino (salty pork sausage, a kind of Italian charcuterie product) was covered with zabaglione (versatile and tasty yellow custard). At the very bottom, there was crisp & sweet biscuit – a nice contrast in taste and temperatures
-caesar salad in Emilia had 22 distinct ingredients inside the lettuce. I wasn’t really impressed with it; it was just alright
-5 Parmesan reggiano cheese tasting in different temperatures, textures, ages/maturities and flavors. I can taste cheese that was intensive, velvety and crisp – a sublime, creative and complex dish.

The second half of the meal was my favorite; the desserts were of high quality as well – pleasing to both eye and palate
-tagliatelle in right texture and temperature was well-mixed with tender and delicious no-butter ragu made of pork, veal and bone morrow – excellent
-an iconic pasta dish from the region & Bologna: traditional tortellini filled with various meat (veal and different parts of pork); the pasta was delicate and light but flavorful while the reggiano cream (coming from local cows) was fresh and intense yet balanced. Any great chef always possesses strong fundamental techniques when executing & elevating ‘regular’ traditional dishes to fine dining levels.
I enjoyed these 2 pasta dishes very much
-for the main course, we had Piedmontese beef coated with charcoal ash. Massimo spread the colorful sauce (beet root, potato and vinegar) on the plate like a master painter brush his stroke on a canvas – a beautiful presentation! If you’re a fan of juicy beef with lots of fat, then you would be disappointed. This lean and tender Italian beef was different. It was perfectly cooked with great texture and subtle flavor. The sauces were interesting but the taste was unusual for my palate. Don’t expect any grilled steak smell here
-the pre-dessert was the famous creamy & intense foie gras lollipop; it supposedly was balanced by strong balsamic vinegar inside. This was a bit too much for me in spite of the almonds & hazelnuts – simply too rich

For the desserts, the kitchen was generous to give us an extra dish to share
-according to the menu, we had vignola. Apparently, it was fresh dark cherries ice cream seated on good chocolate ‘soil’ and mild coffee jelly. The overall flavor was tasty and refreshing
-we would not leave without having this extra dish: the broken lemon tart, creating perfection from imperfection. A superb and creative dessert with great attention to details, it’s also really flavorful – an excellent display of sweet and sour taste as well as texture & temperature contrast. One of the best things I ate for this dinner.
We didn’t remember we’re given any petit fours.

There was a “bizarre” and unique experience during this dinner. In the middle of our meal, Massimo Bottura walked into the dining room and greeted diners, which was very normal these days where Chef-owner showed respect and entertained his/her clients. Then, Massimo came to our table ... I didn’t exactly remember what I told him, but it’s something like this: “I saw your cuisine to be modern and creative/experimental, yet you also were able to produce very good classic dishes. Do you plan to pursue and progress in both styles in the future?” I just skimmed through about Chef Bottura and his cooking prior to this visit. I expected this to be just a casual conversation between guests and the Chef, but suddenly from his face expression, Massimo seemed to be bothered. On the one hand, he looked ‘angry & troubled’, on the other hand, I sensed that he wanted to explain or said something but could not or did not know how. He replied us with some short phrases and ended with (in rather serious tone): “I want to see both of you after the meal”. Oh dear ... did we violate something? I saw my wife, and we were both perplexed. The staffs were smile. “What’s happened?” I asked them and they simply shrugged off

After having finished the vignola and lemon tart desserts, sure enough my maitre d’ said that the Chef would like to invite us to the kitchen. Oh oh, were we in trouble? As we entered the kitchen, almost everyone looked at us ... with friendly smiles thankfully. Then, Massimo passionately explained his cooking and some of his dishes – a fun ‘lecture’ from a talented chef. In short, every dish he made, there was a story and inspiration behind it; he didn’t like to simply mix some ‘random’ ingredients to find good taste, it’s meaningless. After that, Taka, the pastry/sous chef, brought a dish freshly prepared for us. It’s beautiful – seems like an artistic painting of forests/woods. Chef Bottura said it’s one of his latest inventions: the camouflage of “hare royale” – inspired from Stein and Picasso. I pondered: besides the foie gras and some herbs, the rest of the ingredients were more suitable for desserts – chestnut, chocolate, biscuit, coffee etc. Well, at the end I learned it’s in a fact a dessert. We were given a tea spoon and swiped horizontally to taste it; we did it 3x – top, middle and bottom part. And after every byte, we ate the sweets at the sides and sipped a plain black coffee to clean the palate. True enough, each byte generated slightly different flavor, but the duck liver and hare flavors were apparent and quite strong actually. During this process, Massimo never stopped talking (in a genial spirit) about his cuisine. It became obvious from this experience that Chef Bottura is an eloquent person and he had an excellent command of English. His other trusted lieutenant Yoji was also Japanese. At the end, we got better understanding of him and his cooking; Massimo looked happier, more relaxed and relieved after being able to bring forth what had been inside him since the middle of our meal. A sigh of relief for me and my wife; we laughed a lot during that time and ended by taking pictures together in the kitchen.

The service was polite and a bit formal throughout the meal; my maitre d’ in particular was professional, fluent in English and knew the dishes very well. I had 2 glasses of wine: a fresh and aromatic (young) wine from Sicilia and Barbera La locomotiva. It’s a very satisfying meal. While I could not say every dish was delicious, most of them were interesting, eye-opening, thought provoking and creative. The traditional Italian dishes and desserts were top notch; they’re worth for a detour. Given Massimo’s philosophy, I know that Osteria Francescana is still a work in progress albeit now is already performing at a very high level. It’s not the best Italian restaurant I’ve been ... yet, but I look forward to returning here for more interesting culinary adventure in the future should I have the opportunity. I hope Massimo would still be in the kitchen as often as he can and not fell into trap of quickly capitalizing on his fame by opening new restaurants everywhere. I bestowed 95/100 for this meal (equivalent to 2 ¾* by Michelin standard)

Here are the pictures from my dinner: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Dec 14, 2014
Bu Pun Su in Italy

How can I score a Fat Duck reservation?

Any comparison tends to be subjective
There's hardly any right or wrong answer
But based on my experience, it's kinda helpful when I read other people's reviews, preferences or comparisons. Some of them suit to my taste better and I might agree when they said "A" better than "B". This way I kinda know which place to visit though it's not always right like my case with Hedone

Well, not sure if it's a right analogy
If we see an academy award, they can decide what the best picture is or who the best actor & actress are despite the fact that the panels would compare movies with totally different genre and/or budget. Likewise, similar thing can be said about restaurants and their food I think

Dec 12, 2014
Bu Pun Su in U.K./Ireland

How can I score a Fat Duck reservation?

Many things are perhaps relatives
My meal at Hedone would've been better had I had them before 2008 when my gastronomy experience was still limited. Also, I had lunch at the Fat Duck in the same day of my late dinner at Hedone - so it's like "heaven and earth" comparison. But, Heston has been cooking at high levels for more than a decade and Hedone's is still at an "infant stage"

Again, the bread, by the standard that London offers, is probably up there. But then, it's for sure (at least for me) not better than the bread at l'Arpege and Le Louis XV. Actually, Robuchon's fine dining places in Tokyo and Singapore have good bread quality and selection

Dec 12, 2014
Bu Pun Su in U.K./Ireland

How can I score a Fat Duck reservation?

Yes, and I thought it's quite ordinary
A solid 1-star place in London, better than its peer at the same level; about equal level with 1-star restaurant in Paris/Tokyo
However, it's definitely not a 2-star quality yet

The bread was good, maybe the best in London; the meat dishes were solid - that's about it. The scallop was not worth an additional GBP 10, and even the famous liquid parmesan ravioli was kinda average
Mikael worked very hard on the night we ate; he's hands on pretty much the whole time

Dec 10, 2014
Bu Pun Su in U.K./Ireland

How can I score a Fat Duck reservation?

I believe the Fat Duck is UK’s most frequently-reviewed restaurant out there. Additionally, the restaurant seems to serve the same dishes ‘forever’ (or at least 80% of them) regardless of the season. The often changed items are probably the main course and its desserts. Given this, I’m not sure how much fresh information or new insights I can add. What I’m about to write - it’s very likely has been written and discussed elsewhere. That being said, here was my lunch experience last month.

The Fat Duck’s popularity reached its peak in 2005 when it was selected as the world’s best restaurant by the Restaurant magazine. However, what lured me here was the fact that it’s a Michelin 3-star restaurant (I did not bother to visit Dinner by Heston although currently it ranked higher than the Fat Duck according to that same magazine); it gained its first star in ’99 and within 5 years, the Fat Duck was considered among Red guide book’s most elite dining place. I’ve heard how difficult it was to get a table here. So, I didn’t put that much hope. I asked my hotel’s concierge assistance to make a reservation, but at the back of my mind, I doubt they would put that much effort and it proved to be true (hey, it’s not the concierge of Japan’s hotels). Based on my Europe trip schedule, actually I only had one day in which my spouse and I could eat at the Fat Duck – our other days in London fell on Saturday afternoon, Sunday + Monday, the days where the restaurant was closed – yes, you could ‘judge’ that I did not make sufficient effort by sparing only one day in trying to dine at one of the most competitive tables in this planet. But the stars were aligned that after waiting 15 minutes for the online reservation to open (exactly 2 months before), somehow, I could secure a table for 2 at lunch. My struggle happened to be quite minimal, I suppose we’re lucky.

The restaurant was located in the peaceful village of Bray. Despite the cloudy and gloomy day, our mood was good as we’re about to spoil ourselves with a very promising lunch. Like a few other guests, we did not directly enter the restaurant; instead many of us were busy taking picture of the restaurant’s façade. After that we stepped in to the Fat Duck (finally) and were warmly greeted and escorted by the staff. We were seated at the table near the staircase – the table was big and could possibly seat 3-4 guests. The degustation menu consisted of 14 courses and it meant the dish’s portion would likely to be small (3-5 bytes per course). The long menu could be tricky since it’s very difficult to serve excellent 10+ dishes all the time, but should the kitchen screw up early, they got plenty of courses to redeem themselves. Let’s dive into the menu …

The food symphony at the Fat Duck began with 3 small dishes at the 8’s level (out of 10)
-beetroot and horseradish cream (8.5): soft & airy with crispy shell, having sweet and earthy flavor. A good start
-the nitro poached aperitif (7.8): a good show and my wife loved it. Marc Veyrat spoiled it; the chef in a black hat prepared something similar with better and more interesting flavors 6 years ago in Annecy – so this was not too impressive
-cabbage gazpacho with mustard ice cream (8.2): making good cold soup was never easy and this one was refreshing
Then the kitchen up its game by delivering 3 consecutive high quality dishes. They’re supposedly among the restaurant’s famous classics
-quail jelly and crayfish cream with chicken liver (9.5): the cream & liver were smooth and intense, every layer was consistent and delicious - a high level French cuisine prepared near perfection. There was also a crisp truffle toast and the thin strip with oak flavor (decent)
-snail porridge (9.2): possibly Heston’s most well-known dish and it lived up to expectation. All elements were in balanced creating a delicious porridge with a right texture
-roast foie gras (9): the liver was creamy and rich, combined with some unusual side dishes (barberry, kombu and crab biscuit) that happened to work well together

We’re very pleased with the proggressed thus far. After that ... come probably the lowest points of this beautiful tasting menu at level 7 or below
-mad hatter’s tea (6.7): I enjoyed the theater but was not impressed with the dish’s subtances. The broth and its contents plus the sandwich were average
-sound of the sea (7.3): again, a nice show and quite liked the music. The food was the ‘problem’ – the edible sand and the foam had some Ok flavor. The raw fishes/seafood were not bad, but I’ve tasted better preparation & flavor of octopus, mackerel, & yellow tail in Japan
Sometimes the new high does not come until very low points. The next 2 dishes were kinds of stuffs that makes the idea of travelling far and “broke the bank” for food were worth the time & effort
-salmon in liquorice gel (9.7): I often think any elite fine dining/sushi-ya serving salmon was ‘cheap’ and I could not be more wrong this time. It was a masterpiece; perfectly poached buttery salmon was enhanced by the gel, trout roe, vanilla mayo etc.
-venison with truffled spelt (9.8): if there’s such thing to be close to perfection, one of them was definitely the Fat Duck’s umble pie. The deer was moist and delicious; even better was the spelt ‘risotto’ with some deer cube inside – exceptional in both taste and aroma

The ‘orchestra’ ended with similar notes as the beginning. I was not blown away by any of the pre-dessert, dessert and mignardises. A couple of them were meticulously prepared with beautiful presentation.
-hot & iced tea (8): fun and pleasant “two-face” tea
-egg in verjus and vice versa (8.4): a nice play of flavors – sweet, bitter and sour
-botrytis cinerea(8.1): wine grapes in different shapes and colors with decent flavor
-whiskey gums (7.9): cool presentation with distinct flavors
-sweet shop bag (7.6): very sweet’ mignardises’
My food description has been quite brief and if you want to know in greater details, you’re welcome to see them at the longer review (see the link below)

What a fun and memorable gastronomy adventure. The food has been fantastic overall (97 pts in my note) and it fully deserved the Michelin guide’s highest honor. My impression that UK has no great restaurant has been dismissed by this meal. The restaurant was full as expected and the guests were quite diverse. There were a couple flying from Germany next to us and 2 (unrelated) groups of Indian families/relatives occupying the restaurant’s biggest tables. The service was relaxed and impeccable, but not personal; the staffs surely were in the top of their games – always ready to re-fill our drinks, answer any questions about the dishes and fold napkins whenever we left the table. The “worst” part of this meal was probably the restaurant’s decor. Excluding Japan’s kappo kaiseki and sushi places, as far as I remember, the Fat Duck has the simplest/humblest ambiance with relatively low ceiling. Thus, the upcoming renovation for the building is surely a wise thing to do. I would love to return here again but the staff informed me that the restaurant did not usually change the menu; this can be a challenge since when I re-visit a restaurant, I would love to eat new dishes – about half of them ideally. However, if any gourmand has not visited here, I really recommend it. Heston is truly the chef who knows how to cook both ‘molecular’, modern and old school stuffs well and most of the times they’re delicious. The other chef I know who would come close to do what Chef Blumenthal’s doing was Alinea’s Grant Achatz

More detailed reviews: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
Pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...

Dec 10, 2014
Bu Pun Su in U.K./Ireland