Archive for the 'French' Category

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Chez l’Ami Jean – Paris

Chez l'Ami Jean - Paris

For our final dinner in Paris, we dined at Chef Stéphane Jégo’s bastion of Basque cuisine Chez l’Ami Jean.

Chez l'Ami Jean - Paris

Before I get to what we ate and how splendid it all was, a little background on the significance of the restaurant and the chef (pictured above). Take it away, Food Snob Blog:

Chez l’Ami Jean, first opened by a Basque nationalist in 1931, is Paris’ most celebrated exponent of that region’s cuisine. It is also one of the city’s best representatives of the ‘Bistro Moderne’ movement. This is the name bestowed by Gault Millau on the 1990s trend that saw traditional bistros reinvented by chefs who had been formally trained in France’s more formal kitchens. In short summary, after the 1980s and what was the apogee of haute cuisine, kitchens were full of enthusiastic young chefs dreaming of opening their own restaurants. The economic recession of the early 1990s, however, meant that for many this remained but a dream, whilst for others it meant a compromise and instead of their own fine-dining restaurants, they settled on (cheaper) bistros. They brought with them new, more advanced techniques and ideas and succeeded in reversing the decline of these old establishments. The founding fathers of this movement included Christian Constant, Eric Frechon and Yves Camdeborde. In Paris, these men are household names and it was with the last, at La Régalade, where Chez l’Ami Jean’s chef, Stephane Jégo, spent twelve years as his second.

Stéphane and his wife Sandrine took over the Chez l’Ami Jean in 2002 following his departure from La Régalade. Rumor has it that the rugby-playing chef once forced a Michelin inspector dining at the restaurant out onto the street. “They will never be welcome at the restaurant; they have too many tick boxes,” he says.

Chez l'Ami Jean - Paris

The Astronomer, Mom, and I arrived early for our reservation and were seated straightaway without too much fuss. A beautiful loaf of bread accompanied by a glass of  “country cheese spread” was brought to the table soon after we were seated. The spread was quite mild, so several spoonfuls were required to pack the punch that I desired.

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Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire – Paris

Pierre Gagnaire - Paris

Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire is a Parisian institution famous for its jarring juxtaposition of flavors and textures, as well as its dizzying presentation of small dishes. Chef Pierre Gagnaire opened his eponymous restaurant in 1996 on the ground floor of the Hotel Balzac, a short walk from the Champs-Élysées. It is the recipient of three Michelin stars and other prestigious accolades.

Pierre Gagnaire - Paris

Prior to dining at Pierre Gagnaire, I had read that one either loves or loathes the dining experience here because of its unorthodox flow and composition. I was pretty sure that I’d fall into the former camp because I appreciate modern, unexpected, and inventive flourishes when it comes to fine dining.

While I was curious to try Pierre Gagnaire’s unique style of cooking, the 265€ price tag for dinner seemed like too much to gamble. We came in for lunch instead, which was priced at a more palatable 105€.

Pierre Gagnaire - Paris

To start, we were treated to lots of little bites whimsically scattered around the table.

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Le Chateaubriand – Paris

Le Chateaubriand - Paris

After a week of countryside explorations in the Loire Valley, Provence, Burgundy, and Normandy, we returned to a sweltering Paris for one final hurrah. Air conditioning is a luxury that the French don’t seem to appreciate, which made for some uncomfortably hot hotels, museums, and restaurants. Easily the stickiest and sweatiest meal that we endured was at Le Chateaubriand, a renowned neo-bistrot led by Chef Inaki Aizpitarte.

Le Chateaubriand - Paris

Here at Le Chateaubriand, the self-trained Basque chef prepares his signature cuisine de vagabond, which is known for its unique flavor combinations and a penchant for raw and sous-vide preparations.

While lunchtime is a casual affair, dinner brings two seatings and one set menu (60€). We managed to reserve a table for the first one, which saved us from waiting in line at 10 PM for the first-come-first-served second round.

Le Chateaubriand - Paris

A series of small nibbles graced the table to start. Poppy seed-crusted gougeres arrived warm, cheesy, and poofy.

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Château d’Audrieu – Audrieu

Chateau d'Audrieu - Audrieu, France

The medieval city of Bayeux is crawling with Americans due to its proximity to Normandy’s  historic D-Day sites, which meant that the restaurants within walking distance of our hotel catered to Yankee tastes. Rather than endure anything less than a stellar meal, we hailed a cab to Château d’Audrieu. I counted far more cows than people on the 14 kilometer countryside ride. The grounds leading up to the château were immaculate.

Chateau d'Audrieu - Audrieu, France

Château d’Audrieu, which boasts a Michelin star and is tucked inside a swanky Relais & Châteaux property, was quite a departure from the homey, family-run establishments that we visited in Burgundy and outside Normandy. We hadn’t been served by suited gents since we departed from Paris.

Chef Olivier Barbarin, who has been leading the brigade here since 2009, combines local ingredients with modern flare.  It was interesting to compare his fine dining point of view with our more rustic dinner from the night before at Manoir de l’Acherie in Sainte-Cécile.

Chateau d'Audrieu - Audrieu, France

Our table was set with fresh flowers and a single candle. The large windows opening into the courtyard made for an idyllic view.

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