Monday, September 27, 2010

Paris. Senderens. 2 stars.


Finally. After years of pining and planning, I have arrived in Paris, the food capital of the world. And to make it even better, I'm here with only one goal in mind: to eat as much as possible. My first meal in Paris wouldn't be an overly memorable one (a camembert and lettuce roll from a train station, although it wasn't that bad), it was the second one where the fun was going to start.

Alain Senderens has had a restaurant for a while now and has always been one of the less traditional chefs in Paris. In the last decade he's been critical of French cuisine, that it has lost its position at the top of the food pyramid to the likes of Japan and Spain. He even we to the extent of trying to disown his Michelin stars. But that didn't quite work, because his restaurant, Senderens, has two stars in the latest guide.

I haven't been nervous for a dining experience for a while, but there are a few butterflies in the stomach here. Would Paris meet my expectations? Would everyone inside be bastions of style, wearing four piece hats and things like trousers? That's what bastions wear these days, isn't it?

I walked in and the restaurant had an ominous red glow to it. I got shown to my seat and presented with the menu. I'm not sure if it's an omen, but there are butterflies on the menu.

I opt for, of course, the tasting menu with matching wines. 4 courses plus a couple of amuses (110e for food, 150e with wine).

Oddly, there are no Parisians dressed in a four-piece suit. Most people, it appears, are either Asian or American. Dressed in normal people clothing.

Was the food good? Sure, it was plenty good. Cepe mushrooms done in different ways with a soft-boiled egg were nice and my old friend langoustine was also delicious, crumbed with almond and fried with a sauce reminiscent of a cross between seafood sauce and a bisque. You eat it with your hands. Isn't that a novel idea!

Main of pork belly with carrots and avocado was an interesting idea. It didn't sound that impressive but the interplay of the fat of the unctuous pork belly with the sweet carrot and the sweet/oiliness of the avocado was pretty interesting.

Dessert was an absolute killer. A sort of macaroon thing with meringue, sorbet, praline thing, citrus terrine and szechuan pepper. Normally with citrus, it's the zest that has a strong afterburn. But this time the citrus terrine resembled zest but the burn came from the szechuan pepper. Along with the different texture of the rest of the dish, it was perfect in every way. Sweet, but not over the top.

The famous Americans at the nearby table threw down their black AMEX and gushed over the meal. While not gushing myself, I did find it pretty enjoyable, as I threw down my inferior card. As good as the other two-starred places I've been to? Maybe not. Nearly all were better. But, hey, it was good. And it wasn't bad value at $150, including wine, plus other things. But has Alain Senderens pushed the boundaries of French cuisine? No, I doubt it. There were Asian influences in the dishes, but there are other people doing the French/Asian fusion better, elsewhere in the world. The New World (TM) still rules supreme.

Michelin star tally: 13

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