France

Guy Savoy, France (***)

We arrived at Guy Savoy’s eponymous restaurant in Paris, dressed in the most formal wear we had brought on the trip. They say that there is a new wave of French cuisine taking place in Paris, one that goes against the idea, the concept of Michelin stars and fine dining; the rise of the brasseries, the bistros, and the possible decline of the fine dining restaurants. If anything, Guy Savoy is part of the old guard that finds himself being attacked by this new wave of French Cuisine. Being the youngest chef in a group of reknowned chefs who pioneered “Nouvelle Cuisine” in France, where there was a shift away from the rich, heavy sauces, thickened with copious amounts of butter, towards a more balanced, delicate approach to a menu, it would be interesting to see how he reacted with his food. We were expecting to have the lunch menu at Guy Savoy, what we did not realize was that the lunch menu was only available to those who made reservations online. Once we were seated, the set menu(without the lunch) and a la carte menu was presented to us. I was starting to get a little worried because they had already served us an amuse bouche before the menu had even arrived, and it seemed impolite to walk into the restaurant, gobble up an amuse, and decide we didnt want to have the set menu. Plus we had already told them we were from singapore, and he had my name through the reservation, what if he hunted me down on facebook and publically shamed me for dining and dashing?

When I enquired about it, the maitre d was quick to explain to us the system of their menus, and asked if we had made online reservations. I honestly did not know, and a trip planner had made our reservation for us, which meant everyone had an ‘umm…. (looks around nervously)’ look on our face, the maitre’d quickly caught on to this, because he quickly explained that he was willing to make an exception for us, but not without giving us a mini lecture on how lucky we were(Very very uncomfortable at this point)

Toast with foie gras and truffle

Quite the epitome of luxury. The toast was thinly sliced and lightly toasted, leaving a nice nutty flavor that complemented the truffle, which in turn complemented the very very creamy foie gras. My description of the foie isn’t doing it much justice, because it was soft to the point where it was almost like a butter. A nice statement of intent by the restaurant. Good

 

 Pumpkin soup and crab tartlet (No Pic)

Another smart little amuse, the pumpkin was light but rich in flavor. Crab tartlet had some acidity to cut the richness of the soup but the tartlet itself wasn’t very good. Okay

At this point we were approached with a tray of about 8 different kinds of bread, along with recommendations for bread pairing with our respective appetizers. I’ve never had a bread pairing before, but it seems like quite a good idea, why don’t more restaurants do this?

 

Ice poached oysters & 2 new preparations (served w seaweed bread) 

The cold trio of oysters was plump and sweet, and it was encapsulated in sea water gelee(I personally believe fresh oysters should be eaten w it’s natural seawater and nothing else). The salt level of the gelee was toned down quite a bit to let the natural sweetness of the oyster shine. The acidity in the dish came from the salad, which drew its link to the trio of oysters when it was finished with an oyster vinagette. When both the salad and trio of oysters were finished, a single warm poached oyster was served, it had spherical crispy pops(not sure what they were) that added an interesting contrast to the oyster. The warm oyster had a much more meaty texture to it, and sitting below the oyster was an egg custard that I can only describe as being very close in texture to chawanmushi. Overall there was a lot going on in this one appetizer, possibly even too much, I enjoyed the oysters but the salad was quite pedestrian. Okay

 

 

Artichoke and black truffles soup served with buttered brioche (Served w traditional baguette)

One of Guy Savoys signature dishes, incidentally, artichokes are also his favourite ingredient, and it’s not difficult to see why. An artichoke soup with shaved black truffle and Parmigian cheese; I hate artichokes with a passion, but the sweetness of the artichokes and truffles came together to form a really warm, creamy, very earthy, almost rustic(with a tad bit of extravagance, just a tad) soup. It tastes and feels like a very rich soup in your mouth, but there is enough balance that you don’t get bloated from consuming a large bowl of this. The mushroom brioche was soft and buttery, reminds me a lot of my bread experience in Per Se, and to take things over the top, it is cut in half and buttered some more. As he was buttering the brioche, the maitre d commented, “do you know why we butter the brioche? Because butter makes everything better.” I have to say I agree. Very good

 

 

Line-caught whiting w salmon eggs, Dublin bay prawn tartar with lemon jelly (5 bran)

I’m sure this dish was a little lost on me, but I did not like it at all. It was very very intensely fishy, I’m not sure if this was the intention of the dish, but the tartar and lemon jelly were completely overpowered and unable to hold up to the taste of the whiting, and it left your mouth with a very unpleasant lingering fishiness. You can basically make this dish at home by poaching a piece of fish in Thai fish sauce (Sorry Guy Savoy :p, but I’m only kidding, not that you’re ever going to read this). Very bad

 

 

Salmon ‘frozen’ on ice, scalding hot consommé, lemon pearls

I choose this dish because it sounded the most interesting of the lot. And I was 90% sure that lemon pearls were spherification, which was a little surprising because spherification has seemed to lost it’s appeal among many restaurants. But I was completely wrong about the pearls. Anyway, back to the fish. It’s basically a salmon that has been ‘cooked’ on a piece of dry ice, during which you actually get to see the flesh of the salmon begin to turn whitish-pink, like how it would if you cooked it normally over heat. It’s served on a very hot plate with very hot vegetable bouillon, chervil agar agar, and the lemon pearls are actually from a tiny fruit with pulp that has the size of caviar, and a taste of a grapefruit but also very tart, almost as acidic as a lime. The ‘pulp’ had a membrane that had a bite to it, very similar to that of a pomegranate. I’m beginning to make this sound like some sort of genetically modified mutant fruit, but it really was quite interesting and pleasant, it was mixed with lemon pulp to reinforce the lemon portion of the dish. It felt a little gimmicky but the wide contrast in temperatures made the dish quite enjoyable, although when the entire dish came to an equilibrium temperature, the dish quickly lost its pizzazz. I really didn’t care fo the chervil agar, I dislike the consistency of agar in savory dishes, but everything eaten together really had a nice balance to it. It was actually the lemon pearls that really brought the fish to life and the whole dish together. Good

  

  

Steam baked Bresse chicken breast, lemongrass, ribb vegetables, Swiss chard glazed with poultry jus

It’s time for another installment of ‘Best things I ever ate’, and this was the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. Another of Savoy’s signature dishes, I’m a little happy that this wasn’t done sous vide, because if it was, my circulator would be turned on all day and I would be responsible for a lot of dead birds. The chicken was placed in a pouch and left in the oven to steam, it had the moisture similar to that of a sous vide chicken; I find that sous vide chicken tends to mash the fibers of the meat together quite a little, this had none of those issues, the meat was more ‘defined’ and firm, but maintained all of its wonderful tenderness. The lemongrass actually complimented the chicken very well, without overpowering its delicate flavours. Very good

 

 

‘Foie gras and radish’, just fried turnips and ‘roasted caramelized duck’

I didn’t have enough of this to make a fair assessment, but for all your drooling pleasure

 

 

‘multicolour’ 

A dessert whose primary ingredient was figs. Again, didn’t have enough of it to make a fair assessment, and there was a lot going on in the dish

 

 

Mille feuille pastry w vanilla pod made to order

Shouldn’t everything in Guy Savoy be a la minut? Regardless, the pastry in this was texturally so flaky and soft, it was like eating air, the vanilla cream wasn’t overly sweet and had a very strong vanilla taste. Okay

 

All black (Noir)

A very dense chocolate cake sitting below one of the darkest and most bitter chocolate ice creams I’ve had. It was refreshing to be able to taste bitterness in a chocolate ice cream, not the most complex dessert, but simple and very satisfying. Okay

 

 

Grapefruit terrine w tea sauce

Another of Savoy’s signature dishes. The tea sauce was beautiful, the level of sweetness was just about enough to bring out the aromas of the Earl grey tea, it also balanced the tartness of the grapefruit terrine. The vanilla wafers gave welcome crunch to the dish, and it was only then that you got the vanilla aromas, which didn’t overpower the taste and smell of the Earl Grey at all. I would have never thought that Earl grey and grapefruit works so well together, it’s hard to describe to describe how good this tastes, because it’s hard to imagine the two flavors combining. So just trust my word in this, it was delicious. Very good

 

Vanilla mousse. Didn’t particularly enjoy the texture. Bad

Raspberry, avocado puree was a little lost in the raspberry. Okay

Chestnut– intense chestnut mousse, crisp meringue played off the mousse beautifully. Good

 

 

Earl grey sorbet w custard sauce. Black pepper

Perfect end to the meal, the sorbet was the best sorbet I’ve had. I’m not even that crazy about tea, but this had the perfect amount of tartness that we really needed at this point of the meal. The custard added a creamyness back into the sorbet, but not in the context of a deconstructed ice cream, black pepper was pretty mild and provided very faint residual heat. Intensely refreshing, and the sorbet perfumed all your senses with the smell of Earl Grey, even after the sorbet was long gone. V good

 

Chocolate, hazelnut, raisin

Choc muffin w raisin

What had started out a slightly awkward lunch turned out to be a delightful experience. The food at Guy Savoy is excellent, but I am fairly certain that most 3 star restaurants in France would serve excellent food as well. It was the service that surprised me the most. The maitre’d was very chatty, charming, funny, witty, challenging but never to the point of coming off as rude. You could tell that he knew what he was doing, and he did his job brilliantly, it really goes to show how much front of house staff really adds to the experience of the meal. Im not entirely sure if  it is a conscious effort by the 3 star restaurants to want to shake off the image of being pompous and arrogant , by hiring friendlier and more engaging waiters and waitresses, but if it is, its a step in the right direction

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