Final petit fours:
I have been eating at many amazing restaurants. I had many fabulous meals. I really did enjoy them. But then there were some very special meals in my life. Meals that were exceptional and that I still remember even after years. Meals that totally made me fall in love. Yes, you can fall in love with a meal. Two weeks ago, in Paris, I had one of such meals. One of the best meals in my life.
To be honest, I didn’t expect too much when going to Pavillon Ledoyen. I mean I had no doubts it will be a meal executed and served with perfection – 3 Michelin stars are a guarantee for that. But I often prefer 2 Michelin starred restaurants because the 3 Michelin starred places often remain caught in a status quo. In a fear of not losing perfection, and with it the stars, they become boring, they stop reinventing themselves, they become like a perfectly beautiful lady (or man) who is so much aware of her/his beauty that she/he focuses only on that. I never liked the boring perfection, I always preferred character and passion, emotion and that subtle sense of humour – in people as well as in meals.
Yannick Alleno nailed it! He has found the magic formula. He managed to maintain perfection but has gone so much above it. His perfection is not shallow, it is full of emotion, associations, memories, intensity and the most amazing ingredients presented in unexpected but super delicious ways.
Amuse bouches were delightful, but the real indicator of how the meal would develop was the “unexpected fine fish soup”. Red mullet on lime and olive oil crushed ice was like a bomb of flavour. It exploded in the mouth filling it with infinite pleasure. I would have licked the plate to finish every single trace, but inventive Yannick Alleno had another solution. Small bowls of sole milk soup arrived, they were blended in front of us with fish skin using a matcha whisk and added to cappelletti. The soup filled our plates that contained the remaining sauces of the first part of the dish. The soup melted them, so not even one drop of flavour got lost. A soup, so comforting, was raised to another level, carrying with it so many associations and giving pleasure with so much flavour!
This was followed by the celery “remoulade”. Another intense creation where crunchiness and creaminess walked so beautifully hand in hand composing a dish that kicks right in the brain with its intensity of flavours and yet remains perfectly balanced and infinitely pleasant.
Another surprise was Steamed cheese souffle, truffled Viroflay sauce, Lardo di Colonnata to slice. Would you ever put lardo on the top of a cheese souffle? A souffle covered with the Viroflay sauce and then topped with lardo may sound heavy, but it wasn’t. It was as light as a cloud and as creamy, beautiful and tasty like the most pleasant dream.
And then there came turbot. Another surprise! Who ever would combine it with foie gras? Yannick Alleno did it! And it was amazing – the yin and yang, the sea and the earth creating a perfect balance of different fatty elements (and yet feeling light). Yannick was here playing with the idea of the French classic of tournedos Rossini. The truffle was not missing as well – it beautifully covered the potato served with the dish.
The main course is for me often the less interesting. Meat and two veggies. Rarely exciting, it contributes that sometimes I start feeling full and am not able to finish it. But Yannick Alleno knew how to reopen our appetite. He served a crispy wagyu beef with salted pistachio, onion from Cévennes and golden beef consommé. This was the best wagyu I ever had. Perfectly crispy outside and wonderfully melting in the mouth, topped with pistachios and truffles, it was utterly delicious.
The cheese course was not a normal cheese course – it was a delightful subricof Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese, maple syrup and yellow wine jelly. A beautiful bridge between the savoury and sweet dishes. Then the sweet indulgence arrived and I think, photos tell it all. All the desserts were light and delightful, with the main player – coffee flavoured fir tree extraction jelly, spiced chocolate flakes and warm creamy chocolate. That warm creamy chocolate was like going back to childhood. That sweet warm chocolaty creamy safety. It made me feel warm and happy. The whole meal made me happy, not only chocolate. And that’s what we all want, no?
Yannick’s cooking is so great because he elevates the classical French cooking to completely new levels. People who know me, know, that I often complain about the sauces because for my opinion, some chefs don’t know to use them well. I will never forget a meal in a now two Michelin starred restaurant where sauces, in my opinion, destroyed all the otherwise interesting dshes. All sauces were pretty the same (a classical gravy), so after they were added to otherwise beautiful and diverse dishes, they simply killed them and made them taste similar. Also, the sweetness of the gravy killed my appetite. But give me Yannick Alleno’s sauces anytime! They are light, beautifully diverse and intense. They complete each dish to perfection. There is hard work behind those sauces – Yannick patented a special technique called Extractions®.
Yannick Alleno dedicated himself to study and experimentations, working towards modernising one-by-one the pillars of the French cuisine creating a journey rich in flavour, taking us right to the core of the French cuisine’s DNA, but making it incredibly light, healthy and moreish. (More about his research here).
With this lunch, Yannick definitely made me fall in love with his cooking and I really can’t wait to return. Alleno Paris is right now definitely between my 5 favourite restaurants worldwide.