Thursday, April 14, 2011

Josephine Chez Dumonet, Paris France

Of the sixteen restaurant meals during our trip to Paris there is only one that I do not feel I can evaluate appropriately – a meal that took place at Josephine Chez Dumonet late on the evening April the 14th. As the circumstances tinting my view of this experience (save for seating us in the “American” section up front while all of the French folks were seated in back) were not a fault of the restaurant I will avoid my traditionally wordy assessment and instead simply opt to comment on what was ordered and how it tasted while noting the service and space were satisfactory – neither overdone nor deficient in any way – though with what the meal ended up costing me I’d have much sooner gone elsewhere for both.

Beginning first with the bread service – a house made toasted baguette with a nice open crumb delivered with rather uninspired unsalted butter and extra fleur de sel on request. It was good for mopping up sauce and as a delivery mechanism for the appetizers but overall sub-par compared to the options throughout the rest of Paris.

Complimentary wines – one white and one red with the first a bit too dry for my tastes while the second was quite sweet and fruity and both a nice gesture while we waited for our courses to arrive – the white with appetizers and the red with the mains.

1983 Chateau Terfort Ste Croix du Mont – an old bottle brought up from the cellar that was uncorked and tasted first behind the bar prior to delivery. Nearly a Sauternes in color and flavor with a smooth sweetness that coated the mouth at first but perfumed the palate with a clean finish and notes of pear, honey, caramel, and even hints of cinnamon. An experience in a bottle coming from a menu most do not even realize exists it was a wine suitable for both the discerning and the novice though perhaps not the sort of thing you order with indifference to yours or someone else's wallet.

Amongst our first courses the first was a demi portion of the house terrine de campagne maison avec salade et cornichons et onions. Similar to that of L’Ami Jean and later Le Regalade St. Honore this was the weakest of the terrines we tasted in Paris and also the only one which was not provided compliments of the house. Overall it simply tasted like meat – the spices largely subdued…a shame as the texture was actually quite nice.

Faring much better than the terrine de campagne, a demi portion of the foie gras de canard frais maison was absolutely sensational – buttery, smooth, and almost melting when warmed to room temperature – the perfect accoutrement to the bread and all the better with some fleur de sel plus a brilliant pairing to the Chateau Terfort with the wine bringing out the sapor of the liver and the liver bringing out buttery toffee notes from the wine.

For our main courses, the first was Cote de veau au vinaigre de framboise – a large slab of meat marinated with and absolutely soaked in a pool of aromatic raspberry vinegar. Not particularly a fan of veal I’ll note that the bite I tasted was supple, slightly sweet, and much more lean than I’d anticipated – an excellent slice of veal which was picked cleaned from the bone by meal’s end.

For my selection, having heard fantastic things of both duck preparations at Chez Dumonet and a fan of all things duck, I selected the Confit de Canard Maison. Served as a sizable leg and thigh over crispy potatoes and an uninspired salad with light vinaigrette the confit was admittedly quite good with a crisp skin overlying a ribbon of fat and dark succulent meat that was slightly gamy with notes of garlic, onion, and chives lending balance. Hefty in portion and low in price the duck was undoubtedly the best deal of the evening – no frills comfort food done well.

The third main plate was undoubtedly the best of the meal and though the 34EU price tag seemed a bit steep the flavors were admittedly complex and the presentation a step (or two) above the others. Titled Millefeuille de Pigeon et ses cuisses confites this two part arrangement was first the legs – lacquered, sweet, crispy on the exterior but melting and falling off the bone within – and then a three layer tower of crispy potatoes with the most flavorful and moist pigeon confit within. With everything resting in a pool of sweetened game sauce with hefty notes of cinnamon and spice I will simply note that even considering the fact that she was stuffed after Guy Savoy it took some convincing to get my sister to share.

With plates cleared and everyone rather full on both food and wine dessert was a rather gluttonous choice, and unfortunately a somewhat controversial one as I was unfortunately prevented the soufflé I’d very much desired instead settling for the Paris Toulouse avec corinthes et framboises – essentially a slightly more dense Paris Brest with filling of berries, whipped cream, and custard. Having heard how large the dessert portions at Dumonet were I was rather surprised at both the averageness of the size and the flavor of the dessert, though the berries were impeccable. Regardless for 18EU I’d have expected better and judging from the soufflés I saw emerging from the kitchen I couldn’t help but feel slighted.

The second dessert ordered was simply a plate of berries and whipped cream – specifically currants and raspberries with the same whipped cream that filled the Toulouse. At 12EU it was again overpriced, but the berries were again excellent.

The last of the desserts was titled “Mille-feuille Jean-Louis” and while I’m not sure which Jean-Louis they are referring to, this two layered version was the most paltry Mille-feuille we experienced in Paris and at nearly 2.5-times the price of the marvelous version at Jacques-Genin (though admittedly more affordable yet vastly less impressive than those at l’Arpege or Guy Savoy) it was simply disappointing in pairing the same vanilla bean custard from the Toulouse with two crunchy layers of pastry…the presentation honestly looked like they’d forgotten another 5 layers.

Ordering coffee because it was nearly 11pm and I’d hit a wall nearly an hour prior it was a humorous display to see our server yipped at by the chef for failing to bring the mignardises with the coffee, but when they arrived these treats were perhaps the best desserts of the meal – particularly the honey and nut tuilles and the fried coconut macaroons.

In the end Josephine Chez Dumonet turned out to be an overly expensive and exceedingly average experience that due to some ancillary issues turned out to be perhaps the meal I regret most on our trip to Paris – while the room, the company, the service, and the experience were fine, with what the meal ended up costing I could have gone back to Le Cinq or any number of one to two starred experiences – not to mention the significantly cheaper and vastly more impressive L’Ami Jean or Le Regalade St. Honore.

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