Thursday, April 14, 2011

Restaurant Guy Savoy, Paris France

I don’t fancy the word “foodie” – it runs afoul with my sensibilities and makes me think of kids acting like everything offal is good, people lining up for food trucks, and all those folks who worship the Food Network and “celebrity chefs.” Don’t get me wrong – I love food and I care about its sourcing, preparation, and presentation but to me the experience is nearly as important as the product on the table…it is what makes a meal worth going out for, and it was with these thoughts in mind and a couple of caveats that the first reservation I secured when planning our trip to Paris was at Guy Savoy.

While some may say that Chef Savoy no longer produces – and perhaps never has produced – the best food in Paris there are very few who critique the “experience” of his Rue Troyon flagship – as a matter of fact, of all the upper echelon spots in the city I’d heard from a number of persons that it was perhaps the most fun and considering my previous visit to his Las Vegas location I had good reason to believe those rumors. For the sake of full disclosure I will note that I was not a stranger at the house of Savoy during this visit as I’d met his son Franck during my dinner at Caesars Palace and had promised him I’d be in contact should I ever return to Vegas or visit the Paris location – but with that said, I made my Parisian reservation on my own through the website for the 110EU lunch before ever touching base with Franck and every aspect of the process was smooth, professional, and faultless from the very start.

With the reservation confirmed and instructions to arrive by noon it was with little difficulty that we found the small restaurant on the Rue Troyon – its doors an identical match for those Stateside – and similar to my previous experience the spectacle of service began before we even reached the walked in the door as both doors opened wide and we were greeted by smiling faces, first a pair of young men and then by Maitre d’ Hubert Schwermer who Franck had e-mailed to personally take care of us. With greetings and pleasantries exchanged we were asked next if we should prefer the main dining room or one of the “smaller, more private” areas and electing for the later were led to a lovely two-top easily big enough for four complete with hefty linens, colorful plates, and the same colorful salt, pepper, and butter service I remembered fondly from Vegas.

With no menu necessary as I’d already arranged the meal through Franck and the reservations department our next contact of the afternoon was with the Sommelier – a friendly man who delivered the biblical tome on a pedestal and after some discussion provided my sister with a lovely 20EU glass of red that she still considers to be the best she has ever tasted. With myself opting for only water we were left next to absorb the colorful space for a few moments before Chef Savoy himself would stop by to say hello at each table as our room filled to capacity – it would be the first of three times we would see Guy Savoy that afternoon and each time he was jovial, humble, and wearing a seemingly perpetual smile.

Already enjoying the pageantry of the dining room, service, and smiles our first bite of the meal would arrive from the hand of Hubert on a small metal toothpick just as it did in Vegas – a sandwich of foie gras terrine between buttered brioche toasts that even my sister, never a fan of liver, stated was good. With one service of such a tasty thing certainly not enough the ritual would repeat twice, each time by a different waiter and since Erika was satisfied with one I ended up with five.

While I’d have been okay with an ongoing flow of foie gras sandwiches it was perhaps ten minutes later when our amuse proper of the meal would arrive – and again it would be just like my first Savoy experience – soup on one side and a hidden morsel on the other. Poured tableside with the fist half a savory veloute of Asparagus served over “lemon caviar” I loved the manner in which the sour dotted the vegetal while the small morsel hidden beneath the cup was an earthy beetroot tart with horseradish – an intense bite opening the palate and sinuses both.

With salted and unsalted butters on the table from the start our next visit would be from the bread cart – yes, that is right, CART. With rounds and braids large and small and varieties including but not limited to Buckwheat with speck, Nori brioche, Five Grain, Rye, Ciabatta, Buckwheat and Oat, Sourdough, and two types of Baguette I’ll only say that I sampled quite a few throughout our three hour experience and although none matched that of Ledoyen or Pierre Gagnaire all were quit good and I particularly loved the coarse crumb of the two buckwheat selections.

Having already noted that our menu was pre-selected the next course was a surprise – an extra course “compliments of the house” described as Line caught whiting with salmon eggs, Dublin Bay Prawn tartar and lemon jelly – a refreshing starter served on a bubbled glass plate with two forms of lemon and two preparations of raw fish. Beginning first with a centerpiece of melt-in-the-mouth prawn surrounded by four curls of meaty whiting topped with briny orange salmon eggs the plate was lent balance, interestingly, by the lemon – some as a sour gel and part as candied gelee with each bringing out different notes in the fishes to great effect.

For our second act – or the first of the requested courses – our selections would differ largely because I wanted my sister to taste Guy Savoy’s most famous dish while I had my eyes set on something I’d been unable to order at the Vegas location as it was out of season. For Erika the choice, of course, was Artichoke and black truffle soup with layered brioche of mushrooms and truffle butter – a signature every bit worth such a distinction and just as smooth and aromatic as before.

For my appetizer selection the choice of the day was a dish described as “Peas all Around” Stateside – or Myriad of young peas when in Paris. Consisting of three layers – the first a gelatin made with pea juice, the second a lightly sweetened puree, and the third a nearly raw layer of shelled peas the petit pois themselves were outstanding – each layer showing off a different aspect of the vegetable’s flavor while the topping of a lightly poached egg, a dash of salt, a drizzle of chive oil, and a few leaves of nasturtium acted only to add nuance and further highlight the intricacy of the produce. Another signature much like the soup I can only say that this dish was perhaps even better – a pure distillation of flavors showing the chef’s intimate understanding of how to extract the maximum experience from an ingredient.

With the format of the 110EU special lunch traditionally appetizer/main/dessert I will note that our main course selection raised the price of the experience to 150EU but in reality it was this specific choice that spurred our decision to visit Guy Savoy Paris in the first place – you see, much like the Peas all Around, the Volaille de Bresse en Vessie was not something that could be accommodated on my Vegas visit though Franck assured me that if I ever made it to Paris I should be sure to ask in advance because “they can always get good bird there, even when it is not on the menu.” …and ask I did.

A grand presentation if there ever was one, the “Volaille de Bresse Pochee en Vessie – Riz au safran, jus truffie-foie gras” arrived carried by two men and to the amusement of everyone in the room was deflated, carved, and plated tableside as Hubert stood by and described the heritage of the preparation, the hen, and even the rice. Beginning first with the succulent breast meat as the dark was returned to the kitchen to be pan-finished everything about this bird was a revelation – as a matter of fact, it was chicken that did not “taste like chicken” but rather something more clean, more buttery, and more intense. With rice equally impressive – nearly risotto in its texture with notes of saffron peaking through the aromatic sauce – and buttery vegetables there is no doubt this was the best chicken I’d ever had and although I generally prefer light meat even the dark meat – added along with more rice, sauce, and vegetables as we worked on the breast – was magnificent and with Erika getting full my third serving (essentially twice the size of the second) was equally exceptional.

With plates cleared it was my expectation that dessert would arrive next and having experienced the parade of sweets at Guy Savoy Las Vegas I knew we would be in for a treat, but instead what followed was another visit from Guy Savoy who said Franck had written to him and said he wanted us to experience the cheese cart “on his tab.” Never one to decline such an gracious offer but knowing Erika was already near bursting I suggested perhaps sharing a course and with that the cart with at least thirty was wheeled over and described at length with our eventual selections including a Triple Cream Brie de Meux, an ashed Goat cheese, 2-year aged Comte, Morbier, Roquefort, and a potent Bleu de Vache along with fresh warm slices of Apricot and Walnut Raisin Breads.

With coffee offered (again “on Franck’s tab) but declined we were told it would be a few moments before our dessert was prepared “a la minute” and as such we were brought “some treats” including a strawberry atop lemon meringue with vanilla Chantilly, a Grape stuffed with Rice Putting, and a Floating Island Cube with Lime and Red Fruits – all tasty, light, and the grape particularly a very interesting textural experience.

For our dessert proper I have to say I was slightly conflicted when selecting as I was not terribly impressed by either of the selections in Las Vegas and as such I decided to keep things simple – a choice that would pay off in the form of the best Mille-Feuille we had in Paris. Again presented by Hubert who described the dish as Mille-Feuille “minute” with vanilla pod custard it was not only the vertical size texture of this pastry that impressed, but also the texture and flavor with puffy layers of pastry shattering on pressure and custard loaded with milky sweetness and potent notes of vanilla. With bite after bite remaining a balance of crispy and creamy even with an extra dollop of custard added to each plate it was actually my sister who commented that she couldn’t believe something so large and decadent could be so light.

In order to again cleanse our palates before *more* dessert, our next dish was Earl Grey Sorbet with Lemon and Black Pepper – a lovely creamy concoction that tasted something akin to American sweet tea with a bit of bite.

For our final “course” of the meal, just like in Vegas, we were visited by Savoy’s famous carte of desserts – a veritable cornucopia of puddings, candies, cookies, and treats. With each option first described by the sever our selections would start with Crème caramel, Banana Sorbet, Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Rice Pudding, and Rose Rice Pudding with a second round (for me, while Erika slipped into a food induced stupor) consisting of a Chocolate Macaron, Vanilla Marshmallow, Toffee Nougat, Peanut Marshmallow, Coffee Macaron, and slice of Chocolate Tart. With each quite tasty, particularly the Rose Rice Pudding, the Vanilla Macaron, and the Toffee Nougat I will note that a third round was offered and although there were still more options to try I decided the better part of valor was to be able to walk out rather than be rolled.
With the bill paid and a copy of the menu requested Hubert stopped by once again to make sure there was “nothing else we desired” and while I certainly should have liked to try pretty much everything on the menu I instead said “no, everything was wonderful,” and with that we were escorted to the door where upon emerging a small Scotty dog was seen wandering by with tongue lolling, a smile on his face and seemingly without a care in the world – a feeling entirely paralleling my own. In the end a visit to Guy Savoy is something I recommend whole heartedly because while it may indeed not be the “very best” food in Paris (debatable as the chicken and Mille-Feuille are the best I've had anywhere,) it was indeed the very best time I had at a table in Paris and the experience - that extra thing beyond the food that I value so much - is unforgettable.


Andres A. said...

Fantastic Review congratulations!!! I have a question about the 110E special, does "colors of caviar" could be ordered? Thank you so much and again Congratulations!!!

uhockey said...

It was not on the lunch menu, no. And thanks, though it is the restaurant and not I who deserves congratulations.

Lynn and Nick Booth said...

We are booked for tomorrow night (15/6/2011) a return visit after 9 years. I have been worried that we might not be as thrilled as we were on the first visit. Your concluding remarks are just what made us want to risk a return. The best night of food based entertainment ever. Lets hope it is as good tomorrow.

uhockey said...

I hope it goes lovely for you guys!

Lynn and Nick Booth said...

It was sublime. I had the artichoke soup, the veal, cheeses and two half serves of dessert. Husband had the pea dish (wow!) the lamb (poor little thing died very young) and the strawberries done about 5 ways.
Service was friendly and impeccable, an excellent Chablis, a glass of dessert wine. E700 and worth every cent. You can go back!