This is the second best meal I have ever had. In my whole life. Ever. Period.
Believe it or not, this meal occurred the same weekend as the l’Ambroisie gastronomic extravaganza. When my friends came to town, they requested that I make reservations at the best restaurants I could get us in to for as many meals as I could–not a problem! Happy to oblige
The weekend was a veritable food frenzy that would have made Bacchus himself jealous. Each restaurant was an event, a destination, an unveiling of the most spectacular, stunningly brilliant, visually breathtaking, sensually aromatic, sinfully decadent, lavish meals I have ever had and perhaps ever will have. They fall in the once-in-a-lifetime, all-the-planets-are-in-alignment, the-sea-has-parted-where-is-Moses category of meals.
So we concluded the celebration of my pals’ victory in a landmark case against the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, INTERVENOR (as the Court’s Order read) at the 3-Michelin starred Le Cinq (pronounced: le sank; meaning: five) in the Four Seasons George V Hotel. It was an especially exhilarating meal as I had just finished my internship at Le Cinq two days earlier and had made many of the dishes we were about to be served.
One can’t talk about dining at Le Cinq without talking about the hotel itself, voted the #1 hotel in the world (!) in 2004, and after a two year, $125 million renovation, it is luxury and grandeur at its finest. To enter the George V, you whirl through the revolving doors at into the marble lobby and are greeting by the most dramatic floral display imaginable. Artistic director Jeff Leatham, voted best florist in Europe in 2003 and 2004, creates visually stunning arrangements that defy any tradition or norm. Flocks of visitors trek to the George V simply to see the latest floral displays which Jeff changes weekly with over 10,000 flowers flown in twice-weekly from Amsterdam.
Entering the dining room is a humbling experience as the splendor and beauty take your breath away. It’s impossible to take it all in at once. You must savor a corner here, a painting there, bit by bit. Sixty people each evening put themselves into the hands of the inimitable Chef Legendre and come away dazzled by the experience. We certainly were.
According to the New York Times, Le Cinq is “…a fitting stage set for chef Philippe Legendre. Formerly a legend at Taillevent, he is clearly thriving in these kitchens. Occasionally, the luxe menu (line-caught turbot with pumpkin-and-grapefruit marmalade, a licorice-infused pear cube with Szechuan pepper ice cream) is brought back down to earth by such selections as grouse and haggis in an aged Scotch whiskey sauce…”
Not only were we not brought down to earth, we thought we’d been beamed up to the far reaches of heaven so magical that to speak of it would be to desecrate it. So please join me as I try to share, though words and pictures sadly fall far short, this galactic gastronomic journey on the first day of their autumn menu…. Bon appetit!
Amuse-bouches ~ A duo of small starters; the first a cube of the freshest sashimi tuna sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds resting on a perfect mâche leaf, the second a savory “strudel” of sorts filled with a chestnut puree
* Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru «Clos St Jean » 2000 Domaine Niellon ~ a white wine made from the Chardonnay grape in the Côte de Beaune region of Burgundy, France
Tartare de coquilles St Jacques avec caviar Osciètre ~ A perfect scallop topped with Osetra caviar on three perfect mâche leaves and a dollop of a light horseradish crème fraîche
«Tarialini a la fonduta » et à la truffe d’Alba ~ Fresh housemade angelhair pasta with shaved truffles from Alba, Italy
Poireau cuit à la ficelle aux saveurs d’automne et à la truffe ~ Leeks cooked with the flavors of automn and truffles
Homard Breton en coque fumé et rôti aux châtaignes de Corrèze ~ Brittany lobster smoked and roasted with a puree of chestnuts from Corrèze
Dos de Turbot rôti aux topinambours et au lard de Toscane à la crème truffée ~ Filet of Turbo roasted with Jerusalem artichokes and Tuscan bacon with a truffle cream sauce
Lucy doesn’t eat meat so the chef sent out another fish plate: Ligne de Bar (line caught sea bass) with a confetti of diced sautéed vegetables
* Chateauneuf du Pape Domaine du Vieux Donjon 1999 ~ a red wine from the premier appellation of the Southern Rhône Valley as decanted by our enchanting sommeliers…
Noisette de chevreuil de Sologne au chocolat, sauce poivrade ~ Venison from Sologne with a chocolate pepper sauce (Editors’ note: This was my favorite dish. I’d never had venison — that I was aware of — and this knocked my socks off…and I wasn’t wearing socks. The venison was encrusted with crushed chocolate-nougat in a chocolate pepper sauce that sent my taste buds dancing the two-step.)
La sélection de nos Paîtres fromagers ~ Cheese selection from the Master Fromagiers
Our charming, delightful, handsome waiters. Christophe, on the right, attended school for SIX years to prepare for this job. He had two years of culinary training, two years of hotel training and – get this! – two years of fine cutlery service! Oooh la la!
* Klein Constancia 1998 Sauvignon Blanc ~ a dessert wine from South Africa
Croquant aux agrumes et épices douces ~ A merignue cup of citrus segments with a soft spice sauce
Du chocolate exclusivement… ~ Exclusively chocolate…
and because I had just finished my internship in these hallowed kitchens 2 days earlier…
…pastry sous-chef Francois (above with Lucy and Steve) sent us out *every* dessert on the menu! Oh. My. God.
Parfait des framboises ~ Raspberry parfait
Tiramisu Le Cinq ~ Le Cinq’s version of a tiramisu that won first prize in a national pastry competition. To get the effect of the chocolate on bottom left corner of the plate, they freeze the plates then literally, with a high powered paint gun, spray paint the plate with chocolate to give it a velvet texture! C’est incroyable!
Chocolate soufflé ~ no explanation needed!
Fruits d’automne ~ Roasted autumn fruit with a nougat tuile
Pâte à fruits et nougatine ~ Passionfruit and raspberry fruit jellies and nougat
Truffes du chocolat et guimauves ~ Chocolate truffles and fresh marshmallows (“guimauve”, pronounced gwee-mov, is one of my favorite French words, I love saying it. gwee-mov. gwee-mov. gwee-mov.)
And so I hope you enjoyed our brief culinary journey through dinner at a 3 Michelin star restaurant in one of, if not the best, hotel in the world. Anyone hungry?
Hotel Four Seasons George V
31, avenue George V
+33 1 49 52 70 00
Philippe Legendre, Chef des Cuisines, Meilleur Ouvrier de France
Eric Beaumard, Directeur de Restaurant
Enrico Bernardo, Chef Sommelier, Meilleur Sommelier du Monde
Jeffrey Leatham, Artistic Director
Lucy and Christophe