Monday, May 5, 2014

Dinner at Le Taillevent, a Paris icon

Our Burgundy jaunt with Raj Par was preceded by a two-day, two-night blitz of selected Parisian restaurants. One of the "blitzees" was Le Taillevent, an icon on the French dining scene, visited on the eve of our ride out to Beaune.

Located at 15 Rue Lammenais, but a stones throw away from Champs Elysees, Le Taillevent has been in continuous operation since its founding in Paris in 1946 by M. Andre Vrinat and was held in the namesake family until sold (along with other related holdings) to the Gardinier brothers in 2011. The restaurant's receipt of three Michelin stars over its history (1948, 1954, 1973) is a testament to the quality of its food and service. It reverted to two-star status in 2011.

We were welcomed by two hostesses, who smilingly checked our reservations and then ushered us to a smart-looking couch to await our dining companions. Once the Siegels arrived, one of the hostesses walked us back to our table. My first impression on entering the dining room was of patrons attending to the business of having a good time and staff attentively assisting them in that endeavor. Our seats were in a booth-like setting, with padded, fixed, bench-like seats against the wall, a table that almost ran the length of the bench, and two chairs on the outside of the arrangement. This was a cozy; until someone on the inside needed to get out.

Once we had taken our seats, we were presented with menus and a wine list. The wine list was formidable -- both inside and out. Ron went quickly to the Champagne section and ordered a Jack Selosse Rosé in order to buy us time to carefully peruse the massive tome. (The Sommelier who assisted us over the course of our vinous expedition was Elize and, in manner, look, and speech, she reminded us of Pascaline Lepeltier, the well-known -- and well-regarded -- Somm at NYCs Rouge Tomate.). The Selosse had a lovely salmon color in the glass and yielded dried rose petals, strawberries, yeast, and sourdough bread on the nose. Lean with bright acidity and a burnt orange taste. It was "paired" with the Amouse Bouche, a complex and delectable Crispy Langoustine in a Sweet and Sour Sauce.

The food menu had an a la carte offering and two tasting menus. After we were resuscitated by the paramedics, we opted for the more extensive of the two tasting menus because we felt that it had the best quality/pain ratio.

Our first course was a Crab with Radish which we paired with a 1990 Comte de Lafon Meursault de Perrieres. According to Elize, this was the last bottle of this wine in their cellar. The wine had a golden color with a slightly honeyed nose accompanying notes of pear, coconut oil, citrus, and a rich oiliness. Little oxidative character. Burnt orange and citrus on the palate. Ron's notes mentioned honey, pear, and lanolin.

The second course was a Lobster Sausage with Fennel Foam. The bulbous appearance of the sausage, its lack of defined color, and its giving response to even the slightest application of force, made us initially doubt our choice. But in the mouth this dish was heavenly and was enriched by the very light sauce which accompanied it. This dish was paired with the 2000 Raveneau Les Clos. Ron thought that this wine exhibited notes of seashell, chalk, and flint. Fresh, with amazing minerality.

Next up was a Red Snapper with Zucchini Flowers. This was a clean presentation backed up by fulsome flavors. It was paired with a 2003 Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze. On the nose the wine presented smoked oak, vanillin, and strawberry. On the palate a spiciness, copious amounts of red berries, road tar, cigar box, and savoriness. Lengthy finish.

The next two courses were paired with a 2003 Chateau Rayas. The first of the two courses was a White Wheat Risotto and Morel Mushrooms topped with morel mushroom foam and all sitting in a light brown sauce. This was followed in short order by a Foie Gras accompanied by foam-topped carrots. The Foie Gras had a mouthfeel and texture that belied its color and the distinctive salty tang was perfectly balanced by the relative blandness of the carrots. The Rayas was characterized (Ron) by cherries, kirsch liqueur, garrigue, lavender, and earth.

After a cheese course, we were treated to a carmel and chocolate dessert and petit fours. We closed out with a Taillevent-branded Armagnac which was excellent.

This was an excellent dining experience in a food and wine temple that cares and is not unwilling to demonstrate that in every way. The quality of the food and the service excellence puts this establishment in a very special place. We have a penchant for being the last people to leave an establishment but our servers hung in with us; smilingly. In their words, "we close when you leave."  Could have been famous last words but ...

The tasting menu is the way to go here. It is high quality, varied, and gives you a chance to pair a wide range of offerings with the establishment's wines (We were so focused on the food and wine upstairs that we forgot to go take a peek at their fabled wine cellar.). It also works out to be more economical than trying to put a like meal together from the a la carte menu.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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