Before there was Heston Blumenthal, there was Pierre Gagnaire. The “enfant-terrible” of French cooking has kept pace with the molecular gastronomy boys by running a restaurant facing the future, but respectful of the past. We recently ate there with close friends of mine from the early Paris days. We had all come a long way since then, and sharing a fantastic degustation menu at Gaganire’s eponymous restaurant in Paris on a snowy night was the ideal setting for the birth of, as the French say, “un grand moment”.
Mr. Gagnaire was present, he stopped by our table twice in chef garb to answer questions posed by our lone professor of DH Lawrence. My friend was into it! Gagnaire signed things and moved on. Still, always nice to see the man backing up his cooking, even though it’s done by other people, of course.
We drank a gorgeous 2001 Chambolle 1er Cru “Les Fuees” from J.F. Mugnier. To this date I wish we drank that wine all night. Finishing with Haut-Brions second, Bahan du Haut Brion 2001, we were happily working thru our menu. Both wines were seductive, delicious and ready for 2001s. I liked the sommeliers there, as well. Nice kids, in training, but they were friendly and aware of what their job was. Dr. Matthews and I got a tour of the upstairs cellar. The whole thing reminded me of my youth at Lespinasse. A time when I was thoroughly concerned with the differences between Puilgny-Montrachet and Chassagne. Now I drink Geoff Weaver Chardonnay, which holds its own compared to both Burgundian white wines.
The degustation menu was good. There were not as many memorable dishes as we had at the Fat Duck, in fact the dish I remember most was the meal’s great failure, a cold chicken noodle dish that was gelatinous and not appealing on a snowy-freezing-winter-Napoleonic-march-thru-Russia-night. However, it was still a great meal in the clubby lamp lit dining room, and the service was top notch. My vegetarian friend, Mr.John, had the experience of his life. That rarely happens for him; especially in France. He was treated to a dazzling array of dishes.
We saw the night out with Calvados from Camut, 35 years old, and perfect. I used to buy it for Bouley Restaurant from Michael Skurnik, but I never realized how great it was until I was in someone else’s fancy dining room in Paris, and firmly in the moment. Un Grand Moment? Oui, je croix.
Much happened after dinner, as nobody wanted to go to sleep. Roy Orbison kept people up and in an hommage to Blue Velvet, the boys sang “Crying” to my now cross-eyed field of vision. Good stuff, and this last picture, Modest Mouse vs. Poseidon, still kills me.