Archive for October, 2008

Decoret – Vichy

A caveat – this is not a recent meal, but I still thought it might be a relevant post.

Decoret – lunch

We were really looking forward to this dining experience as Decoret was billed as one of the chefs to really watch and that his blend of avant-garde cuisine was fun as well as delicious. We decided on the “menu confiance JD” – in other words we put our faith on the chef.


Outside the restaurant


1st Course – A lunch tray or T.V. snack plate is presented with 4 small tastes. In a cellophane packet, a bunch of dried ‘petals” of vegetables, on a potato used for support only, 2 potato chips flecked with some sort of herb, in a small mason jar, deep-fried tiny fish (seemed like a type of smelt) and a millefeuille of red and black radish with diced salmon seasoned with sesame seeds and sesame oil between the radish slices.


2nd Course – In a plastic glass, small 1/8 inch dice of asparagus on the bottom, the “milk” of green asparagus, then a parmesan foam layer topped with a parmesan slice. To the right was a clever delivery system – a cone, printed like a crossword puzzle with parmesan crisps. (Photo is out-of-focus – blame John)


3rd Course – Foie Gras de canard poele en choucroute imaginaire, assaisonne au sel de lard Alsacien. This had as much to do with a choucroute as a pile of white beans resembles cassoulet. The sauteed foie sat on a cabbage leaf with a line of cabbage gelee topped with a small piece of bacon. To the right was some pool of purple that I couldn’t identify.

Now, if you want to see what a great chef can do to re-create an imaginary choucroute see what I said about Ludo’s dish.


Veal, Imaginary Choucroute – cumin and mustard sauce, coleslaw gelee, braised red cabbage with lard, frankfurt sausage, braised bok choy, steamed fingerling potato. I loved the imagination, the taste and the conception of this dish. The veal chops are first presented on the bone and placed on a serving cart. The veal is then carved, then plated with the “choucroute” and enrobed with the sauce. Delicious


4th Course – Un feuille de sucrine cru et tiede, les escargot pris dans un coque de pain et les copeaux de chevre. On cold lettuce (sucrine) sat what resembled a cromesquis of snails with traditional snail saucing – butter, garlic and parsley. To the right was the “warm” lettuce leaf and 2 shavings of goat cheese. Actually, I enjoyed this dish as I thought the delivery system was imaginative and the snails not at all rubbery.


5th Course – Oyster – A balloon is presented in an oyster shell with a purple type string at the top of the balloon. You are instructed to place the ball in your mouth, and then bite down while pulling on the string. There is an explosion in your mouth of thick oyster bouillon (more milky and thick than a thin bouillon). OK, everyone’s description of this dish as the ultimate blowjob is descriptive and approximates the experience. Clever, fun and tasty.


6th Course – Crusted grilled mackerel topped by long, thin spirals off beets that I am guessing was done with that Japanese cutter for daikon. Saucing was what the menu described as a “marinade” —- obviously this meant a seasoned liquid in which the fish had been steeped, but no hints were given as to what the liquid was. The quality of the fish was poor.


7th Course – European bass (bar sauvage du Finistere) confit at 50 degrees with a sauce of jus de navets Parisien (turnips). At the top of the plate was a rectangular log of cooked and raw cauliflower that was awful. Also on top of the bass was the turnip sauce. The bass itself can only be described as ordinary.


8th Course – On a bed of spinach sat a poor quality lamb chop – 71 poele that I assume means pan-fried at 71 degrees. At the top right was a mound of horseradish cream, then a pile of capers and finally a quenelle of chorizo. To the left of the chop a croustillant with capers. The lamb was inedible.


9th Course – Fromage Blanc with Honey


10th Course – Cheese Plate


11th Course – Strawberries with Rhubarb Foam


12th Course – The Palate Destroyer – Placed on a battery was a small flower that you were suppose to place in your mouth. Well, it definitely shocks your mouth and there is a sensation of intense heat plus numbness and your palate is destroyed for the rest of the meal.


13th and 14th Course – I don’t have a clue – I couldn’t taste anything after number 12.

Somehow we had pissed off the sommelier as he completely ignored us. The lamb was served and our untouched red wine sat on a table yards away. Madame Decoret was busy with paperwork and had her back to the restaurant most of the time. Our waitress was cordial enough, but not exactly knowledgeable about the ingredients that the chef was using.

We were unimpressed with Decoret. Ingredient quality was poor, especially noticeable when the “special effects” were absent. Sometimes the hype was more on the menu descriptions i.e. the imaginary choucroute than the actual dish, Decoret is not a restaurant that I would go out off my way for and given the choice, I would avoid.



Bernard’s – Chestnut Hill

Thanks to a friend of mine, we went to Bernard’s as a “known quantity.” It is not 100% authentic Chinese but that’s not what its supposed to be. It is Americanized Chinese, using very good ingredients and cooked well. It is surprising that it is located in a mall, but once inside the restaurant, you lose the mall immediately. For some reason, I lost my notes so the photos will have to tell the story.

Bernard was so genial and so gracious. I basically let him choose our menu.

Chicken and Ginger served in lettuce leaves


Some type of Fried Spring Roll


Peking Duck – our server was terrific and prepared the duck for us – delicious


Shrimp with roasted black bean, garlic and shallots and sautéed String Beans

Don’t have a clue.

Tapioca Custard

An absolutely welcome addition to my dining adventures in Chestnut Hill. I would go back in a heartbeat

Clio and Uni – Boston

We were staying at the Eliot Hotel so it seemed like a no brainer to either eat at Clio or Uni. Unfortunately when we went down for dinner, there were no seats at the bar at Uni (only 6 seats total) so we kept our reservation at Clio.

 We ordered champagne and decided to order splits – one for two.


 Amuse  – Tomato water martini, diced cucumber, basil oil, caperberry, huckleberry, tomato popsicle – OK


Taylor Bay Scallops, Winterberrry verjus, fresh wasabi, oscetra caviar – this was served family style, but with no extra plates. We asked for small plates so we didn’t spill the verjus all over the table. Excellent

Now we waited and waited for food.

 Marinated Yellowtail and Yellow Fin Tuna with Opal Basil, Ginger and Garlic – Again this was served family style with no extra plates – we again asked for extra plates plus some silverware.

After finishing the above dish, the busser scrapes our plates at the table – table side service? – fine dining??

Now our server pours more champagne for me and manages to spill champagne all over the table as she overfilled the glass. She immediately leaves to wipe her hands, but forgets about the mess on the table and my wet slippery glass.

I could see that this was becoming a disastrous dining experience. I left the table, went to Uni, saw 2 empty seats at the bar at Uni and begged those already at the bar to save those seats.  I ran back to John, said meet me at Uni and quickly claimed our seats. John told the maitre d’ we were leaving to go eat at Uni. He said nothing, just shrugged his shoulders.

What followed was a very good meal with great service and equally great company.

My notes are a mess – it has been some time since this meal and we were both deep in conversation with our tablemates. We asked the chef to just do omakase – his choice. Some photos are missing so even letting the photos tell the story is incomplete. I apologize in advance for any and all mistakes.


Sushi Guy


Uni spoon with quail egg, oscetra caviar, chives- delicious

Toro, soy, yuzu, pluot


Hamachi, Ginger Mignonette, Green Apple, Swish of Cassis


Saba ???


Columbia River salmon


Smoked Chutoro, Porcini mushrooms, Wagyu Steak, Soy, Wagyu beef fat


Amaidai, Spicy Vinaigrette, Chardonnay gelee


Homemade Tofu, Uni, Oscetra Caviar


Uni, Chilled Gazpacho and…


Torched Tomato, Clam, Cauliflower Puree, Celery, Crunchy shallots and garlic, Togarashi



Spicy Lobster Salad, Orange, Shiso

This was an excellent meal and compared to Clio wondrous. It is not Urasawa and the quality of the fish is definitely not like Hiro’s, but it was a fun evening with wonderful company on either side of us. It also is quite expensive, about $300 for the two of us. 

As we were paying, the maitre d’ from Clio came to Uni and presented us with our check from Clio. The next morning, John complained to the GM of the hotel, a wonderful woman, Pascale Schlaefli, who upon hearing of our experience at Clio deducted that amount from our bill.




Corton- Manhattan

“What does the determined restaurateur do when he wants to give a well-known, long-lived property a new identity? Change the name, radically reinvent the décor, and hire a buzzy new chef. Drew Nieporent has done all of the above to Montrachet, the restaurant he opened in 1985, when Tribeca was a backwater and opening chef David Bouley was unknown. Corton, like Montrachet, refers to a Côte de Beaune grand cru, and its wine list retains its predecessor’s Burgundian focus. The food will still be modern French, too, as interpreted by Paul Liebrandt, a chef who garnered a cult following (and a sometimes culinarily controversial rep) at Atlas and Gilt. His $76 three-course prix fixe offers dishes like crispy amadai with garlic, Serrano ham, and young coconut juice, and desserts by Robert Truitt, late of Room 4 Dessert and El Bulli. At once intimate and modern, the new design incorporates a narrow window providing a glimpse of the action in the reinvigorated kitchen.” — Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld

We were lucky to go to Corton with Cathy, Drew Nieporent’s assistant. Drew is not missing in action at Corton; he is there every night, being the consummate host.

Elizabeth Harcourt did an excellent job as sommelier


I must say my notes are fair at best and sometime has passed since this meal. I hope I don’t do a complete injustice to this meal.


Gougeres and Green Olive Sponge


Sensational seaweed butter


Salted Cod Soup with Beausoleil Oyster and Broccoli Cream – excellent and well-balanced


Uni, Konbu Gelee, Cauliflower Cream – absolutely stupendous. The Konbu gelee with the uni was superb and a few drops of jalapeno oil added just enough heat to excite the palate



Kampachi, Foie Gras Chantilly, Cucumber Melon, Miso, Toasted brioche, red ribbon sorrel, balsamic – perfectly cooked fish with well-balanced flavors


 Amadai, Black Garlic, Serrano Ham, Citrus-Coconut Broth – this was actually two dishes in one. The fish dish had a beautiful clove of black garlic on the rim of the plate – “Black garlic is tender like roast garlic with undertones of malt and molasses, and an overall sweet garlicky flavor and none of the acrid bite of raw garlic.” (from Ideas in Food) Also on the plate was a citrus, coconut jus parsley puree and lime leaf for an aromatic component.

In a side dish was light as air potato gnocchi, baby bok choy and Serrano ham



Elysian Fields Lamb Loin, Braised Neck, Ras el Hanout, Chocolate Mint Jus, Lamb belly rillete – The lamb was cooked perfectly and was accompanied by date with lemon confit, baby eggplant, minced eggplant and a chocolate mint jus (Chocolate mint refers to an herb, specifically a hybrid mint plant, that tastes and especially smells like a combination of mint and chocolate.)


The side dish of lamb rilette sat on a bed of spiced yogurt.


“Cheese and Crackers” – Selles-Sur-Cher (goat cheese), Sour Cherry Pate de fruit, Chickpea Cracker, Celery root puree, Vanilla bourbon reduction


White Sesame Crème, Lemon, Huckleberry, Salted Toffee


Gianduja Palette, Yuzu, Coconut



Generally I felt ther dessert part of the menu was the weakest portion of the meal. There just didn’t seem to be the same finesse or layering of flavor. It was almost as if there was a disconnect between the savory and sweet portion of the menu.

Service was exceptional. This was an excellent meal and I only hope that the economy doesn’t tank too much further and that diners are willing to support Corton. 



Simon Majumdar is one of the great diners of this world and his friend Sybil is equally delightful.  If you haven’t checked out his site, please do here:

Simon had arranged an incredible dinner at St John’s for me with his pals in London a number of years ago and when I heard he was coming to Los Angeles, I picked what I think is one of LA’s best restaurants, Providence. Michelin obviously agrees with me as they just awarded Providence a second star.

We had booked the chef’s table for the four of us and it is truly a special and unique experience. Many times, Chef Mike brought out the dishes himself like a proud papa and proud he should be. He is a very gifted chef who knows not to “muck” up great ingredients.

Sipping a glass of 1985 Krug, we started the evening with their signature amuse.


From left to right – Mojito, Gin and Tonic with Lime and Greyhound Vodka

BYO wine – 1994 Corton Charlemagne

First Course

Shiro Ebi, Cauliflower Mousse, White Truffle, Buckwheat – Donato had sent us an email that the white truffles this year were perfect. Just from the little bit I tasted, I can see what he means. I am craving a dish with scrambled eggs and white truffles that will be on the menu! The menu said ebi, but my notes say Japanese scallops with cauliflower mousseline. In any case, just delicious and the surprise part of the dish was the crunchy buckwheat that added great texture and taste.


Second Course -Uni, Konbu-dashi, caviar, crème fraiche, crispy rice cracker – the gelee of konbu with the Santa Barbara uni was unctuous and again Chef Mike added texture with the crispy rice cracker. The caviar added a salty element and the crème fraiche seemed to unify the flavors – a wonderful and sensuous dish.


Third Course – Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawns, spot prawn roe, orange oil, vermouth, tarragon – We watched one of the chefs remove the live, squiggly prawn from the fish tank. She was cut open, quickly grilled and served with just a hint of saucing. I made a huge mistake by not picking her up and sucking every last bit of roe – simple and perfect. For the record, Chef Mike chose females for us as he knows I am a huge fan of roe.


Fourth Course – Oyster Plant Veloute, Almond, Espellette, Glidden Point Oyster, Frizzy fried shallots – As Simon couldn’t have oysters, Chef Mike used lobster for Simon’s dish and his comment on the dish was fair. With the oyster, it was a much better preparation, but I do have a preference for Mike’s oyster dishes that highlight the oyster in a more pristine state i.e. Kushi Oyster with Tabasco “Caviar”, Tabasco/Horseradish Gelee or Maine Oyster with yuzu lime foam and zest, seaweed nectar and julienne of red onion.


Fifth Course -Iwashi – Japanese sardine, basil, saffron, tomato reduction, nicoise olive – this had a south of France feel with each ingredient complimenting each other. The sardine was cooked to perfection and I loved the crispy skin.


Sixth Course – Local Abalone cooked with a classic meuniere sauce (browned butter, chopped parsley, and lemon), baby artichokes, garlic, and fava beans. The abalone was perfect with just the right amount of chew. The only off note were the favas that just didn’t seem to complement the abalone.


Seventh Course – Salmon, Matsutake Mushroom, Sake foam, Rosemary with bits of crispy salmon skin. The salmon was cooked using the C-Vap system. A google searched produced this information from Jean-Georges.

The C-Vap, which stands for “Controlled Vapor,” was developed for Kentucky Fried Chicken by the same company that invented its fryers. It’s basically a food warmer that uses warm water vapor—much cooler than steam—to keep KFC’s chicken crispy on the outside but warm and moist on the inside. (Or at least that’s the idea.) But I don’t use it to hold cooked foods, I cook with it.”

“My technique is a lot like sous vide, but without the bag—I can put the ingredients in a skillet or saucepan and stick it right into the machine. Right now in the restaurant, I’m using the C-Vap to cook a sea bass fillet topped with honshimeji mushrooms. The fish stays firm, while the mushroom flavor seeps into the flesh. And it’s ready to serve within 15 minutes or so.”


Eighth Course – A5 Kobe rib, Musque de Provence Pumpkin, turnip slices with their greens, Summer truffle Jus. I am always wary of the “this is Kobe beef” line as most of the time you are getting Australian wagyu. However, we were presented with a certificate that this was indeed real Japanese Wagyu from Kagashima prefecture with his nose print and date of birth – 4/09/06. The beef was served simply so that the highlight was the beef itself instead of a cloying, overly rich sauce.



Ninth Course – Cheese –  Our server chose the cheese. It was an uninspired selection and we had one or two bites. This could have been the result of his inexperience and lack of knowledge about cheese.


Tenth Course- Squash “pie”, Curry Ice Cream, Pecan Steussel, Coconut, Balsamic – usually I don’t eat dessert, but I really liked the savory aspect of this dessert.


I didn’t taste the lollipop so…..



This was an excellent meal with excellent company, definitely Michelin 2 star. I think Providence delivers one of the best tasting menus in Los Angeles – it is intelligent, it is focused, it is very ingredient-driven and it is executed with precision. What more could one ask for?






Jean Georges – Manhattan

JG has always been one of my most favorite places for lunch in New York. I love the room, the sun streaming in the windows and the quiet luxurious sense of the room. I just don’t understand what has happened to the food – it is as if the chef de cuisine is not tasting his sauces. Where Le Bernardin excelled at every single sauce, JG barely managed to get one right.


Salmon sashimi with citrus mignonette – way too much citrus

Crimini beignet with cheddar – bland

Warm spiced pear cider with foam – the best of the three


Sea Trout Sashimi draped in trout eggs, crispy trout skin, lemon foam, dill puree, horseradish – John’s comment was that this was way too citrusy


Yellow Fin Tuna Ribbons, Avocado Puree, Spicy radish, Chili Oil, Ginger marinade – the saucing was added tableside and I found that the tuna was drowned out by the saucing which added a very unpleasant acidic note.


Santa Barbara Uni, Yuzu Vinaigrette on Black bread – again there was an off balance of flavor as there was an overabundance of yuzu vinaigrette that provided too much of a citrus component


Young garlic soup with thyme and frogs legs – John thought this was excellent


Foie Gras Brulee, spiced fig jam and toasted brioche – normally the sweet component is somewhat muted – not this time


Parmesan crusted confit leg of chicken, white asparagus, basil and lemon butter – again the lemon was way too dominant



I just don’t understand what has happened to Jean Georges. For some reason, the flavor balance is off – either way too much citrus or too much acidity.

Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin absolutely delivered a 3 star meal. This is not bells and whistles cuisine, but every single dish delivered delicious, bright flavors that was executed perfectly. Many of the sauces were added table side and you could see the care and attention given to every detail. This is not cuisine of a 100 ingredients with the hope that something works. This is precise edited cuisine that shows an intelligent understanding of what constitutes a great tasting menu.

The wine pairings by sommelier, Aldo Sohm was also spot on.

I wrote down one of Aldo’s sayings “A dead fish floats with the river.” What he meant was that he wants to go against the tide and do the unexpected. This was his way of explaining why he chose the wines for the pairings. 

The service was equally 3 star, not hovering, but just always “there” when we needed something. 

Basically, I am going to let the photos tell the story.

Amuse – Tuna Tartare


Thinly pounded smoked salmon carpaccio; toasted brioche brushed with creme fraiche and caviar

Wine pairing: Shizuku – Divine Droplets, Junmai Daigginjo Sake


Kindai Maguro – (First sustainably raised Japanese Blue Fin Tuna in the world) Seared Blue Fin; Parmesan Crisp and Sun-Dried Tomato; Nicoise puree, black olive oil, micro basil

Nicoise puree being added

Final dish

Wine pairing: Godello – Vina Godeval, Valdeorras 2006


Ultra Rare Charred Scallops a la plancha; Braised Morels and Chanterelles, Mushroom Jus Hollandaise style, capers, cornichons

Mushroom jus being added

Final dish

Wine pairing: Chablis 1er Cru vaillons, Daniel – Etienne Defaix 2000


Baked Lobster; Asparagus, Sauce Gribiche with Tarragon

Sauce Gribiche added table side

Wine pairing: Blaufrankisch “Brandkraften” Wenzel, Neusiedlersee-Hugelland, Austria 2002


Escolar- White tuna poached in extra virgin olive oil; sea beans and potato crisps; light red wine bearnaise

Red Wine Bearnaise added

Wine pairing: Nuits saint-georges, Vieilles Vignes,m Daniel Rion 2003

Crispy Black Bass; braised celery; Iberico Ham, Green Peppercorn sauce

Green peppercorn sauce added

Wine pairing: Rioja, Reserve ‘Vina Ardanza’, La Rioja Alta 2000


Fourme d’Ambert, Crispy bacon soy caramel, Gingershap tuile, Curry sauce, Lemongrass (not pictured)

Wine pairing: L’Etoile, Savagnin, Domaine de Montbourgeau, Jura 2000


Dark Amedei Chocolate ganache, Toasted baguette, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Maldon sea salt

Wine pairing: Muskat Ottonel Trockenbeerenauselese No 4 – Aloise Kracher, Austria 2002


An excellent meal in every way.