Posted by: mikeydude | July 31, 2009

L’Astrance Paris Restaurant Review (9.5/10)

Ahhh… the highlight of our trip to Paris. This is THE restaurant that I wanted to try most. Having climbed up to the top 20 restaurants in the world (according to Pelligrino’s world rankings) in the short amount of time that it had opened is no mean feat! I was desperate to try out the creativity and taste of head chef Monsieur Pascal Barbot’s cooking. I must stress that this meal wasn’t cheap, and I had to painfully cough up around £400 for the meal. Unfortunately having just spent the past month working my ass off for postgraduate exams I have only the rough notes that I made during the whole experience 😦 Nevertheless…. here are my thoughts…

l'astrance

The outside of the restaurant is unmistakable; archaic almost. It’s a very small restaurant – I would say seating no more than 20. The place is very smart and the service very posh. Don’t come here in flip flops and shorts that’s for sure 😉 We were quickly led to our ‘balcony’ seat overlooking the main seating area. Either they didn’t want us to embarass them, or they kindly gave us the best seats in the house where you can see all your other fellow diners.

l'astrance balcony

The menu is unique in itself. There isn’t one. You simply choose whether you want wine pairings or not and the chef will cook up x number of courses according to what he feels like doing on the day (except 1 or 2 signature dishes that are always present). Since every single dish was crafted to go specifically with the wine pairing, it would be foolish to try Barbot’s cooking without savouring the wine. And so I opted for the wine pairings while the wife just occasionally sipped each glass to have a taste of it. Unfortunately not having a menu proved tricky for me to remember each dish and its constituents; frantically trying to recall all the long names of the dishes and tapping them into my phone. I tried my best but here are the ‘incomplete’ names and ingredients of the dishes.

l'astrance menu

Bread: Similar quality brown bread that we had on the previous nights, but served warm and with delicious butter.

l'astrance bread

Pre-starters: Brioche thyme butter, Parmesan cheese with rosemary

l'astrance brioche

These cute sized buttered brioche slices were toasted and served with a wonderfully smooth and powerful spoon of puree parmesan cheese with rosemary. The flavours augmented the taste but did not overpower, which was admirable.

Starter #1: Pea purée with saffron foam toping with Ginger foam bottom

l'astrance pea puree

Dishes like these are the reason I come to these Michelin establishments. There were 3 almost distinct flavours in this little pot. Strong-mild-strong in the form of saffron-light pea- and ginger. Hugely refreshing and appetite stimulating. It almost appears like a strange combination, but this chef somehow managed to make them fit almost perfectly together.

Starter #2: Foie gras with mushroom layers with lemon purée and ?almond oil

l'astrance foie mushroom

This dish is the only one served every day and stands proudly as signature dish of the restaurant. Super thin layers of raw mushroom (?type) interrupted by 2 layers of foie gras in the middle. I have never enjoyed eating raw mushroom before, but these layers had a lovely subtle ‘mushroomy’ taste that was enveloped by creamy smooth foie gras. The accompanying almond oil gives it a mild nutty taste and the lemon puree gives it a sour bite. Highly exquisite stuff, and a delight to taste.

Fish course #1: Lobster with spicy seafood consommé on salad

l'astrance lobster

Wow this dish smelt amazing. The classic ginger-spring onion stir fried lobster chinese style that I’m used to was entirely different to this. The consomme was the best seafood broth I had ever tasted, and I wonder how many lobsters were used to make a broth so full of lobster taste. The lobster meat was also perfectly cooked, wonderfully moist and tender to eat. The vegetables gave out some powerful flavours to top the entire dish off. Flawless.

Fish course #2: John dory in curry sauce with soft pepper and ?fruit purée and razor clam cooked in butter and thyme

l'astrance john dory

l'astrance razor clam

One of my favourite seafood dishes I like to cook is curried mussels in broth. This dish reminded me of that dish, although much much superior to my own of course 🙂 John Dory is a mild flavoured fish, and so it needs flavour augmentation. In this dish this was achieved with the curry sauce, green pepper and fruit puree. The fish was again perfectly cooked, and the combination of the accompaniments were spot on. The second plate was a razor clam cooked in butter and thyme. I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be eaten before, with, or after the John Dory. Nevertheless as a dish on its own it was beautifully fresh, with a lovely ‘herby’ aftertaste from the thyme.

Fish course #3: Pan-fried mackerel marinated in soya with bok choy and oyster leaf. Anchovy sauce with ? Veg sauce

l'astrance mackeral

l'astrance anchovy sauce

This is another course that came in 2 parts. One had a minimalistic look of fried soya mackerel with vegetables, and the other was a deep green vegetable with anchovy sauce. The perfectly cooked succulent mackerel fillet combined well with the saltiness of the anchovy sauce. Another really interesting combination that I could not fault. I’m not too sure about the bok choy and oyster leaf. They seemed to be more a garnish than part of the dish itself.

Mains #1: Veal with girilles, summer truffles and baked nectarine

l'astrance veal and truffle

I had veal chunks at Fontaine de Mars the night before, and the difference in quality of this dish was highly evident. It is clear from this dish why veal is such a highly rated meat. The fillet was so lean and yet somehow perfectly tender. Its downside as with all ‘young’ meats, is that it doesn’t pack as much flavour as the other meats and so its accompaniments are equally important. In this case there was a glorious slice of black truffle that smelt amazing. The biggest surprise though was the baked nectarine, and I felt this brought the whole dish to higher levels. It’s powerful sweet and sour taste worked into the delicacy of the veal to produce a combination beyond my abililty to describe.

Mains #2: Duck Breast with liquorish of black olives black coffee and egg plant with miso and carrot

l'astrance duck

Now this dish was interesting. Quite a few elements here. Most striking was the black olives and coffee puree which really packed a punch with its distinct and immensely powerful flavours. I felt that this was most appropriate for the last main course where you really want to leave an impression. The duck was flawlessly cooked with its moist and pink centre, and the egg plant (aubergine) paired up well with its milder soft textures. A bold dish that packed multiple different flavours, and a dish I think worked tremendously well.

Pre-dessert: Zucchini flower stuffed with peach and apricot on gonanzola cheese

l'astrance zucchini flower

Zucchini flowers are too pretty to eat! The gonanzola cheese was deliciously creamy whilst the flower and melon sweetened up the overall taste sensation. A nice and light pre-dessert that prepared us for the final furlong.

3 assorted desserts: one sweet, sour and very sweet

l'astrance dessert 1

l'astrance dessert 2

l'astrance dessert 3

I apologise… we were unable to recall the long names and descriptions of these desserts. I can remember that they were beautifully presented and their flavours contrasted well providing a sweet-sour-sweet combination. I’ve never been fantastic at describing desserts, and have always preferred chocolate brownies to so-called posh desserts. These though were again wonderfully light, and totally intriguing to the taste buds. Let’s just say I finished all three fairly quickly…

Final Course: Lemongrass sorbet

l'astrance sorbet

I love sorbets…. and this was no exception. Looked and tasted very light. The lemongrass flavour was subtle but pleasant and the whole dish cleansed my palate well.

Petits Four and Fruits

l'astrance eggs
l'astrance fruits
l'astrance magdalenes

I even enjoyed these final offerings tremendously. The eggs were interesting, although the wife found them a little too ‘eggy’ I think. It was like an egg-flavoured sweet foam served in egg-shells. The fruits were deliciously sweet, while the magdalenes were spongy and soft. Great way to finish I think.

The bill came up to €520; €190 without wine pairings, and €290 with. Fourteen courses in total.

Notice that I never commented on the wine. That’s because I’m no expert in wine at all. Nevertheless I wouldn’t eat here without the wine pairings as it adds to the experience as a whole. This is because each dish is cleverly constructed in a manner of matching its corresponding wine pairing. In this meal my experience was highly augmented by the presence of its wine pairing and the wine connoisseur was friendly and more than happy to go through each glass with me.

What can I say then? Incredibly expensive meal…. but a completely unique tasting experience. Imagine a place where every single element of a dish has had great thought and effort placed into. That’s the first part. Then imagine all these elements of each dish fitting perfectly together on MOST occasions to produce the ultimate dining experience. It is these establishments that challenge traditional combinations of ingredients and bring together dish after dish of seemingly bizarre novel tastes that satisfy on new levels. I describe it as absolute genius. I hope one day I will return, but until then I will continue searching the globe for a restaurant that can match up to this one (and hopefully cheaper :)).

Contact:
Restaurant L’Astrance
4, rue Beethoven, Paris 75016
+33 (0)1 4050 8440

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Responses

  1. […] lobster based soup I have ever had was in a Parisian restaurant called L’astrance (review here) and another fantastic bisque was in the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore. This one was alright but I […]


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