Sunday, October 26, 2008

A $300 Lunch at Pierre Gagnaire a Tokyo

Le Grand Dessert, part 7

Not exactly something I would do very often! Moreover, the decor was very bourgeois and the ambiance was neither relaxing nor romantic. Everyone was in suit and tie. The waiters wore bows. Overall it freaked me out having the waiters staring at me throughout that 3 hours meal. Even though the restaurant was packed with businessmen and rich housewives, it was extremely quiet that I could hear Ced's SLR clicking away. Not wanting draw attention to ourselves, we switched to our smaller Canon powershot.

Seductive Food?
The presentation of every single course was artistic, a pleasure for the eyes. The chefs really worked hard to ensure that the colours, shapes and textures fell in their perfect place.
But later I realized the food portion was so minuscule. The smallest dish was just covering 5 % of the plate. This was the first time I encountered a French gastronmy this scandalous.

Given that Pierre Gagnaire is a three-Michelin star chef, I expected more in my plate! :) Food is more than just art. I'm not expecting American portions but neither am I expecting anything smaller than the French ones. Oops, I forgot my magnifying glass today!

Food ingredients used were a mixture of French and Japanese. Some include miso paste, seaweed, sea urchins and rice cakes. Pretty exotic for la haute cuisine francaise.

$300 per person, a la carte and no wine?

After putting $500 on my credit card, I picked up a $8 Japanese bento from a nearby supermarket that same very afternoon. I really needed that to satisfy my hunger.

$300 vs $8?
$8 bento is more like my kind of food. Brown rice with soy-braised pork, soft daikon and egg strips on the side. Traditional, tasty and filling. What else can I possibly ask for?

For those who are interested to try, taking a lunch set menu might be better for the pocket, starting at $70-100. Reservations have to be made weeks in advance. I did mine online.

Pierre Gagnaire a Tokyo
4F Aoyama Square Bdg., 5-3-2 Miani-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Japon (at Ometesando station, a few steps from Prada).

(Updated: April 2008):
There is another Gagnaire restaurant in Seoul that was opened last year. There is a local Seoul blogger from Wine Korea, who wrote an excellent thumb-up review about it, as opposed to my negative review. Looking at the menu from Gagnaire Seoul site, it had my mind wondering all over Asia. With an orchestra of unusual ingredients used in French cuisine, ranging from Kimchee, ginseng, Sarawak black pepper to garam masala. You can expect Korean citrus fruit Yuzu in the dessert choice. Yumm, Yuzu cha was one of my favorite Korean citrus tea back in Seoul.
A nice discovery of flavours, I would say.

Pierre Gagnaire Seoul
35th floor of Lotte Hotel, Seoul, Korea
1 Sogong-dong, Chung-gu Seoul

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Making Tiramisu after 8 years

About 12 years ago, I worked as a server in an Italian restaurant called Spaggedies in Singapore. It was a vacation job between school breaks. The only Italian food I knew before that was Pizza Hut's pizza and pasta.
While working in Spaggedies, the store managers would always make us push their Tiramisu to our diners. No diner left the restaurant feeling unsatisfied, not especially after the Tiramisu. The servers there were sometimes given a few free slices of Tiramisu to share after their shift. Now, I understand fully their strategy: You can't possibly sell a product that you don't believe in.

After all these years have passed, I'm faithful to Tiramisu. It's almost my profession to check out authenticity of every Tiramisu in every restaurants I went to. I will simply not touch one made with Kraft cream cheese.

A simple Tiramisu consists of Italian mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar, ultra strong coffee, lady fingers and cocoa powder. No baking required and easy to assemble. Failure rate is 0%.

When Ced's cousin Julie and her boyfriend Aurelien came to visit us last weekend, I prepared a big tray of Tiramisu the night before instead of the usual french habit of getting assortments of cakes from supermarkets or local patissiere.

Having not made it for 8 years, I was extremely slow at the preparation. In a bowl, I creamed 2 egg yorks with 4 tablespoons of sugar until pale and creamy. I mixed in 250g of Mascarpone cheese until a smooth cream was obtained. With a clean whip and a clean bowl, I beat a egg white with a pinch of salt until white,light and fluffy. Possibly 3 times the volume. The egg white was then gently folded into the mascarphone mixture. That was the mascarphone cream.

The next step was to dip the lady fingers into the cold instant espresso- I made 3 cups- one by one, they were dipped and placed in a baking rectangular dish to form a even layer.

Then I topped the lady finger base layer with a layer of mascarpone cream(I used 1/3 of the cream. Followed by, sifting Cocoa powder evenly on the cream.

I continued the same steps above 2 times. One layer of ladyfinger, one layer mascarpone and some cocoa powder. Et voila, a perfect Tiramisu. After leaving it overnight, I sifted more cocoa powder before serving it to my wonderful guests who were big fans of espresso.

We were too busy eating Tiramisu and I forgot the picture part :( Tant Pis!( too bad!)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Macaroon tower from Bouillet

Macaroon tower from Bouillet
Originally uploaded by IceCatSeoul
Sebastien Bouillet is very popular among the Lyonnais for his exceptional fine cakes and chocolates. I was told he made the best macaroons which melt in the mouth. The selections are endless: Salty caramel, caramel passion, praline, chestnut, grenadine, rose, tonka beans. Those are just the sweet ones. The salty ones include goat cheese with zucchini, carrots, guacamole and more.

La Maison Bouillet has only 4 boutiques in the whole world. Three of which are in Lyon, France and one in Shinjuku Tokyo, Japan.

The main boutique is 15 Place de la Croix-Rousse, 69004, Lyon.

If you happen to be in Japan, don't forget to visit their Japanese boutique inside a department store called Isetan.
Isetan Shinjuku, BIF3-14-15 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0022.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Roadtrip to Southwestern Frace

My road trip in SouthWest of France

Last Tuesday, Ced and I took a road trip to the South/Southwest coastal region of France.

Day One Albi
We were supposed to leave home at 8am. But, since we woke up late that very first day of the trip - because of the very last minute packing- we departed at 10ish and drove for 2.5 hours reaching the Albi around 30 past noon.

Etap Hotel, Albi
We checked into Etap Hotel Albi for 34 Euros per night with parking for 5 Euros per night. The room was rather spacious, basic and clean. It came with a clean bathroom furnished with towels and soap. The only complain was there was no shampoo or conditioner. There were hot and cold drink vending machines at the lobby. It was about 1 Euro per drink. There was also a restaurant within the hotel that served 5 Euros breakfast which looked extremely basic: Tea, coffee, toast and jams and yogurts. I would definitely recommend it for anyone on budget travel.

Lunch at L'esprit Du Vin, Albi

After checking in, we hurried to our lunch destination which is about 20 mins walk from the hotel. We circled the small streets a few times before arriving at the restaurant that had no signage. The name of this 1 star Michellin restaurant is L'esprit Du Vin. It is the only one star restaurant in Albi. David Enjalran is the chef behind this gastronomic cuisine in medieval cave with contemporary decor and tableware. The ambiance was very tranquille with paintings of Toulouse Lautrec in the background and planted with beautiful soft lighting.

As soon as we ordered from the menu, we were served delicious piping hot breads in a long lacquered-black bamboo bread holder. One of the bread that I liked the most was fig and walnut breads. There was also black olive mini baguettes as well as plain mini baguettes. Next, we had the amuse-bouches that were too beautiful to be eaten. I had my camera clicking for the next 20 secs before I sank my teeth onto them.

It was a Boudin Noire(Pig's blood sausage) rolled in roasted sesame with Mousse De Harricot Blanc (Navy beans mousse).

My 30 Euro menu came with an appetizer, a main and a dessert.

For appetizer, my Nem de Aubergine et foie de veau with feuille de sesame(Spring rolls of eggplant and veal's liver with leaf of sesame) came with a bed of Mesculin Greens.

My main dish came in a marmite and 5 fried onions rings. The marmite has chunks of queue de lotte(monk fish), leeks and carrots with a white wine creamy sauce. The fish was very fresh and tender and it was great with the wine sauce.

The waitress served us a glass of beetroot sorbet to cleanse our palate before dessert. The sorbet tasted a little sweet and sour like plums, but unusual and strange to my liking.

To finish my meal, I had a Trio Of Orange, with a refreshing orange sorbet with freshly cut oranges slices with orange marshmallow with a crispy sugar nougatine.

Before we left the restaurant, the waitress offered us some chocolates. We paid a total of 100euro for 2 without wine, just some San Pellegrino.

L'esprit Du Vin
11, quai Choiseul

Tél : 05 63 54 60 44

In Albi

After a heavy lunch, we promenaded around the city. We crossed the 2 bridges and saw lots of interesting houses that I would never had seen in the Southeastern France. Lots of woods and stones were used in the construction of these medieval houses, some walls were not aligned straight.

The cathedral Saint-Cecile was overlooking the river with couples relaxing by the riverside and some dog lovers walking their dogs. We were there at the backyard of Saint-Cecile during sunset and the view was magnificent. The sun casted its light on the cathedral, making the whole place beam in gold. Toulouse Lautrec Museum, just steps away, was closed for renovation. Between the museum and the cathedral was a Japanese-style Zen garden which seemed a little out of place with the French tradition and culture.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Chicken Liver Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

What I made for lunch the other day.... Chicken Liver Salad. Sadly to say, this is the only liver dish that I could prepare.
Like most Chinese who love pig or chicken's livers/organs, I am one of them. My favorite unusual food in in Singapore is the Pig Stomach Soup and Kway Chap which consists of braised pig intestines and tofu. I don't particularly know how to cook with livers or intestines. The kidneys and intestines of pigs and cows are always a chore to clean and rinse. The dish smells intoxicating if they are not cleansed well. I wouldn't want to put that in my mouth!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Aroma of Cherry Tomato Focaccia from the oven

I'm typing this blog post while sitting at my marble dinner table, awaiting for my Focaccia in the oven to be done. I can smell from here, the scent of yeast which reminds me of working in bakery back in the States.

No electric mixer here as I can't afford one in my luggage. Until we move to a permanent home, I would have to use my hands as the main baking tools.

Oh the oven is beeping. I'm going to check on the bread and try a small slice of it. Will post some pictures and recipe of my Cherry Tomato Focaccia the next time.

Voila my Focaccia!

250g of flour
150ml of very warm water, it should be comfortable enough to dip your finger in it.
1 packet of active dry yeast( 7g?)
1 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoon of olive oil
a pinch of sugar
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced.
1/2 teaspoon of dry Herbe de Provence

Dissolve yeast in warm water and drop a pinch of sugar in it. This is to make sure that the yeast is active. If it is active, the mixture would become very foamy.

Mix flour and salt in a big bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture and the olive oil in the well and mix with the flour from the side. Form a ball with the sticky dough.

Sprinkle some flour on a clean work surface and place the ball on it and knead for 15 mins. The way I knead is pressing both palms on the flatted dough, one palm will hold the dough and the other would pull/stretch it away from the me. The dough is ready when it is smooth and elastic.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it into an oil-coated bowl. And gently roll the dough around the bowl to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place around 30 degrees Celsius. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in volume, around 40 mins or more.

Punch the dough to release the air and add Herbe de Provence to the dough and knead to mix well. Roll the dough out to a 1cm thickness in square or any desired shaped and place it on a greased baking tray. Cover it with the towel and let it doubled in volume in a warm place.

Then use the index finger to make small holes in the dough. Place slices of tomatoes all over the dough and brush the dough with some olive oil. Bake it for 20 mins at 180 degrees celsius in a preheated oven.

Serve it warm with a drizzle of olive oil.