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!)