18 rue Troyon, Paris
Lunch on Oct 21, 2004
Guy Savoy is ludicrously expensive. Period. We are not talking normal stiffness by bankers’ standard; we are talking about "over-250-euro-for-a-set-lunch" and guillotine-ly expensive.
My eyes almost popped out when I saw the stratospheric E210 price tag (exclusive of wine) for the prix fixe menu. I pinned my headwaiter Etienne, who was sporting a chic, white truffle-colored suit instead of normal waiter uniform, to the floor and asked if there was any other set menu selling at a cheaper fare, say, any tasting menu at half portion. To which Etienne replied no. “Monsieur, this is already the tasting menu with each dish serving in small portion,” he returned. On this reply, I said to myself ‘Après mois le deluge’ in broken French and went on to try the 'Menu Automne.' Oui, lets burn the money now and file in the bankruptcy application when I get back to Hong Kong later.
The amuse-bouche were first a skewer of foie gras and toast; followed by a dose of pumpkin soup and a tiny pastry topped with spinach puree. These two were free of charge, as I reckoned gladly. To tell you the truth, I forgot how it tasted because I was still running the gamut of emotions over the hefty price tag. They were not bad, that was as far as I could recollect from my state of unconsciousness.
The first dish was a plate of clams and mushrooms in clam sauce. The glass plate was huge yet the clams were disproportionately small. The matching and the presentation were skillful but the flavor of the clams was not distinctive. I guessed it wasn't the fault of Savoy, might be I was still a bit gobsmacked by the price.
The second dish was the duck liver with long-stewed morille sauce. The liver was served in the briny style; I was a little bit disappointed by the insipidness and dryness of it. The aromatic mushroom sauce however, compensated that problem.
The third one was the shrimp terrine in thick duck broth. The shrimp terrine was divine. I could sense the overwhelming flavor of shrimp as I gnawed the terrine. Etienne told me this terrine was accompanied with duck consommé; but judging from the richness and chunkiness of the “consommé,” I thought it was more appropriate to call it a broth. The portion was very tragically small for I really wanted to have more of it.
The fourth one was the ‘Coquilles Saint-Jacques,’ pan-fried scallop with basil sauce. This was the kind of cuisine that could really distinguish a great chef from a good one: the outside of scallop was extremely crusty while the inside felt as moist and soft as jelly. The sad fact was, as you can tell from the picture, there was only one diminutive piece of scallop on the dish.
The firth one was the pan-fried belly of red mullet with baby watercress and figs in tempura style. The fish was sweet, fresh and crispy in the mouth. The timing of the cooking was exemplary. I would say it ran stride to stride to the one I tried in Paul Bocuse. In Bocuse, the red mullet was baked with a layer of puffy potato crust on top whereas this one revealed more truth about the original flavor and freshness of the fish.
The sixth one was the famed artichoke soup with black truffle. Etienne told me passionately that this soup was what people came here for. The soup was creamy and the pungent flavor of the artichoke was gently elevated by the earthy flavor of the black truffle. If this was what people came here for, they surely came right.
The sixth one was the white pigeon two-way: grilled breast and leg stuffed with its liver. While the leg was brilliantly executed, full of flavor and tender; the grilled breast was pale in comparison with the one I had in Paul Bocuse. The breast was brittle alright but somehow too dry.
The seventh one was the cheese platter. Turn for my sweet revenge where the munch power of true gourmand really shone. I simply asked Etienne to show me all the best they had. In the end, I had 5 big chucks of cheese on my plate and ate them all.
It was dessert decadence all the way to the end, from the eighth to the twelfth. The eighth one was a very vaporous piece of pre-dessert: a chocolate-coated grape. The novelty was very simple but the execution perfect. Among all the desserts, the most outstanding one was the ninth one, the gala of quince. Quince sorbet, quince glace and quince mousse placed in a cup in descending order and side-dished with a plate of quince flan. It was marvelous; Guy Savoy, the alchemist-as-chef simply put pastry art to a science. It was like flavors of all the quinces around the world were condensed in one cup.
The wine recommended by the sommelier was excellent. I tried three varieties of wine in my free falling. The aperitif was a glass of rose champagne, Brut Rose of Billecart Salmon that was. The color was pale pink. The aroma was floral with light berries flavor. The palate was effervescent yet suave while the body was very full, a bit stony and finishing with excellent persistence. Rose champagne wise, this must be my one-way ticket to heaven. The white one was a glass of 2002 Condrieu from Domaine du Monteillet. It smelled very floral and fruity with some lychee & ginger in the background. In the mouth, it was very opulent and grace. An exceptional white that paired well with my fish and artichoke soup. The red I had was a glass of 2001 Domaine de la Rectorie ‘Coume Pascole’ Collioure. The smell was quite nutty with light hint of herbal scent. A bit dry and tannic for the palate. Absolutely fabulous.
The service for my 3-hour lunch was outlandishly deft, deserving all the superlatives as far as catering service goes. Etienne the headwaiter in particular was very passionate to explain to his patrons about all the food in the offer. A zealous squad of wait staff always spells good news to the clientele. It means they know their cuisine is good and they are proud of it.