17 rue de Beaujolais, Paris
Lunch on Oct 19, 2004
I couldn’t agree more to Frommer’s when it says GV is a history infused citadel of classical French cuisine. In fact, every corner in GV has a cachet history, with some big names like Napoleon, Josephine, Victor Hugo and people of that distinction being its guests. Point in check: the one I was sitting once warmed the buttocks of Camille Desmoulins. When I asked my headwaiter who is this lucky chap, he told me he was a revolutionist who ended up had his head chopped for treachery. Well, very appetizing to know before my lunch. Does it mean history will repeat itself and I will end up as the first martyr for food one day? Well, ‘to guess is not to reply.’ To eat is.
Every thing in this dining room reminded me the great Belle Époque era. Even the china was stunningly picturesque. C’est tres beau! So beautiful that I believed they could even elevate the French fries from McDonald into haute cuisine (or maybe not).
To order in GV is rather easy; you can either order a la carte or follow what Guy Martin suggested for you on the prix fixe menu (only available for lunch). For the prix fixe dejeuner, you’ll have one entrée, one main course, a cheese platter (great!) and desserts at about E75 (exclusive of wine). As usual, I ordered the prix fixe menu.
The amuse bouche was the pumpkin soup with the caviar cream. The soup was refreshing, smooth and rich in flavor whereas the caviar cream was ethereal. The most amazing part was that a cold puree of pumpkin was placed at the center of this hot soup, provoking a very contrasting note in the palate.
The starter was the pan-fried grouse leg stuffed with pine nuts, meats and livers of chicken. The skin was crispy and the flesh moist, with the execution I would expect from a starred restaurant. But the high spot was the stuffing inside. The crunchiness of the pine nuts, together with its vegetal flavor, mixed well with the fillings and even exalted the flavor of the chicken.
Next came the main course, which was ‘tete de veau’ combo. There were the brain, nose meat and cheek fat of veal on the dish. When I ordered this ‘suggestion of the day’ instead of those printed on the prix fixe menu, the headwaiter warned me this dish was a very acquired taste and I should order it at my own peril. “Ha! Pardon Monsieur, do you realize you’re talking to a Chinese? I can hardly see any living creature we Chinese are still acquiring rather than acquired to in this planet. Just show me the beef,” I said. When it did come, I was gobsmacked. The nose meat of veal was delectable. It was probably the softest cut of the veal and eating it was a bit like chewing a marshmallow. The brain of veal, meanwhile, had a jelly-like texture. It was edible though I was sure it wasn’t everyone’s palate too. Next came the ‘hard’ part: the fat of cheek. I was so empathized with Camille Desmoulins when I ate it. A revolutionary road is obviously not for everyone to take as it often marks a premature downfall. In fact, I gave up after one bite – it tasted like wax, a chunk of tasteless fatty and greasy wax – the mint sauce didn’t help neither. If nothing else, it compounded the torture. The sort of gastronomic machisimo displayed earlier was no where to be found now. This time, I surely learnt the taste of one classic French haute cuisine the ‘fat’ way.
For a dessert snob like me, I thought the GV worth my trip with its dessert menu alone. They were tasty, stylish and grand. The best part was that the desserts literally flooded to my table wave after wave. I first had the cake with strawberry, tomato, herbs and raspberry sorbet on top. C’est tres bien. Guy Martin simply took pastry art to a science. It was absolutely striking to see the strawberry mixed so well with the tomato. Yet there was more, the second dessert was the ‘gourmandises au chocolat,’ a medley of chocolate. A chocolate jewelry box was topped with a white chocolate sorbet. The real surprise was, however, hidden inside the dark jewelry box – a total indulgence of richly flavored chocolate mousse. This chocolate mousse must be the best I’d tried in my life. The richness and creaminess of it was utterly overwhelming.
The wine I had was a 2000 Chateau Paloumey Cru Bourgeois. It was lucid in the glass. The nose was very ripe and fruity, with a whiff of cedar. Black currant flavor distinctive notwithstanding, it balanced well with the spiciness in the palate. The finish was decent but short. Overall, it was a very elegant and graceful wine. While the classic pairing for Medoc is roast spring lamb, it went well with the first part of my beef adventure.
Then I took picture with Guy Martin, the star chef who deserves a name-engraved seat in GV himself for all the spellbinding endeavors he is doing in the kitchen. Sadly, the poor photography skill of the receptionist proved to be a real snag. Several attempts with my point-and-shot digital camera still left me nothing but a couple of blurry pictures...