129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris, France (Right outside of Goncourt Metro stop)
On my most recent visit to Paris, I happened to be lucky enough to visit the famed Michelin-starred restaurant Le Chateaubriand. This restaurant has a different menu everyday, so I think everyone eating there (including the guy who happened to nick a copy of the menu) knew they were a part of something special. My friend who had told me about the restaurant was not kidding when he said, “You’ll know you’ve reached it because there will be a line outside.” And right he was. Even at 10:30 p.m., which was when we made it there (we had gotten slightly lost even though it’s right outside of the Goncourt Metro) there was still a line of maybe 15 to 20 people. Now you have to understand, this is not a big restaurant, so 15 to 20 people were quite a bit. Luckily, even after we had gotten lost, we managed to make the cut as the server came out shortly afterwards and cut the line about four people after us.
The neat thing about Le Chateaubriand is that they do two rounds of dinner - meaning the first round is reservations only and some people call months in advance to get this. The 2nd round, which starts promptly at 9:30 p.m., is the one that we got into. Reservations are not permitted for this round, and it’s more for the people who weren’t able to get the reservations, but has the heart to get in line and potentially (I say potentially) get a spot at the restaurant to start eating at around 10 to 11 p.m. at night. I would say this system is definitely a lot more fair to the masses and/or maybe the people with a lack of connections…wink.
And so the round of nine amazingly delectable courses began. We asked the server to just surprise us as there were choices for those who had food allergies, but since we had none, we put that night’s dining experience in her hands. (I took very detailed notes between each round, so that I could remember how to describe the whole experience.)
Picture of the Bar/Cafe Area from the Outside
You’re seeing about one half of the restaurant right here. My guess is the restaurant sits a max of about 50 people. You’ll notice the nice and slightly yellow lighting of this place. It makes for beautiful pictures and a magical atmosphere when eating.
What I noted about the rye bread, which was actually brought out after the first round’s “amuse bouche,” was that it had a very very crunchy - not so much hard - crust surrounding the rye bread. It was great for soaking up soup and sauces. I did notice though that most of the “French French” people hardly touched their bread. I guess it was because the bread wasn’t brought out at the beginning to satisfy your appetite, but more as an accompaniment to the meal, which because of all the nuances of flavors in each course, one would probably not want to obstruct the flavor with bread anyway.
No explanations needed here. You could opt for still, sparkling, or tap. There was also a nice menu of wines and digestifs as well. Or some of you heavy hitters could opt for the 90 euro menu which accompanies each course with its own wine.
Course 1: Amuse Bouche - Ceviche Broth
The opener was this ceviche raspberry broth to open your palate. For me, it tasted like a citrus dashi. The man beside me said that it should be tasted in slow sips and not to be taken in one shot, so that it may be enjoyed little by little. The ripened raspberry at the very end added that perfect burst of sweetness to the citrus-y broth.
Course 2: Artichoke with Chicken Liver Puree
This was one of my favorite courses. The artichoke was cooked in a sauce that kind of gave it a meaty flavor that olives have. The chicken liver sauce gave the artichokes further depth and the dish was topped off with seaweed powder. The one thing I had trouble with was getting the server to explain to me what that plant vegetable on top of the artichokes were. I got something similar to the sound of “pars-ney.” After some research, I believe the plant was actually called “parslane,” which is actually considered to be a weed in the United States and hardly used in culinary cooking. However, it does seem to be making a resurgence. It typically has a sour/salty flavor, but for me, texture was more its thing. It tasted like a somewhat hearty yet tender plant - that did not necessarily add flavor, but did add texture that I was not familiar with and I really enjoyed that.
Course 3: Indian Fish Cakes
This may have been the course with the least “umph.” It was basically fried fish cake batter with hints of Indian spices and possibly some lemon zest. Still, it was fun to eat and to taste the different spices and flavors.
Course 4: Smoked Herring Soup
This was a super smokey fish soup. It was a bit salty for me, but I know the friend I was with absolutely LOVED it. The soup was topped off with leaves of tarragon to bring in some licorice flavor.
Course 5: Squid with Mussel Cream Sauce
I watched a documentary on a sushi restaurant in Japan not long ago and I remembered that the sushi chefs massaged the octopus they would be serving for 45 minutes before serving it. When I tried this squid, the memory of ocotopus clip played back in my head. As I bit into the squid, it melted away almost without any chew. It certainly wasn’t something I had ever experienced. The squid was divided into the head and leg portion. There were thinly sliced turnips on the side with capers and a flavorful mussel cream sauce that wasn’t too rich with cream, so that the mussel flavor could still shine through. To top it off, the dish was sprinkled with cracked cacao beans, which are less strong than coffee beans, but added a nice deep taste and crunch to the soft squid. It was garnished with what I believe to be a celery leaf, which again brings that slight licorice flavor that I think the French really like.
Course 6: Seared Tuna with Fig and Tomato
This was a tuna seared on all sides and left raw in the middle. It sat in a red pepper sauce that looked spicy, but thankfully was not. I’d say it tasted sort of like a mix between dashi and tomato sauce. The fish was surrounded by baby heirloom tomatoes - yellow and red, and topped with sweet figs and tarragon. I would say the star of this dish for me was definitely the tomatoes. While they melted into your mouth, the tomatoes still had bite. It wasn’t too tangy, but had just the right amount of sweetness. I remembered people telling me that the fruit and legumes were just better in France and these tomatoes really exemplified that.
Course 7: Pork with Chanterelle in Shrimp Salsa
This dish was sort of my “entree” of the courses, if you will. And by entree, I mean “plat” in French because entree is actually appetizer in French. It was warm and hearty. The chanterelle mushrooms were tossed in this rich and salty salsa, which tasted like pureed dried baby Chinese shrimp with chives. This was served on a bed of roasted tabbouleh, which had this charred flavor that really complimented the chanterelles. The lean and slightly seasoned roast pork was sliced thinly and placed on the bottom of the dish.
Course 8: Green Apple Granita with Ice Cream
Le Chateaubriand gave us two courses for dessert and this one was my favorite. The green apple granita was so so flavorful. It tasted like eating a concentrated green apple and the flavor burst inside your mouth as soon as the little ice crystals hit your tongue. I would say the granita a very sweet after flavor - almost like what stevia or an artificial sweetener does, but without the bitterness or off-flavoring. The granita was accompanied with a scoop of tangy ice cream that tasted like Pinkberry yoghurt, but more rich and of course, thicker and in ice cream form. The dessert was topped off with leaves of green that had the slightest hit of anise, which again, went with the lightness and fruitiness of the apples very well.
Course 9: Almond Meringue with Caramel Sauce
The server instructed us to pick this dessert up and eat it in one bite. I thought it was a flavor thing. Initially, when I looked at this creation, I thought it was some sort of pastry on the bottom with a piece of caramelized peach (or something similar) on top - like a fancy deconstructed tart. I couldn’t help myself from scooping up some of the powder on the bottom first, which was an almond meringue powder and it was so very delicious. Anyways, I did what the server said and this thing melted away in my mouth before I could even think what flavors I was tasting. Well, clearly it wasn’t a peach. It’s so strange when you prepare to eat one thing because you’re thinking it will be that thing, and it turns out to be something totally different. Your mouth is left off-guard and your head gets confused for a moment. What this turned to be was a meringue topped off with a dark caramel sauce and an egg yolk - yes an egg yolk! I’m one of those people who get quite unnerved eating raw eggs, so this was completely weird for me. I think that’s the reason it melted into my mouth. The peach that I thought was a peach was actually an egg yolk with some slight brulée-ing on top to help it keep its form. The caramel wasn’t like what we’re used to with cream and butter, but was more like just a burnt sugar sauce. The egg yolk for me tasted like a bland liquid cream, so I didn’t feel it did too much for the dessert, but the friend I was with loved it and thought the dish to be genius.
Baby Strawberries with Coarse Sugar
We ended the evening with wild baby strawberries that were no doubt picked from the farms in the morning. The berries were sweet, but not in an overbearingly ripe way. I described it in my notes as if it was a fresh strawberry candy or slush. Amazingly, we finished our meal at around 2:00AM. The restaurant had such a magical atmosphere that just perpetuated conversation and laughter. I could have stayed there forever. We went there on a Saturday night, which is basically the beginning of the weekend for French restaurants as most of them do not open on Sundays or Mondays. As the night came to an end, you could feel everything loosening in the restaurant - for the servers and even the chefs. There was music playing from the kitchen and people were slowly, but merrily emptying out.