Friday, January 9, 2009

Bistronomiques 2008 - Le Chateaubriand, Paris

Inaki Aizpitarte, Le Chateaubriand's chef, is one of those young (and self-taught in his case) chefs who are breathing new life into French bistro food, turning traditional dishes into avant-garde and creative cuisine. Inaki never forgets though that the ingredient is king and that it is it that must shine. Therefore don't expect to find a long menu in his restaurant. Here, for dinner, the only option is a 5-dish prix fixe with seasonal and fresh ingredients.

And it works great. Like this rectangle of boudin noir (blood sausage) served with small cubes of green apple, mango, banana and passion fruit puree as well as two light touches of wasabi. A modern, colorful, almost Asian interpretation of the traditional boudin aux pommes recipe. A sublime combination and balance of opposite textures and flavors. Miles away from the so common stupid fusion and sweet and sour idiocies that come out from so many professional kitchens.

Or this rouget aux petits legumes. Perfectly cooked, the fish shines. The vegetables play perfectly their role, giving some crunch, color and an earthy flavor to this marine dish. Nothing superfluous, like a sauce or a jus, that could have overpowered the purity of the ingredients.

Or this Beef fillet. It could have been boring. Just another beef fillet after all. But a white asparagus lying on top brings some extra texture, some bitterness to each mouthful of the perfectly rare and tender fillet while anchovies happily act as a guest-star condiment. Again it looks simple (it looks, I said) but it's just plain smart.

But sometimes, things go wrong, the chef pushes the envelope a flavor too far and there comes the flop. Like this dish where a bland tofu and the acidic green apple destroyed each other and turned the appetizer into a real disaster. But that's so unrepresentative of the whole meal, that you just think: "oh, well, after all, only the one who doesn't take risks, doesn't make mistakes". And at 43 EUR for 5 dishes, this dinner looked like a steal.

Although it might be considered (by some) exaggerated to rank it number 60 in the World's Best Restaurants, Le Chateaubriand and its chef provide for a sublime (and cheap) dining experience. Fred Peneau and his gang of bearded, Inaki-like sexy waiters also do a great job at the front of the house.

Le Chateaubriand
129 avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris
(33) 1 43 57 45 95

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