France- Pierre Gagnaire- ✪✪✪

PARIS, FRANCE

SERVICE: 9.0/10

FOOD: 8.5/10

PRICE PAID: $154 PP (LIST PRICE- PRE-CHALLENGE)

VALUE/MONEY: 8.0/10

FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10

Tucked into the tiny Hotel Balzac right off the Champs-Élysées in Paris is Pierre Gagnaire's eponymous establishment. 

The restaurant itself reminds me a bit of the Simpson's episode where Moe attempts to turn his bar into a family-dining restaurant. 

"If you like good food, good fun, and a whole lot of…crazy crap on the walls, then come on down to Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag." I mostly thought that because there are a ton of newspaper clippings, old medical journal pages, and what one may generally term as crazy crap on the walls of this iconoclast chef. It's actually pretty tasteful and fun to look at.

 

 First Bites: Cherries, Watermelon, Grape, + Herbs, 9/10

First Bites: Cherries, Watermelon, Grape, + Herbs, 9/10

To kick things off, a black squid ink ball, Uzu lemon tart with black olives in small shot glass, and a big glass with cherries, watermelon, grape, herbs. Zingy and super tasty. 9/10.

 First Bites: Paprika breadsticks, 9/10

First Bites: Paprika breadsticks, 9/10

Hand-rolled breadsticks with paprika came next.. The small balls with dots are pumpernickel and Parmesan. Simple but delicious. At the bottom of the sticks' bowl is a delicious red meat sauce. Fun, complex, interesting, engaging. 9/10.

 Breads + Butter

Breads + Butter

 Log-shaped butter

Log-shaped butter

Delicious, delicous bread and butter. I have to say that the log-shaped butter is a clever and interesting presentation.

 Just-baked breads

Just-baked breads

 1st Course: The Smorgasbord, 8/10

1st Course: The Smorgasbord, 8/10

There's a lot going on in this course, so like a dork I'll break it down into constituent parts and discuss each. Overall rating is 8/10.

 Course 1A: Skate wing, White Fish, Seaweed, 9/10

Course 1A: Skate wing, White Fish, Seaweed, 9/10

This skate wing is soft, tender, served in a fork and presented on top of seaweed and "pillars" of white fish... Delicate sea flavor with strong salinity. Great balance of textures. 9/10.

  Course 1B: Red Currant Soup, 8/10

Course 1B: Red Currant Soup, 8/10

Next was some red currant soup- flavorful and sweet. 8/10.

 Course 1C: Cuttlefish & Green Apple, 9/10

Course 1C: Cuttlefish & Green Apple, 9/10

Cuttlefish and green apple- almost potato-like starchy flavors... 9/10.

 Course 1D: Crab & Bone Marrow Bisque, 9/10

Course 1D: Crab & Bone Marrow Bisque, 9/10

Green crab with bone marrow bisque was next- ungodly rich, with a big umami flavor. Such an interesting statement in contrast to the lighter dishes served next to it. 9/10.

 Course 1E: Anchovy, 8/10

Course 1E: Anchovy, 8/10

Though normally not the biggest fan of complete, raw fish (my first experience at Hyotei was certainly mixed) this anchovy is crisp and crunchy. Check out the beautiful presentation on the folded leaf- 8/10. 

 2nd Course: Liver Mousseline + Veggies, 7/10

2nd Course: Liver Mousseline + Veggies, 7/10

As a layup to the final savory courses, this liver mousseline with green veggies and flat beans arrived. A dense, rich presentation that played decently well together but not perfectly. A big heavy dish that made me feel full right before the big courses. 7/10.

 3rd Course: Duck + Potatoes, 9/10

3rd Course: Duck + Potatoes, 9/10

Duck and potatoes are outstanding and rich. Look at those colors! 9/10.

 4th Course: White fish, Potatoes + Greens, 9/10

4th Course: White fish, Potatoes + Greens, 9/10

A touch greasy, but an overall refreshing seafood dish to round things out before dessert.

 5th Course: Petits Fours and small desserts, 8/10

5th Course: Petits Fours and small desserts, 8/10

Fun, lavishly presented Petit Fours and hand-made desserts. 8/10.

 6th Course: Strawberry Everything Dessert

6th Course: Strawberry Everything Dessert

Dessert part one was three version of strawberry desserts- the thin pasty to the right cracked with the gentlest touch of the spoon; some were served hot and some were served cold. Reminded me of one of my favorite desserts of all time from Ryugin. 9/10.

 7th Course: Dessert part deux, 8/10

7th Course: Dessert part deux, 8/10

A lovely assortment of cheesecake, cherries, and currants... Fruity and light; 8/10

 Beautiful, hand-carved presentation

Beautiful, hand-carved presentation

 Last Bites: Handmade fruit and nut bricks, 9/10

Last Bites: Handmade fruit and nut bricks, 9/10

What struck me most about this meal was the sheer creativity of the front- and back- of the house working together. Every dish was set down with a synchronized flourish from the very well-trained staff, and the kitchen is obviously willing to try new things. A fantastic restaurant, and well worth the visit.