France- Le Cinq- ✪✪✪

 Le Cinq Main Entrance

Le Cinq Main Entrance

Inside the stunningly opulent Four Seasons George V hotel is its semi-eponymous restaurant, Le Cinq. Helmed by Christian Le Squer, a native of Brittany with a passion for seafood, the restaurant stands out for its extraordinary dining room, the light, creative touches of its courses (especially compared to other Parisian 3-stars), and a very friendly service (most definitely in contrast to other Parisian restaurants, specifically the disaster that is L'Ambroisie). 

 Christian Le Squer

Christian Le Squer

Christian himself has had a fascinating and extremely Parisian culinary career. At age 14, believing he wanted to be a fisherman, he began work on his uncle's fishing trawler. He realized quickly that he preferred preparing and cooking the fish to actually catching them, and began to study the culinary arts. He went on to train at a professional high school in Vannes before working in Parisian haute cuisine establishments like Le Ritz, Le Divellec, Pavilion Ledoyen, etc. He took up his post at Le Cinq in 2014, earning two stars in the 2015 book and this third star in 2016. 

In an interview, Christian makes an interesting analogy for how he views his work: "I like to think of cooking as perfumery. Like a perfumer selecting his notes for a particular scent, we pick our raw materials and transform them into works of culinary arts that boast elegance and refinement. By that analogy, I am a creator of flavors."

PARIS, FRANCE

SERVICE: 7.5/10

FOOD: 7.5/10

PRICE PAID: $450PP (INCL. WATER, TAX, TIP- PRE-CHALLENGE)

VALUE/MONEY: 6.0/10

FINAL SCORE: 7.0/10

 Le Cinq Lobby

Le Cinq Lobby

The hotel was fully decked-out in holiday regalia when I attended, complete with enormous mirror-finish polar bear and reindeers, wreaths, and twinkling lights galore.

 Le Cinq Dining Room

Le Cinq Dining Room

 Le Cinq Place Setting

Le Cinq Place Setting

Le Cinq is found off the main lobby and next to a gorgeous interior courtyard, itself adorned in ice-blue colored lights. By 3-star restaurant standards, the place felt cavernous, yet only holds 65 covers a night. A gorgeous central chandelier provides most of the room's illumination, and the ambiance this place is able to achieve is just about perfect. Though certainly gifted with many stylish restaurants in our own right, I can't think of a single American restaurant that nails "classy" this well.

 Le Cinq Champagne Aperitif Cart

Le Cinq Champagne Aperitif Cart

Service was warm, even amiable, and throughout the evening several helpful people with tremendous English skills provided an incredible experience. This might not seem noteworthy until you consider that this is truly rare at Parisian restaurants in general. French restaurants are geared towards their regulars, and normally do not give a shit about how they treat first-timers or tourists in general. This might seem arrogant and self-harming, and that's because it is. 

 First Bites: "Bubble" of Orange Campari + Pizza, 8/10

First Bites: "Bubble" of Orange Campari + Pizza, 8/10

As a first set of greeting bites, we are offered a "bubble" of orange campari (on the left) and a slice of pizza on the right. The bubble has strong ginger flavors, and we are encouraged to eat the liquidy gel in a single bite. The pizza, complete with mozzarella, mushroom, and truffle, has a very thin crust and thus tastes like a pizza-flavored nacho chip but is delicious nonetheless. 8/10 overall. 

 Bread Service, 8/10

Bread Service, 8/10

Bread service arrived next; obviously I had to go with the baguette, which was rich, warm, and fresh. 9/10. 

 Course 1: Marinated Scallops + Lychee + Sea Urchin

Course 1: Marinated Scallops + Lychee + Sea Urchin

A strong start as we get into the menu; sea scallops imbued with lychee flavors (those small dollops on the upper-right portion of the plate were made from lychee as well) and served with frosty-cold sea urchin. The earthy sea urchin flavors pair perfectly with the acidity and sweetness in the lychee fruit; the scallops have that neutral taste commonly found when they are extremely fresh. Nice flavor contrasts as well. 9/10. 

 Course 2: Prawn + Buckwheat Pancake, 6/10

Course 2: Prawn + Buckwheat Pancake, 6/10

Next, in a confusing jumble of place names, some Dublin Bay Prawn (also known as Norway Lobster) from Brittany, France. Catch all that? 

Anyways, the prawn is buttery, soft, and incredibly fresh. It is greatly enhanced by the addition of a crunchy buckwheat pancake, which adds texture, and less so by a hearty dose of warm aioli. My complaint here is that the dish loses a significant amount of its lightness with the aioli (some might call it just mayonnaise), and it hampers the delicate shellfish pretty significantly. 6/10.

 Course 3: "Gratinated" Onion, 8/10

Course 3: "Gratinated" Onion, 8/10

Next, what the menu describes as: "Gratinated Onions, Contemporary Parisian style" is basically a deconstructed French Onion soup; or maybe French Onion Soup à la Mode. Warm, rich, and constructed with beef broth and a variety of cheeses, this is a very creative and delicious take on a staid French tradition. 8/10. 

 Course 4: Turbot + Watercress + Pear, 9/10

Course 4: Turbot + Watercress + Pear, 9/10

Next, some turbot with watercress (the green elements) and pear. The watercress adds a nice dash of color and zest to the incredibly fresh, flaky fish. The sauce is made with Japanese miso and butter, enhancing the savory richness even further. The deliciously light texture paired with the hearty flavor were memorable, and almost perfect. 9/10. 

 Course 5: Australian Beef + Truffle + Mozzarella, 9/10

Course 5: Australian Beef + Truffle + Mozzarella, 9/10

From a region in Australia called Ranger's Valley, this "Black Market" beef is made from Black Angus cattle but has a similar marbling to that found in A5 wagyu. The filet is grilled, sliced, and covered with truffle, mozzarella, and mushrooms, forming a pretty white shell. The interior colors are gorgeous as well. Rich, soft mouthfeel and a flavor profile that is balanced nicely by the mushrooms. 9/10.

 Course 6: Iced Dairy + Baking Powder, 8/10

Course 6: Iced Dairy + Baking Powder, 8/10

 Course 6B: Biscuits, 8/10

Course 6B: Biscuits, 8/10

With delicate white leaves that looked and felt like plastic, this "Iced Dairy" dessert comes with three biscuits on the side; vanilla and raspberry cheesecake, pecan nut and caramel pie, and a crispy caramel tart made with mango, passionfruit, and tarragon jellies.

The "plastic" is actually caramel with painted-on silver, and has the strong flavor of yeast. Under the white shell you have an ice cream of yeast and a mousse of yeast. The taste of both are slightly sour, serving as a nice and refreshing but non-sweet dessert. The idea you're left with is the taste of cake dough or cookie batter right before you place it in the oven. Kind of a complex idea to convey with a dessert, but it works. 8/10. 

 Course 7: Pineapple, 8/10

Course 7: Pineapple, 8/10

Described as "Crunchy Grapefruit, Preserved and Raw," a crystallized layer of sugar protects a group of delicious, burstingly fresh grapefruits. The caramelized layer breaks easily with the spoon, and the relatively sour grapefruit pairs perfectly with the decadent sugariness. A simple but lovely dessert. 8/10. 

 Course 8: Chocolate Ganache, 8/10

Course 8: Chocolate Ganache, 8/10

And finally, the last menu dessert: chocolate ganache with caramel on the side and whipped cream on the right. A “Peau de lait,” or skin of cooked milk is included in the sauce and it's described as "a chili made of milk." Interestingly, it's the same exact plate as the langoustine/prawn plate with its multi-layered surface. 8/10.

 Last Bites: Croissants and Almonds, 8/10

Last Bites: Croissants and Almonds, 8/10

Next, a set of candied croissants with almonds. Flaky, crunchy, and warm. 8/10. 

 Last Bites: Petit Fours, 9/10

Last Bites: Petit Fours, 9/10

Lastly, a series of wrapped candies and petit fours for the final bites. Chocolatey and rich. 9/10.

 Gift to take home

Gift to take home

And, a charming little gift box full of other snacks to take home. A nice parting gestures.