Sitting high among the snowy clouds near the top of the French Alps, Flocons de Sel has potentially most idyllic setting for a 3-star, which is really saying a lot. Covered in deep French Alpine snow, this place sets a new record for most remote and most naturally beautiful restaurant experience one could hope for, and the food and service matched that perfection. Highly recommend.
Right in the heart of French ski country sits Megève and, above Megève, sits Flocons de Sel. The winding, steep road one must take to reach the summit can only be described as "tough," and "unrelenting," and perhaps also "murderous." If you foolishly decide to go in the Winter, make sure your rental has decent winter tires.
The head chef Emmanuel Renaut dropped out of high school and worked his way into the famous Hôtel de Crillon, a landmark Paris hotel, where he worked under famous restauranteur and entrepreneur Christian Constant. Later, he spent seven years under Marc Veyrat, another famous French entrepreneur/chef who had a 3-star called L'Auberge de l'Eridan.
Emmanuel professes a lifelong love for the mountains, skiing five times a week in the season and is renowned for the jovial, positive atmosphere he maintains in the kitchen. Remarkably, in 2004 he won the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, an award given out once ever four years by the French Ministry of Labor, roughly translates to the Best Craftsman in France. A relative newcomer to the 3-star list, Flocons de Sel got its third in 2012; working backwards, their second arrived in 2006, and the first came in 2001 when Renaud was the tender young age of 33 and the restaurant was still in the center of the village of Megève.
MEGEVE, FRANCE (FRENCH ALPS)
PRICE PAID: $140PP (INCL. WATER, CHAMPAGNE APERITIF, TAX, TIP)
FINAL RATING: 8.0/10
Michelin 3-stars can choose how obvious to make their massive accomplishment to the world; Flocons goes the somewhat brute force method with a collection of antique Guides overflowing a bookshelf in the lobby. This move makes more sense if you're Paul Bocuse (Flocons didn't exist when most of the pictured books were printed), but hey, it's a cute victory lap.
After brief greetings, we are led upstairs to a warm, cozy nook surrounded by blankets and soft couches. Within moment we are handed glasses of champagne and given menus to review, and just like that the moment is instantly transformed into a peaceful, restful, contemplative experience. Within thirty seconds, this nook has become one of my favorite champagne resting spots of all time; preserved tree-stump tables, beautiful glassware, and the feel of the room somewhere between luxury hotel and Alpine barn.
The winter storm that did its best to kill us on the drive up was tapering by this point, and the snowy views did not disappoint.
As we continue to sip champagne and consider the lunch menu options, we are brought this lovely plate of creamy polenta, hay, and saffron, all together in a crunchy hot little bite. The texture is thick and similar to oatmeal—small flavorful chunks of polenta throughout—and the temperature is just about perfect. The portion is about 15% more than one comfortable mouthful, but these are a truly outstanding opener. 9/10.
Next, on a wintery bed of bright-green pine needles, some smoked milk beignets. Hot, with a wispy-thin shell that crunches open in an extraordinarily satisfying way. Inside, an almost leathery flavor of smoked dairy was powerful and had a yogurt-like texture. 8/10, a touch overwhelming.
A delightful presentation arrived next: on deep-hued wooden spoons, perfectly cylindrical slices of Paris mushroom (just a fancy word for white button mushrooms, unfortunately) with droplets of parsley juice. The thi,n horizontal layer of mushroom is very fresh, and the colors are an almost perfect offset. 8/10.
The last of the welcoming bites arrived next: a delightful vegetable tart with Jerusalem artichoke (also called sunchoke or topinambur, not truly an artichoke but actually from the sunflower family); the tart is crispy, buttery, rich, and complimented nicely by the nutty flavors in the sunchoke. And, it pairs perfectly with champagne. What a fantastic series of starters; worth the treacherous journey already. 8/10.
After a few questions about the menu and wine (we went with the less-expensive 120 Euro lunch menu, which turned out to be beyond sufficient) we are brought downstairs into the well-lit, large-windowed, wood grain-heavy dining room.
With their tiny iconic snowflakes embedded in the table's chargers and flanked by gorgeous Zalto glassware, I have to hand it to this place and say that the empty table is worth sitting and admiring for a moment before the meal even begins.
Some incredible homemade bread and a generous puck of salted butter from Annecy. Two thumbs up. 9/10.
A strong start out of the gate with some aggressive components: veal head with black truffles. The overall dish looks, feels, and tastes just like eggs Benedict (but richer), and the cubic chunks of truffle are just a touch dry. The butter-derived sauce on top is melty and decadent, with a creamy texture similar to mushroom soup. This is a pretty, complex, filling starting dish for the main courses. 8/10.
See those tiny, red berry-looking ingredients towards the middle? They're actually "gnocchi without flour," and they're paired with paper-thing slices of beetroot and a "garden consommé," which is a fancy word for vegetable broth. The potato gnocchi have a terrific, dense texture that offsets the light broth and the delicate beetroot perfectly. A virtual beet soup. 8/10.
Next, a crunchy cheese biscuit is served and accompanied by a pourover of tea with "Refort," which has the flavor and profile of grilled onion juice. Rich cheese and mushrooms pair perfectly with the biscuit; hearty without being too salty. 9/10.
And then onto the main course: venison. With a coat of truffle and mixed with beets, it is presented in a large warm puck in the center of the plate. The beets have been gently simmered so the textures mesh almost perfectly, an the ungodly rich flavor of the venison is offset slightly by the earthy tones of the beets. Potatoes au gratin with Beaufort cheese is served on the side in an absurdly large ramequin. This is comfort food taken to the nth degree.
A marble-topped wooden cart rolled up and we were presented with an extremely handsome cheese course I selected a creamy, buttery, earthy Tommes de Savoie (French Alpine cheese made from skimmed milk) and a Vacherin Mont d'Or, both regional cheeses that highlight the purity of the Alpine producers' inputs. Clean, fresh, bright flavors throughout. 9/10.
This first dessert was described to us as "like a painting of mushrooms." Beautiful geometric designs and near-neutral colors; this square is served surprisingly cold and tastes like a layer of vanilla ice cream cake. The mushroom flavor doesn't stand up to the vanilla and gets drowned out, which is fine, but a touch confusing. 8/10.
As a palate-cleanser, two leaves of condensed, sugary lime candy. 8/10. Served in a rock of limestone. Get it?
Next, some possibly mis-translated "wood fruit pasta," with strong flavors of pine and pear. The small pyramids are full of pear juice mixed with strong booze, and biting into it feels like taking a full shot of alcohol. To the side, a small fruit cake with rich, moist layers of apricot, pear, and other tree fruits. The flavors work surprisingly well together; 9/10.
A delicious, rich cup of coffee which will serve us in good stead as we attempt to de-scale the mountain we just drove up to get to Flocons.
As we depart, we are offered a brief tour of their bright, exquisitely clean (especially given that we visited before service even ended) kitchen. True to their reputation, chefs were laughing and joking with each other but clearly focused and engaged with their work. Living proof that it doesn't have to be a Roman Galley to achieve their level of performance.