2011 was a landmark year for P and me, not least because we got hitched this day last year. The ensuing days of marriage flew by as we chalked up travel photos, tender moments and even surviving a near death experience. The end of our first year of matrimony was no less charmed, spent in the splendour of the 2 Michelin star restaurant, Le Cinq at Pari’s Four Seasons George V hotel.
Le Cinq met all our requirements for the celebratory meal. The room was gorgeous decked out in winter white and silver, the service was impeccable, and the restaurant served its good value for money lunch set (85E for entrée, plat and dessert) even on a Sunday afternoon, a meal service where most other Michelin-starred restaurants are either closed or only serve a la carte.
The culinary style at Le Cinq is traditionally French, though not without some modern touches beginning at the first amuse-bouche. Our servers place in front of us 2 discs of apple, crab and daikon with a tiny slice of truffle, the black fungus just showing under the translucent slice of thin daikon. It was very light and refreshing, and perhaps to reflect the mild weather we’ve been experiencing, tasting more of spring than winter.
P is a bread addict who has to be stopped from overloading on bread. Today, I didn’t begrudge him of the chance to try all of the 5 breads on rotation, it being a special day and all.
The mini baguette was his favorite, especially nice with a generous swipe of strong, salty seaweed butter. We very much ignored the equally good but less distinctive tasting plain Bordier butter and the olive oil.
Then it was more pre-appetizers. The fried burrata filled puff and the teriyaki salmon cube were pedestrian, though the creamy pumpkin soup, with gingery heat and a beguiling bitter green tea foam tasted faintly Asiatic and very nice.
For appetizers, I chose the oysters vol-au-vent. The lightly cooked Gillardeau oysters were really fat and plump, sweet without a metallic tinge. The carbon footprint on those fat asparagus spears must have been immense but I refused to feel guilty about eating out-of-season greens, and instead quietly enjoyed the subtle sweetness of the vegetable. The pastry puff was superfluous to me, and I would have enjoyed the dish equally without it.
In contrast to my light appetizer, P’s was a heavy weight, with a huge slab of terrine of pig’s feet and ears sandwiched between a crispy slice of toast and an equally long and slightly thinner slice of pan-fried foie gras. Heavy but very delicious, the texture of the terrine (silky meat and gelatinous skin) delightful.
Both our mains were pretty classical dishes, technically well done though a little simple in taste. The thick rouget filets were pan-fried, a crisp skin enveloping very moist meat. The “devil sauce” was a rich vinegar and pepper based sauce, tasty but without the requisite kick to merit a devilish status.
With game season on the wane, P decided it was time to try some doe (yes, female deer), the lean meat grilled to a perfect rosé, the meat slightly gamey, with the powdery texture of liver. It was paired with a complex wine and mushroom based sauce and sauteed apple cubes whose acidic tang married well with the rich sauce. The chanterelle raviolis however were a miss, the wrapper too thick and the stuffing too thin.
We probably did not need the cheese (12E supplement) after our hefty mains, but we generally aren’t in the practice of refusing a gorgeous trolley of well affined cheeses.
Goat, sheep, cow’s cheese, we had them all. The 3 year old comté was exceptional with rich and varied flavors, of wine, nuts, fruit and dare i say, durian? So irresistible that we finished our portion and then polished off the second helping our server thoughtfully sliced up.
Once we were done with our cheeses, the kitchen sent out petite balls of champagne sorbet to cleanse our palates before the sugar assault.
The receptionist had asked if we were celebrating any event when I made the reservation, so I was not surprised to see candles perched on top of our desserts. An even nicer touch was a photo that the servers took and then printed for us as a keepsake.
The desserts themselves were nice, P’s coffee and chocolate based dessert more traditional and my mont blanc slightly more off-beat. While the chestnut squiggles and hard meringue center of a traditional mont blanc remained on the top half of the dessert, the bottom half, held inside the white chocolate hemisphere was a heart of mikan (a Japanese citrus) and saffron gelée that lightened and brightened the dish, both in terms of tastes and looks. The light green matcha flavored meringues which topped the chestnut cream reinforced the Japanese influence on this dish.
As I had my coffee, the server came by with a bottle of Black Forest still water, which he described as one of the purest tasting waters in the world. It tasted like… water.
Though we were so stuffed by then, we were good-humoredly cajoled by the servers to try “a little of each” on the sumptuous candy trolley. The standouts were the fluffy nougat, an excellent white chocolate and walnut bark, that walnut so fresh one could still taste the oils, and a fun pineapple and soft meringue lollipop. Said lollipop had a little boy in the restaurant running up and down the restaurant (on a sugar high) asking the server for “more lollipops please”.
There was no end to the Le Cinq hospitality, and we exited with a box of multi-colored caramels that I will savor tomorrow. Our meal at Le Cinq was a stellar affair and a fitting sweet end to marriage, Year 1. On to Year 2!
Le Cinq at the Four Seasons George V Hotel
Address: 31 Avenue George V 75008 Paris
Telephone: 01 49 52 70 00