Travel Through Plates

When a plate of food is put before me, I photograph it immediately. This blog, decodes my favorite dishes. It's a happy blog, as I predominantly show you pictures of the winners, the ones I love,

My Greatest Plates!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thoumieux, Oh boy are we gonna have fun!

I'm so glad to have found Thoumieux, radically renovated and updated to becoming the cool eaterie of Le Moment in Paris.

I spoke to the chef (ok, ok, ok I do that without much excuse) Jean Francois Piege, I accused him of culinary robbery, "hands up, I'm guilty, why not take a bit of this and a bit of that from ITALY, FRANCE, and SPAIN, that's what's modern cookery is about" our chef exclaims! Mixing is only one part of the game here what's more awe is the brilliance of Piege's culinary reinvention.

With all the magic on the plates it's no surprise that the joint is mirrors, mirrors and more mirrors everybody is flattered by the lighting and that may explain why there is a distinct difference to the night and day clientele. I went for Lunch and Dinner on the same day so this is what I know.

The lunch crowd is the business end of show and dinner is business. One sexy crowd, people watchers will be rewarded as the place is elbow to elbow with the in-crowd or as the French say tres MONDAIN! Definition belonging to fashionable society. The music at night is a twinge to loungey loud for me though!

I love menus where the choice is complicated and many selections sing to your palate, "choose me!" When you run down the menu you'll wish that you are with at least three good friends who want to share the tastes.

With the menu you are given a DIARY (I'll leave you to discover it) and this:

Here it is from another angle:

The crusty bread, which is outrageous by the way served with a cup of flaky salt, for the raw milk pat of butter and a sardine tin that does in fact contain sardines that have been smushed with "Vache Qui Rit" (Cow Who Laughs brand of French soft white processed cheese) I dare you to resit this! Impossible!

The signature dish is the pizza revisted!

You are going to have fun with this one, a souffled matzo wafer thin crisp crust (that's the pizza part) covered in a dress of wild arugula, nestled on smoked tuna, sprinkled with a Parmesan shower,  all of this cocooning a hidden trove of burrata and calamata olive puree like a secret purse within.  This is  wild to eat,  imploding with the first fork.

The optical delusions just carry on with squid Carbonara... Here is how it looks as it set before you.

Hidden under the Carbs is an egg yolk, the smokiest of crisp bacon, a little creme fraiche, more Parmesan and grind of corse pepper but then when you fork the plate you do a double take.

 Hey that's not spaghetti at all but the calamari in question.  One word Superb!

Even this serving of asparagus takes the ordinary to extraordinary it lifts a perfect spear to new vistas with a hard boiled egg mustard vinaigrette, coating and glistening each mouthful. Pass the bread!

More humor pearl barley Paella with pimenton spanished shrimps and grilled piquillos!

Is this this is all becoming clearer....

Goujonettes of sole here served with an air light whipped tartare sauce that is robust and lifted by the squeeze of fresh limes.

Raw and Cooked Fois Gras, is first pan fried then pressed hot into a terrine to cure. It's plated with raw apple and some spiced apple sauce. A great duo, take notes!!

VITELLO TONNATA is revisited in the Quasi de Veau to brilliant effect. Look at this next picture closely.

If you click on the picture above it will enlarge and I will point out some rather clever twists. In the back of the plate is a tube like pate paste of preserved lemons with tuna which is the tonatto condiment of the veal. The meat has been seasoned with more than salt and pepper and the jus encroaches under the mash potato which is topped by purple spud chips. Serious YUM, YUM

Corn fed chicken, morels, cream and spinach....

 Pork belly crusted in crispy onions and crackling with shredded cabbage!!! Hey I said Crackling!!!

Dessert does not let the side down one jot either.

Churros and Rolls are covered in popping sugar that sets off a noisy clack click in the mouth is served with dipping hot chocolate and turned to order vanilla ice cream. One day we will all have a Paco Jet.
Here Creme Caramel revisited, we have the cream for sure, but imagine a mixture of the best of  genre meets Creme Brulee, Hybrid to be sure, I shot  two angles so you could see the crispy top and the depths of the salted thick salted caramel  base below the vanilla speckled cream.. I  would go back just for this!

If you add great service, valet parking and great value at less than 50 euros a head, then you'll understand why you'll leave as one happy camper!

Thoumieux ... and now for my next trick!!!

Open every day lunch and dinner till 23h30

9 RUE SAINT-DOMINIQUE | 75007 PARIS | T 01 47 05 49 75 |

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Amaya is my favorite restaurant in London

Amaya near Harrods is my fave spot in the capital, there is nothing like it. A fusion Indian with fresh and brilliant flavors, spices and original tastes. Nothing is nuanced or bland, every bite is an explosive firework of flavor. Nothing is super hot or chilied to extreme, I would say perfume, layers and texture are the touchstones here. Above all you will encounter new flavors and originality with every dish. Things you believe you already know are revisited and updated. The condiments of dry rose petals, tomato chutney and ground peanut dust transport the food off the charts.Modern to be sure with respect for the historic spices that underpin Indian cuisine.

As you will be able to tell the spoon went into the lettuce cups before the finger got on the camera shutter.

 Here spiced chicken is blended with crunchy julienned raw veggies and served in a lettuce cup with a tumeric tinged curried dressing.

Chevre and mandarin salad is a super refreshing foil to the perfumed food.

Regular readers to my blog will know that this humble dish of broccoli grilled with burnt edges, hot off of the tandoor skewers is the summit of Amaya. The signature dish!  The ginger yoghurt dressing is a miracle marriage, this is simply the most perfect veggie dish I have ever tasted! This sauce is so moorish I am capable to dream of it from afar, I scour the internet for the recipe have once been told it's contents with quantities. It is unbelievable delicious!

I am told the secret to the moist chicken breast after the Tandoori inferno is a six hour marination. Here the smoked Chicken Tandoori. NB The best Tandoori Chicken is Black Pepper!

The Black Pepper Tandoori Chicken on the left is perfectly balanced with two dipping sauces and on the right seasoned the chicken chops some very complex layers of flavours .

These are Chicken (Lamb is also available and often preferred)  lollipops sweet tomato tangy with a chili kick. I also adore but don't have a picture of the tomato ginger prawns which are stupendous. NB Garlic is very present in this food!

Another veggie dish this time sweet potatoes with tamarin sauce. I first thought this would have been too sweet or overkill but not this acidulated topping takes the one dimension yam on a leap of flavor and good taste.

Amaya get's super busy at night. It has one Michelin Star (rightfully so) and I would recommend booking. I find the internet site the best place to stake a table. I have sent more than a 100 friends over the years to Amaya and it always turns up as a foody fave!

Amaya, Halkin Arcade, Motcomb Street,
London SW1X 8JT
tel: + 44 (0)20 7823 1166
fax: +44 (0)20 7259 6464

Monday, March 15, 2010

Zuma London

There is a funny old law on the books in France that says it's illegal to sell a little bird called the ORTOLAN, (a Bunting/Finchy type oiseau) however it is not illegal to eat them.  The french consume this delight whilst hidden under a napkin, supposedly this increases the perfume, personally I believe it is to hide the guilt and shame of the diners civil disobedience. Soon I fear legislation will come to limit yet another delicacy,  wild Tuna. In fact I'm starting to feel twinges of guilt everytime I think of TORO, something that I have eaten on a regular basis for the last 25 years.

Zuma Restaurant in London is a Toro meister,  Here is some O-toro sashimi I ate last time there. I am somewhat obsessed with this natural wonder.

Here I open my Kimono to share a Toro Closeup, this is the supreme silken brilliance that is endangered of being banned! I feel increasingly guilty showing you these, this is TUNA PORN!

Above the Zuma Toro Sushi.

Here Toro and Leaks...

Ok enough  with the Toro. So let's talk about Zuma. Zuma is to Nobu what Belgium is to France, it OVERJAPS! It is beyond the borders of Japan... it is does not play by the rules that would limit  a Nobu, but that is a good thing. Zuma is in my London top 10, which includes Amaya, but that is for another posting. Zuma is full of whimsy, the gastronomic equivalent of Tim Burtons Alice In Wonderland!

Look at this Chili Squid with Jalapeno's - if you see what I mean. Nippon meets Mexican Mariache! The squid is greaseless crisp, hot and twangy good but this chili pepper has never been to the land of the rising sun....ever!.

Zuma is not frightened to nick the best culinary tricks from any cuisine look, at this Tomato and Aubergine salad.
It would not be out of place in any modern Italian or Greek eatery, the only scintilla  of Japan is the shredded shiso and scosh of yuzu in the dressing.. Same for the Wagyu/Kobe carpaccio, not exactly screaming Tokyo either.

Let's be clear, the lack of any cultural provenance or the adherence to a particular national cuisine liberates Zuma from the limitations inherent in a "true- trad" Japanese restaurant, this is not a handicap but rather a release from the "binds that tie" which are well deployed as you have seen. When you consider the sea bass  "new" Sashimi I soar with elated approval.

Zuma's food fushion is easy on the eye. Here skewers of grilled Asparagus with sesame citrus vinaigrette.

I love the lobster tempura served without even the hint of greasiness; these guys know how to run a deep fat-fryer.

Black MISO cod (A NOBU) signature dish was and is a failure I have tried it on several occassion and it pales in comparison to the real deal, the dilemma is that for whatever reason the fish is too fishy and the sauce too sweet, maybe it's the miso (too much white) used or the marinading process itself. It cloys!  It's culinary karaoke!
I'm happy when they put heat to TORO too, ok why would you want to do that to perfectly A1 fatty tuna, better served raw I hear you exclaim... well look at this then!

Japanese skill with a touch of whimsy lifts this Tuna to great heights. Not so the grilled Wagyu!

Between you and me this was the least interesting thing I ate, was it good meat, Yup, was it correctly cooked Medium rare, yup again but the terryaki sauce did little but sweeten this great meat, a steak that needed a salted zinger, sadly sesame ain't something that piques my palate a menu mistep.

Lastly let's talk about something that is not on the menu:


This is in my top ten list of desserts in the world, yes, ever anywhere. The secret is the most subtle but real presence of a caramel aftertaste that arrives late in the mouth and lingers on the palate for more than a minute, the problem always is that it is the last bite that hits you this way because it's simply is impossible to wait a minute between bites. I have no photo of it either because it arrived and my guests hit it; better to say, gobbled it all up before I could shoot it for this blog! I'm just glad I got one forkful and a smear on the back of my spoon!

5 Raphael Street
London SW7 1, United Kingdom
020 7584 1010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Check out this website

In my top ten Ami Jean in Paris. Check out this stunning photography from the web site.

Click Here!

Drouant, Drouant!!!

Consistency, service and fair pricing must be the touchstone of any great dining establishment, if you also get to add, great food, ambiance, decor and valet parking (Hey this is Paris) one pretty much has the whole package wrapped.

Drouant hits all the above and more. The Euros 43.00 lunch is superb three course value. This is the home of Alsation Antoine Westermann!!

After ordering the chef comes over and nixed my choice, suggesting I avail myself of Paté en croute, I usually steer well clear of brioched mystery meat but decided to follow mine hosts suggestion. Boy was I a happy bunny that I did so too.

From the top of the terrine layers and layers of flavor starting with a super buttery flaky pastry intensely extracted veal jelly, paté, a slice of moist ham, and duck fois gras, peppered throughout with green pistachios. This is so unbelievable good,  the countryside on a plate.  The flavors lingered on my palate for more than a minute of each bite. I was told afterwards that 12 herbs and spices are used to develop the meat flavors. It was on a scale of supergood and yum combined.

For main course: Quasi de Veau,  Veal with carrots and sage.
Was that how you thought it would look?  Mushrooms and wilted spinach anchored the dish skilfully. If you look closely and you can by clicking on the meat above you will see the attention to detail as the meat has been re-seasoned after cutting, there are the grains of salt and pepper invigorating my lunch.

I was sent out two desserts both on the Apple theme, first a Apple melba.
Granny Smith Sorbet, apple sauce and calvados whipped cream topping with a health dose of vanilla for good measure running from north to south.

This apple pie was spiffy as well call it a Normande style. The menu is highly seasonal and specials change daily, there is no risk in going here, always at the top of it's game. 

18 Rue Gaillon, 75002 Paris, France 0033 1 42 65 15 16

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Le Cote Jardin The good deal lunch in Monaco

Hidden behind a winding corridor inside the Hotel De Paris you will come upon the Cote Jardin, it's become the surprising power lunch spot in Monaco; where the room is peppered with government suits, business men and local residents. The quality of food, the stellar service and the price (49 euros) makes it the lunch deal in town. When it's warm, the Jardin spills open and you can eat al fresco. Perfect for April-May - September-October.

Above mini provençal omelettes and roasted cherry tomatoes.

The lineup always includes two hot pasta dishes - here tortolloni.

Some Rouget with a balsamic reduction
This was egg plant (Aubergine) Napoleons.

A classy warm blinis station for the smoke salmon

You also get your choice of two meat main courses, here roast pork with potatoes Grand Mere which was just delicious, spuds sauteed with bacon, carrots and artichokes. There is also a vegetarian option such as risotto of the day. What really is splendiferous is that the same effort goes into the dessert station.

I like the fact that nothing is piles of anything but rather little platters that are constantly being warmed, refilled and often changed completely when something runs out. This is the all you can eat Monaco style and I love it!

Cote Jardin
In the Hotel De Paris
Casino Square
Monte Carlo

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Auberge de Dully A one trick pony since 1964

If a restaurant banks its reputation for doing one thing right, they have simply got to nail it every service.

I'm in awe of the Auberge de Dully on the Banks of lake Geneva.

This humble inn of a place (They have 8 rooms) started as a dairy making cheese, in 1840, it first opened as a wine house, in 1905 it installed the towns first public telephone line. In 1959 the Charriere family were holed up in the joint as guests and duly decided to cross the rubicon and buy the joint. They completed this purchase in 1970 when they also bought the cellar and vineyard Chateau de Dully. In 1989 son Nicholas stepped  up to the crease and carried on this family tradition by taking over the management.

So I can hear you wonder what has this one trick poney got that I may want. Well truth be told two things, one salty and the other sweet! Here is the menu!

Chicken, roast fire, twirling spits, heat,  getting a sense of this? Let me show you a picture then...

I got another too..

Here another angle!

Can you feel the heat, the noise, the smell of chicken, skin all crisp and crackling?

It's super important that click on the picture of the Chicken on the platter above, in that way you will be able to see the chicken up close and personal like, okay, okay it's not the same as being there but even the good old internet has limitations! See the gravy under the bird?

Did I mention the Rosti? Oh yea I almost forgot! Burned crisp,  just enough, this is what all hash browns are descended from, the hash brown missing link, the Darwining proof if ever anyone needed it that Hash browns the world over evolved from Swiss rosti...

So let's add it up, some of the best roasted chicken in the world, spit fired over wood, crispy rosti, a green salad (forgot to mention that) with a bold mustard vinaigrette in a bijou crammed pack little gem of a restaurant that has been doing the same thing with stellar service since 1964! I don't know of many places that have nothing further to perfect! Pretty unique so far but then comes dessert and we get to grips with second dish  a world famous (yes I said world famous) tarte a la creme or cream tart  to you and me!

This is one of the most insane taste sensations that has ever sold itself as dessert. A butterscotch tart would approximate the fixings going on here..The thinnest of crust layered with sugary caramel which is then topped by cream that cooks brown. This is an insane pudding! Served pizza pie piping hot, straight out of the oven, the taste is, dare I say it even more memorable than the chicken. In fact as I was eating it I thought of ways in which I could come by and only eat tart without looking competely ridiculous! It is not cloying or too sweet, some of the cream burns and mixes with the sugar underneath (by design) and then changes the tastes in that particular bite. This is a global top ten dessert!

Auberge De Dully
+41 21 824 1149
Closed all day Wednesday
Dinner only Monday to Friday
Lunch and dinner Sat-Sun
20 minutes past Geneva Airport direction Lausanne