A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday in Paris, at 6 Michelin Starred Chef Yannick Alléno’s, Pavillon Ledoyen.
I am a huge fan of Alléno. So, you can imagine my thrill. I was drawn to his work due to an emerging interest of mine in the study of curating Asian mushroom teas. I knew instinctively, I had to write about this experience and much more about this lauded star. But before I embark on that, I want to paint a picture of the venue itself in all its glory in detailed script, especially on the exhilarating experience which made our dinner an unforgettable treat.
Inviting from the Start
Alléno’s three restaurants, Alléno Paris (3 stars), L’Abysee (2 stars) and Pavyllon (1 star), are set in “The Ledoyen”. Beautifully situated amidst the square gardens on the eastern part of Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement, this historic building is just opposite Petit Palais.
We chose to dine at the Pavyllon, a unique, vibrant restaurant, yet a relaxed vibe filled the air. Inviting almost from the moment we arrived. There is sheer craftsmanship here, from the design, layout, menus, service, and cuisine revealing a sense of modernity.
We were greeted by Cini Alessandro, Directeur de Restaurant, who guided us to the gourmet counter and bar with a pulsating view of the entire open kitchen and its brigade. The intent was to be able to admire the efficiency and execution of French culinary talents and other traditions in harmony.
Ambiance & Energy
Looking around the room to get a taste of the ambiance, I observed various displays of art, large bay windows, patinated bronze wooden counter, oak paneled walls and geometrical enameled tiles punctuated by smoked mirrors that reflected the gorgeous gardens outside. A beautiful terrace/patio with huge expanse of meticulously manicured lawn, overlooking the aesthetic pleasing euphonious fountain. A perfect setting to enjoy my coffee after dinner!
Alessandro and his entire team were absolutely full of energy, fun, warmth, a touch of smart humor, and professionalism. Their attention to detail on all aspects of service was outstanding. Even the theatrics by Alessandro and his colleague on the presentation and delivery of the final dish brought applause and laughter from my heart, magical!
I think part of the pleasure and excitement was the fact that I had arrived at a place where I knew I could never have cuisine, as such, any place else. A once in a lifetime meal for a once in a lifetime birthday!
The degustation menu allowed for a variety of small samplings. Our sommelier, Manuel, integrated matching wines without a blink of an eye. We could sense his passion as he exercised his expertise in walking us through each pairing, grateful for this as we were about to taste some of the dishes we had not been acquainted with.
The 2018 Les Granits Saint Joseph chardonnay was superbly floral, smooth and great mouth feel. Of course, we started with a rare treat – a glass of Moet & Chandon’s 2000 Grand Vintage Rosé. A sparkling gem to begin the gastronomique adventure.
That a Michelin starred restaurant would commit their patrons to eat with their fingers is a thing of beauty.
Our amuse bouche, a delicate work of art, shiso leaf tempura, caviar, smoked pike roe and lovage cream – why would one pick up and eat such a dainty bouquet with one’s fingers? Such a conception deserves a knife and fork, oui? Non! Picking up such a delicacy with your fingers forces you to look more closely at its elegance. To encounter it with eyes, hands, lips, and palate. To honor the delicacy required to create it.
Extraction as an Art
Yannick loves his food, but he cares about taste more. Flavorsome, creaminess, ambrosia, luscious, aromatic, flavors…all that embodies a pleasant pause.
Extraction of spring vegetables with perfumed oils in a broth – chef’s classic. Each of the vegetables; celery, corn and turnip are cooked individually. Elements that are completely different but together synchronizing harmony. One might ask, “why am I being served a soup mid-course? ” Unless he is purposefully cutting the menu into two. Essentially this course served as a digestive, sweet, anise perfumed, mild yet bold at the same, a hint of subtle bitterness. A poetic interlude to the degustation menu.
Sole Filet steamed with wild garlic, heart of lettuce, peas – Creative cooking may well be summed up in a chef’s ability to make a lettuce taste appealing. This was the case with the sole filet. A perfect balance of flavors. Delicate, flaky, sweet, highlights of citrus, and chives. It was as if our palates were being tempted in the wilderness. Not to do wrong, but to wake up.
Bright Shining Star
I could go on and on about the food. We tasted seven different dishes, especially loved the marigold flowers sprouts with elderberries. But the highlight for me was going back in the kitchen to engage with the chefs and signing of my book.
We did enjoy our coffee in the tranquil gardens with strategically placed heated lamps. Not expecting any more attention from the staff, especially due to the lateness of the evening. But were pleasantly surprised by a visit from one of the managers, chatting about this and that. The evening finally ended after four delectable hours. “That’s a wrap!”
Paris is aplenty with Michelin stars but here the stars were shining brightly.
Merci pour une merveilleuse expérience!
I have been exploring some more of the insightful information received firsthand, which must be penned.
Although I am not a chemistry student, I am certainly trying to understand the mastermind who came up with the original concept of “extractions”. The art of creating sauces from vegetables and or meat, cooking via sous vide and finally cryoconcentrating these with a centrifuge to extract pure flavor from the product.
Yannick left the three Michelin star Le Meurice after his ten-year tenure. His aim was to do some reflecting on the future of his cuisine. His “Ah-ha!” moment came to realization in terms of what French cuisine was about, where it was going or needs to go and how he would make those changes come to fruition.
He pondered on the nucleus and the foundation of French classic sauces and how these had been implemented for ages. Knowing he had to research this idea and come up with something novel, he embarked upon his journey, that would make a significant change to Nouveau Cuisine. The extravagant, dearly loved sauces, was the key. These could now be put to the side and be replaced by extractions from locally sourced produce. This would elevate the level of haute cuisine.
It was a long process of learning and experimenting on this genius’ concept. He searched intently to find the right places to visit. He started at Cognac, to investigate the art of distillery and blending.
All about Flavor
Another gem was discovering the potential of deconstruction for the sake of perfection prior to blending. As opposed to the classic way of sauce making by cooking all the elements together till reduction is established. His concoction is to cook each item separately given the right time and temperature control.
Securing the necessary equipment such as hyper freezers and sous-vides and finding an explosive team to work alongside were established.
The next and final steps to this brainchild, was to establish the process of filtration and freezing to keep the flavor intact. The absence of any fat or salt to this extraction yields pure taste of the vegetable with a hint of minerals and long smooth finish. This was the final desirable result that was needed.
An arduous activity, just like wine making, has given Yannick greatly deserved credibility.
Know Your Sauces
He had one more thing to do…
Examining the local farms and probing into the terms of procurement in relation to consistency and delivery of state-of-the-art local produce. Summer months can be daunting. But Yannick is of the mindset that agriculturalists are innovative. He understands that to think global one has to think local and is confident this change will come to fruition.
Having identified the essence of French classics, and understanding his journey towards modernity, he marches forward.
Does this mean that the following classics will soon be distinct?
Classic French Sauces:
The 5 Mother Sauces; Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Tomate, and Velouté.
Sauces originated from the Mother Sauces ; Mirepoix, Celeriac Rémoulade, Rouille, Escoffier, Allemande, Savoury Sabayon, Albufera, Cardinal, Dijon Vinaigrette, Chaud-froid, Béarnaise, Aïoli, Mayonnaise, Bourguignonne,
Au Poivre, Clémence, Sorrel, Bordelaise, Demi-Glace, Marquis, Provençal Pistou, Raifort,
Caréme, Mornay, Dodine.
His name is synonymous with ingenuity in gastronomy, and as such, Yannick’s efforts and successes landed him in Dubai. A destination that has welcomed yet another art form. Deconstructing sauces into beverages and pairing them with his famous menus! Expectations are stratospherically high here but delivering cutting edge techniques on creating a sauce like a winemaker produces a great vintage is a draw for the epicure.
A must try: pickled mushrooms, poached chicken with lovage mayo, mozzarella ice cream with tarragon dressing.
This lauded star continues to push the boundaries of French cuisine with his restaurants in place, Morocco, Taipei, and Hong Kong. His mission is to educate all his chefs as he continues to lift the veil of his intricate accomplishments, one flavorful ‘extraction’ at a time.
Merci Beaucoup, Chef Alléno for your contribution to cuisine! (And for making my birthday, one I will never forget.)