I need to seriously take Claire’s advice into consideration and think of changing the blog’s name to Sam vs. her expectations. How could I not have high expectations for Le Chateaubriand??? It was not just that Le Chateaubriand is number 21 in the San Pellegrino list and a lot of my friends have been and loved it. So, were we there on an off day or has it gone downhill since chef Inaki Aizpitarte moved to London to open Le Chabanais with some of his staff. The funny thing is the day after I got back, an article came out saying he now has also left Le Chabanais (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-08-17/paris-chef-aizpitarte-splits-from-london-restaurant-chabanais). I actually had planned a visit to Le Chabanais last week to then compare it to Le Chateaubriand Paris but the reviews were so bad that I cancelled the booking.
Le Chateaubriand is located in the up and coming 11th arrondissement, in a very casual and small space that is sparsely decorated. I have not encountered as many people taking pictures of food, with seriously intimidating cameras in a while – which says: tourists galore? Or French food critics and bloggers? My guess is that the first one is more accurate…
We were there to celebrate my sister’s birthday, and mine and she made a one meal exception and ate everything, and even had wine. She never eats carbs or sugars after 10am but I asked her to, as a birthday gift, to experiment with me! Will she kill me for describing the look on her face when they brought the bread basket and she brought it closer to her nose to smell the warm carby scent?
There is no menu, and you get a rapid procession of courses quickly dropped at the table with somewhat minimal descriptions. My sister’s friend ordered a sauvignon blanc and discussed options with the “sommelier” and then he showed up with another bottle that also had chardonnay grapes mixed in and said we should have it instead. And when we didn’t like the wine as much, no apologies or comments.
What we ate:
Gougères with poppy seeds: a good rendition of a classic French snack. Warm and lightly cheesy and tasty but not the best gougères I’ve ever tried.
Ceviche liquid and raspberry: a nice and aromatic chilled shot to start the meal.
Tempura sweetbreads with curry salt: by far the best dish of the night and probably the only one we would love to have again. Absolutely melt in your mouth sweetbreads in a light crunchy batter with curry salt around the plate. Yum!
Green tomato gazpacho: very plain and ok but nothing exceptional. The only interesting thing is that it had some clover (not a four leaf clover) sprinkled on it. Stewart said he recognized the taste as he has nibbled on them during his hikes, and they always made him want to drink water.
Octopus on almond paste: my sister loved this which was not surprising as she is marzipan obsessed (she even has a ritual dance she does with my dad when they get together and consume marzipan). The almond paste at the bottom of the plate was very marzipan like, which I agree is tasty, but not necessarily when it is paired with octopus. Overall it was a strange combination. The albino almonds sprinkled around were raw, unique and I enjoyed trying them. To be fair, I was starving and ate this so fast, (despite not loving it), that I forgot to photograph it and then snapped a shot when a waiter was bringing the dish to another table.
Squid with purslane, ink and celery: seems like the French like their squid slimy and floppy (which was the case at Grand Coeur the previous night) while I prefer it firmer and grilled. The slimy squid was lost in a black purslane (from the squid ink) jungle with some celery bits lost in the food. Strange, visually interesting but not great in any way.
Monkfish with spring onions and fried sage: nice piece of fish surrounded by semi raw onions presented in various colours and sizes with tasty fried sage sprinkled on top. Why do people insist on raw onions on a plate? We had something similar at Dabbous in London recently.
Chicken with corn: tender and nicely prepared but the skin could have been crunchier. It was served with chunks of corn and the corn silk which was unique and odd. It resembled angel hair pasta in its appearance but it had a rougher and “gets stuck between your teeth” texture. But it was still one of the better dishes.
At dessert you get a choice of cheese or dessert. Stewart went cheese and I went dessert (you get two kinds).
Cheese: three types – goat, cow and sheep presented with bread – total yawn on presentation and taste. The cheeses were unspectacular and not unique or new. I would have assumed that in a restaurant like this they would have introduced us to new cheeses and that they would have been presented in a nicer fashion. The waiter didn’t even describe them or say much and just dropped the plate in from of Stewart. And not a language issue as I was with my sister and her friend, and they are both locals.
Cassis, angelique and feta: strange dessert with a cassis sorbet and angelique (herb) cream with feta sprinkled on top. The feta was dry and overpowering so I left most of it on the plate.
Tocino del cielo: tasty dessert with candied egg yolk that oozed on the plate when cut. I grew up with sweet yolk desserts in Brazil so it brought back nice memories and made me happy and I have tried the Portuguese version many times – aka Toucinho do ceu. It was tasty and interesting.
Peaches: this was the strangest petit four ever! Why not some truffles or macaroons? Why did they chose to rub perfectly lovely peach slices in a mix that tasted like potpourri? Absolutely not the best parting taste when you want to leave a memorable impression.
In sum: I start questioning myself……AM I crazy? Am I way too picky? I guess Stewart thought the meal was a big disappointment and so did my sister’s food obsessed friend Voldemort (he who shall remain nameless…). Service, food, ambiance were all forgettable. I think it has gone downhill since the chef crossed the channel to England and his talent got somewhat lost in the waters between Calais and Dover (as Le Chabanais hasn’t work either).
Le Chateaubriand or Le S**taubriand? I really hesitate to write this, but someone has to tone down the hype on this place… I just don’t get it and, since our dinner, I have told several friends I didn’t like it and they were also very disappointed (one of them offered the one word review: “s**taubriand” — I thought on point and had to use it).
Le Chateaubriand Paris http://www.lechateaubriand.net/
75011, 129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris, France