Sunday, 12 June 2011

Return to Bigarrade for a sublime gastronomic experience

Review of one of THE BEST restaurants in France!

When we arrived at Bigarrade, we knew we were in the right place: a warm yet dignified welcome. As I had been there several times, they knew me, but were pleased to see that I had brought friends from Los Angeles: Rusty and Joel.

I have written about Bigarrade before and could continue to wax eloquent about the creativity of the chef, the wonderful ambiance of the restaurant, the rhythm of the meal, and the delicious creations we sampled for the 3 hour meal. The chef, Chrisophe Pele, really outdid himself this time. And Philippe, the director of the restaurant and wine expert, was ready to pair wines (very reasonably priced) with the various dishes.

Everything was wonderful. The beautiful meal is comprised of small plates of both shellfish and flatfish dishes, exquisitely prepared vegetables, and finally a poultry or meat dish. Inventive techniques and combinations result in a myriad of wonders on the plate: clams that were blow-torched, paired with a fragrant olive oil and served with a knife plunged into the clam, making it easy to open; skewers of grilled mussels paired with a Japanese sweet mustard, karachi; spicy turbot broth with fresh peas and flowers; a beautiful piece of turbot with green mango and grilled peanuts; a just-picked stunning spring leek simply deep-fried like tempura; and finally a luscious piece of rack of lamb garnished with a bit of anchovy, succulent greens, tamarind jam and a paper thin leaf of squid. Desserts included a beet and wild strawberry granita; a shot of mango, mint and chlorophyll juice to drink all at once, lemon cream with a bit of kohlrabi; a delicious cherry ice cream with mushroom powder and a ginger wafer; a gorgeous dish of shaved coconut atop melted caramel; the requisite chocolate tart with sel de Guérande (a special salt from Brittany); etc. etc. and ending with luscious creamy dacquoise macarons. In all, there were over 20 small courses. The chef's creativity was not only interesting and mind boggling but also wonderful! Even the most far-out combinations were delicious.

Bigarrade is very different from many other ultra-creative restaurants I have been to. Here, things are delicious to eat first, and then amusing and interesting. One wonders where the chef gets his ideas, but one always wonders that with truly creative people. As the dinner progresses, the excitement builds and the diner is truly dazzled throughout the experience.

We were lucky to get a table right in front of the open kitchen. Joel, Rusty and I changed places so that we all had some time to view the preparation of our wonderful meal. The chefs were very focussed and quiet, and the kitchen was miraculously shiny and clean throughout the meal. After the lamb was served, the staff thoroughly scrubbed the stoves and counters and made ready for the creation of the desserts. 22 dinners of 20 courses are served in a perfect rhythm--like a gastronomic symphony.

I left Bigarrade thinking about the next special occasion for me to celebrate there. That is a sign of a great restaurant: leaving one with the desire to return.