I read David Myers’ blog
on his wonderful experience at Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant in Paris, and how the French chef is genius. And I agree with him wholeheartedly. The guy is genius. The problem is that his brilliance isn't always manifested on the plates that arrive at your table, especially in his other restaurants around the world.
I had one of the worst meals in recent memory and one of the best last December, and both were the product of Gagnaire—one in a restaurant in Hong Kong (the bad experience) and one in a restaurant in Tokyo (the good one).
I don’t want to go into the details, but the Hong Kong food verged on inedible. Most of the dishes were a strange combination of sweet desserts with savory main courses. For example, the roasted sweetbread with ginger in a melted cabbage and bitter cream sauce was as ghastly to eat as it sounds. The starter of celeriac and horseradish mousse in a red ice cream and jelly with prawn medallions still makes me cringe at the thought of it in my mouth.
The poor wines that went with these almost unholy concoctions were slaughtered. I felt sorry for the host of the meal, wine merchant Paolo Pong. His aged Burgundies, Seguin-Manuel
back to 1918, didn’t have a chance. The dozen or so guests simply shook their heads in displeasure. The guy who flew in his business jet from Beijing looked rather upset, to say the least.
It was almost hard to believe that a few days later I was sitting in Gagnaire’s restaurant in Tokyo, and I had one of the best meals of the year. The food was precise yet complex. Everything went perfectly together. And it showcased the 1982 first-growths, particularly the Haut-Brion
, as well as the Cheval-Blanc
That’s always the problem with these jet-set, genius chefs with outposts in far-flung locations ... If they are not in the kitchen and leave it to their disciples, it doesn’t always come out right, and the consumer still has to pay the lofty price.