Monday, October 25, 2010

Pied à Terre - Michelin 2** (London)

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This post signifies a pleasant end of my week long stay here in London. We ended our trip with an exceptional meal at Pied à Terre, a Michelin 2** restaurant with Shane Osborne behind the kitchen. It was this meal that made me pondered a long while on the purpose and meaning of being starred by Michelin Guide. Is the star(s) for the restaurant? for the chef? or for diners? I have heard stories that some chefs strive to get an extra star by trying to achieve the so-called perfection in food and food presentation. In my opinion, what is perfect and great food presentation often translates to great food wastage. I have also heard stories that Michelin starred chefs overstressed themselves with the pressures in maintaining such starred standard years after years. The most notable and unfortunate example is Bernard Loiseau who killed himself due to the stress in maintaining the 3-star status its restaurant La Cute d'Or upheld for many years.


Is the status or fame something that make so much of a difference? Isn't it true that diners should be part of the magic formula instead of the stars? Do we as diners care about the stars or what it actually means? Perhaps it is a standard in our current culinary cultures but should we continue with this trend or how else should we interpret this status? Does it really make diners enjoy the meal more? What does the star mean to you? These are the questions in my head during and after this meal. I still have no answer this the above questions, but it certainly made me think twice on the purpose of dining out at ... any restaurant for that matter.

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I came across a quote in an essay within Jamie magazine (Sep/Oct 2010 issue), which quoted Epicurus: "Before you eat or drink anything, consider carefully who you eat or drink with rather than what you eat or drink: for feeding without a friend is the life of a lion or a wolf." How we enjoyed a meal is more than just the quality of the food in many cases, it involves many factors indeed and it differs depending on the you and your company. Anyhow, this is a difficult topic to cover in just one post in my opinion and hopefully I can come to a more structured argument and discussion later in order to dedicate an entire post of this subject.

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We started off with a special Canapes, if I recalled correctly, it was Battered Mushroom with Summer Truffle (Shavings of course). Wow, it was ... wonderful and delightfully. Crispy outer layer with mushy / soft center. I am still trying to acquire the taste for Truffle, for this Canapes, the aroma of the truffle I can distinguish but flavor wise I am yet to be amazed in general. 

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I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere thanks to H for bring us here. :) .... The choices of bread was quite decent and being a bread lover, I had one of each!

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To be honest, I could not make out what's the amuse bouche was exactly but I know the center cup was diced watermelon and the cute thing on the left was a foie gras pastry which was thumbs up!

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Thanks to H's special arrangement, we got an extra starters, so two starters for all of us! (Thanks!) The first was Marinated Scallops with a Salad of Golden and Purple Cauliflower, Fresh Wakami, Argan Oil and Wasabi Creme Fraiche Dressing. It was quite a simple dish to be honest but it was the subtle flavors of the sauces and the purple cauliflower that gave the scallops a sweet yet clean-tasting flavors which made you want to come back for more.

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My second starter was the Poached Foie Gras in a Sauternes Consomme, Ragout of Borlotti Beans and Smoked Bacon, Charred Red Onions. Fancy long name which translates to ... Seared and then Poached Foie Gras in its own juice. It was my first experience with Poached Foie Gras, so we asked naturally asking how it was poached. Apparently as I mentioned, it was seared first on one side and then poached in its own juice for a quick simmering. My first reaction was ... "so would it be all soggy on both sides?" I was wrong, even when poached (perhaps not fully dipped during the process), the side remained crisp and inside very soft. Flavor wise it was quite rich and intense because the juice on the plate was foie gras juice as well! Well done indeed!

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How I wish I can have more than 2 starters. Another starter was the Roasted and Poached Breasts of Quail, Confit Leg, Trompette de la mort Puree, Sweetcorn and Morteaux Sausage Beignet. Seriously, half of the name of this dish I don't what they were ... haha ... hey, that's the learning process right? (now at this point, I wondered what happened to the rest of the quail ... humm) It was very ... game-y in flavor, quite rich indeed. Meat was tender and the combination of various textures made it quite enjoyable. However, the game-y flavor was rather overly rich ... for a starter in my opinion.

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Yellow Fin tuna Tartare, Avocado Puree, Thai Basil, Coeur de Boeuf Tomato Ketchup and Lemon Oil Powder. I did not try it because I was indulged in my Poached Foie Gras. :)

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We were not sure which wine we should order to go with our mains which were mainly meats so we asked for recommendation. I am still learning about my wine so I will not embarrass myself here.

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Roasted Breast of Grouse, Braised Leg, Turnip Lyonnasise, Baby Turnips, Cevenne Onions and Pain d'Epice Crumbs. How should I describe it ... humm ... let me repeat again this word: GAME-Y. Very intense and rich meat flavors, a bit overly "Aggressive" as H described it. If you are a meat person and enjoy games, then this is definitely for you.

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Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Sauteed Artichoke, Roasted Red Peppers, Anchovy Beignet, Red Pepper and Palourde Dressing. Simple, clean-tasting yet flavorful. (again, what happened to the rest of the fish I wonder. With their high standard, they cannot store the rest of the fish for too long right? They can't save it for dinner time I am sure. So what happened to the rest of the fish? I do wonder.)

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I had the Herb Crusted Saddle of Sika Venison with Roasted Celeriac Puree, Fresh Walnuts, Caramelized Pears and Red Wine Sauce which was very nice, less game-y than the Grouse so more enjoyable in my opinion. It was so perfectly and smoothly sliced. what happened to both ends of the Venison? hummm .... The wine and the Venison was a good match.

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Poached and Roasted Guinea Fowl Breast, Bacon Fondue, Roasted Squash, Sauteed Ceps and Baby Wood Sorrel. I loved the sauce and the Fowl Breast tasted lighter in flavor than I expected. Perhaps it was because I was compared with my Venison and Grouse and their extreme game-y flavors. Although it was poached, the skin or outer layer remained slightly crispy from the roasting part perhaps. It seemed that Shane really enjoy using he poaching technique in his food.

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I could not read the name of the cheese I asked the manager to wrote for me! I could not read his writing! argh! I can only make out the part where it is from ...it is from Yonne (Burgundy) ... washed in marc de Bourgogne Cow's Milk. Something like that ... please help me out if it rings a bell? I really enjoyed it, soft cheese with a wonderful aroma, together with the French grapes (as informed), I almost fainted from the pleasures of cheese!


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Desserts were rather unexciting compared with the rest of the meal. This raspberry mousse was rather sour, overly sour my my own liking. To be exact, the dessert was called . Purple Netavigne and Whit Grape juice, Light Verjus Mousse, Rosewater and Raspberry Couils. Again, too sour!

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Poached Pineapple, mango Puree, Spiced Savarin, Coconut Sorbet and Sesame Tuile. Fancy name and good presentation but not really my cup of tea because I found it a bit sour as well. I still prefer my CHEESE!

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Petit Four. Just the presentation wow-ed me. I mean that wasn't Petite four right? More like a dessert platter if you ask me. So many different kinds of sweets and being myself, I tried all of them of course!

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So at this point, time to get back to the discussion of what it means to be dining at a Michelin 2** establishment. I enjoyed the meal very much but was it because of the 2**? I seriously am not sure, the company is a big factor and perhaps the 2** provided the necessary standard for food quality and food presentation. Would the meal be equally enjoyable at another establishment? perhaps ...

Do we go to a 2** place so we can tell people we went or because we are on a gastronomic adventure to experience the so-called highlight of the culinary world? I really don;t have an answer to it but I think the bottom line is that ... chefs are looking to please and satisfy the diners who are looking for an enjoyable meal. Can a hot dog stand vendor around the corner satisfy the same bottom line?

Likes: 

  • Excellent Service and Creativity in the dishes. 
  • Poached Foie Gras - creative way to prepare it. Thumbs up! 
  • Scallops, simple dish, the freshness and sweetness of the scallops enough to put a smile on your face.
Dislikes: 
  • Sweets, overly sour
  • Venison and Grouse, overly game-y in flavors, require an acquire taste 
Avg Spending: GBP 80+ per person

Pied à Terre on Urbanspoon

Pied à Terre 
34 Charlotte Street
London W1T 2NH
Tel: +44 020 7636 1178
http://www.pied-a-terre.co.uk/


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12 comments:

catty said...

YUM.. Great photos!! I also went to Pied a Terre not long ago and enjoyed it.. and like you said the presentation of the petit fours was just amazing!

gastronomous said...

YUM! that looks seriously good... i think a visit to London is in order!

littlespooneats said...

The food looks amazing! I've been to their sister restaurant, L'Autre Pied (1*) and their food was fantastic as well, though I didn't think the atmosphere was too comfortable. My best guess for the food scraps: perhaps they contribute to the staff meals? Stock for the next day?

HK Epicurus said...

Wow this meal looks great. I still haven't worked out where to visit for a good meal when I arrive in London, may be this is the place to be!!!

And u quoted Epicurus, that's why I named myself after him ~ a great philosopher! :P Like you said, dining in a Michelin Resto probably carries a lot of pressure or unnecessary food wastages. Expectations from both chef and diners are high. Even the diner might feel extra pressure, as we need to dress up with a jacket, know the etiquette of fine dining, understand which wines to order, work out how to tip, understanding what we just ordered. Then the chef equally needs to ensure they can fulfil the customers expectation. Its like a viscious cycle! If you ask me, its all a bit snobbish and pretentious.. Street stall foods are equally enjoyable, that part I fully agree :)

Its strange how the Grouse is poached first then finish-seared, but the Foie Gras is may be cooked the other way around.,, I think by poaching, the Australian chef means its Sous Vided?

I suspect the cheese u had is Epoisses? If its very smelly, barney, gooey runny and cut into quarters. I can't stand it! (but somehow, like eating it in small portions!) :D

Fernando said...

Looks like an excellent meal. Interesting comment about the desserts. I would have guessed that something with Verjus and Raspberry would be tart and sour, but not so much for the other plate you mentioned.

Your questions about Michelin stars are pertinent, especially given where high end restaurants are going here in Hong Kong. The awards are for a certain kind of dining experience and will, by their nature mean a lot of wastage.

If you can get your hands on a copy of Medium Raw, by Anthony Bourdain, there is an excellent chapter on how fish are cleaned and prepared for a high end restaurant. There is lots of wastage, but it is an essential part of the process for consistency in a situation where people only want the best cuts.

I get your point about street food, but it's a different game. Each has their place. For example, there's nothing wrong with listening to low quality MP3s while on the subway, but that's nothing like going to the Opera, or a big concert.

And, starred restaurants are more like a night at the opera than a subway ride home.

Jason said...

@Fernando: True indeed, starred restaurants are a different game in general. Your MP3 vs Opera analogy is definitely very appropriate in my opinion; both can be very enjoyable depending on the circumstances. I should be opened mined in all cases and carry different set of expectations and attitudes when dining at various sorts establishment and apply a different set standards to appreciate the distinct culinary cultures as well as creativities.

I do admire the effort and dedication that are put into each single dish, either for its presentation or culinary experiments. Quite amazing sometimes indeed. As mentioned, I am not against starred restaurants at all, I enjoyed the meal very much and meals of similar nature as well but I just can't help wonder sometimes what or how starred chefs think of the "stars" and their ambitions to be starred.

My Gastronomic Adventure continues!

Jason said...

@HK Epicurus: According to what we have been told it wasn't Sous Vided, it was poached or half simmered very quickly after being seared. Perhaps I should send him an email to confirm haha ...

Oh right, I think the cheese was indeed called Epoisses, now I want some!

Jason said...

@littlespooneats: yeah! I heard good things about its sister restaurant as well L'Autre Pied (1*), hoping to visit next time I drop by! :)

Jason said...

@catty: have you tried L'Autre Pied (1*)? :)

Jason said...

@gastronomous: yes, London is a must but HK first! :)

wai+ said...

the food looks soooo good and they are also too nice to eat!!! all the dishes look so delicate and delicious!! i'll have to bookmark this page and make sure i go when i'm in london! is it difficult to book?

Jason said...

@Wai+: Thanks for dropping by! I think a 3 days advance booking would be fine :) ... just to be safe keke ...

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