"The evolving Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Friday, June 9, 2017

L'Astrance -- Restaurant Review

4 rue Beethoven, 75016
Tel : + 33 (0)1 40 50 84 40
M° Passy, ligne 6
Opened Tuesday - Friday
Website: http://www.astrancerestaurant.com/?page_id=31

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

4.50 - Star......................................................€€€€......................................................... 2 - Bell

Today was a special day, since it's our good friends L & PVM's going away luncheon. We were 4 for lunch. So we decided to go somewhere special and we went to one of L's favorite restaurants. This restaurant is a well known 3-star Michelin starred restaurants. This restaurant was conceived by chef extraordinaire Pascal Barbot, opened with his business partner Christophe Rohat. Both have quite the pedigree in the restaurant world.

It's a small, but cozy restaurant. There is a bar and work station as you enter. And tables are nicely spaced so you're not sitting atop of each other. Upstairs there are a few tables. At first glance, I thought the tables upstairs were too close to the ceiling, but our friend L had eaten there and said it doesn't feel that way at all.

As we were seated, after a few minutes we were asked if we'd like some water while we waited for L and PVM. Good sign. No menus at this restaurant, since it is a "tasting menu". L & PVM are regulars at this restaurant, so when they arrived they were warmly greeted by the maitre'd and he remembered that they would be soon leaving Paris.  He then asked how many courses would our table like. We hesitated a little between the 3 or 5. I proposed 3. So, we all went 3. Keep in mind the whole table has to decide so that service timing is perfect. We also had the wine pairing to go along with our courses. And, before we commenced our maitre'd did ask if any of us was allergic to anything...., none proud to say.

The first course was perfectly cooked al-dente string beans with a mayonnaise pepper sauce. It was cooked in the style of edamame where the string beans were cold. But these were edible throughout. Nice start, nothing heavy. It was accompanied with champagne. I had commented that the champagne definitely had notes of apple cider. Champagne are made with pinot noir grapes. PVM said he liked it, but wish it had more yeast. Anyway, a great start.

And, we had another really interesting amuse bouche. It was thin wafers that sandwiched a sweet crunchy apple. I joked that the wafers almost tasted like "communion" wafers to me. They were that thin.

Next course was basil wrapped in a wafer roll that sat atop chopped peanuts. It was to be eaten before we dig into our entrée of wild shrimp. The shrimp were large, so I'm assuming they were tiger prawns. It was flavored with ginger and a sweet and sour sauce, a little bit tangy with some pepper that hit later. I would guess there was some hoisin, but I could be wrong. Overall, it was a delicious entrée and hit all our tasting notes. You can definitely taste the Asian flavors that have influenced Chef Barbot.

The shrimp were paired with a dry smooth white wine from the southwest of France. We all liked the freshness of the wine and it paired well with our entrée.

After this course, we sort of regretted that we didn't have the 5-course luncheon, since it was kind of exciting to see what would come out around the corner next, and the flavors they would have.

Our main dishes came, of course, separately.  First we had the cabillaud (cod). It was served perfectly cooked. Nicely charred on the outside and tender on the inside. As a side we were given leafs of cabbage, the dark base part of the cabbage to the lighter leafs of the top layered alternately. The cabbage may have been slightly blanched, but they were crunchy and a good accompaniment. Interestingly after you bite into it, there was a surprising little kick of heat, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The accompanying sauce was a tamarind sauce and brought a nice element of tart. I mean after all, it's nice to have a little something tart with fish. I was pleasantly surprised he used tamarind, since it's such an southeast Asian ingredient, and it's something I grew up with and very familiar with. Overall a good first plat.

Second plat was a duck breast served with some nut filled cherries, some snow pea pods in a demi-glace sauce. The duck was perfectly cooked. So incredibly tender. It was accompanied with a side of foie gras smeared on toast served in a bowl, which I thought was odd. It would've been easier to eat had it been served on a flat plat. Regardless, it was delicious. With the combination of the duck and foie gras, it was not a light course. However, the stuffed cherries gave it that sour element to offset some of the richness. After having this course, we were glad we didn't order the 5-course tasting menu, because at this point we were getting pretty full.

As for the accompanying wine, we were served a medium white wine with the fish and for the duck we were served a Languedoc, a fruity red wine that paired well with the duck.

The palette cleanser and the desserts. Our maitre'd served the palette cleanser and said to us, after you finish I'll come back and you tell me what you think it was. It tasted very, very eggy. It tasted like some kind of foamed egg atop vanilla ice cream. It was also flavored with lots of ginger, and was very evident with each bite as well as lemongrass. Well I got half right. It was definitely vanilla ice cream, but the foam was made from mashed potatoes, brilliant, absolutely brilliant to fool the palette thinking it was a rich creamy egg foam. L got it right and said she tasted potatoes. The different elements in the cleanser definitely woke up your taste buds.

Next were the desserts. We started with a rhubarb tart with a white chocolate mousse and flavored with jasmine. There were also strawberries and raspberries. This was not a sweet dessert, but definitely a tart dessert, which is characteristic of rhubarb (Jack was in heaven). The idea was you drink the paired Gewurztraminer for the sweetness to counter the tartness of the tart. This particular Gewürztraminer was definitely sweet, a good dessert wine. Overall a great tart.

For our "mignardises" (parting sweets) we had an egg shell filled with cold foamed milk flavored with  jasmine and thyme. Accompanying this were some madeleines as well as a plate of fresh red fruit: cherries, strawberries, and raspberries.  What a great way to end a wonderful meal.


WOW, I can see why chef Barbot won 3-michelin stars, as well as consistently being ranked the top 20 restaurants in the world by various publications. The service was impeccable. I've been to other Michelin starred restaurants and I have to say, what was nice about this particular restaurant is it didn't seem "stuffy" or pretentious. I now understand why the table has to agree as a whole how many courses they would like, otherwise the service timing would be off. The service was impeccable.

The chef's flavors were definitely influenced by southeast Asia, with the tamarind, lemongrass and sweet/sour chili sauces. He made french cuisine with lighter faire, and not laden with creams and butters. Interestingly, when bread was served, they wanted you to taste different parts of the bread. For example the heels were served first, before they started working inward. It's little touches like this that separate the 3-star Michelins from the rest.

Wine was first served, and then the waiter would come and give a detailed description of the wine. And, the maitre'd even came by and asked for our feedback as to whether we thought the wine paired well with the meal. Who does this? This was a new one for me. And, I loved that they wanted feedback.   Interestingly, it was heavy on the whites, and Jack who does not like white wines was even impressed by the selections.

This is not an inexpensive restaurant. Although they call this the 3-course tasting menu, with the amuse bouche down to the "mignardises", we're talking around 10+ dishes,  2-coffees and 1-tea, our total bill came to 500€ or 125€ per person. When compared to other 3-star Michelin restaurants, this is actually a very good deal. Would we go back, ABSOLUTELY, but I'd have to save my pennies first.

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