PARIS – Walking into the newly remodeled dining room of the Lancaster Hotel on Paris’s right bank is like approaching a gorgeous woman, a natural beauty who knows just how to emphasize all of her finest qualities.
Consulting chef Michel Troisgros – son of the legendary three-star chef Pierre Troisgros of Roanne, and now master of the kitchen there – can cook for me anytime. Just when you think you can’t be blown away by one more meal, you are. And thank goodness.
If I was asked today to describe in detail Modern French Food I would have to do no more than open the menu at La Table du Lancaster and point my fingers all across the page. Tender, juicy, pigeon paired with almonds. A veritable “paysage” of vegetables served with a tangy, iced red tomato purée. A classic Sole meuniere revisited, teamed up with wild cèpe mushrooms and salty capers. Pig’s ears escorted by anchovies and a basil sauce. And then “burnt” rack of lamb paired with yogurt.
All this in a dining room you want to wrap your arms around and stay forever. Small, discreet, warm, luxurious. The tables are black onyx, with table runners of the palest of grays. Everywhere there are touches of bright orange, while elegant Chinese prints cover the walls. A bright gold or orange Gerber daisy floats in a clear glass bowl, and your day is instantly brightened. Service is swift and discreet.
Crayfish were aloft in a sea on fresh lemon verbena broth, soft as pillows, soothing as a cool breeze on a hot day. A dish that’s light, vibrant, fun, easy to understand, and yet thoroughly original.
The rosy pigeon was stuffed with almonds and deep fried, offering a welcome contrast of textures. Alongside, a “carpaccio” of paper-thin slices of zucchini were showered with almonds. The only disappointment of the meal came in the form of a bowl of aubergine laquée, small squares of lacquered eggplant set in a pool of a shimmery lime jelly. As my table mate noted, you almost have to beat up eggplant to make it taste good, and she was right. The flavors here were pale and undefined.
But I totally flipped over chef Troisgros’s cannelloni of warm goat cheese and artichokes. A trio of the most perfect rolls of paper-thin pasta encased a light and airy filling of tangy goat cheese. The thinnest slivers of raw, violet-tipped artichokes were scattered over all, a play of white on white with flavors that were, in contrast, bold, sharp and satisfying.
As I sampled the cannelloni I had two thoughts: Run to the front desk, reserve a room, take a nap, come back for dinner, and order the pasta again. Or, recreate the cannelloni at home, for dinner, the next evening. I opted for the second. My version was a bit more rustic, but I swooned nonetheless.
The wine choice – a Montlouis, a pure Chenin Blanc from the house of Domaine Chidaine – was a perfect match for Troisgros’s modern fare. Dry, yet tasting almost like a fresh bon bon, it handled everything from crayfish to pasta to pigeon with flair.
Dessert had a fine appeal, as well. Warm orange-blushed apricots arrived on a pure white plate, filled with a touch of apricot jelly and topped with sweet, gorgeous, candied leaves of fresh lemon verbena. The accompanying cake of souffled crepes, however, held little interest.
Thank you, Michel Troisgros, for introducing us to food that is a pleasure for the eyes as well as the palate, food with elegance and sophistication that makes sense. No airs, nothing faked, unaffected.
La Table du Lancaster
7, rue de Berri
Telephone: 01 40 76 40 18
Fax: 01 40 96 40 40
Open daily. All major credit cards. From 60 to 85 euros per person, including service but not wine.