Astrance (Nov18) – you cannot be serious!

Sometimes you encounter those rare moments where you are just puzzled what just had happened. Stepping out in a beautiful but a bit chilly Autumn night this last November we couldn’t help but wonder whether this surrealistic theatre had been indeed real. Was there a hidden camera?

No-one came following us and uplifted the masquerade… Looking at the bill that amounted to 740€ for two 6-course meals with a more than mediocre wine pairing made me realize that this was not a dream – this was the second worst three star meal ever – only to be topped by Sant Celoni back in 2008.

To be fair, Pascal Bardot is a visionary chef – he basically was the first to break with the conventions of the great posh houses and tried to do ‘his’ thing. After years with Alain Passat at L’Arpege he opened Astrance in 2000. Less formal in a cosy setting tugged away in a quiet side-street, he served a carte blanche menu from the beginning and was an instant success – people came raving, the restaurant was constantly booked-out and indeed was awarded the third star in 2007. My first lunch there in 2009 was good and solid at three star level, but our recent dinner was merely one star level, if at all. Rightfully so, the Guide Rouge retracted the third star in his 2019 edition.

The concept is as before – for the dinner you can’t choose the length of the menu, there is only one option (250€, with ‘surprise’ wine pairing 370€) whereas one could augment the menu with ‘some’ (+80€) or ‘a lot’ (+150€) truffles. We didn’t choose so, very wise indeed as it later turned out.

After some nibbles (not really noteworthy), the menu started with Barbot’s classic millefeuille of foie, apple and mushrooms. A clearly ingredient driven dish with almost no seasoning that this time couldn’t even let the protagonists speak – it was blant and tasteless.


Barbot’s classic: millefeuille of foie, apple and mushrooms

Next up was the best dish of the night, a rather solid Tom Ga Kai with lobster – I deliberately use these term as there was no elevation of the Tom Ga Kai idea to something special, even the lobster was not adding much to our enjoyment.

Tom Ga Kai with lobster

Loup de mer was next – again, almost no seasoning, it seemed steamed and didn’t have a characteristic flavor. What Bardot thought in paining it with Sushi rice (more rice-bisi than risotto) and a vinegar driven beurre blanc will remain his secret. Maybe he wanted to re-build Sushi? The combination didn’t work at all.

Loup de mer with Koshikahiri rice and beurre blanc

Next up rabbit (can’t remember the other ‘ingredients’) – solid cooking, but not memorable or anything. The superior truffles option would have had white truffles shaved over this. I shivered when observing that on other tables.

Rabbit

My dining companion asked for a non-meat option and got the truffles pasta (this was the +80€ option that we didn’t ordered and weren’t charged) – the whole service staff was sooooo proud to present this. And it was again tasteless – every neighborhood Italian served that better. How can a three star restaurant serve something like this? Just look at that butter sauce….

Truffles noodles

My main was duck with some veggies – as you can infer from the picture the meat had been too long in the holdomat – that was good and solid 1*.

Duck

Needless to say the non-meat alternative was the same dish with fish and different/no sauce – chapeau!

Alternative main to duck

It became more absurd – they served warm potato puree with vanilla ice cream on top. Absolutely strange, but interesting on the other hand…

Pre-dessert

Can’t really remember this – I asked for a written menu to be mailed but never received one… I recall the ice cream being really good…

Main Dessert (seriously over-shadowed;-))

What can I say? Quoting John McEnroe: “You cannot be serious!” Openly, it was a joke! The whole theatre was somehow focused to impress people who have no clue about fine dining, there was no atmosphere of enjoyment in the room and the service didn’t really add much to the experience. Needless to say, the wine pairing was not rememberable at all and sometimes did not even work. As I sad – I requested the menu and pairing and as soon as I receive it will augment this article.

I can truly understand Michelin’s decision to relieve them from the third star – better for the restaurant and better for potential guest not having adequate three star-level expectations.

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  1. Pingback: L’Ambrosie – an Ode to Perfection | Culinary Insights

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