And I missed it.
But by a crazy turn of events, a good journalist friend of mine was interviewing Guy Savoy on the day of my birthday, about the new restauraunt that he is going to open. She told him that she has a friend who adores him, she told him it was my birthday, and he called me to wish my happy birthday while I was in the shower and couldn't hear my phone. Shit.
Long story short, Mr. Savoy ended up inviting me and my friend to dine in his restaurant on Thursday March 3rd at 12.30pm. And by invited, I mean, invited.
Apart from the loss of sleep, the total panic and the hours spent getting ready, we managed to get ourselves to the restaurant in one piece, and without tripping on our high heels (my ankles were shaking so much from the nerves).
You enter the restaurant and you are in a different world.
About 7 people are waiting for you, one holds your purse while another takes off your jacket. They give you back your purse and escort you to the dining room, all the while welcoming you with kind words and smiles.
You are seated, and seated means that someone pushes in your chair, fluffs a fresh cloth napkin and lays it on your lap. In two seconds, a man arrives with a champagne trolley, with about 5 different bottles of champagne on ice. “Can I tempt you with a glass of bubbles before you begin your tasting?”, he asks, as if we would say no. “Mmmmm, yeah, sure, why not,” we say nonchalantly, trying to pretend like we fit in and are totally used to this kind of thing. We try the house champagne, a bottle with Mr. Savoy's name on it. Marketing? Oh yes. Good? Oh absolutely.
By the time we have taken our first sip of champagne, the maitre d'hotel arrives, telling us discreetly that everything has been taken care of by Mr. Savoy, who has prepared a special menu for us. “Is there anything you don't eat or don't like?” Nope. “You can do whatever you want with us,” we tell them. “Tres bien mes dames. I hope you like surprises,” he says. Why yes sir, yes I do.
The maitre d'hotel leaves, and in another two seconds, the bread guy comes. Yes, apparently there is a bread guy- a guy whose job is to match everything you eat with a different type of bread. And he too has a trolley, with about 10 different types of beautiful, brown, white, round, long, hard, soft, rustic, refined breads. He gives us a selection to start with, pain au sarrasin, ciabatta a l'huile d'olive, and 5 cereales. He says that they will match our meals, which we still dont know what they are.
He leaves, and two waiters replace him, each holding a silver toothpick with a triangle of finely sliced bread, and a circle or two of foie gras with vinaigrette a la truffe. Just so that we have something to soak up all the champagne with. The waiters wait for us to eat our skewers, take our toothpicks and leave. (They come back about two more times in the course of the next 5 sips of champagne.)
In their place, the sommelier arrives.
“For your lunch, I was thinking of two whites and two reds, how does that sound?” Well yes, that sounds absolutely wonderful! Go ahead, enchant us.
And at this moment, this pivotal, life-changing moment, Guy Savoy arrives at our table.
We stand up, greet him, and I realize that I cannot speak French when I'm nervous. I mumble incoherently, smile, nod and laugh, hopefully at all the right moments. He leaves, warning us that the somelier is quite the seducteur with his wines (which is very true), I sit down and almost faint from panic. A waiter arrives by my side with a new napkin, since I dropped mine without even realizing, and folds it gracefully on my lap. Unecessary, but boy do I feel important right now.
The champagne is flowing, and the nerves start to subside. The first course arrives.
An asparagus veloute, with some miniscule funky little crunchy veggies at the bottom and a very interesting citrusy pepper sprinkled on top, served in an espresso glass. Next to the glass is another espresso glass but upside down, which is then lifted by a waiter to reveal a miniture cabbage leaf stuffed with poached lobster. Ca commence bien.
Mr. Savoy comes back to our table to have a little chat, telling us not to be too serious and too enjoy ourselves. I should point out that my friend and I were trying really hard to control our nervous giggles, trying to be mature and elegant and ladylike, but instead we were feeling like two children who have been taken to the toy store and told that they can have anything they want. Savoy sees this, and tells us to indulge. So indulge we do.
The second course arrives, along with Mr. Savoy who is keeping an eye on us, making sure we're happy and smiling. Homard reconstitue en carapace, jus au corail and like a crunchy almost sweet lobster wafer. The best part is that its served in a big bowl, and they pour a liquid on the bowl which makes the entire thing errupt into smoke - like one of those chinese ponds with the black crystals in them. We squeal, and our breath blows the smoke all around us. Its very, very pretty. And to top it off, the mixture of the smoke with the liquid hidden under our plate makes the sound of bubbling water, just like a zen garden. Its relaxing, delicious, visually beautiful and playful at the same time. On the side, a lobster bouillon with a buttery mouse is served, to be sipped while you eat the lobster.
The third course, and probably the best, was a classic poached egg, on top of a puree of topinambour, and topped with an incredibly generous helping of truffle slivers, grated at your side by the maitre d'hotel. “I gave you a little bit more than usual,” he says. I can't see the egg any more, all I see if truffle. Another waiter comes by to ask if he can please pierce your egg yolk. “Why yes, yes you may.” The bright yellow oozes out and melts into the white of the yolk and the black of the tuffle. Its gorgeous, and the combination of the garlickly topinambour puree with the egg yolk and the truffle is absolutely amazing, such a surprising combination of flavors that create such a beautiful smooth blend. Perhaps my only complaint of the entire meal is that there was too much truffle, and what kind of ridiculous complaint is that?
The wine for the second and third course was a stunning Riesling 'Grand Cru Hengst”, 2001 from Domaine Josmeyer. I just googled it and it's 70 euros per bottle. And worth every single penny.
For the fouth course, we had the rouget fish, slit down the spine, propped up and opened, stuffed with spinach, garlic and a mix of beautifully sauteed mushrooms and a mousse-like orange sauce. Normally I'm not really a surf and turf kind of girl, but this was unimaginable. The garlickly mushrooms, the perfectly cooked fish, the delicious unidentifiable sauce (which I'm sure also probably had truffle in it), everything just came together beautifully. And they even come by and give you extra sauce.
At this point we had decided to completely let loose, and were dipping our bread in our sauce and licking our fingers. We were drinking a white Hermitage “Chante Alouette” 2007 by Michel Chapoutier.
I was really hoping to get their signature artichoke soup with black truffle and parmesan slivers, and luckily, it was course number five. Served with the most buttery brioche you could ever imagine, stuffed with mushrooms and slathered with even more fresh truffle butter. Its literally death by truffle. And again, the very kind waitress who could see us melting into little puddles of happy tipsy girls came by to give us another brioche, and said that the chef recommends we dip it in the soup. So off we dipped.
The sixth course was a fillet mignon of veal wrapped in paper thin slivers of steamed asparagus (filet de veau “cuit en asperges”, and a piece of poitrine confit with pepper and lemon and some sort of strange but delicious green leaf underneath. It was served with a lemon sabayon with crunchy veal tongue hidden underneath in a little espresso cup on the side. Guy really likes his espresso cups.
At this point we switched to a 2001 red Pomerol from Chateau Bellegrave. And whoever said that they can't taste the difference between a 10 euro wine and a 70 euro wine was an idiot. I assure you, you can taste the difference.
Finally, it was over. Or so we thought.
The cheese trolley came by, which happened to be steered by the bread guy. I guess its only natural that the bread guy is also the cheese guy. There were probably about 40 cheeses, and he could tell you every tiny detail about every one of them. You looked, asked, pointed and were served. I had some cheese that I already knew, an Ossy Iraty that was a little too strong for me, but a delicious Selles sur Cher and a new favorite and not well known cheese called Rond de Lusignan from the Poitou- Charentes region, which was soft and mild and yet full flavored all at once. All this washed down with a 2009 Saumur Blanc called “L'Insolite” from the Domaine des Roches Neuves that was so surprising, one of those wines that smells one way, tastes another, and has a totally different after taste.
Now we were wondering if we were going to be served dessert. It would have been totally acceptable to stop now, I mean, cheese is dessert in France, and we were bursting. But a table of boring businessmen next to us were eating this crazy concoction that looked so beautiful, that I just had to ask if it was their famous coconut sorbet. “No, its the apple one. That's what Mr. Savoy thought he would serve you for dessert.” Wonderful, we say.
The waiter looks at me. “Do you like coconut,” he asks. “Yes, yes I do,” I say. “Do you want the coconut desert?” I say nothing, I just look at the waiter. “Tres bien madame.” In two minutes, the coconut desert arrives. And it is by far the most magnificent desert I have ever tasted. It was such a rare combination of so many different textures but yet the flavors were all the same. There were slivers of thinly julienned coconut that had been marinated in coconut milk, with a crunchy coconut crisp, gooey little orbs of Taiwanese coconut flavored tapioca, and crunchy coconut crushed ice. It was velvety and yet crispy, warm and yet cold, and served with beautiful paper thin wafers of coconut. This dessert was my heaven. I almost asked for another one.
And again, we thought that now, finally, the lunch was over. Wrong again.
In fact, just because I had asked for the coconut dessert did not mean that we were not getting the apple one. So dessert number two arrived, with the same principle: crunchy paper thin wafers of Granny Smith apples, a green apple sorbet and like a nutty chestnut crumble at the bottom. We saw them bringing it in, and one had a candle on it. “Oh, look, its someone's birthday,” said my friend. Turns out, the dessert was for me. I was the one with the birthday. Mr. Savoy had actually remembered that it was my birthday, and he brought me the best birthday 'cake' anyone could ever ask for. I blew out my candle and made a wish.
My birthday coconut candle
He came back to our table, and at this point I was able to start producing words again. We chatted, we thanked him about a million times, we gave him a present of some very special spices which he promptly took to the kitchen and told his head chef that they would be experimenting with at tonights dinner service. We followed him to the kitchen, took a picture together where he boasted to all the other chefs, “you see, this is what happens when you become a great chef, you get the pleasure of having two young ladies at your side.” Imagine that, Guy Savoy saying that we were his pleasure. I really dont see how the pleasure of hugging two girls can compare to the pleasure of the 12 life-changing courses that he offered us, but I guess its all about perspective.
We returned to our table, finished our 2008 Muscat du Cop Corse from Domaine Leccia, and once again, I made the “mistake” of asking a question. “In the video on your site I saw a chocolate orb that magically melted. What is it? Why? How....? What!?” The waiter explains that it's an orb of chocolate stuffed with banana and passion fruit sorbet, then topped with a hot mango and aloe-vera coulis and thats what makes it melt. I smile and thank him for his kind explanation. In 5 minutes, he comes back with one for me, and the “Noir” dessert for my friend, which consists of a chocolate biscuit with almond paste, infused with lime juice, cardamom and black pepper, served with a bitter chocolate sorbet. Bear in mind, this is dessert number 3. Ask and you shall receive I guess. We eat, we almost pop, and finally we ask for coffee. But no, its not over yet.
My melting orb
My friend's Noir dessert
With the coffee comes the dessert trolley (this is trolley number three), called the “tastes of my childhood.” It contains:
-prunes in mulled wine
-rice pudding with pink pecans
-strawberry rhubarb tart (heaven!)
-different types of marshmallows
-chocolate and vanilla macarons
-almond shortbread cookies
-home made chocolates with little unidentifiable things on it
-plus like ten different sorbets, of which I tried the blood orange sorbet to go with the chocolate mousse, and then the bergamot sorbet with black pepper just because hell, at this point, why not.
This is what our table looked like
And then, finally, it was over.
We were the last people in the dining room. This lunch lasted from 12.30-4.45pm. With a total of 11 or 12 courses, 5 wines, 6 breads, 4 cheeses for me and about 7 for my friend, 3 desserts, two coffees and a million little sweets to nibble on while you drink your coffee.
We thanked them about a million times, were given our coats, and stepped outside into the crisp Parisian winter sun, feeling for the first time like a real princess.
I think that the waiters and Mr. Savoy could see that we were really just dying of pleasure and were unable to contain ourselves, laughing and staring at everything with wide eyes and open mouths. And in the end, I think that's why he invited us: the place was packed with fat, old, boring businessmen, and we were the only people there who were totally focused on the food, having completely given ourselves over to them. They guided us through 12 phenomenal courses, we listened to everything they told us to do, from the order that we should eat our cheeses in, to the breads, to the wines, everything. And I'm sure that they are probably sick of these boring people, who don't seem to be visibly enjoying their food. The waiters were happy to see us dipping our bread in our sauce and asking questions and mmmming and ooooohing and ahhhhhing and laughing. It's too bad that it was a once in a lifetime experience, because I could really get used to this.