Sunday, April 10, 2011

Passage 53 Paris

There were conversations and phone calls between my friend, Helen and the Georges V concierge, Adrian. Times and days were discussed with the 2 Michelin star restaurant, Passage 53. Yes, they have been fully booked since recently being awarded their second star. I'm not sure if it was Helen's friendships with both owner, Guillaume and concierge Adrian that scored the reservation, but it seemed to be a don't ask, don't tell scenario. The next day my friends, Nancy, Helen and I eagerly left the hotel looking forward to the 9 course Degustation Menu. After arriving at this small restaurant in one of Paris' passages in the 2nd arrondisement, we were warmly greeted by owner, Guillaume Guedj and his brother Jonathon. As conversation was exchanged, we were seated at a cozy round table toward the rear of the restaurant and near a well worn spiral staircase. Guillaume asked if we would like to start with a glass of Champagne, which almost seemed like a rhetorical question as the glasses of bubbly spirits arrived. Toast! Guillaume then suggested a white Mersault wine to go with the meal. Perfect! The Chagall inspired charger plates were removed and then the gastronomic fun began. Since we had ordered the Degustation Menu, there were no choices to be made. They are all a sampling of the chefs expertise.Japanese chef Sato, intuitively, expertly and simply combined spices and flavors to artfully present them on the table. To say he is just a chef is to say ikebana is just flower arrangement. His Japanese sensibility delightfully mingles with the French. Bread and 2 butters immediately arrived at our table. One was spiced and was the deep orange color of Nancy's scarf. Our first course was brought, and then described by Guillaume as tiny fresh broccoli florets with cream. The delicate broccoli crowned a creamy base that reminded us of a panna cotta. After we finished and were still discussing the ethereal first course, a bright green, paper-thin radish arrived that enveloped scallops and watercress. Again, a simple combination of ingredients that spoke deliciously with each other. We were presented next with an oyster under a swirl of creaminess topped with caviar. Each course was beautifully served and complimented the preceding and following presentation. Next came a Langostine with Red Pepper Sauce and Orange Mousse. It was as tasty as it was lively to look at. Then the White Course was served, which was a white sauce, calimari with shaved cauliflower floweretts on top. The whiteness of each one was a blank canvas that became a masterpiece when layered with the others. The last fish course arrived of sole with a seaweed sauce, served with leek, radishes and romanesca. This led us into the meat courses, which began with a glazed onion. It was made very special by slivers of chorizo tucked between the layers. A nice surprise. A slice of Cochon de Lait with a fruit sauce perfumed with yuzu, which is an Asian citrus fruit, came next. It was served with asparagus and lentils and the combination was sublime. Our last meat course was a perfectly cooked slice of Lamb Filet Mignon with Anchovy Butter and Rosemary sauce, with a roasted potato wedge, and brussel sprout leaves. One would think that there couldn't possibly be room for dessert, but there was!! Each course was full of flavor and creativity, but the portions were just large enough to taste over the 2 1/2 hours of dining. The different desserts were brought all at once. There was a Rhubarb Yogurt Ice Cream with Litchi, Tarte Tatin, Milk Chocolate with Passion Fruit, and a slice of Dark Chocolate Tart. Each one was a unique finish to our meal. At the end, we ordered coffee that came with a mignardise of mini madeleines! We were so involved with our dining experience that we didn't realize until the end of the meal that each tray was brought down the narrow spiral staircase. The kitchen, where all of the magic happened, was upstairs. Heaven above, indeed! At the end, Chef Sato came down and met with us. I was in awe. Guillaume, Jonathon and the staff genuinely cared about the food, the diners and the attention to detail service. They bid us good-bye and said it would be a pleasure to welcome us again, and I know they meant it. They earned every star and then some. I will be back...soon.

Passage 53
53 Passage des Panoramas
75002 Paris 75002 Paris
01 42 33 04 35 01 42 33 04 35

Map location, here.
Closed Sunday and Monday.
Reservations recommended.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

La Vie est Belle

It is the contrasts in life that make it interesting...deep black with golden light...warm balmy weather compared to the power of a snowstorm. Then there is the sprinkling of salty fleur de sel on sweet, chewy caramels and the contrast of firm comté cheese with soft delicate figs. How could we appreciate the best if we had it all of the time? Eating dark rich chocolate every day would get boring. OK, well maybe not boring, but certainly better with the contrast of flavors. March was a month of contrasts for me. It was my first month based out of JFK and I had a 3 week vacation at the beginning that was a staycation. I wanted to tie up loose ends before things got hectic. That involved preparing income taxes, spring cleaning and more unpleasant obligations. I was going to Tokyo at the end of the month and was really looking forward to it. Then the world broke loose, literally. So many lives changed and ended with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I watched the news day by day as things just got worse. My heart went out to the people of Japan.
My staycation began to fill with discord. My furnace broke and I had no heat for 3 days $$$!!! My garbage disposer broke and flooded. I was having a continuation of a bad reaction to pine nuts. An eye issue developed. Put in perspective these were all minor things, but happening all at once made them a little worse. Phone calls poured in from friends and relatives asking me to not go on my Tokyo trip. I concurred. As much as I wanted to be a part of the effort to keep flights moving in and out of Tokyo, things were just unfolding, and still are. I changed my Tokyo trip for a Paris trip that worked to Paris and deadheaded (rode as a passenger) home. Sweet. My friends Nancy and Helen were there staying at the Four Seasons George V and invited me to stay with them, if I could stay instead of deadheading home. Real sweet! Contrasting to my earlier month, everything started to fall into place, albeit slowly. When I left Boston to commute to JFK, it was snowing and we were 2 hours late as we had to be de-iced. I sat and read and watched videos while waiting to takeoff. Once in NY, I was headed to Paris :-) Leaving the snow behind, I arrived in Paris to warm sunny weather and with the prospect of being able to stay for days with friends at the George V, no less. Ah, contrasts! What a difference a day makes. At the George V, day begins with coffee and newspaper delivered to the elegant room with French doors opening onto a balcony overlooking Paris. The energy of Paris entered through our open balcony doors like a long awaited guest. I settled in. While we were having cocktails before dinner, I called my company and was able to stay in Paris. We toasted! La vie est belle...Life is good. We lingered over canapés of fois gras, smoked salmon and goat cheese on baguette toasts. Beautiful Helen arranged this experience at the George V. I think I'll adopt her as my Fairy Godmother.Not wanting to ever leave this magical place, we were running a little late for our dinner reservation at Fish Boissonnerie. No problem, the concierge phoned the restaurant and then called a car for us. As we zipped from the right bank to the left bank, the Eiffel Tower was brightly sparkling in the dark sky. We were warmly greeted at the restaurant that has become one of our favorites. They serve all types of fish and other dishes here. They also own a wine shop La Dernière Goutte, around the corner thus the play on words with the combo of poisson (fish) and boisson (drink) in their name, Fish Boissonnerie. Our warm vichyssoise had the prize of oysters in the bottom. The fish courses as well as my lamb with sweet potato puree, were each the perfect contrasting prelude to dessert. Creamy panna cotta, dark rich chocolate cake and a coffee flavored crème brûlée all tasted delightful...yes, we shared!The unpleasant memory of the beginning of March was quickly diminishing. I was still having my eye issue, but liked what I saw!

The next day the hotel staff was truly at our service again to offer suggestions and answer questions.
No request is too large for the concierge desk and I think they must have some stories to tell. The whole staff loved Nancy....almost as much as we do.We didn't want to leave this gracious hotel. Even the business center was so inviting. But of course this was Paris, and we were going out. Our day was filled with walking, shopping and soaking in the sunshine and warm air. An Egyptian mummy sat dead still on a park bench in the Tuilleries and bowed as coins were dropped in his bowl. It was a day of surprises. Thinking about our next meal was delicious and I knew any surprises at the restaurant would be wonderful. Helen had secured a reservation at a 2 Michelin star restaurant. One of the hottest seats in town. So far I was liking this contrast.

La vie est belle!