Le Cinq, Paris – 29 June 2013

It had definetely been too long. I cannot begin to tell you how I anticipated being back in this fab place. The prospect of being invited here for lunch by good friends Jerome and Dragana, and later on having a blast with 60.000 people at Stade de France, watching my 50th Bruce Springsteen or so. Actually Paris is – together with Frankfurt – probably the city I have seen the most Bruce shows., – let me see 1997, two shows, – 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006 and now 2013 – a good 7 shows over the years.

Bruce – is of course also likely to pop up in the lobby or tea room of George V. – but being in a “French” crowd, we were running a bit late – and therefore no time to absorbe the beauty of the tea-room, or to look out for Bruce – but straight into the beautiful arms of Le Cinq. However we did notice that the “crisis” has not have any impact on the flower budget of the hotel. Flowers everywhere.

If there is one thing you do not need to worry about here in the hotel and in the restaurant – it is the service.  It is as good as it gets.

"Le Grand Salle"

“Le Grand Salle”

I remember reading that the architect behind this room strived for making the room look like a dining room more than a restaurant. I do not know if he succeeded. I guess you have to have a monster salary to have a dining room like this. But nevertheless it is a beauty. And the waiters are everywhere. As we noted, it is like watching a ballet. A  ballet with a lot of action, our great sommelier had some work to do – and you could actually se he was stressed every now and then. Just in compare, I have never ever experienced Daniel Kiowski stressed. BUT, a good sommerlier this one was. He came with advice and was close to a perfect sommelier in my humble opinion. A great grande champagne opened the “party”. Comptes from Tattinger. As good as Champagne gets in my eyes.

A Condriue and a white Chateauneuf du pape was ordered to follow. Jerome being my earliest friend to direct me to Rhone whites, after all these years I am happy to admit….those are my favourite whites these days.

Old and new friend, and lovebirds...

Old and new friend, and lovebirds…

Ready to go…

Amuses - round 1

Amuses – round 1

Salmon, parmesan flake and a “flower” with some fish eggs. None of these extraordinary, rather blant, an optimist would say pure.

Amuses - Round two

Amuses – Round 2

The thing on the left I have forgotten – in the middle a redish thing, and to the right a wonderful pea creme. From all these tasters only the pea creme stood out, and the parmesan flake was nice. The rest, well …pure. But a weak start of the menu, and we were beginning to get nervous here.

Great bread selection.

Great bread selection.

Happy to find the same fluffy bread – to the left – as in beloved Lameloise. It did not quite hit that level, but still very nice bread indeed.

Calamares

Calamares

I did not get a copy of the menu, so I cannot give you the full description of the dish. What I can tell you – is that this dish was among the best I ever had. Every variety of Octopussy cooked to perfection. It will be among my dishes of the year for sure, of my life maybe 10p.

Razor mussels / shrimps

Razor mussels / shrimps

We all agreed on the texture of the chopped mussels and the taste as being perfect. The raw or almost raw shrimps we did not like. I did not care for the presentation. Back to shaky. 7.5p

A little in-between

A little in-between

And a great one. With a hidden ravioli inside the “soup”. What a taste of chantarelle. 9p

The butter cover - V

The butter cover – V

Very tempted to ask if I could take one of these with me. Would be a nice memory. I did not. And I did not bring one with me. But I do love an eye for detail.

My main dish.

My main dish.

I have absolutely no idea what kind of fish it was. I did not know the name in French nor in English. It was steamed with a very citrus tasting creme and a poached egg on top of the beautiful fried zucchini  flower leaves. 8p

Pigeon with fois gras and cherries.

Pigeon with fois gras and cherries.

The verdict was not balanced on this one. Jerome found it lacked tasted – especially the reduction he found very weak and was not happy with cherries anyway. Dragana found it the best dish of the day. And it looked stunning – so lets say Jerome, a 7, Dragana a 10 – I guess we would would it somewhere around 8-8,5p

Sorbet of blackened lemon

Sorbet of blackened lemon

A little pre-dessert – might not look like a lot, but we all loved it. It had the wauw factor like the starter had. It was spot on. 10p

3 riders were approaching...

3 riders were approaching…

and the wind began to howl. Strawberry desserts waiting to be served to lucky us. Not a dessert man. Not a strawberry man. But man was this a great dessert. Strawberries never tasted richer or better. 9p

The aftershow. the sweets is a story for itself – you are spoiled with a waggon of goodies.

Make your selection

Make your selection

or let this PERFECT waiter do the trick.

or let this PERFECT waiter do the trick.

Marsh-mellow strawberry.

Marshmallow strawberry.

So – that was the end of a great show. Like any good Bruce Springsteen concert, a show with highlights and never uninteresting. A show that had us entertained a good 3 hours. Almost like a Bruce show lol.

Conclusion:

Of my three visits, I think this was the weakest performance of Le Cinq. Would I like to back. Any day. Like Jerome stated in the beginning. It is like a ballet. I think especially the amuses let us down.  But forget that and minor complaints and you have yourself a ball with stunning food, great presentations, top-notch service – and a wine book to die for. The number of wines to choose from are second to none. I do not have to wonder about the wine cellar nor the storage solutions Le Cinq has chosen. For I have been there. On a previous visit Oscar and I inspired the cellars. Organisation is everything like in all aspects of life. The small alleys in the cellar had all wines beautifully arranged and easy to get hold of. I have good friends who are actually happy with the systems you get here – http://www.loknstore.co.uk/

I thank you Drag and Jerome for this wonderful lunch, more importantly I thank you for your friendship. May your love last forever. And I thank you Bruce for directing me to this pearler in the first place 🙂

Oscar selecting a nice drop...

Oscar selecting a nice drop…

My rating for this visit: Food 8.5p (10), service 5p (5), ambience 5p (5), Total Score  18.5p (20)

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Restaurant Nautika, Dubrovnik – 5 April 2012

Restaurant Nautika is owned by a the same people who runs Proto. Amra – the female waiter at Proto – had kindly given us a card with a 10% (low season) discount in case we wanted to go here. And in our search of the best meal in town we sure wanted to.

The restaurant is situated just outside the old city walls – sharing a small plateau and stunning views with another restaurant. We were given the choice of eating outside, in the formal dining room or upstairs on a covered terrasse with electric heaters – with

stunning views of the ciy...

- and waterside - with a monkey grinning at us...

but before that, the bottle of Chardonnay was ordered and the family shot…

My beautiful family. Looking at the picture makes me happy and proud.

This one made me happy too. Probably the best bottle we had throughout our stay in Dubrovnik

Amuse - a fish creme in a sesame cornet

Funny thing here…this amuse is mentioned on the menu as part of the table setting and is charged per person – it does not matter whether you want it or not. Something I have never seen before. And I am happy my favourite restaurant Schloss Berg does not charge for their amuses – with the amount they serve, that would ruin any guest for sure. The boys didnt want theirs, which made this un-avoidable amuse an expensive taster – I think they should recoinsider that part of their concept – especially when dealing with family tables. However, back to the cornet – it was nice – nothing more.

Salad with cheese, capers and - well - a wonderful dressing.

This was my choice, one of the cheapest on the menu. The table next to us shared this one and another starter, which would probably be a better choice – but I liked it in its simplicity and the dressing was indeed very good. 6.5p

Scampi with goat cheese...

Looked very innovative in compare to what we had seen until now in Dubrovnik. A beautiful dish which taste did not quite live up to its presentation…

Great fillet of beef with 3 sauces...

Nothing to complain about here. 2 of the three sauces were great, 1 a bit boring. beef and mash perfect 8.5p

and to go with that….

A beautiful fruity and light Pinot Noir

Most main dishes are around 40-50 eur so it is clear that the expectations are naturally higher, but indeed so was the quality. If not perfect, if maybe just a bit overpriced. Astrid opted for

Sea bass on a bed of leek

Fish cooked perfectly, the bed of leek – lacked the final touch – the rocknroll part – maybe fennel seeds would have done the trick – that extra spice was missing. But beautilful presentation. 7p

The kitchen understood our request to serve a shared plate for the boys, same sea bass but with a different arrangement – and hats off for that – because we have seen other examples – Seven Seas in Hamburg comes to mind where it was clear they were not used to the other eating preferences children have.

Sea bass with French Fries, ketchuo and all, what more do you need at the age of 6?

I think Oscar and Emil would give this one a 10.

At the the end of the meal we were offered a dessert on the house – and I let the great great female waiter choose one for me. The creamy chocolate thing was so good that the boys after having tried a spoon had to ask for one as well.

Yummi...

and all I need for dessert on most days….8p

My conclusion:

Restaurant Nautika is close to the standards we know from Luxembourg and Western Europe. The service was impecable throughout the evening, all the staff smiling helpful, the bread great, most of the dishes wonderful. A huge wine list, both local but also more familiar names can be found here. The wine you most of the time still had to pour yourself, but hey – we had gotten used to that at this point.

We spend a wonderful evening with great views, warmed by the electric heaters – and the two American girls from Boston at the table next to us. It was a pleasure meeting you both, I hope you read this and have also good thoughts about the evening at Restaurant Nautika.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best restaurant in town. But it comes at a price. Amuse, starter, main dish for the adults, amuse and shared main for the boys, 2 bottles of wine, water etc. clocked in at just around the 280 eur mark – incl. the 10% discount. But if money it not an option – and add the stunning views from this heated terrasse – this is where you wanna eat on most nights in Dubrovnik.

Restaurant Nautika, – I salute you and your staff, and would be happy to be back tomorrow. Thanks for having us.

My rating for this visit:

Food 7.5p (10) service 4.5p (5) ambience 4.5p (5), Total Score  16.5p (20)

La Mirabelle, Luxembourg – 6 January 2012

La Mirabelle is situated on a busy street, but with parking just across the road. I have not been here since the mid nineties, and a lot has changed. The restaurant has always been known to serve (almost) gastronomic food. Today the concept is a little changed. I would rate this as a high level Brasserie, but not real gastronomic. Only just below that. Its a favourite of my new friend Gijs, and thus was a natural choice for our lunch.

The decor is modern. It didnt really hit my wauw spot…but I have seen a lot worse. And I cannot put a finger on what it was. Maybe it was just not my style. I like the fact that they had wooden floor and not tiles. I hate tiles, and you will find that in around 90% of all restaurants in Luxembourg . The large counter in the middle of the room with a wall of wines worked the best in my opinion. On the other floors there is possibility to have a private room for larger parties.

The center of La Mirabelle

One of the private rooms upstairs -more classic

We were greeted by the staff and the menu was presented on a board. The waiter described each single dish, which is nice (and time consuming) – and then left us for a few min in order to decide.

The menu. starters, fish and meat...

We opted both for the veau as a starter at 19 eur. Wine list was brought, and that was a big surprice. Fairly priced – in Luxembourg that means 2-3 times engros price, but that is still better than the average of 4-5 times. And furthermore there was some really nice choices. I especially studied the Bourgogne section. Wonderful wine list. One of the best I have seen in Luxembourg. We opted for a Meursault and a Charmes Chambertin from Dupont-Tisserandot, which brought back good memories of many a visit to his cellar in Gevrey-Chambertin.

Tomato and Rilette and nice bread

Lovely, great. I would just leave it at that. Why waste time, money and energy to produce some wanna-be amuses when this is actually good enough. Well, La Mirabelle did not. They served the following amuse….

Vegetables on a cheese creme and a small pumpkin soup

I generally think that a restaurant should only serve these amuses if they have something interesting to present or some easy going stuff, like roasted almonds, the rillette and dried tomato thing from before was excellent. The pumpkin soup was actually very nice, if not overly sexy. But the vegetables thing was truly boring and rater tasteless. Now had it been left out, I would have had less to critisize. Sometimes less is more. 4p

Galette - filled with veal...

Great dish, best of the day. Great presentation. The Jus de Veau, perfect, the salad dressing and egg, great as topping on those wonderful, gallettes. Inside the galette there was veal, fois gras, apparently sweet-bread. It all came together as a very tasteful and delicate dish. 8.5p

Rib-eye...

Great tender meat,-  and a beautifully arranged potato. Baked in the oven with creme and bouillion –  and the long slices then arranged as a rose. I loved it. Presented as – “with a pepper-sauce”, it was nowhere near that. If it had not been for the 5 green pepper corns I would not have known. It was not bad. just not up to par with the rest of the dish. The biggest complaint about the dish was however that the vegetables – which on my plate was arranged on a nice creme of artichoke  – were an exact copy of the vegetables on the dish of my friend. For at restaurant at this level and a price of 30 eur – well I think its not good enough. Again, I f I had not had those vegetables on my plate I would not have missed them, and now their repetition was a subject of irritation. As I said sometimes less is more. So I will have to adjust for that in my judgement of the dish. 6p

Poulet....

Actually two servings – the upper left corner being the breast, wonderfully cooked, moist as it should be. And in the bottom right a gateau, cake consisting of confit de poulet (I think) and a mash. The vegetables as you see, even the order they were same and excact copy of mine. But here they were more justifed in my opinion. Anyway, Gijs liked it. 7p

No rooms for dessert.

My conclusion:

I think I expected gastronomy and I got brasserie food. But I got brasserie food at a very good level. I think the produce used was impecable. Very nice meat, very good salads, bread etc. And the price level with 20 eur for starters aand 30 eur for mains are as it is in Luxembourg. Not cheap but standard. It would not be my choice for a romantic evening, I know other places that are more my style, but for a business dinner or just another night out, I would definetely consider coming back. As I said, the wine list was outstanding. The service and attention from the staff was good if not out of this world. The waiter suggested a bottle when we had chosen our menu. I like that. Even if we opted for our own choice. So even with the minor flaws I experienced in mind I think La Mirabelle is understandable a popular restaurant and I think on most lunches or Friday evenings it is advisable to book ahead. Thanks for the fun Gijs. Looking forward to developing our friendship. You are officially my youngest friend by the way.

My rating for this visit:

Food 6.5p (10), service 4p (5), ambience 3.5p (5), 1 Bonus point for the GREAT wine list. Total Score  15p (20)