Let’s get something out of the way. Le Chateaubriand is not the 11th best restaurant in the world. For Restaurant Magazine to assert such things is a flotilla of crap. However, coming from a Top 50 list that gave Momofuku Ssam Bar - the entry level Wagamama-esque version of David Chang’s magnificent Momofuku Ko – 26th place I don’t expect too much.
Jen and I disagree on Le Chateaubriand. She would judge the food at our meal to be a failure. I would judge it not to be a success (that night). That is a very important difference. For me optimism and excitement remains. Le Chateaubriand uses the right ingredients, it has knowledge and passion and what let it down on the night we went was the adventure spiralled out of (food) control. Quite simply they tried to experiment too much.
This meant that the beetroot and beef main was doused in cumin which muddied it. They did sashimi esque cuts of fish which were well, novel in a French context, but not particularly enjoyable. I see all of this with hope and almost as an iterative experimental process. Jen felt it was a bit of waste.
What we are both in solid agreement on is the enjoyment in the meal itself. As an evening, as a combination of wine, food, service, atmosphere and character it was exceptional. And because of that, for us, it worked. We went in high spirits, we left giddy.
If you went with a notebook demanding every dish to be perfect and for it to be the 11th best restaurant in the world you will probably be disappointed. However, I should note that the menu rotates daily so you could have a vividly different experience. That is why the title of 11th best restaurant in the world is such an unnecessary curse for a place which is ambitious in a different way from your usual restaurant trying to eek out Michelin stars.
Two hours after entering what seemed to be a lightly busy neighbourhood restaurant I looked up. People were everywhere. Balancing in every square inch (or as we were in a metric country – cm) of space desperate for a table and to be part of the vibe. Because, Le Chateaubriand might not be the 11th best restaurant in the world but it has atmosphere, entertainment and character instead. I almost prefer that as I can poodle off for expensive good food any day.
The meal starts with a simple sheet of paper listing the choices for the day at a friendly price of 5 or 6 courses for 45 euros. Then the waiters with diligence and struggling through the hell of translating intricate food into different languages talk you through it and settle you into your meal. The service is explanatory excellent stuff. They know the dishes, they know the ingredients, they know the methods of preparation. Le Chateaubriand should be grateful for having such an exceptional team on board.
So to the food. The amuse bouche were some perfect little cheese puffs, lightly cooked with a tang of a crunch on the edge.
Then came a grilled mullet which the waiter explained they were intending to half cook, under grill and generally leave a bit raw. It wasn’t great.
We then had a pea and mint salad with maigre which I haven’t put a picture up of since it was average and a bit of mess visually. The one interesting bit was some celery soaked in apple which was fun. However, then came the best dish of the night, the third fish dish, which was one of their simpler efforts; grilled fish, small potatotes and olives. Spot on.
The next dish was the beef beetroot smear you can see above. Hmmm. Different visually. I like the texture comparison between a pureed beetroot and beef (a bit) but then they ruined it by clouding it in cumin.
Finally we had some deserts which were a goats ice cream and yoghurt and rhubarb and strawberry sauce which was underwheling and a chocolate layer with some granola stuff underneath. Disappointing.
However, because it is France that is only one half of the meal. The other half was the wine which was left to an earnest debate/ negotiation between our host (Etienne) and the sommelier at the start of the meal. The choices elevated our experience above and beyond what it would have been otherwise. It was the wine which gave us the flavours, the consistency and the dancing on the palate that I had hoping for from the food. However, as I said, this was not a bad meal. It was an adventure which didn’t quite work. But it was still one of my most enjoyable meals of the year. And if you go, they will probably be doing a different menu, the dishes will probably sing and you will leave even happier than we did.
Price – with wine it was 100 to 150 euros a head but then the wine was more than half the meal…
PS it isn’t very hard to find other bloggers who have had perfect experiences so I’ve only linked to one, Greedy Diva, who went on a night when all the dishes came out a hit. However, I would also recommend reading another by Food Snob who, in far more effective prose than my review, seems to have a similar mixed meal.
PPS for the others in the Paris series look here.