Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vegas 3; Let's Twist Again

Pierre Gagnaire sits atop French cuisine like a gargoyle giggling at the ant-like humans below. I'd been wanting to sample his food since first learning about its existence when an article in a local newspaper (about Robuchon) made me google World's Best Restaurants. Aha. That was always a goal of my parents, to eat the best food they could find wherever they went. I've just been dining on whatever for many decades. Maybe it was time to go back to the family tradition.
Quintessence, a sort of mystery novel-cookbook by Gagnaire and This, includes a recipe for John Dory. My friend Frank consumed a John Dory at one of our favourite local restaurants, Bonetta a couple of years ago- all I knew of its existence until reading that recipe. So On Tuesday, Feb. 8th I went to Pierre's Vegas den looking forward to John, Pierre's much praised Langostine, and the kind of ambiance one would expect with food of this caliber. Would it's beverages be up to last night's Mix? A serious competition. Could Johnny the Door live up to the Perfect Cod and the prawn entrance to superior realities?
The Passion Fruit beverage was really good. No, I mean really. The wine pairing thing just doesn't work for me more often than not, but the fruity intricacies of the appropriate cocktail has taken my appreciative palate where wine takes the real connoisseurs. Perhaps. Through amuses amusing and not so, through the 5 kinds of langoustine preparations and finally King John Dory himself, the passion fruit (one drink, and not a large one-it was Just That Good) perfectly complemented it all. I was even provided with a couple of magazines to peruse while waiting for the food. It was beyond human hospitality. I was in the land of elves. John Simon tinkling the ivories in the background.
Onward to Bouche amusement. You can see them on the vid. 3 bread sticks dipped in some kind of oil Something with wasabi and sake, which sounds Japanese, like hara kiri. Some sort of goat cheese (where is John Barth's Giles Goat-Boy when you need him?), a Jack Daniels square, and the last, a palate cleansing apple sore bit. I take my first sip of the passion fruit cocktail and it is SPECTACULAR. The amuses do not. The wasabi thing is just weird. Goat cheese surprisingly good after a couple of abject failures. The only real winner though is the frozen applesauce, or whatever it is. My love of apples is Edenic, and Pierre escaped the otherwise precipitous fall into the pit of unfriendly food by doing apples right. Now let's see what he does with the Langoustine.
First dish. Fantastic. Sour and complex, like great food should be. As good as anything I will eat in this trip of unrelenting perfection. The 2nd course is baconesque and must be the greatest BBQ flavour I've ever experienced. The cracker dissolving in my mouth makes me cough. I survive. Even if I didn't, it would be worth it. The mousouline is neither great nor terrible. The gelee tastes Japanese, like Unit 731. The raw langoustine is so vile it makes me want to exit this reality as soon as possible. 2 and a half out of 5. Good average in baseball. Way bad in one of the world's best restaurants. It's a matter of personal taste.
My first piece of John Dory is exquisite. The best piece of fish I've ever tasted. How often have I said that before? Expectations were high. How often can one say "best" without diminishing that superlative? I think on some chemical level my palate knew that. Like the heirloom tomato dish at Charlie Trotters that didn't overload my aesthetics as much as turned the top of a mountain into the propulsion for a rocket ship with the morel dish to come. When comparing one great thing with another, you're always talking about things at the same level; great things. And I've only had one piece of the John Dory. It is different from every other piece of fish I've eaten. And better.
The artichoke cream doesn't really taste like artichokes (a recurring theme in this trip), but combined with the other ingredients, it's a wonderful adventure. Only the fois gras, though not particularly meaty, is just not that appealing. I know, separating a French Chef from his fois is about as easy as separating Popeye from his spinach. Back to King John. As I had my third piece of this fish, the song Crimson and Clover, done by a female singer, not the original 1968 single, came on the music system. It was never a favourite song of mine, even in the era when music meant the most to me, but it was a good song. This version particularly good. But the quality of the song wasn't the point. Nor was the quality of the fish. For some reason, they came together upon me and I dissolved. It was as intense an experience as the previous night's prawn alteration of reality.


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