Kei

KeiKei Kobayashi is one of the most famous names in the city of light, with a passion for French cuisine hard to match. A passion that started very early in his life, still in Nagano (his hometown) when enchanted by Alain Chapel’s work in a tv show.

And there started his own path in cuisine, first in Nagano, following Tokyo, where he worked with Paul Bocuse. At 21 years old he decided that France would be his destination, passing through several kitchens, like Gilles Goujon (L’Auberge du Vieux Puits), the Le Prieuré and Le Cerf, before joining Alain Ducasse’s brigade at the famous Plaza Athenée, working under Jean-François Piège and Christophe Moret’s wings.

Kei-3 The minimalism and aesthetics of Kei’s cuisine is also present in the identity and aspect of the dining room 

In 2011, young Kei decided to step up his career, opening the homonymous restaurant, next to Les Halles, at the number 5 of Coq Héron street, where previously worked Gerard Besson’s starred restaurant.

Focused on developing a signature cuisine, all about the product and the finest aesthetic care, his cuisine was soon recognized, achieving several individual awards and the famous star. In 2017 the second star in the French guide arrived, in the opinion of some, sinfully late.

Kei-5 Kei-4 The centre of the room with highlight to the aged beef Rubia Gallega. 

But on to our experience! Arriving at the restaurant we soon get the fusion of modernity, minimalism and classic aesthetic of a French haute cuisine restaurant, all clear, clean and harmonious, with the team flowing around a full room with the balance and elegance of a great orchestra.

After comfortably seated, we started with a champagne De Sousa Brut Réserve Grand Cru, a 100% Chardonnay, with strong aromas, floral notes, dry fruits and some forest. Pleasant and fresh in the mouth and a great pairing to the snacks to follow.

Kei-6 Red Shiso granita

And we started immediately by awakening and refreshing our palate with a red shiso granita, highlighting the fusion of cultures we’ll find on the menu. Followed a smoked yoghurt tartelette with sardine and red onion, a small snack full of contrasts, crunchy and creamy, with an excellent smoky ending.

Kei-9Smoked yoghurt tartelette with sardine and red onion

Kei-7 Barmejan peas with ricotta 

Interesting in texture and lightness these barmejan peas, filled with ricotta. Followed by a wedge clam with bouillabaisse gel, with the classic sea flavor, without its usual intensity and spiciness.

Kei-8 Clam with bouillabaisse gel

A great start, and preview to a great experience, and the bread and butter were yet to come – yes, I’m an easy man to please – and in this case, I was immediately conquered by the flavour of the butter, the crunchy crust and slightly bitter aroma of the bread.

Kei-10 The butter is hand shaped at Kei 

 Kei-11Moruno shrimp tartar, shrenki caviar, peach soup
Flawless image of a delicious dish, where the sweetness of the shrimp and the peach combined nicely with the richness of the caviar, while the smoked notes of the yoghurt foam elevated the dimension of the dish. Excellent!

Kei-12The crunchy vegetable gardensmoked salmon from Scotland, rocket and spinach mousse and olive powder 
One of the iconic dishes of Kei Kobayashi, and that so well represents his cuisine of flavour, elegance and textures. A perfect marriage between texture and flavour, where nothing overlaps and all is harmonious and subtle, like only a Japanese hand can accomplish.

Accompanying was a Pouilly Fumé, La Moynerie 2015 of Michael Redde et fils. A good Sauvignon Blanc, still young, with notes and interesting structure given by the wood and enviable acidity making an excellent job along with the food.

 Kei-14Foie Gras, apricot foam, ginger confit, mirabelle plum and poppy coulis 
Foie will always be foie, and the light cooking of an excellent piece shows just that. Great combo with the sweet notes of the fruits, good contrast of sweet and savoury, and an intensity kick by the poppy coulis.

Why can’t I eat this on a daily basis?

Kei-15Seabass, crunchy scales, tomato vinaigrette and Barolo reduction
Just the technical work of making the skin and scales crunchy is worth a standing ovation. Flawless execution, on top of which we also have the lemon, caviar, samphire and anchovy. For an even greater contrast of flavours, and endless well-orchestrated notes, we have the vinaigrette, shiso and the Barolo reduction, the anchovy puree and the courgette flower. All working beautifully together even without a sauce or a broth.

Kei-16Smoked Scotish crawfish, shitake fricassé, chive, and homardine
The crawfish arrive in the same bowl they’re smoked in, while Charles Weyland (a brilliant dining room manager, by the way!), explains us the same go through 3 different types of cooking: first poached for a few seconds, then cooked at low temperature and finally put in hot stones and smoked. A dish close to perfection, for the simplicity of its elements and the Japanese touch in the French cuisine. The mushroom fricassé and the chive gave earthy notes to the dish, creating more dimension and structure, and the homardine (bisque based sauce enrichened with butter and cream) elevated the bar with the shellfish flavour.

On the glass, the choice went, instead of the obvious Sauternes, to a Chassagne-Montrachet 2015 of Domaine Coffinet-Duvernay, rich, creamy and deeply elegant, making a great harmonization.

Before passing to the meat, there was still time for a classic palate cleanser – with a lemon and mint ice.

Kei-18Seared vendée pigeon with miso, roasted fig 
This pigeon is one of the most emblematic dishes of Kei’s cuisine, and it’s easy to understand why! Firstly for the French-Japanese combo of ingredients, and then for the restraint in adding elements. The cooking of the bird with the miso, the reduced sauce of its cooking, the foie, shallot and lime paste and the brilliant roasted fig with red wine, created a symphony of great brilliance. Certainly one of the best pigeon dishes I ever tasted in life!

To go with, another Burgundy wine, this time a red, Gevrey-Chambertin vieilles vignes 2012 of Domaine Rossignol-Trapet. An elegant wine, marked by wood and elevated by an impressive acidity.

Kei-19Pre-dessert  

As pre-dessert, we had a goat’s cheese ice cream with cherry jam, Sicilian olive oil and Modena vinegar. Light, fresh and delicious, a good substitute for the usual cheese plate, that would’ve become heavy after so many dishes.

Kei-20Peach and Basil soups, poached nectarine, raspberry and tapioca  
A light and fresh dessert just as I like! Notes of fresh fruit and herbs, with the basil not only in present in the soup but also in the ice cream. The dish presents a good contrast of textures, and surprising elegance and lightness.

Kei-21Baba au Rhum
The chef’s version of the classic French dessert is, in this case, covered with rum, whipped cream, Okinawa sugar cane and cane ice cream. Good contrast, sweetness and above all no excess of any type, in a dessert that often has too much alcohol.

To finish an already long lunch, nothing like a Japanese green tea and some delicate mignardisesguimauve with lime and salted caramel tartelette.

Kei-22As I mentioned before, the service flows like a great orchestra, without impositions, good rhythm and technical domain making us think that also to the dining room that second star came late!

Kei-24Kei Kobayashi

Final Remarks
In a time when young Japanese chefs are taking the French cuisine, and Paris, by assault, Kei Kobayashi is, probably, alongside Shinichi Sato (Restaurant Passage 53), the great leader of this change. A change that brings restraint, passion, simplicity and harmony, like only the Japanese cuisine is able to transmit. The flavours are purest, the dishes lighter, the presentations simpler, but the final result is of an elegance and finesse that makes us blush of pleasure.

And that’s what I felt in the end of a long lunch at Kei, a signature cuisine, based in respect for the product, in the passion for French cuisine and in the brilliant combination of ingredients. For sure one of the most interesting tables in the city!

Kei-23For our usual #wineontour, we gave the chef a delicate vintage Port 1980 from Warre’s

Besides all this, Kei can be a discovery even for those not wanting to spend the highest prices of Paris’ starred restaurants, with a lunch menu for 58€, it is for sure, one of the best offers in the city.

Kei
Average price –  Lunch Menu: 58€; Tasting Menu: 110/199€  (without wines) 
Rue Coq Héron, 5 – Paris
+33 1 42 33 14 74 

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
The wine presented in this edition of our #wineontour was kindly provided by Symington Family Estates

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Champeaux

I remember visiting Paris as a young man, and trying to avoid the metro station Rer de Chatelet-Les Halles as much as I could, for the bustle of the thousands of people crossing or the suspicious environment of the Les Halles area.
Gone were the times that area was the “womb” of the city, being home of the main food marked in the region of Paris, that moved to Rungis almost 50 years ago.

Fortunately, nowadays, everything’s changed! A few years after starting the construction, and many millions of euros after, Les Halles is revitalized, appealing for international brands to install; and with its Canopée, an architectural structure covering the Forum des Halles, with over 18000 glass roof tiles, it’s a touristic attraction as well.

And below the Canopée, the master Ducasse decided to make his foray into the renewed world of the station Brasseries, similarly to Eric Frechon or Thierry Marx, creating a democratic idea of the signature cuisine, available to all (or almost!).

Opposite to what he’s been doing at Aux Lyonnais and at Benoit, Ducasse and his associate Olivier Maurey wanted to modernize the Brasserie, and adapt it to the ambiance of Les Halles. The atelier Ciguë was in charge of the decoration, creating a minimalist atmosphere, with some touches of the 70’s industrial era, allied to a contemporary design that leads to mixed opinions – you either love it or hate it!

A key piece in this decoration is the giant panel on the wall, reminding us an airport or station display, but instead of flight info or schedules, shows the menu and the chef’s suggestions. An irresistible detail!

But let us begin our gastronomic journey then, starting with a toast of Champagne Baron of Rothschild Extra Brut, a classic in Paris.

Followed a classic and delicious au levain baguette, crunchy outside, nice aroma, light and airy inside, always nicely paired with butter and the delicacies to follow.

Confit Duck Foie Gras and fig jam 
Wishing all the beginnings could be like this! Perfect tureen, rich, unctuous, of great flavor! The Foie went perfectly with the fig jam, slightly spicy. Very good!

Croaker, carrot, lime, and ginger 
The picture is not the best of the illustrations of this tartar, aka marinated fish with carrot, ginger, and lime. Delicate fish, right texture, nicely seasoned, and good sweet and sour balance.

“Grand Mère” Pate, pickles 
Continuing the saga of good dishes and sides to the great bread arriving continuously at the table (the anti-gluten brigade forgive me!). Classic pate, nicely prepared, great balance of fat and meat. Perfect were the homemade pickles, not only giving beauty to the dish but also taking it to another level.

Steak tartar
Then came the steak tartar and with it the first disappointment of the evening. Perfect looks, a preview of good flavor by the hands of the Ducasse team. But that was the flaw, no flavor of the seasoning, and mostly the quality of the meat. To compensate the blandness of the tartar, the chips were really addictive.

Coquilletttes with ham, comté, and black truffle
One of the famous dishes of the restaurant, also an allusion to children’s food, transporting it to luxury ingredients and haute cuisine techniques. Who never ate pasta with cheese and ham? And those who did, won’t ever go back after this combo. A dish that makes us smile, giving us the comfort of simplicity, raising the flavor bar for its ingredient combination. Delicious!

Entrecôte, chips, and Béarnaise 
And back to trouble, and with the same ingredient. The medium rare came to well cooked, and the flavor and texture of the meat also didn’t please us. A small flaw, paid for with the brilliant Béarnaise and the potatoes, worthy of a meal themselves.

Apricot Soufflé, almond ice cream
“After the sun comes the calm”, and so it was! After a less accomplished dish, a moment that’s been making the restaurant famous, the soufflés, here in a fantastic version of apricot, very well paired with the almond ice cream. Excellent technique and ingredient combination. A beautiful ending!

The wine list, without the extension of the great houses, contemplates a bit from all the French territory, with special emphasis on Bordeaux and Burgundy, of course. And the latter we chose for wines by the glass.

To say also, the service is great, nice and helpful, making us feel welcomed, even with all the rules and standards the Ducasse group must impose.

Final Remarks 
The Champeaux is part of a new wave of brasseries, where the great names of the French cuisine present more down to earth proposals, comfort food based in French traditions, and affordable by the majority wanting to visit a signature space, in this case, of the master Ducasse. The space and decoration were a nice surprise, with modern details and very tasteful. The cuisine had some flaws, namely the meats, but fortunately overcome by the quality of everything else we ate.

Therefore, and considering the many restaurant options in Les Halles, despite the slightly higher prices of the Champeaux, we recommend the visit, mostly for those searching for delicious classics like the soufllé or the foie gras, in a cosmopolitan and modern environment. See you soon!

Champeaux
Average price: 50€ per person without wines 
La Canopée – Forum des Halles, Porte Rambuteau – Paris
+33 01 53 45 84 50

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Akrame

Akrame Benallal may not be under the World’s 50 Best spotlight and other publications, like others whose the PR work is higher than the chefs work or cuisines. But since he opened his namesake restaurant, acknowledgment has not been missing. From Michelin stars to opening other businesses and restaurants, perseverance is this young chef’s middle name, even when the Michelin guide decided to take away his second star (nowadays he has one in Paris and another in Hong Kong), one could think his quick rise was over, but Akrame Benallal opened the also successful Bistrot Atelier Vivanda a bit all around the world, the Cave Brut, a cheese&wine bar in Paris, and, also in the city of light, the Shirvan Café Metisse, a kind of Arabic Bistrot, where he honors his roots and his travels.

Today, while having fun in the new location of the Akrame and creating his new Haute Couture collection (what he likes to call his cuisine), the chef is also preparing to embark on the reformulation of all the structure of the Printemps warehouses.

But on to the restaurant itself, the reason that took us to the number 7 of the Tronchet street- a building famous for a certain adventure of Kim Kardashian! A space was once used as a “pop up”, but with some flawless work on the kitchen and some remodeling on the room, it became the home of Akrame.

A space worthy of an impetuous and creative brain with a unique artistic vein, where aesthetics and good taste walk side by side.

Entering the restaurant we are absorbed by the dark, clean and modern environment of the reception that opens into the kitchen. In dark tones (the chef’s favorites) we are required to hold our look for some time while accompanying all the bustle of the work.

The impressive and minimalist cuisine of Akrame 

At the table, we started lunch without wasting time, and the snacks arrived at a good pace. Wakening our palates couldn’t have been better, watermelon infused with Pastis, which freshness and combination refreshed our palates and accelerated salivation as intended.

Watermelon and Pastis

Potato and smoked eel 

Followed by an elegant “slate”, aka potato chip with smoked eel and a fromage blanc cracker with cucumber gelly. Both delicate, with a good combination of flavors and textures – cheers to good beginnings!

fromage blanc cracker and cucumber 

 Bread is life!

“Hold your horses” cause the bread is coming!! Good crust, good hydration and the aroma and sour tang that makes of it almost the perfect dish.

Tomato and almond
A visually peculiar starter, that when in the mouth conquers straight away, a kind of Ile Flottante of tomato and almond, that almost becomes a “provocation” to desserts. Intense in flavor and delicate in texture, simply delicious!

 Razor clamsAmaranth and milk veil 
The amaranth was cooked in two textures, firstly almost like a risotto, nicely paired with the delicate and perfectly cooked clam, and secondly fried and crunchy working as a cape. Adding to that the greasiness and richness of the milk and the fresh notes of the oil. A really artistic combination of textures and flavors, positively surprising!

Accompanying the starters, and being in Paris, we started with a Champagne, Lallier Blanc des Blancs, a wine of great elegance with citric and brioche notes, a very elegant wine, of wide and long flavor, which finesse and acidity made the perfect pairing.

John Dorypalmito and spinach 
Another apparently improper combination, resulting in an amazing dish. Perfect fish, paired with all the textures of the dish and the smoked notes of the heart of palm and the roasted onions, freshened by the “green” flavor of the spinach. Bravo!

On the glass a trip to Meursault with a Les Casse-Têtes 2015 from Domaine Chavy-Chouet, a difficult area to grow vineyards – therefore the name – that brings us a simple wine, in the good sense, with interesting acidity that will give it years of life. A balanced wine, elegant and less opulent and rich than usual in Meursault, with brioche, spices and fresh fruit notes, and an ending with good minerality.

Veal, white beans, coconut, and charcoal
A dish where the beans and the meat shine, and the rich, brilliant, sauce was crying for some bread slices. Still, a combination with some flaws, namely in balance, so characteristic of the previous dishes, both for the sweetness of the coconut and the acidity of the cream.

Harmonizing was, and well, a Morgon, Passerelle 577 of Domaine Mee Godard, from 2015. Mee is a South Korean producer who grew up in France and established in Morgon in 2013, currently in her 3rd year of production, with this 2015, the wine shows the huge potential of the vineyards and her work. A completely different wine from the usual Beaujolais, elegant and pure, with cassis and blackberry notes, well-integrated wood, fleshy palate, matching very well with the dish and with some marvelous tannins. A harmonious wine!

Iced limoncello to cleanse the palate 

Strawberry
Taking advantage of the last strawberries of the season (by the time we visited), Akrame came back strongly with the desserts, with two proposals and different textures of strawberry, fennel, and white chocolate. Amazing strawberry sauce to go with the ice cream!

Truffle, praline and milk
To finish the desserts, a deceptively simple “roof tile”, with praliné and a delicate milk ice cream! But, and with artists, there’s always a “but”, there’s also a “truffle” sprinkled over the dessert, to look like the fungus itself. An amazing and well-prepared combination of truffle with chocolate, with notes that elevate the dish and transport us to something more complex. Very good!

And like a sweet never comes unpaired, there was also time for the petit fours, and for some madeleines so good I could pack a dozen to bring home just as if was in a Pâtisseries in the area!

A word also for the service, diligent and perfectionist, as in any Parisian table but with an informal and relaxed touch of a modern fine dining. High score also to the wine service, spot on, from the glasses to the choices and temperatures.

Final Remarks
I remember disparate critiques regarding Akrame Benallal’s work in the past, acclaimed by many, criticized by others for lack of consistency, or for putting aesthetics before substance and taste.

What process of metamorphosis? What simple state of grace and inspiration brought the various changes in his path? But surely today, the talented chef is living one of his best moments! Bold creations and unusual combinations resulted in a fantastic experience, both artistic and gastronomical!

A mandatory visit!

 

  The amazing Warre’s Vintage 1980 that accompanied us in this edition of our #wineontour and with which we awarded the chef at the end of our meal.  

Akrame 
Average price: 130/160€ per person without wines (lunch menu: 65€)
Rue Tronchet, 7 – Paris
+33 1 40 67 11 16 

Portuguese Version

Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
The wine presented in this edition of our #wineontour was kindly provided by Symington Family Estates

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Le Narcisse Blanc

The subtlety of a ballerina’s movement, the mysterious expression of her look, and the eternal beauty of a muse, are the inspiration that led  Laurent and Laurence to create the unique Le Narcisse Blanc.

Cléo de Mérode was a Belle Époque ballerina (let’s say it was the first It Girl there’s memory of!), her beauty inspired some of the most emblematic artists of the time. She was called “small and beautiful Narcisse”, and that subtlety inspired the ambiance and decoration of (now) one of my favorite hotels in the city of light.

First Impression
Located at the Rive Gauche, between Pont Alexandre III and the Eiffel Tower, the hotel’s location best coordinates with the seductive and mysterious beauty of the ballerina.

As we approach the building of Le Narcisse Blanc, we can see the perfect architectural mind of Georges-Eugène Haussmann.

When entering the hotel we are invaded by an intimate and private luxury sensation. Making us feel like we’re the only guests at the hotel, transforming it immediately in our home.

The entire decoration and essence of the hotel mixes Art Nouveau, Art Deco and some almost Arabian details. Inaugurated in 2016, Le Narcisse Blanc is still a child fighting in the midst of centenarians, but already one of the best hotels in the city.

Created by Laurent and Laurence, it also has the mark of its owners and the team of interior decorators Thierry Martin and Thibaut Fron. The predominant colors are white, beige, champagne, pearl, grey, and pink.

The ambiance is comfortable and glamorous, with a touch of seduction.

And just like that, we were being welcomed by the reception team, that readily took care of our check-in and accompanied us to our bedroom.

Bedrooms
There are 37 bedrooms, of which 7 are suites.
Classic and contemporary, taking our hearts right away, not the usual classic nor the usual contemporary, a mixture of both, combining in perfect harmony, making them timeless bedrooms.

Some are gifted with terraces over the Eiffel Tower, other over the Invalides, and a few others over the Parisian roofs.

We stayed in a Classic Suite, with a generous 36m2, and a patio, reminding a private shelter inside the city of light.

The bedroom was for sure one of the most elegant and comfortable I’ve ever been in, and the bed, by far, the best of all the hotels I’ve experienced.

The pearl, beige, white and champagne tones combine with unpaired subtlety with the satin and velvet fabrics in the bedroom, giving it such a great harmony.

Waiting for us was fruit, water, candy and a present of the emblematic Angelina, and they were being replaced during our stay. The bedroom also has a coffee machine and different tea options. All this in the huge room next to the bedroom.

In the bathroom prevails the dark marble, the exclusive fragrance of the hotel in the hygiene products (wonderful!). Here the faucets are glass balls with small, beautiful, narcissus inside!

For me, with my love for bathrooms, this area could’ve been a bit bigger, considering the generous dimensions of the bedroom, however, that is compensated by the actual toilet being in a different area from the rest of the bathroom!

Restaurants
The space working as restaurant breathes glamour, and Cléo is its name! Here are served the several meals during the day.
In the access to the main area of the restaurant, the pink color comes to join the other soft colors of the rest of the hotel, assuring a very feminine, sensual and elegant environment.

Here you can have a drink or snacks during the day, or before going to rest at night. Here is also served the delicious “Tea Time”,  with small sweets and finger foods, accompanied by tea and coffee. Right next to it, there’s a terrace, also elegant and comfortable.

Breakfast at Cléo!

At the restaurant the tones go around the beige, brown and champagne, the environment is completed with mirrors from the ceiling to the ground, giving it amplitude, as well as the chandeliers with medium lighting that give a quite seductive atmosphere.

Here we had the chance to have breakfast, buffet and à la carte, and also experience a surprising dinner.

The amazing bread at Cléo!

It is wonderful when we arrive at a table without expectations, and dish after dish we are conquered and surprised. This dinner with the signature of the Canadian Zachary Gaviller, and a combination of influences from the French cuisine to Spain, Portugal, and even Japan, captivated our taste buds, starting with the amazing bread!

 Mushroom broth with black chanterelles and corn

Confit salmon with shiso

We started well with a rich and slightly spicy mushroom broth, balanced by the sweetness of the corn; and a brilliant confit salmon with shiso leaf, beetroot, and citrus. A nice surprise!

Codfish with capers and mussels 

Followed a codfish dish, and a strigoli pasta with nduja, squid, and tomato, both excellent in flavor. There was still time (and space) for an excellent tuna steak and a delicious chestnut puree. To finish, nothing like a good cheese plate, us being in Paris.

Cléo! is for sure an option to consider, with menus between 29 and 55€, not only for the hotel guests, but also for those searching for good cuisine, in a unique space, full of identity, without the madness of some more famous spaces.

Very close to the restaurant is a room where you can organize private lunches or dinners, with a capacity for 10 people. A mix of meeting room and library.

Services
Le Narcisse Blanc has all the services of a luxury hotel, from room service, laundry, wifi (and wifi pocket), personalized parking service, business center with computer and printer, national and foreigner press, among others. The hotel has also a meeting room, as I mentioned before.

The hotel assures a unique experience in partnership with the Domaine de la Soucherie, spending a day/night in the heart of a vineyard, at La Maison des Amis and La Maison des Vignes, just 2h30 out of Paris.

For the gym lovers, the hotel has a small room with treadmill, bicycle, and a few weights.

 João in artistic selfie mode 

But, the real spotlight of the hotel is the Spa, one of the prettiest in town, for sure.
With elegant lines and cozy atmosphere taking us immediately to a relaxation state, the spa is constituted by a heated pool with hydrotherapy jets and countercurrent, a jacuzzi, a hammam, a sauna and an ice fountain. It also has treatment rooms, signed by the luxurious brand Carita.

Le Narcisse Blanc is intimate, seductive, charismatic and gifted of an extremely perfectionist team, attentive to details, without being invasive.

 A part of the enchanted Spa at Narcisse Blanc *

It’s the new luxury that assures us the privacy we seek for, nowadays. Glamor is present in every detail, you just have to pay attention; and the narcissus, for sure, the super highlight of this elegance atmosphere. They’re present all around the hotel, in the door handles, staircases, in the gold paint on the walls, and the simple and feminine paintings we find around the hotel.

They give the hotel its name and are for sure its distinctive brand, with all of Cléo de Mérode’s beauty and subtlety.

One of the best hotels in Paris for those wanting to experience luxury, and one of the few I wouldn’t mind calling home in the city of light!

See you soon, my little narcissus!

Le Narcisse Blanc
Bedrooms from 300€
Boulevard de La Tour-Maubourg, 19 – Paris
+33 1 40 60 44 32
contact@lenarcisseblanc.com

Versão Portuguesa

 Photos: Flavors & Senses and *Press release 

Disclaimer
We were at Le Narcisse Blanc by invitation, whereas this does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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Le Duc

Having just landed in Paris, still without a lunch reservation for Saturday, the choice was easy – trying to get a table at Le Duc, since we were already very convinced by our dear Aiste’s (Luxeat) recommendations and praises for a long time now.

A call from our concierge, and 10 minutes of Uber after, we were standing outside a gastronomic institution, open in 1967 by the Minchelli brothers, nothing or few changed since then (and in this case, that is a very positive point). Let’s see, the Le Duc was one of the first restaurants to exclusively dedicate itself to sea produce, and in the birth of the Nouvelle Cuisine, these brothers revolutionized the way of cooking and serving fish, saving it from diving in thick and heavy sauces, and from being overcooked. Probably also the first to put up raw fish in the city.

The decoration, idealized by Slavik (the Lázaro Violán of the Parisian restaurants from the 70’s), takes us to a classic luxury yacht, a weird way to make us travel to the golden years of the south coast of France.

If the interior can be considered oldfashioned, it also gives it enchantment, when you walk through the door you feel you’re really experiencing Paris, as a good and refined Parisian would. And that’s what you get at the table, surrounded by usual clients, from the French political and high society scene, the majority almost retired, and few tourists, bless the guides that so often forget to honor the true temples of the haute cuisine! Yes, because haute cuisine is also subtlety, care, and super high quality product, as it was presented to us here during our visit.

Warm periwinkles as appetizers

We were readily welcomed and soon announced in a seafood restaurant with freshly cooked periwinkles, full of flavor and perfectly cooked, a good omen for the following dishes. Then, mandatory being in Paris and in a classic restaurant, the bread, and the butter; pressed butter with the name of the restaurant, by the books, and a great bread to go with it, making it hard to concentrate in reading the menu.

We ended up opting for the lunch menu (55€: two starters, a main and a dessert), revealing a good option, even if I ended up flirting with the crawfish from the table next to us – another good reason to come back.

Seabass and Salmon Tartar
Plated in a small silver bowl, the tartar was even more precious than the piece it was served in. Perfect cuts, super high quality fish and good seasoning. Simply a perfect dish, I could easily eat everyday and not get tired!

Salmon au naturel 
A carpaccio of Scotish salmon, simply sprinkled with a dash of olive oil and capers. Rich, unctuous, and full of flavor, showing what can and should be a true salmon.

Oysters  
Slightly cooked oysters until open and warm, with a buttery and fresh sauce, and flawless flavor. Product, product, product!

Fried squid
Perfection can be as simple as these little squids, brilliantly fried, crunchy, and with a light kick of spice from the espelette pepper, contrasting nicely with the acidity and the freshness of the lemon. Addictive!

 Surmullets and Seabass with lime
Followed some great surmullets, which looked a bit overcooked but when tasted they were immaculate, allowing us to taste their unique flavor, which makes me like this fish so much.

The seabass dish is one of the classics at Le Duc, with thin fillets of seabass being cooked in the hot plate and combined with a light butter and lime juice sauce.

Two great dishes, very well paired with a black rice of excellent flavor and celery gratin, which texture and flavor revealed as a nice surprise.

Baba au Rhum
The time came to choose a dessert, and the famous dessert cart arriving at the table made us think a bit more than needed about the options. In a Parisian classic like Le Duc, the Baba au Rhum was mandatory. A generous slice and nicely drizzled – the bottle stays on the table in case you didn’t use enough! High score to the texture and flavor, with an excellent whipped cream.

And yes, my alcohol levels went past the recommended after the dessert!

And speaking of alcohol, the wine list follows the excellence of the menu (and the prices!) where there’s room for the great French wines, especially from Burgundy, pairing perfectly with the cuisine and the refined products. We went for a Roully 1er cru of Olivier Leflaive from 2013 (50€), that kept up to the dishes tasted.

The service is also classic and refined by the years of experience, where the younger elements were certainly well taught by the previous generations.

The always delicate petit four to end the meal 

Final Remarks
Le Duc is one of those restaurants that stays off the spotlights and the media, there’s not a celebrity running it, and it doesn’t direct the majority of its budget to public relations or marketing. The scheme here is pleasing the clients, the majority being usuals, presenting them the best products in the market, simply and purely prepared, enhancing all their features, as the Minchelli did in the past, and nowadays, chefs all around the world recreate, even not knowing who was behind the creation of the method, in reality, more of a philosophy.

Nowadays the kitchen is in the hands of Pascal Hélard, who continues to draw the future with all the emphasis in the produce and an aesthetic simplicity so refined it looks like a Japanese master runs the place. Surely one of the best fish restaurants around the city, and one of those spaces you go to as a shelter, where tradition remains still and the product is the hero!

Now, we must return one day!

Le Duc
Average price: 100€ per guest without wines (lunch menu: 55€)
Boulevard Raspail, 243 – Paris
+33 1 43 20 96 30 

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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The Presidential: In Douro with history, luxury and gastronomy

A sunny and warm morning in Porto was the preview of a nice trip to Douro, but not just any visit, a trip in a historic train, once used by kings, dictators, and presidents, now baptized as The Presidential.

While hundreds of tourists were enchanted by the tiles of the extremely beautiful São Bento Railway Station, some more attentive eyes were landing on this train, some pictures here and there, and this presidential train could easily compete with the TGV, and win in terms of fame and beauty!

On time, we are invited on board in the former press wagon (the most distant from the presidential wagon) and we see the promises of this party with a glass of white Port, a beautiful Niepoort Dry White,  always a good way to welcome friends.

The train starts moving and among the bustle and excitement, we meet our travel neighbors, a British couple just arrived in Porto, with whom we would spend the rest of our lunch and travel.

We started with stories and toasts (renovating the stock of Port wine) and the noise of the conditioned air, also known as “open window”, us being living an historic experience!

The least interesting part of the trip was therefore done, et voilà, we are invited to the dining room, in this case, a lunch, to spend the next two and a half hours enjoying the chef Miguel Rocha Vieira’s cuisine, while watching the astonishing Douro scenario and the staff’s juggling!

Ivo Peralta, Fortaleza do Guincho’s sommelier presents the first wine of the lunch, a sparkling Bairradino Água Viva from Niepoort 

We started with the sea and its representations, being the sea one of the most important elements of Miguel Rocha Vieira’s cuisine at Fortaleza do Guincho. Among delicate snacks, like the “edible” shells and the butter, also representing the sea, we highlight the mussels with pepper and the red pepper and the seaweed butter.

  Impressive technical detail put into the sea elements recreation

While we enjoyed the appetizers, with also the always delicate Acushla olive oil, we could already sense in the room and hallways, the aroma of the shellfish broth that would water the sea soup to follow.

Perfectly cooked seafood, with an accomplished contrast of textures and a sea flavor explosion, quickly taking us to the opposite direction of the train. A dive into the ocean, nicely accompanied by the white Redoma 2016, mineral, fresh and with a delicate salty touch that makes all the difference.

The wonderful Conciso, the red Niepoort produces in the Dão region

Seabass, artichokes, and Azores squid 

After the soup, the fish! A nice portion of sea bass, with Azores squid, artichoke, and a red wine sauce. Sea elements, combined with earth notes that are usually the signature of the chef’s fish dishes. Very good! And very well combined with a Dão wine, served at a lower temperature, demonstrated all its power and versatility. A very elegant wine!

While the landscape becomes even more amazing – one of Douro’s magical features, as we enter through it, and travel on its route, it becomes increasingly beautiful and imposing – we also travel to Alentejo with a dish of black pork.

 The art of putting the sauces on the plate during the trip is one of the funniest moments; you sure need a steady hand and some luck! 

A great homage to the animal and its region, with a pork loin, corn puree, acorns and a xárem. A nice dish, I wouldn’t mind seeing recreated with a more moist and tasty cut. On the glass, we ride back to the Douro, with the classic red Redoma 2014, less concentrated than in previous years, with an excellent acidity and a very charismatic vegetable side.  

 Algarve’s Delicacy, with carob, almonds, and figs

To finish our travel around Portugal, we went to the Algarve, in a very well accomplished fusion of usual the sweet elements of the region, a fig and almond cake, orange flower ice cream, carob and crunchy biscuit, all very nicely connected with an English sauce. Great ending, even more, when enjoyed alongside a rich White Port 10 years, where the dry fruit notes went perfectly with the dish.

But the pleasures don’t end here, not in this presidential train that wants to make our experiences unique. After Pinhão, we continue our travels to the amazing Quinta do Vesuvio, one of Dona Antónia’s great passions – the famous Ferreirinha – nowadays in the proud hands of the Symington family.

The access gates to some of Quinta do Vesuvio’s vineyards

We disembarked in Vesuvio, the train and the staff head to Pocinho to a deserved lunch and rest. Meanwhile, Gonçalo Castel-Branco, the mentor of this project, invites us to visit the Quinta and the Cellar where some of the most classic Ports and table wines of the region are produced, or simply enjoy the peace and quiet of Douro, in the terrace.

 Quinta do Vesuvio

Knowing this Quinta quite well from other journeys, we opted to enjoy the good weather felt and the calm of this place to enjoy a cigar and some Symington wines, namely Graham’s Single Harvest from 1972.

A wine with an interesting history for the current Symington generation, being the first wine selected for ageing, by Peter Symington, after acquiring Graham’s, and that years later, his son Charles, his winemaker successor, came to bottle. Rich, endless and super complex, a Tawny that completely fulfills me.

Back on the train, we are received with piano notes at the Bar, while the sun starts to set and Douro gets an amazing colour.

 Time to head back and try to discover some of the charms of the river and the landscape we left unnoticed in the ride in. Proof you really can’t resist Douro and after several hours of train travel and some hours at Vesuvio, we still can’t take our eyes off the view, despite how many charms and moments the train provides for us.

After Pinhão, we are again at the table for a little snack, a Portuguese homage, with noble products, showing the excellence of our products, with canned goods, Qualifer sausages – the emblematic Pinhão’s butchery, worthy of a visit, cheeses, with highlight to the Queijo da Ilha, 24 months cure, and, of course, the delicious Gleba bread, that no one can stay indifferent to.

There was also time for more wine! Always with the Niepoort stamp, always a synonym for satisfaction, and some sweets, produced by the resident chefs Vitor Areias and Rui Santos.

And in between, a visit from one of the historic candy sellers from Régua, and the sound of the Portuguese guitar, full of emotions and a very Portuguese sentiment.

After nightfall, we head back to our cabin to end the journey comfortably and have a nice chat, where the obvious topic was the retrospective of the magical day aboard the train.

Almost in Porto, with our hearts more than conquered, the team decided to warm our souls and stomachs, with a recreation of the classic caldo verde, perfect!

As the journey ends, it’s time to say goodbye, congratulate the organization and the entire staff, for becoming true actors allowing us to merge into a unique scenery. A true show!

Now what? We must wait for 2018 for a promised return.

The Presidential

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses 

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Le 5 Codet

In this constant search for luxury, we often find ourselves in the spotlights and glitter of the “see and be seen”.  For me, that search ends, precisely, when I get this sick need to “show off”.

Luxury is more than that, it’s discrete, intimate, the simple subtlety not everybody seems to understand.

We no longer seek the great palaces, the exaggeration of luxury, the invasive and servile service… we search the genuine, empathy, comfort, and above all, privacy.

First Impression
When I saw Le Cinq Codet it was simple to understand its bourgeois and bohemian contemporaneity, characteristic of the area it is located in Paris.

The Rive Gauche has the ability to make us travel in time and in the most interesting Parisian bourgeoisie history, bohemia!

A former telephone central with an unpretentious and elegant touch, a mix of art and nature, and the best location in the city, are just a few of the qualities of Le Cinq Codet.

The view from the hotel is the rather amazing golden dome of the Hôtel des Invalides!

We were warmly welcomed by an employee with a genuine smile and politeness/sympathy in the right proportion, after a few minutes of good talk we realized he was married to a Portuguese woman!

He accompanied us to the reception, our check-in was promptly taken care of, and with the same sympathy and unpretentiousness.

As we arrived early, the room wasn’t ready and we fancied a bit of relaxation in the Lobby as we waited for our uber to take us to a memorable lunch at the classic Le Duc.

At the lobby is quite noticeable the contemporary style of the hotel, sober colors mixed with strong ones and transmitting a live and enthusiastic ambiance!

Pierre-Emmanuel Vandeputte in the Supper Green exhibit

Art is a great part of Le Cinq Codet, reason why the Supper Green Exposition started, from September to the end of October. Here the guests were invited to reconnect with nature through a sensory exhibit by Studio Marant, where art lives harmoniously with the design as a whole. So, all along the hotel, the spaces are immersed in a green wave, an environment also present in the kitchen, with the chef creating a menu especially for the occasion.


An environment that leaves us asking ourselves: “What is the true nature of today’s world?”

After an amazing lunch, we returned to Le Cinq Codet and went discovering our bedroom.

Bedrooms
The bedrooms are one of the highlights of the hotel. They are 67 and are divided into Classic, Superior, Duplex, Deluxe and Family bedrooms and the Suites – Junior, Duplex, Superior and Prestige. With warm and live colors, mixed with white wood, leather and bohemian details with a discrete sensuality, with the touch of the designer Jean Philippe Nuel.


We stayed in a Deluxe, with a generous 29m2. With an extremely elegant contemporary vibe and as functional as I ever seen, and the bathtub in the middle of the room won my heart right away!


The paintings, strategically put on the headboard and the strong colors in the room, gave it its own life. Everything in the bedroom is thought to detail, the care put in the functional part was surely by someone who knows the necessities of the most meticulous client. Both the sofa and the bed had all the electronic functions you could need.

For sure the most functional bedroom I was ever in, and one of the most vibrant and interesting.

Highlight to the last floor, in which the suites have a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower and the Hôtel des Invalides, seems you can almost grasp them!


Restaurants
There are three spaces in perfect communion. The restaurant per se, the Patio and the Lounge Bar.

The patio is probably one of the prettiest places in the hotel, a typically Parisian garden environment, with a touch of industrial decor, and also artistic in a contemporary format, transmitting the sensation of comfort and elegance simultaneously. Here are served several meals along the day, if the weather permits!


The Lounge Bar, an extension of the Patio, with a simple glass wall between them, it’s luminous, the environment and the decoration transport us to the 40s, directly to an art deco ambiance.


Last, but not least, and with a cosmopolitan, but also private vibe, we have the Restaurant; Serving the several meals of the day.

Here we had the chance to have breakfast and a very nice dinner, graced by the jazz nights the hotel provides on Saturdays.

If at breakfast the service is simple and effective, with a carefully selected buffet, with the presence of Eric Kaiser pastries, good tea, and great quality cheeses, at dinner, this space becomes more intimate and even more cosmopolitan.

We tasted the specially designed menu of the chef Antoine K’ros to the Super Green Expo, in a combo of ingredients, well accomplished.

Free-range chicken with vegetables  

Highlight to the velvety and delicate cauliflower cream as well as the chicken with vegetables and beetroot cream, where the fresh notes of the pineapple gave another dimension to the dish.

A raspberry “apple” to finish the meal 

Services
Besides all the usual services of a luxury hotel, concierge, wifi, laundry, room service, among others, one of  Le Cinq Codet best qualities is its location, in one of the best neighborhoods of Paris, the 7th.


The hotel is close to some of the best attractions in town, from the Eiffel Tower to the Pont Alexandre III and the Rodin Museum.

But probably one of the best features of the hotel is the Spa, the Sundãri Spa. Here, we can enjoy a perfect relaxation while forgetting the bustle of the city of light.

Equipped with a double room, a sauna and a beautiful terrace jacuzzi that made my delights!
Associated to this space there is also a small fitness room.

Service 
As I said along the text, sympathy, and education in a relaxed environment is the motto of Le Cinq Codet’s team. Young faces and smiles are constant.

There is a way of serving without invading, very characteristic of the new luxury, privacy is the most important, and so, the staff sometimes seems it’s not even there. But if you need something the anticipate they answer to our requests.

Le Cinq Codet is all we search for in this new luxury, or best put, in the new way of taking advantage of it – private, intimate, genuine and unpretentious. The best location in town, allied to these features, make this new Boutique Hotel a mandatory spot.

Le Cinq Codet
Bedrooms from 230€
5 rue Louis Codet – Paris
+33 1 53 85 15 60
contact@le5codet.com

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at Le Cinq Codet by invitation, whereas this does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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The Rota das Estrelas: Casa de Chá da Boa Nova

 Some articles sin for being late, but at a month from the 2018 stars revelation, and since this year everything is very quiet as to the names that get or maintain stars (go figure the media phenomena), we are in a good time to speak of those who usually shine the most: the chefs!

And to do so, nothing as good as a “Rota das Estrelas” aka Stars Route dinner, where 4 of the most successful chefs in Portugal gather to dine, with the ocean as background.

The baton went to Rui Paula, the host in his Casa de Chá da Boa Nova, receiving Hans Neuner (Ocean, **Michelin), Miguel Rocha Vieira (Fortaleza do Guincho, Costes, Costes Downtown, *Michelin), Rui Silvestre (Bon Bon, *Michelin), well put… some guys with pedigree.

An irresistible Iberian prosciutto with a sharp cut  

The party started outside, with the typical shy sun of Porto, but with enough Pommery champagne to transport us to a better climate! Also with a flawless Iberian prosciutto nicely cut by Vítor Oliveira from Academia de Corte, and an artisanal smoked salmon made at Boa Nova, a very nice surprise.

 Artisanal smoked salmon

And we kept going with the summer snacks of Boa Nova that we already knew from other visits and a colorful selection of bread, with variety and ingredients for every taste.

Seaweed and sardine macaron

António Lopes (Wine Guru, Anantara Vilamoura) was the invited sommelier to join Carlos Monteiro

During the bustle of organizing the guests, time flies by while enjoying all the charms of Casa de Chá da Boa Nova and its perfect location, that even with bad weather transmits us unique sensations (it is indeed a unique and special room).

At a good pace arises a glass of Cattier “Clos du Moulin” Rosé, the champagne that would be the perfect match for the dish to follow, with its red fruits and verbena notes.

Rui Paula – King Crab, Tomato, and Strawberry
A light, fresh and deceptively simple dish. Great rigor in the execution of the fruits, tomatoes, and emulsions, but for a perfect start, the King crab should’ve been the hero, but in the end, it was a bit dry and cut to small.

Hans Neuner – Oyster, smoked foie gras and pineapple from the Azores
This dish brought me memories from a great meal at Ocean, where this dish stood out from the rest. Not being at the same level of the version presented at Ocean (for obvious reasons), with the pineapple taking a bit over the dish. Yet, an irresistible starter!

Good pairing with the creaminess of the bubble and the fresh ending of the glass of Billecart Salmon Blanc Des Blancs.

Rui Silvestre – Lobster of the Atlantic, egg yolk and Imperial caviar
Some dishes, despite having the noblest ingredients, and the best execution, don’t get us excited. It lacked soul (and possibly a broth) to take it to the next level.

Accompanying the dish was a Principal Rosé 2010, a controversial wine around the table, some considering it had lost power and energy, but I enjoyed it and it went very well with the fatter side of the dish.

Rui Paula – A Homage to Fisherman
The inspiration came from a Chora (a traditional soup of our fishermen’s recipes), here present in the sauce, and in the foam giving life to the dish, where the textures and the fishes created the perfect symbiosis and made of it the dish of the night. Very good!

To go with, a perfect choice, one of my favorite wines from the Vinho Verde region, the Ameal Escolha 2015, a great year, in which this example of a 100% Loureiro showcases in all its splendor, with freshness and lots of complexity.

Miguel Rocha Vieira – White grouper, artichokes, and squid from the Azores
I like the way the chef Miguel Rocha Vieira usually thinks his fish dishes through and the way he adds them strong contrasts of earthy flavors, with beetroots, carrots or in this case, the artichoke. Technically flawless in the presentation, despite having some flaws in the cooking of the fish – it is one of those cases that if prepared by his team during a normal service would make us applaud it!

It was an excellent moment, even more, when paired with the 2015 Niepoort VV, the great white Dirk Niepoort created at Bairrada from a combination of Maria Gomes and Bical.

Rui Paula – Corn and roast sauce
It’s impressive to see the evolution of Rui Paula’s cuisine in the last few years, I remember less than ten years ago him serving his roasted lamb, his Loin steak pastels, and then the evolution to dishes like roosterfish with lime risotto, and some risky textures and presentations. Evolution is just that, to learn, create and execute, and in Rui Paula’s case learning to leave some elements aside and highlight those he decides to use.

Here presenting a good game of textures around the corn, with a puree, corncob, baby corn, blini and popcorn (unnecessary), sweet flavors, tunned by the seaweed and the roast sauce, that despite not being much did wonders to the combo.

And if up to this point the wine choices were great, this moment was not the exception, with the impressive Quinta da Pellada Primus 2015. Still very young to be totally appreciated, but an impressive wine, for its minerality, acidity or its freshness and longevity in the mouth. A great wine!

Pre-Dessert 

A pause in the dinner and the pre-dessert arrives, well worked by Rui Paula’s team, with warm and rich flavors of the chocolate, fig, and cherry. Very good!

Rui Paula – Hazelnut, cereals and toasted bread 
A dish I tasted on a previous visit to Boa Nova. A combination that transports us to breakfast, with its comfort flavors and ingredients very well worked.

Yet, after a long meal, I would opt for something lighter and fresher to finish (always my type of option in a menu dinner).

To finish not one, but two, wines; a Porto Dalva Colheita 2007 and a Madeira Barbeito “Bual” 1995. Both in excellent shape, but the Madeira won my heart for a final sip. Ricardo Diogo and his team are making such great wines!

And speaking of wine, a highlight to Carlos Monteiro and António Lopes work, both for the great selection of wine we were presented with and for the way they harmonized it with the dishes.

Final Remarks
Events like the “Rota das Estrelas” are not “extraordinary gastronomic moments” because each chef shines brightest in its own kitchen, his habitat and with his team. But for sure are great parties, gastronomic parties, wherein a dinner you are able to gather 4 or 5 names that won’t easily gather again and taste dishes that otherwise we would’ve to travel around the country to taste (well, but the food is already the main reason I travel for!).

About this dinner, I have to congratulate the chefs and mostly the host, Rui Paula, who received cooks and guests in his unpaired scenario with his usual savoir faire.

A toast to the chefs and the new stars to come!

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses 

Rota das Estrelas

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Ichiban

We’re in the middle of the political silly season, with our rulers shooting attacks and excuses everywhere, typical among our governors and their opposition. But don’t worry, I didn’t change the topics of the blog, I just want to thank a certain range of politicians that made a lot more for Portugal than many of our own, and I speak about the Japanese Embassy, that with exception to the memorable master Yoshitaki, presented our country two of the greater banners of the Nippon cuisine in Portugal.

Firstly was Tomoaki Kanazawa – know preparing to leave to Japan again, to our misery! – and after was Masaki Onishi that substituted him in the embassy and who three years later headed to Porto to open this Ichiban.

As the name indicates (Ichiban means “First” in Japanese), the restaurant was the first space in the city to present a cuisine purely Japanese influenced and without the typical sushi-fusion-Brazil we used to find in 2011 and nowadays.

It must’ve been difficult this adaptation of the chef to the city and the guests to his purist approach, where he doesn’t seek to invent or reinvent but to perfect the already simple. A meticulous and detailed work, the Japanese way.

The restaurant, located in Foz do Douro, occupies a small space in front of the ocean, divided into three small floors, of minimalist decoration to the good Japanese style with light toned wood bringing comfort and coziness. Each room has its detail and each can fulfill different tastes, downstairs you can watch the work of Masaki Onishi in the kitchen (the chef puts the sushi making in the hands of his crew, dedicating himself to the Japanese cuisine dishes), on the ground floor you can enjoy all the bustle of the restaurant and the work of its Itamae, and it’s here in the counter we choose to stay; there’s also the upstairs floor, where we stayed in the last visit with the ocean views.

Already seated and with our orders made, they suggested a small snack (2€) as couvert, and usually travels between fish dishes and black pork stews, in our last visit we were awarded a light and tasty black pork salad, with thin slices of meat nicely combined with a light sauce and the freshness of the greens.

Tako Yaki (5,5€)
Tako Yaki is the Japanese answer to an octopus “patanisca“, small dough balls filled with octopus and specially prepared. Here particularly well done, crunchy on the outside, with a succulent and gourmand interior, even more, when combined with the sweet sauce and the Japanese mayo. Super worth it!

Seafood Okonomiyaki (16€)
The traditional Japanese pancake, made with a dough similar to the Tako Yaki, here nicely filled with vegetables, shrimp, squid, and scallop. A big dose, to share, that despite the excess of sauce, was at a great level, without the flavor of flour and the elements standing out in a good game of textures and sinful sweetness.

Moriwase Tempura (16€)
Moriwase means “chef’s choice”, so he is in charge of choosing the products we get. Among a variety of vegetables, highlight to the asparagus and also the shrimps, flawlessly fried in a thin and crunchy dough. Also good the sauce and freshness of the daikon and grated ginger.

Ryukyu Mackerel (10€)
A mandatory dish in each of my visits may even be one of my favorite on the menu. Kind of a mackerel tartar in larger cubes, prepared with the ryukyu sauce, typical of the region of Okinawa, freshened by the ginger, lemongrass, and chives.

Sashimi Moriwase (price according to the number of pieces) 
Is there any better way to enjoy the work of a sushi man than seeing his sharped knives going through the fish, there is! But we’re on to it! Sashimi with a great variety of fishes (always one of the strengths of Ichiban), where we loose the notion of how many white fish we tasted, some like pigfish, garfish, or the brill, we can’t easily find in other restaurants. Highlight to the thickest and purist cut that allows us to taste the fish in all its glory, as well as to the Tamago (omelet), that brings a sweet ending after so much fish.

Nigiri Moriwase (price according to the number of pieces)
And here it is! To see the ability of the chef molding the nigiri and then tasting his shari (sushi rice) is when you see his work in full! High score to the quality, flawless in every visit. Highlight to the good cut of the fish, some of them nicely complemented with toppings. When there are sardines and the remaining “blue fish”, you just have to enjoy!

Sea Urchin Gunkan (variable price)
There is when there is. One of the mottoes of those who choose the quality of the product and Ichiban is a good example of that. When there’s sea urchin – certainly not the big dishes full of it like in Hokkaido – we have to end our meal with this explosion of ocean and iodine in the mouth.

Accompanying was the usual Japanese green tea, seemed to me a kukicha, always the poor relative of the meal, not for its quality, but by the way it is prepared, the water is always way too hot, when it shouldn’t pass the 70/80º, burning the tea and losing many of the seaweed and fresh notes of the green tea. An area deserving of some attention!

The service flows between the shy Portuguese of the chef’s wife, always alert, and a young Portuguese team. Always friendly, not pretentious and not very technical, compensating with the knowledge of the menu and the available fish.

Final Remarks 
Masaki is a man of few words and to see him you need to peek through the glass of the cuisine, but the thing is every dish reflects his culture and personality – rigor, a bit of austerity, authenticity, and mystery.

That’s the feeling when we dive in the most typical Izakayas dishes or the most accurate Japanese dishes, an ocean of discoveries and balanced flavors, an interpretation of a nation and its culture.

Ichiban is fish and rice, it’s sushi in its purest and raw state, but in reality is more than that, it’s a restaurant with a serious and true cuisine, and for that, it won the award of Specialized Restaurant, in 2016 and in 2017, in the Flavors and Senses Awards. So we’re not talking just about a great restaurant in Porto, but also one of the best Japanese ambassadors in Portugal.

Take note:
If you haven’t discovered Ichiban’s cuisine yet, you can also choose one of the best menus in the city, with sushi and cuisine options, with prices among 17€ and 21€, accordingly to the day and the number of dishes.

Ichiban
Average price: 40€ per person, without wines
Avenida Brasil, 454 – Porto
226 186 111

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Rustichella d’Abruzzo at Antiqvvm’s table

Since its opening, Antiqvvm, has been the stage to a wide range of themed dinners, where Vitor Matos chooses an ingredient or invites another chef with whom he shares his kitchen.

One of the last events combined both, joining the mastery of William Zonfa – a Michelin Star at Magione Papale in Abruzzo – and the excellent products from Rustichella d’Abruzzo.

Vitor Matos and William Zonfa

Rustichella is, as the name indicates, a company from the region of Abruzzo, producing several types of durum pasta since the 20’s, being nowadays one of the main references in the market, not only for the wide variety of products and formats, but mostly for the quality of the product. If you’ve cooked with them you can easly notice the difference from the most used brands. It’s for sure a great product, but just in case, we were in the right place to put them to test…

  After a toast watching the sunset in the amazing garden of the restaurant, we were presented with the concept of this particular dinner, as well as the brand, through Giovanni Gianni (exportations director).

Fregola Sarda with basil, tomato, and mozzarella fior di latte ice cream
And the party started with the dish that revealed as the simplest and most interesting of the night. Fregola (a type of pasta in the shape of little balls) cooked al dente, with an amazing sauce of fresh basil taste, enrichened with the tomato powder and elevated by the contrast of flavor, texture, and temperature of the mozzarella ice cream. An amazing dish of William Zonfa, in which all the elements stand out, by themselves, and in the combination.

DOP “Azeitão” cheese Ravioli with sage butter, black chanterelle and monks cress 
The first dish of Vitor Matos it’s also a version of one of his classics, here with the ravioli prepared with Rustichella’s flour and presenting an excellent texture and good combination of flavors where the highlight goes to the richness of the butter. Very good!

Paccheri stuffed with codfish “brandade”, clam stew, half cured cod and black pork prosciutto 
A dish in which Vitor Matos brought us Portuguese flavors combined with the Italian pasta paccheri, filled with a brandade a bit inferior to the codfish of good texture accompanying. A combination of several elements to the style of the chef, but where the final result ends up pleasing and surprising us. High score to the herb foam that is refreshing in a very rich combo of very Portuguese flavors.

Spaghettone del Leone with boletus, summer truffle and almond mousse 
Another William Zonfa’s dish, who in contrast with Vitor Matos worked with few elements in each of his proposals. A spaghettone of amazing flavor and texture, nicely paired with the other elements, in which only the summer truffle little or nothing added to the dish for its lesser quality – had it been a good black truffle in its season and we’d have a great dish here.

Classic Panettone Rustichella d´ Abruzzo with Azores caramelized pineapple, mascarpone, roasted peach with honey and lavender, white chocolate and Kaffir lime ice cream 
Another dish with a long list of elements, with highlight to the nicely worked fruits and the freshness of the kaffir lime ice cream, ending up with the panettone being a secondary and unnecessary element in the final combination. A good ending!

  Petit fours or Vitor Matos’ small jewels 

The harmonization of the dishes was in charge of wines from Abruzzo, that despite not being of great highlight in quality terms, worked well and some of them improved alongside the dishes.

The service was simple and with some typical flaws of these events where you need to serve too many people at the same time.

Final Remarks  
Rustichella d’Abruzzo assumes itself easily as one of the best pasta producers available in the market. And if the goal of this dinner was to present a brand and a product of excellence, that goal was more than accomplished, it’s not possible to stay indifferent to the quality of this pasta, even more, when worked by the hands of two starred chefs.

In my case, I believe I have to return to Italy to eat the Fregola Sarda with basil, tomato, and mozzarella ice cream again, at the William Zonfa’s Magione Papale.

Antiqvvm
R. de Entre-Quintas 22o – Porto
+351 22 600 0445
antiqvvm@gmail.com

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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