It’s not often a chef leading a three Michelin star restaurant in Paris comes to New York City for a temporary pop-up dinner. When I heard of the one-week residency of the acclaimed chef Eric Frechon of the restaurant Epicure inside Paris’s Le Bristol hotel at Chefs Club, I was quite excited to give this place a try. Unlike prior Chefs Club pop-up dinners, this one required payments up front (although at a total of slightly over $450 for two people, it was quite a bargain compared to what Epicure charges in Paris at over €300 per person). Coincidentally, the dinner at Chefs Club happened to be the very next restaurant meal my wife Jun and I would have following our trip to Alinea in Chicago and the style between the two couldn’t be more different, one representing a creative haute cuisine with the so-called molecular gastronomy style and the other showcasing classic French fine dining experience. As I noted in my review of Alinea (see here https://kenscale.com/2019/11/17/alinea/), I’ve had some mixed experience in terms of the coherence of the menu. While I generally shy away from comparing restaurants, it was hard to deny that the meal at Chefs Club was more satisfactory.
Having been to many fine dining restaurants, the menu from the Le Bristol pop-up didn’t particularly jump out at Jun or me; what really impressed us, however, was the consistency in execution and the seamless transition from one dish to another. And it’s not like the kitchen was settling for old, boring formula all the time. Jun and I have eaten caviar at other places, but couldn’t remember a dish with this delicacy that was as delicious as what was served to us, with potato mousseline below that worked beautifully with the salt-cured roe in flavor as well as texture. The sea scallops, cooked with buckwheat butter and accompanied by watercress juice underneath, were already a pretty good dish, but the addition of shaved truffles on top of the scallops made it an excellent one. As much as lobster is celebrated in restaurants, you don’t see many pulling off the high quality of roasted lobster accompanied by celeriac spaghetti showing balanced texture and ideal temperature.
Before our last savory course arrived, a staff brought out a bladder in which our farm hen was being prepared, significantly raising our expectations of what was to come next. Indeed, the breast of hen with yellow fine, crayfish and girolle mushrooms was phenomenal, with incredibly moist texture that Jun marveled at. You also get a consommé of legs of hen cooked in a broth of leeks, potatoes and black truffles that shows deep aromatic smell but could be a bit too rich for your palate. Following a palate cleanser with pink grapefruit, hibiscus jelly and Campari sorbet, we were greeted with the final dessert consisting of cocoa nuggets caramelized with sea salt, smoked milk foam with vanilla and cocoa bean ice cream with its nibs. The dessert was another standout dish in our meal, with balanced flavor that was not overly sweet the way I liked.
As noted above, the pop-up lasted only one week in November. As Jun was under the weather all week, we didn’t order any wine to complement the meal. As a bonus, we received one complementary night at Le Bristol to use until the end of next year, giving us a very nice excuse to include Paris in our 2020 travel itinerary. The Le Bristol pop-up was a truly wonderful dinner experience, and I do hope that chef Frechon’s team comes visit NYC again soon. While some may call the French haute cuisine at places like Epicure overly stuffy and dated, our meal demonstrated that sometimes sticking to the classics is not a bad idea when the kitchen can consistently deliver in thoughtful execution. I think Jun and I are at a point where we have seen it all and eaten it all so we are no longer quite dazzled by fancy techniques and ingredients like we used to be, and having a delicious meal that sticks to the basics with consistency has the potential to give us more pleasure. There is no doubt that our dinner at Le Bristol’s collaboration with Chefs Club was one of the best meals we’ve had this year.
KenScale: 8.75/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.75/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 9.0/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
- Value: 9.0/10
Address: 275 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (212) 941-1100