(a guest post written by my intrepid travelling companions this Christmas – Alicia and Neil)
T’was the day before Christmas and all through the City, not a creature was stirring… (well except for the mad hordes of shoppers at Les Halles, and a dozen lucky diners).
Ah Paris – good food, great wine, romantic settings and très chic restaurants. Thanks to the intrepid determination of Mardi getting up for four days in a row at 4 am in November to secure bookings, Neil and Alicia were treated to a (well-deserved) wonderful meal on the rooftop of the Palais de Tokyo in the ArtHome restaurant installation, Nomiya.
While we enjoyed a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower and attentive service from our oh-so-French waiter, Mardi was slogging away in the Electrolux kitchen downstairs. That sort of set the stage for our emotionally beatific lunch.
Upon arrival on the rooftop courtyard of the Palais de Tokyo, we were greeted by a cheery culinary Christmas tree (complete with vegetable ornaments – of course!) and then braved a walk on the dodgy (wet) catwalk to the glass & steel cube in the sky.
Neil and I of course rushed past the stylish Parisian retirees and grabbed the prime seats nearest to the window with the unimpeded view of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower (pushy North Americans). (Editor’s Note: This is cause for celebration, in that Alicia can now “rush” again…with new hip. So she truly was a “hipster”.)
Our first glimpse of our “restaurant” had in fact been a couple of days prior, from a bateau-mouche boat ride on the Seine…
The view from the inside was even more spectacular, a misty atmospheric December day overlooking the city. And of course, we were greeted with bottomless flutes of Moët et Chandon.
With just twelve guests at a sitting, we felt quite exclusive and part of the Parisian stylish set, especially with the cosmopolitan well-coiffed and multi-lingual other guests at the table. (For one of whom this was his THIRD visit – and he was coming again in a couple days for dinner.)
After we were all settled at the communal table (the two of us right at the river’s edge) and had admired the view, our cuisine experience began with a delightful amuse-bouche of diced green apple and pear with pieces of brunoisde horseradish and topped with green flying fish roe. Wonderful sharp/sweet/salt combination married beautifully.
As a quasi (backsliding) vegetarian who has veered into more carnivorous territory in recent months (Note from Neil: Not much choice traveling with me), Alicia was game for a few meat-eating adventures but was appreciative of the enquiry by our server of any food restrictions. “No seafood and no pork please” – thinking that would cover off the danger zones. However, in France, apparently it is assumed that someone who doesn’t eat seafood will eat roe. Mais bien sûr!
First course: For everyone but Alicia, the first course was Langoustine (small form of lobster) whipped soup with very large roe. The soup was incredibly salty like the sea. Neil’s observation is that he felt like he was drinking the ocean.
Roe was the topping du jour at ArtHome, as Alicia discovered with her “seafood free” first course which was, wait for it, the same large roe conserved and molded with beeswax into a lovely leaf served with diced pear.
For the second course we started with Fanny Sabre Savigny-les-Beaune, Côte-d’Or (Burgundy). With Neil’s sommelier courses under his belt, he was expertly able to assess the wine as a combination of “notes of grass, light fresh herbs and apples with a slight mineral aspect.”
A lovely white elongated plate arrived at everyone’s place (but Alicia’s) with a charming presentation of alternating seared scallops and artichoke hearts shaped into rounds on slices of white beetroot, covered with shaved fresh horseradish and topped with a spinach coulis and tiny beetroot cubes. The verdict on this course was scrumptious. However, if I were being picky (which I generally am not!), while perfectly cooked the scallops could have been dried a bit more prior to searing to produce a slight crusty edge.
And of course, the wine kept flowing and for our main, we moved on to Chateaux Barbanau Roquefort la Bedoule, Côte-de-Provence, which is a Granache/Syrah/Gamay blend. The aroma of horse saddle, white pepper and cooked blackberries, with a touch of eucylyptus was the pronouncement by Neil, and it was “slightly chewy with medium tannins and mid-length finish.” (Yum!)
This accompanied our main course of the following: Grilled endive with caramelized sugar, roasted potatoes and apples. Tournedos de bouef with a beef gingerbread reduction sauce and the pièce de resistance and the seasonal specialty for Christmas/ New Year – a big honking piece of pan fried foie-gras on a piece of toasted gingerbread
And Alicia gazed with horror at the enormous piece of goose liver staring back at her from the plate. Quelle horreur! She steeled herself for the task at hand by looking out at the Hôtel des Invalides for inspiration. Since foie gras is not typically on the Toronto meat-eating menu, it had not occurred to her to specify that she usually does not experiment with this delicacy in her minimal forays into meat eating. Although Neil happily gobbled up his portion, he declined to help her out by eating her portion as well.
The pan seared foie gras was light and not as cloying as it is wont to be, and the beef was very tender and delicious. The dish had extra flair with the delicious addition of the gingerbread toast and the very yummy gingerbread sauce that went perfectly with the beef, the foie gras and the veggies and apple.
We awaited dessert with anticipation, but Neil was a bit disgruntled at the lack of dessert wine. He got over it as our glasses of red continued to be generously filled by our ever-attentive server.
Dessert was a baked passionfruit mousse with seeds (which suspiciously looked like more roe to Alicia). The mousse was served with honey, mango coulis and a lovely swirled two-toned cocoa-saffron shortbread which was baked by Mardi and her fellow cooking class compatriots downstairs in the Electrolux kitchen! (Mardi’s note – well not these particular ones but I DO know how to make them now!)
Although our reservation said 12 noon (on the dot, don’t be late!) to 2 pm, we were left to leisurely enjoy dessert, coffee, and the view until we decided to reluctantly make our way downstairs to where Mardi and the rest of the mortal world awaited us.