My previous experience with a one-night-only special chef guest stint was an absolutely incredible dinner with Pascal Barbot at Momofuku Ko. This time around, I was just as lucky in getting to experience an epic "Five Star Fish Dinner" at Corton.
The name of this dinner came from the two collaborating chefs, who have 5 Michelin stars between them. The guest chef was Laurent Gras, formerly of L2O in Chicago, which earned three Michelin stars as a seafood-only restaurant under his reign. Chef Paul Liebrandt is the current chef-owner of Corton, which has two Michelin stars for his modern French menu.
We were each welcomed with a glass of champagne upon our arrival. As I had been running late, they were very generous in refilling my friends' glasses of champagne twice before I got there. In fact, they were quite generous with the champagne pours the entire night, as our 7-course dinner came with champagne pairings courtesy of Louis Roederer. The price tag of $195+t/t for 7 courses with champagne pairings was a very good deal, which became an absolute steal as the night went on.
BLOOD ORANGE GELEE AND CRACKER WITH COD AND MANDARIN CREAM Our first set of amuse featured this interestingly presented duo of lightly sweet bites.
SQUID INK BRIOCHE WITH CAULIFLOWER MAYONNAISE ATOP A POTATO AND LEEK TERRINE
The many earthy flavors managed to come together quite delicately.
BLACK OLIVE POTATO CROQUETTE The lightly fried exterior gave way to a delightful hot liquid center.
WHITE ASPARAGUS ROYALE WITH BLACK GARLIC GELEE AND PARMESAN ESPUMA Served in an egg shell, this was a wonderful combination of flavors, showcasing chef Liebrandt's use of black garlic and foam.
Bread service consisted of slices of country bread, picholine olive and rosemary rolls, and baguettes smoked with eucalyptus. All the breads had good strong flavors, but my favorite was the baguette, which was perfect for soaking up the sauces from our dishes.
Salt, cow's milk butter, and seaweed butter. The butters were fine, but I did not detect a notable flavor in the seaweed butter.
Our first pairing was a Louis Roederer Brut 2000 (magnum).
TAI SNAPPER WITH CRISPY SKIN, RED MISO, PICKLED RADISHES This was beautifully presented on a block of ice. The red miso flavor was really nice, with a hint of smokiness that matched well with the fish and the pickled radishes. The flesh was quite robust and provided a satisfying mouthful of food. The skin was crisp and melted in my mouth, but did not provide a lot of flavor.
Our next pairing was a Louis Roederer Brut 2003. It was mentioned that there was no Cristal that year, and that some of those grapes made it into this Brut.
RAINBOW TROUT WITH OSCETRA CAVIAR, NICOISE OLIVE, LARDO, GOAT MILK
Another beautiful presentation. The flavors were strong all around, but complemented the rainbow trout which held up to the strong flavors.
The fish practically melted in my mouth, and the combined textures were wonderful.
Our first taste of Cristal was the Cristal 1993 (magnum). This went very well with the stronger flavors of our next course.
SMOKED HALIBUT BOUILLON WITH SEPIA, RUBY RED SHRIMP, HALIBUT JAMON, SEA URCHIN, AND GREEN GARLIC
The variety of treasures from the sea provided an array of beautiful colors and great texture contrasts.
The star of this dish, however, was the broth. From a terrific dashi base, the smoked halibut added a rich smokiness to the broth that highlighted the sweetness of the accompanying seafood.
Our next pairing was a Cristal 1997 (magnum).
MONKFISH WITH RED WINE ESSENCE, BONE MARROW, QUAIL EGG, LEEK, AND TRUMPET MUSHROOM PUREE
The firm monkfish meat served as a wonderful vehicle for the other strong flavors in this dish.
The red wine essence was another great sauce, and was vital here as the sweetness was needed to cut the heavier flavors. They provided an ample amount of the sauce, which I happily mopped up with a smoked baguette.
Somehow I didn't take a picture of the final savory course pairing, which was a Cristal 2004.
ALASKAN KING SALMON WITH RAZOR CLAM, PIQUILLO PEPPERS, PARSLEY, SALMON 'JUS'
The salmon was incredibly cooked, soft yet slightly flaky, and bursting with flavor. The pepper puree coating provided a great texture complement and resulted in a bite with a terrific mouthfeel.
The color of the sauce on the white plate helped to highlight the beautiful bright colors on the plate. With a additional touch of pepper flavor, this was another delicious sauce that I happily soaked up with bread.
Our pairing for the first sweet course was a Louis Roederer Rose 2006.
RHUBARB WITH ORCHID ICE CREAM AND STRAWBERRY MERINGUE
At first, when I tasted the components separately, I thought the orchid ice cream was too floral. However, once I combined everything into one bite, the flavors were absolutely magical together. Furthermore, the ice cream, meringue, crunch, and jelled fruit was a wonderful combination of textures.
Our final pairing of the night was a Louis Roederer extra dry.
SAFFRON VANILLA FUDGE WITH MATCHA GREEN TEA SABLE, MANGO GANACHE, AND VANILLA
A wonderful arrangement of common dessert flavors. The salt and saffron drew out the flavor of the chocolate while the matcha, mango, and vanilla was a great progression of sweetness in one bite.
MIGNARDISES The petit fours began with currant and passionfruit gelees.
Followed by honey bourbon truffles.
Cocktail-inspired macarons with sidecar and mojito flavors.
Chocolates filled with salted caramel, dark chocolate ganache, meyer lemon, and espresso. They were very nice and brought us extras of the ones we wanted.
Some financiers for us to take home.
In all, it was a truly epic meal. Even at the best restaurants I've been to, I would consider a meal amazing if all the dishes were good, but a few were spectacular. In this case, every dish was spectacular, from the egg shell amuse all the way through dessert. The fact that the champagne kept coming and that the cost was extremely reasonable made it even more special.
Both chefs were gracious and humble when we thanked them for the wonderful meal. While I know that the meal was a collaboration, I am very excited to revisit Corton on its own. In fact, my friend SC, felt that chef Liebrandt has improved upon his previous mentor Pierre Gagniere.