Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dinner With Family At Auguste

Last Tuesday evening my father, Valerie, and I went to dinner with some very cheery company at a highly regarded new restaurant in the neighborhood that my father wanted to try. My cousin Cuote, his lovely wife Ashley, and their golden retriever Cassidy joined us for dinner and it was great to catch up after not seeing them since Christmas. My dad is always on the prowl for new places in Paris and combs through countless magazines, newspapers, and cooking channels to find them. Auguste, a one star restaurant in the 7th arrondissement boasted a short but ambitious menu full of interesting sounding things and a modern décor dominated by reds and blacks. Chef Orieux could be considered a young executive chef/proprietor at 32 but he has an impressive resume behind him. He was a disciple of Bocuse in his youth before working as sous-chef under Yannick Alleno at Meurice in Paris. His food is typical nouvelle cuisine using international ingredients mixed with seasonal produce to create vibrant and exciting dishes. My father and Cuote started their meal with tomates anciennes confites de Jacky Mercier, chantilly de yaourt au basilic, et rouget à la fleur de sel. The appetizer is roughly translated to slow-roasted tomatoes with basil-yogurt mousse and salted red snapper. They thought it was good but not great with a clever concept behind it though overall the flavors were dull. The red snapper was the best part but it looked out of place on the plate, isolated from the rest of the dish.

For my first course I had the special of the day, langoustines frito au basilic et petites pois a la verveine or fried langoustines with basil and peas. The peas came in the form of a bright green mousse that tasted exactly like fresh peas and reminded me of spring. The langoustines were good, I am so crazy about them that there is no way they cannot be, but it was a shame to fry them so thoroughly which jeopardized their delicate texture. They were wrapped in filo and would have benefited from a lighter material like a tempura batter to really keep the seafood bits tender. There was supposed to be lemon verbena somewhere in the dish but I think it was omitted otherwise it was tasteless. I was bummed about that because it was one of the main reasons that I chose the dish other than the fact that if there is langoustine on the menu I order it without fail. Like the tomato and red snapper dish it was a good idea that got a little lost in the execution and the flavors were not as clearly pronounced as they should have been.

There is a trend that happens all too frequently in restaurants these days whether in Paris or New York where the entrees and desserts are excellent while the mains are sub par. Unfortunately Auguste adhered to this increasingly common model and I was disappointed with my main course and I do not think I was alone in my judgment. I had the other special of the day which ended up biting me in the ass; cabillaud aux herbes, mousse de carrotes, et curcuma espuma or herb crusted cod with carrot mousse and curcuma (wild turmeric) foam. The fish was perfectly cooked but bland despite the herbs and the chunks of steamed carrots surrounded by carrot juice elevated with butter was really boring. The curcuma mousse was interesting and contrasted nicely with the fish and sweetness of the carrots but overall the dish was not good; if I had served it, let alone as a daily special, I would be ashamed. Overall the highlight of the meal was the company, a rich ensemble of family and friends that I was thrilled to spend the evening with. The food was ok but way overpriced for what it was and chef Orieux was overly ambitious in the planning of his dishes. I did not learn until afterwards it had a Michelin star and I would certainly not have guessed. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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