Sunday, November 22, 2009

Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo

Back to catching up on our France travel posts, while the memories have yet to be drowned into oblivion by the daily grind of work.

Think Monaco and fast cars; billionaire magnates; debonair James Bond-type dangerous men; movie-star princesses; flashy yachts and sun-drenched glittering blue waters come to mind. For a taste of the high life, we booked lunch at Joël Robuchon Monte-Carlo, which had two Michelin stars, not without a tad of trepidation given the impressiveness of its name and credentials (our wallets trembled in fear). Indeed, when we arrived at the Metropole hotel where the restaurant was housed, the entire atmosphere was extremely formal and obviously geared at high-spending rich guests and celebrities (indeed, I think I spotted Dame Helen Mirren the British actress dining with a friend). We were swiftly divested of our coats and bags - very polished and professional service indeed - and escorted to our seats in a colonnaded dining room which had an open kitchen at one end, and not one but two! trolleys - a bread trolley and a dessert trolley. Pleasant surprise!! Instead of the 75 Euros each that we had been expecting to spend on lunch, there was a range of much more affordable lunch menus, starting from 29 Euros per pax. We decided to take the 43 Euro menu, which included a starter, a main, and coffee/tea, and water.

Our happiness started when the bread trolley was quickly wheeled over to our table. We chose the olive bread and the poppy seed bread which is *illegal* in Singapore. One bite and oh bliss, crusty exterior and warm soft yeasty savoury insides. No one makes bread like the French (except maybe the Japanese. On second thoughts, maybe the Japanese do it better!).

My starter of cold mackerel with aubergine confit and basil sauce was surprisingly good. Mackerel is a very strong-tasting fish but the restaurant had prepared and marinated it so well, that there was no fishiness at all, but simply the good clean flavours of the sea shining through. E fared less well though with his mussels steamed in white wine with saffron and chorizo. As expected the mussels were very fresh but hardly elevated to another level by the preparation, something that we could have easily cooked at home. But then our mains arrived, and all was forgiven. My slow-cooked veal cheek with black olives was utterly stupendous.... it quivered on the plate and melted the instant it reached my mouth. The wonderfully savoury sauce with a salty edge from the olives. Those ultra-smooth and buttery mashed potatoes (I don't want to hear how many calories there are in those two innocent looking dollops).

But unbelievable as it may seem, E's grilled beef fillet was clearly the KING OF THE MEAL. I swooned when I tasted it....that robostness and complexity of flavour that you get only from premium beef, properly dry-aged. That sauce, so full of beefy goodness, as if the essence of one whole cow had been distilled and concentrated into a small pitcher. So, so much better than even Morton's (yes, I must recalibrate my internal rating system.)

To be sure, we will not forget our meal at Joël Robuchon for a very, very long while.

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