Restaurant Review – Pierre Gagnaire a Seoul

As much as Miri is starting to grow on me, the fact of the matter is there’s no bloody good bread in town. Literally, the crackle of a freshly baked French baguette or sourdough bread is like a distant memory. As much as I enjoyed having the occasional bread whilst working in the Netherlands, I never truly appreciated it until I returned back home to Malaysia.

During my many trips abroad, it is a joy to have good bread in some very fine restaurants. And I finally found my heaven on Earth in Seoul, which is home to one of Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurants right at the 35th floor of the opulent Lotte hotel.

Behold! Life makes sense once again, albeit briefly but to be savored.

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Pierre Gagnaire runs the legendary three Michelin starred restaurant in 6 Rue Balzac in Paris, as well as a multitude of outposts ranging from Dubai, Las Vegas, Seoul, etc. I reckon it is a must to pay homage to this temple of gastronomy.

We opted for the lunch menu, and started off with an interactive Amuse Bouche. This requires the diner to scoop each spoon with a specific sauce and component. There were some very interesting flavour combinations e.g. foie gras flakes with chocolate and prune sauce.

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Amuse Bouche

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Don’t you love it when the sourdough bread is sliced tableside? And nothing beats having their own in-house French baker, who bakes an amazing selection of bread such as baguettes, English muffins just to name a few.

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Next, we had an array of three well-crafted starters. First off, was poached quail egg with sauteed macadamia and cashew nuts, Viennese bread crumbs and sherry syrup. The egg was perfectly poached, with the nuts giving texture to the dish, and topped off with the sweetness from the Sherry syrup. Beautiful.

Poached quail eggs, sauteed peanuts, Viennese bread crumbs and sherry syrup
Poached quail eggs, sauteed peanuts, Viennese bread crumbs and sherry syrup

The next starter was pearly white Mino fish, with a asparagus and tarragon sauce, Iberico ham, and toasted hazelnuts. The fish was cooked perfectly, and paired very well with the sauce of green asparagus with a tinge of Tarragon, the saltiness of the Iberico ham, and the crunch from the toasted hazelnuts. This was definitely one of my favourites.

Green asparagus and tarragon mouselline, pearly white mino, iberico ham and toasted hazelnuts
Green asparagus and tarragon mouselline, pearly white mino, iberico ham and toasted hazelnuts

Next was probably my least favourite starter, albeit still a very solid dish. The richness of the Girolles mushroom bavarois was balanced with the sweetness of the apricots, and the almonds gave some texture to the dish. Flavours were quite subtle and restrained, which could be a good thing, but still there’s no wow factor.

Girolles mushroom Bavarois, sauteed apricots and almonds
Girolles mushroom Bavarois, sauteed apricots and almonds

For my main, I had the Korean beef tenderloin with grilled Mortadella, Chanterellus puree, spaetzle and an intense beef jus. The beef was incredibly tender, the chanterellus puree adding some earthiness to the dish, and the Mortadella with some saltiness. Spaetzle was perhaps a forgettable element, but overall the dish was splendid.

Korean beef tenderloin with grilled mortadella, chanterellus puree, spaetzle with intense jus
Korean beef tenderloin with grilled mortadella, chanterellus puree, spaetzle with intense jus

For the desserts, which of course is my favourite part of the meal, was a poached peach from Jeju island, sponge cake, fennel and rose water. The poached peach was luscious and had a lot of natural sweetness coaxed out of it. This was paired with a refreshing albeit rather alcoholic Ricard granita and ice cream.

Poached Jeju peach, with a sponge cake, fennel and rose water
Poached Jeju peach, with a sponge cake, fennel and rose water
Ricard Granita and ice cream
Ricard Granita and ice cream

And of course, some beautiful Petit fours and chocolates.

Petit Fours
Petit Fours

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I must say, the chef certainly has an eye for presentation as the dishes were beautifully crafted and certainly made me salivate. But more importantly, the flavours were delicious and robust. The cuisine was certainly very French, but using some amazing local produce as well, such as the Korean beef tenderloin, as well as the amazing peaches from Jeju island.

Price wise, I paid about RM700 (or approx 210,000 KRW) for the “three” course meal (amuse bouche, 3 starters, 1 main, 1 dessert), including a glass of Louis Roederer champagne and Tokaji 5 puttonyos. Definitely not something one could afford everyday, but certainly worth it for the high level of cookery, and of course, the amazing bread.

Great way to cap off my trip of Seoul searching, pun intended.

Location: 35th floor, Lotte Hotel. 30, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea.+82-2-317-7181/7182. Website

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