4 Rue Beethoven,
Phone: +33 1 40 50 84 40
As a foodie, I’ve always wanted to eat at Astrance. It’s one of those great dining legends you hear about, hoping one day you’ll get to experience the magic for yourself. Pascal Barbot & Christophe Rohat’s joint venture earned them three Michelin stars and a spot on San Pellegrino’s Top Fifty Restaurants In the World List for the last decade. How could you go wrong?
Foie Gras, Apple & Mushroom Millefeuille
Something went wrong because I wasn’t wowed or moved much at all. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that dinner was bad. It’s an entirely elegant and intimate spot (with just twenty five seats), and the service is impeccable. The serene space is spread out over two floors, which are decorated with yellow leather banquettes, sky high ceilings, and charcoal gray walls. And I can’t ignore how fantastic the wine list is because there are some great bottles to be had here.
The trouble started when they handed us the menu… which wasn’t a menu at all, but a declaration of the chef’s devotion to whimsy and spontaneity in the kitchen. As if they were the first to invent a tasting menu. It also sets high expectations for a chef who’s going to strut his stuff. And Pascal Barbot does impress here and there, especially with a dish of Asparagus from the Loire Valley dusted with cracked Sumac Berries and what looks like a Quail Egg alongside it. Except the supposed egg is actually made with green mango stained yellow to look like the yolk and goat cheese to mimic the white of the egg. It’s a good dish; as playful to look at as it is to eat. So is a juicy Duck Filet with Baby Carrots, Peas, & Duck Jus, all anointed with a Black Curry Sauce and a Chili Pepper Sorbet with Lemongrass.
Butternut Squash & Crab Ravioli
If only the rest of the food had more soul. See, that’s the problem with Astrance: There’s something cold and comfortless about the food. The signature dish is a perfect example: It’s a cross between a Galette and a Millefeuille, albeit a savory one, layered with cold Foie Gras, Green Apple, and Mushrooms, and sided by a Hazelnut Oil and Lemon Confit. What looks like a warm dish (or what should be served warm anyway) arrives cold and raw. Who wants to eat raw mushrooms anyway? The ingredients don’t quite gel, not to mention foie gras is supposed to taste rich and unctuous, not timid and tame.
And everything’s a little too complicated with one too many ingredients, like Poached John Dory with Fennel, Kimchi Leaves, Grape Sauce and too much Tamarind, as well as Butternut Squash Ravioli with Spicy Crabmeat, Mint Leaf and an odd addition of Lemon Powder. Perhaps the most gratifying dish of the meal was one of the last; a Jasmine Eggnog, served in an egg shell with Chestnut Honey Madeleines. At the end of the day, food should be satisfying. You can tell the kitchen has the potential for greatness, which makes it all the more shame that they deliver so many soulless plates.