A tasting menu may be torture for people like Anthony Bourdain, who has had to eat them at restaurants all over the world for years (cue the violin), but for most of us an evening tasting a chef's gastronomic menu is a pleasure.
Agapes offers a five course menu for 42 Euros which looked too good to pass up, especially when I found that by reserving through Laforchette.com the same menu can be had for 32 Euros (about $50).The restaurant has a very contemporary elegant decor and is located just south of the Jardin des Plantes in the 5th arrondissement.
Since my reservation specified my special offer, I was asked only if I wanted something to drink before my courses began, but because the courses included both seafood and duck I asked my waiter for a recommendation and he suggested a dry white white would compliment the entire menu so I ordered a glass of Sancerre.
A complimentary amuse guele was presented with a tasty creamy potage (soup) served in a glass, a savory herb biscuit, and an avocado puree. This was a promising start and I eagerly awaited the first course of the official menu.
The first course was the Langoustine, served with a ricotta cannelloni in a reduced bisque with crushed cocoa beans. The langoustine was fantastic, crispy, delicate and hot, but I didn't like the overall dish with the contrast of the hot bisque (served in s separate glass which was to be poured into the bowl) and the cold ricotta cannelloni. When asked by the waiter if I enjoyed the dish (because I left most of it), I told him no and I told him it was the contrast of hot/cold and rich creamy with rich savory which I did not enjoy. He apologized, but I told him it was ok (after all he was the server, not the chef) and I was sure i would enjoy the other courses (which I did).
The second course of seared duck foie gras was one of my favorites of the evening, served with a date chutney on Granny Smith apples and roasted nuts. The foie gras was cooked to a nice pink and the refreshing crunch of the raw apples combined with the roasted nuts gave a nice contrasting texture to the smooth rich foie gras.
The seafood entree was a curry sauced medallion of lotte (a white fish) served with a stuffed crab claw and pureed potato. The nicely understated curry enhanced the flavors of the fish and seafood and gave both an interesting perfume without overwhelming either. With more courses to come, I tasted the puree but did not eat it so I could eat the remaining courses; I was beginning to understand Anthony Bourdain's yearning for a simple three course meal.
The meat course was roasted duckling served with poached pear and a bitter orange sauce. It was cooked "rosy" or medium as I had requested and it was was a succulent rendition of this classic favorite.
With a nice break before serving the dessert course, I was actually able to taste the warm creamy pistachio sabayon and the freshly diced kiwi and mango in limoncello. Both dishes were good separately as well as together, but I could only finish the fruit dish at this point.
And just when I thought I had finished everything, there was an additional amuse guele at the end of the meal of fresh pineapple and a homemade mini madeleine. I gave up at this point and surrendered to my full stomach saying "No more", feasting with my eyes instead of my mouth.
It will be awhile before I partake of another tasting menu, but if you have not eaten a menu gastronomique in France, I urge you to do so, if nothing else than to understand how a chef can create a symphony of flavors simply for your enjoyment. For me this lesson in "the grass is greener" has taught me that thought I may envy Anthony Bourdain's life at times, I am also grateful for my own where I can chose how often and where I eat gastronomic menus.