Towards the end of our “Innovation-Inspiration Menu” at Restaurant Guy Savoy, we asked Chef Mathieu Chartron if this new menu was a lot more work for him and his sous chefs. With typical French understatement, all he gave us was a hint of a smile and a silent nod of agreement.
Smiling and agreeing pretty much sums up what any gourmand worth his or her salt will do for the entire time it takes them to weave their way through the sights, smells and sensations of this sensational, fifteen course meal. It ain’t cheap ($348/per), but when you consider it represents an exalted chef taking his game to an entirely new level, it almost seems as if you are experiencing a leap of delicious culinary history in the making.
But make no mistake, this is not a menu for the history books. This is food for the 21st Century — a menu that combines the best of Guy Savoy’s classicism, with the lighter touch he practically imposed on Parisian cooking twenty years ago, with just enough post-modern (dare we say molecular?) tweaks to keep the geeks interested.
Best of all, it tastes out of this world — intensely flavored, using the best ingredients on earth, but almost weightless beyond measure. If it weren’t for ten breads, fifteen cheeses and twenty petit fours* we stuffed ourselves with (like we always do at GS), we might even say the whole experience was downright healthy.
The meal began innocently enough with Savoy’s signature artichoke and black truffle soup, served, as always, with their addictive, truffle-studded brioche:
Neophytes to this cuisine need to be warned that they’ll be tempted right then and there to just ask for a quart of the stuff, and a loaf of the brioche, and call it a night.
But of course, that would be a big mistake.
After the usual flurry of bread service (helpful ELV hint: just eat everything they show you here), out comes a little tiny oysters in a cool bath of salty seaweed, dressed with a fresh lemon granité:
Kapow! is the effect achieved — both waking your palate from it’s gorgeous, soup-induced slumber and getting the salivary juices flowing. Like everything on this menu, it is deceptively simple, almost Japanese in form and function, and a perfect piece of the mosaic of flavors soon to leave their imprint on your taste brain.
Next up is the eye-popping “Santa Barbara Spot Prawn “caught” in a Sweet and Sour Fishnet” — in this case, a blanket of mesh-cut daikon poached in a sweet and sour bath.:
Again, the Far East influences are present, with the almost gaminess of those beautiful shrimp being set off with with a very Japanese, subtle, sweet and sour tang.
How can food get any better than this?
Well, you won’t have to wait long for the answer, because in short order, out comes a hollowed out spear of white asparagus, filled with osetra and finished with a smoked sabayon served from — get this — the inside of a pristine, empty eggshell:
White asparagus sometimes get knocked for being subtle to the point of invisibility (much like Japanese food), but these stand up well to the flavors they (literally) carry on their back.
In another nod to packing a punch into a small package, next comes a “Marinated-Grilled Hamachi with aged sherry vinegar, eggplant puree and radish gelée“:
…just two bites of the purest seafood you could imagine — with plenty of piquancy provided to the surf by all of that turf.
Like all great chefs, Savoy and his troops love to play with their fish. Which explains the slightly gimmicky, but no less great, treatment salmon gets by being “cooked” on an iceberg table-side – the iceberg in this instance being a slab of dry ice that turns the fish into a density heretofore not experience with this swimmer:
The dish is finished with a variegated lemon sauce poured over a bed of bok choy and garnished with cubes of gelatin-ized sorrel cubes:
…and serves as a modernized homage the classic “salmon in sorrel sauce” made famous by the Troisgros Frères in Roanne.
If you’re like ELV, you will notice that none of these dishes is even remotely filling. This is a good thing. Portions are sized at a bite or three of the main ingredient with a couple of accents used sparingly, but effectively. If you’re also like ELV, you will have tried at least seven different breads by this point in your meal — each slathered with enough butter to sculpt a cow, and tasting as if a milk maid delivered it that morning.
It’s about then that it suddenly dawns on you that nary a piece of foie gras has been offered. Don’t panic pilgrim, the best is yet to come.
Two small cubes of horseradish-topped foie gras show up over poached celery stalks, dressed with a “potato chip bouillon” that tastes exactly like it sounds:
Is it a lot of foie? No, but it’s probably just the right amount when it’s being sandwiched into a fifteen course meal. And if you’ve never had fatty liver with horseradish and potato chips (who thinks these things up?) you are in for a treat.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trés luxe meal without lobster, and once again, just when you think you can’t be astounding anymore by this kitchen, out comes “Lobster Bordelaise”:
…Savoy’s treatment of this meatiest of crustaceans as…well…meat…might not be revolutionary, but it is a revelation:
His Bordelaise sauce is just that — rich and red-winy — but treated the lobster with respect; the dish melding perfectly with sommelier Phil Park’s choice of a premier cru Beaune** as a match.
But wait, there’s more.
As with all classic French meals, this one moved right up (and through) the food chain, leaving only a premium cut of fowl or meat to be served. Since Savoy loves American beef (he doesn’t serve any beef at his Paris flagship), it was no surprise that two, beautiful slices of saffron-marjoram-crusted wagyu loin appeared next:
…over a cannellini bean purée, garnished with puffy wisps of brioche “sponge cake.”
As with the lobster (and the foie gras, and salmon and the hamachi, and the…) the tastes on the plate were riveting, never too much, and always leaving you wanting a little bit more.
Desserts then followed:
…each demonstrating the uncommon intensity for which Savoy is famous.
Unlike some of his compatriots, Savoy has always been a bit of a minimalist. As the gastronomic globe has left the conceits and excesses of the late 20th Century behind, he has shown an amazing ability to adapt his cuisine to the changing tastes of his customers (and the world) while never forgetting the lexic0n of Escoffier and the fundamentals upon which his cooking (and reputation) are built.
We see his new menu as a statement for the future of fine dining. (Much as haute couture and Formula One set standards for design and excellence in their fields, so do the world’s best restaurants provide a glimpse of what tomorrow’s plate will hold.)
The restaurant world has gotten much smaller just in the past decade, and the mixing and matching of ingredients, techniques and presentations no longer results in fusion confusion; it is simply the way things are. Savoy has figured out a way to move the catechism of a formal, French dinner into the realm of the modern world without sacrificing any of his (or its) immense integrity. He has seemingly done the impossible (found the Holy Grail?) of making a formal meal at a fine, French restaurant seasonal, light, cerebral (for us food nerds***) and fun.
It is a remarkable achievement in modern gastronomy.
RESTAURANT GUY SAVOY
In Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino
3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
* “Petit fours” being French for: I can’t believe they’re serving us more food.
** Here are the rest of the wines he paired with the meal:
*** Our loyal readers.