Dinner at Troisgros

I first ate at this restaurant in 1975, and have made many return visits over the subsequent 28 years. In 1975, the team of brothers Jean and Pierre Trois Gros did the cooking. Jean died prematurely, and his exuberant older brother, Pierre, took up the reins and proceeded to produce some of the greatest cooking France has ever seen. Today, Pierre has taken his retirement (although he did come back and sit with us for lunch the following day) - a great treat for all of us to see the incredible sparkle and dynamism in this 75-year old chef. However, the kitchen has not lost a beat as Pierre's son, Michel, continues to flawlessly prepare the classics that his father and uncle made famous. Additionally, Michel has added a brilliant and distinctive Asian flare to his cuisine. The first night was pure decadence, a night of the great classics of Troisgros. There are three one-hundred point dishes from my perspective. These particular dishes defined what I thought great cuisine was 28 years ago, and it's hard to expect them to be every bit as riveting/compelling today ... but they all were. The salmon with sorrel has always been one of those great dishes where the acidity of the sorrel cuts the fatness of the salmon. At Troisgros, the slightly under-cooked salmon is the perfect foil in the rich sauce, with the sorrel adding a wonderful natural vibrancy as well as acidity. The homard grillée is the greatest rendition of this dish in the world. The lobster is brought off the grill, presented at the table, flamed in cognac, split in half, and then presented in two services. The best beef I have ever had has been at Troisgros. Their great charolais beef with big chunks of beef marrow is as decadent a dish as one could possibly have.

We had an extraordinary array of wines. A 1982 Bollinger Champagne R.D. was revealing a touch of oxidation, making me wonder if the bottle was prematurely aged. That was followed by three of the greatest white Burgundies one could ever taste. The 1995 Coche Dury Meursault Perrières is a candidate for perfection. It combines a liquid minerality with an extraordinary honeyed fruitiness, amazing definition, and layer upon layer of flavor. The remarkable thing is that the 1995 Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne is even richer, more complex and aromatic. It is a stunning tour de force in what great Burgundy is all about. Both of these wines are amazingly young, with a good 10-15 years of aging ahead of them. The 1992 Coche Dury Meursault Perrières was spectacular, but was outdone by the two great 1995 classics.

It is reassuring to taste a red Burgundy at the level of the 1990 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanée Cros Parentoux. It's been a long time since I had such a profound red Burgundy. This wine hit every sweet spot on my palate. Its bouquet inundated the olfactory senses. An extraordinary wine of great complexity, gorgeous richness, and fabulous purity, this pristine bottle could easily have another 10-15 years of life in it. We shifted gears with a virtually perfect bottle of the 1985 Guigal Côte Rôtie La Turque, the debut vintage for that wine. Still young and vibrant, it offered notes of tar, smoke, bacon fat, burning lard, and plenty of black fruits in a full-bodied, seamlessly constructed, opulent format. There was some discussion at the table, but I thought the bottle of 1982 La Mission Haut Brion was not a pristine bottle. This can be a 100 point wine, but this bottle was a bit rustic, and the tannins were jagged and course, suggesting that somewhere along the line, the wine was thrown out of sync. It was surpassed by a beautiful, fully mature yet fresh, vigorous 1978 Lafleur. Telltale notes of cherry liqueur, prunes, and plums emerged from this medium-bodied yet elegant, flavorful wine.

The 1995 Château Chalon Vin Jaune is an eccentric offering that my colleague, Pierre Rovani, loves. For me, it's too oxidized (intentionally so). This type of wine works especially well with certain dishes, particularly foie gras and some of the rich, oily, small birds (ortolan comes to mind). In any event, it is a controversial wine that I do not believe is exported to the United States since it is bottled in a non-legal size format.

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