Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Restaurant Le Gaic

One of the number one indicators of a good food culture is whether or not friendly conversation turns to food. Be it in New Orleans, France, Napa or elsewhere if a stranger asks you "Where are you eating while here?", you have chosen a food friendly city. And thus it was with St. Barth's, wherever we went people asked us that question. When we answered "Le Gaic" we got the following response without fail: a rubbing of the belly and "Oui...la gastronomique."

For our final meal in St. Barth's we chose Restaurant Le Gaic at the Hotel Toiny. The restaurant, like most St. Barth restaurants, is open to the elements. We were seated at the edge of the dining on the edge of an infinity pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The view would have impressed Ansel Adams.

First up was an elegant presentation of olives and gougeres. The green and black olives swam in a lemon infused olive oil. The result was an olive that was neither overtly briny nor acidic but an almost sweet, definitely subtle taste. Next to the olives, folded into billowing white pockets of napkin, were gorgeous little gougeres some filled with mozzarella and tomato others with fried pumpkin.

Settling into the plush, cushioned chairs we realized quickly a fabulous meal would soon come our way. First an amuse of smoked chicken and vegetable spring roll. So tiny and flavorful we wondered if there was a team of small handed chefs in the kitchen.
First course for me was foie gras. An enormous lobe of foie gras sat atop an orange and onion soubisse. Surrounding the delicate liver was a pool of tart demi glace, which contrasted nicely with the rich foie. Sitting atop all of this was a gingerbread tuile, providing a crackly contrast to the smooth star of the dish.
Lindsay's first course was a crispy scallop dish studded with truffles and surrounded by a salted lemon foam. The truffles in this dish were no afterthought. Large, almost pulsing truffles were tucked into the nooks and crannies. To find a truffle amongst the scallops was to unearth a treasure of the forest under the sea.
Next up for me (I had two additional courses than Lindsay did) was a crawfish ravioli with an almond foam. Delicious, huge crawfish perfectly poached, hide under impossibly thin sheets of pasta. This produced an altogether different sensation of eating crawfish than our typical and wonderful boiled crawfish.
One of the specials the night we were there was a truffled cream pasta course. Which sounds decadent in its own right, but the presentation was even more luxurius. A huge wheel of Parmesan was rolled over to the table, its inside hallowed out to create a bowl. The warm pasta was tossed in the pasta bowl while hot cream was ladled over it. Then, a truffle the size of a golf ball was shaved over the whole thing.

In one of the great misopportunities of my life, we skipped this dish. Earlier in the week Lindsay had eaten "the single greatest thing ever". A ravioli with ricotta, truffle, and cream. She feared ruining the memory of such an exquisite dish. Sometimes it is about what you dont eat.

Then before the main courses, we were served a lime sorbet. A perfect palate cleanser, as beautiful to look at as it was to eat. Yes, this one also had a foam.

Lindsay's main course was a grouper stuffed with lobster and another light foam along with some perfectly cooked asparagus spears.
I had the duck with tiny baby vegetables and a cherry coffee stick. The cherry coffee stick provided the sweetness so often served with duck, but in a wholly new light.

Dessert for me was a false Cannoli of chocolate mousse, marinated strawberries, and basil foam wrapped in a nougat shell. The dish was stunning. The grassiness of the basil foam gave way to the acidic sweetness of the strawberries which then birthed the dark, rich chocolate mousse.
Lindsay opted for a Grasshopper cocktail served with a spun globe of dark chocolate.

The wines were nothing to sneeze at either. A 2007 White Burgundy took us up to the Duck Course, while this herbaceous, cherry driven Gevrey-Chambertin with its delicate tannins saw us through dessert.

Finally some mignardiase including the smallest palmiers I have ever seen. Writing this article, I struggled to come up with a great closing line. Some Bourdain like summation that was both philosophical and paradoxical. But no such line came. Instead I realized that sometimes sharing an amazing meal with someone you love deeply is meaning enough.


Anonymous said...

Wow. My God.

George Alexandrou said...

Le Toiny is the hotel of St Barths. With a more discrete location, this property is extreme luxury. A romantic dinner is a must. The perfect honeymoon destination.