Chocolate-covered scallops, espuma of calf’s brains and foie gras, apple-wasabi sorbet with olive oil, braised pork cheeks and caviar. That’s just a small window into the kinds of combinations that appear in A Matter of Taste, the HBO documentary chronicling Chef Paul Liebrandt’s post-Papillon peregrinations.
During my most recent meal at Corton, there certainly was no shortage of tantalizing dish descriptions: roast chicken ice cream with white asparagus velouté (or “milk” as described on the menu), crayfish tortellini with burnt eggplant meringue. And yet, the food never came close to generating the same level of delight as it did on the first go-round (here), wherein I wrote a real gusher.
That white asparagus soup was watery, resulting in a Sisyphean struggle just to get it to stay on the spoon. At least on that occasion our table was marked with utensils, which wasn’t the case with the morel mushroom chawanmushi, as we waited and waited some more before spoons finally arrived. And the unpalatable saffron-yuzu mochi is a memory on which I hope darkness will soon descend.
Let me not give the impression that Corton has somehow atrophied beyond recognition. There was the seductively salty Scotch quail egg tempered by apricot gelée and an august arrangement of rabbit, including a burger with ramp mayonnaise, tender loin and shoulder meat and a cucumber gelée-topped mousse. In the backdrop hid a tiny supreme of grapefruit that jolted the palate amid the carousel of leporine parts. And pastry chef Shawn Gawle’s graceful sourdough ice cream sitting atop a terrine of smoked maple and sour cherry proved to be one of the tastiest desserts on my trip.
But in the end, the stentorian conversations from some of the larger parties detract from the ambiance. And the uninviting, amateurish service becomes too annoying to brook. I hope my experience was abberational, but I’m in no hurry to find out.