Regular readers of this blog know that two of my favourite restaurants in Stockholm are Gastrologik and Speceriet. (Because some people are wondering I would just like to say that I am not involved in the restaurants. I do not get paid for writing about them. And I pay for what I eat there). Both restaurants are run by chefs Jacob Holmström and Anton Bjuhr. Gastrologik holds one Michelin star and Speceriet is their more casual restaurant. Before opening Gastrologik (and before being a chef at Mathias Dahlgren Matbaren in Stockholm) Jacob Holmström worked for Pascal Barbot at his three Michelin starred L’Astrance. When going to Paris I therefore simply had to visit L’Astrance.
Astrance is run by chef patron Pascal Barbot and maître d’hôtel Christophe Rohat. Before opening their own restaurant in 2000, both worked at Alain Passard’s L’Arpège in Paris; Barbot as sous chef and Rohat as maître d’hôtel. Michelin awarded L’Astrance one star just a few months after opening and in 2007 it was elevated to three star level. Astrance is currently ranked number 23 on San Pellegrino’s list of The World’s 50 Best restaurants. Pascal Barbot has been a participant of four Cook it Raw events. More information of Pascal Barbot and L’Astrance can be found in Food Snob’s review.
L’Astrance is located near the river Seine in the 16th arrondisement. It is a relatively small restaurant with only about 25 covers. But the dining room does not feel cramped as there is a lot of space between most tables and mirrors on the walls making the room feel larger than it actually is. It is not as formal as the other three Michelin starred restaurants i Paris.
I had lunch at Astrance on 24 april 2013. When visiting Astrance for lunch you have three options: a €70 menu dejeuner, a second menu for about €120 (I don’t remember the name or the price) and the €210 menu Astrance. I chose the menu Astrance. As far as I know, the menu Astrance is the same menu that is served for dinner less one or two courses.
Palet amande, pomme verte et praliné et Tuile de brioche caramélisé, crème au foin
The lunch started with two excellent appetisers; (1) a green apple puck between two thin almond discs and (2) a crispy brioche with a hay cream and a flower. Especially the brioche was brilliant with a perfect crispy texture and very nice hay cream which tasted like it was made of oats.
Foie gras mariné au verjus, millefeuille de champignon de Paris, pâte de citron confit
The first course on the menu was monsieur Barbots signature dish; a millefeuille-like galette of foie gras, green apple and mushrooms. Slices of verjus marinated foie gras were put in layers with thin slices of green apple and mushrooms. At the side of the tart were some hazelnut vinaigrette, lemon confit and a dead nettle. I can sort of understand why this is a signature dish. Partly, it is a good dish and definitely one that you remember, though it is not as good as Martin Berasetegui’s foie gras, eel and apple millefeuille. The acidity in the apples, verjus, lemon and hazelnut vinaigrette helped making the dish very light considering it also consisted of duck liver. I really loved the combination of foie gras, apple and hazelnut. However I was not equally fond of the raw mushrooms. There was a little bit to much of the mushroom. I think that this dish would benefit from less raw mushrooms or something that would better hold together the components (not literally, though the galette collapsed completely with my first bite). The lemon confit did not improve the dish. There was already enough acidity. I do not remember what the dead nettle did to the dish.
Asperges vertes et coulis de citron, noisettes caramélisées, orange confite
Three perfectly cooked large green asparagus of extremely high quality with ”crackers” made of a hazelnut praliné mixed with peanuts and porcini powder. On top an emulsion – which I think they called miso – made of boiled eggs and browned butter. There were also some hazelnuts, lemon curd and dill. The asparagus was amazing and the combination with the cracker and and hazelnuts was very good. However I do think there was a little bit to many ingredients on the plate.
Homard, pâte de Satay, croquant basilic
A perfectly seared lobster of very high quality was served with a very delicious peanut sauce with some coriander and slices of cucumber. On a separate plate was a thin and crispy cylinder filled with the same peanut sauce as above. Brilliant!
Saint Pierre vapeur, fenouil et purée d’épinard, piment doux et cumin
A quite large piece of steamed John Dory was served with steamed spinach. Its texture was a little bit firmer than normal spinach, carefully heated yuzu, julienned zest of yuzu, a salty herb and powdered cumin on the side. I did not like this dish. There was no harmony on the plate and the cumin which totally outpowered the other components. I have had John Dory of higher quality.
Dorade, bouillon au céleri aux épices
In a very light celeriac consommé were slices of raw dorade and oysters, which might have been carefully poached (or maybe it simply was the consommé that cooked them). The fish and the oysters were of very high quality and the consommé was very delicate. Also on the plate, some thin slices of – I think – celeriac. A masterpiece.
Porc, morilles cuisinées au vin jaune, fondue de Parmesan
Porc belly with morels, a cream and foam of parmesan and crumbles of (I think) a nut. On a separate plate was a tapioka chip. The chip was very light and ”airy”. It was a good dish but not memorable.
Selle d’agneau grillé, aubergine miso, pâte de curry noir
Suckling lamb with parsley root, a olive and coffee purée and three red brazilian peppers which I do not remember the name of. The lamb was very tender and of very high quality. It was a quite good dish but I think that the ingredients did not really fit together.
Purée de pomme de terre au fromage blanc, glace vanille et thym
Mashed potatoes, mixed with fromage blanc and crème fraîche, had – if I remember correctly been put through a siphone. In the middle a thyme and vanilla flavoured ice cream. This was not good. I did not like the flavours nor the the texture of the foam. Not three star-cooking.
Citronnelle et piment en sorbet
Chilipepper, ginger and lemon grass sorbet. There was quite a lot of heat from the chilipepper. Good, but actually more interesting than delicious.
An almond flavour based cake with a light and runny lemon cream and some candied lemon yuzu. Very good.
Lait de poule au jasmin
Jasmin eggnog. Very delicate jasmin flavour. Brilliant.
Guimauve safran, sorbet ananas/coriandre
Pineapple and coriander sorbet with a frozen saffron cream. The latter had a strange texture, which I have not encountered before. A bit like mixed and frozen marshmallows. I do not remember what I thought of the sorbet.
Madeleines au miel de châtaignier
Chestnut honey madeleines.
Pineapple and strawberries. The pineapple was very fine but the strawberries were not. Actually the quality was below three Michelin star level. Far from high quality Swedish strawberries. Serving fresh fruit as mignardises can be ok in this kind of restaurant if the quality is outstanding. These were not.
This was a very good lunch. Though not as good as I expected it to be. I would not rate it as one of my premier dining experiences. Some of the dishes were brilliant bit some were less good. In a couple of the dishes there were to many ingredients and some ingredients that did not fit with each other. Most of the produce was of very high quality and some was even exceptional such as the asparagus. Everything was cooked to perfection.
Service was excellent. However during the first three quarters of the lunch the pace was very slow. I had to wait a long time between each course. In the last quarter things changed to the better and the paced increased considerably. Pascal Barbot was present at my visit. Unlike Guy Savoy, which I visited the day after, he spent the entire time in the kitchen instead of talking to the guests. It was not until after my last dessert that he appeared in the dining room.
Astrance is not an easy restaurant to get in touch with. They do not have a home page nor an official e-mail address. There is just a telephone number. I can not understand why they’re not present on the Internet. It is not especially customer friendly. It is definitely an area where they can improve.
More pictures with higher resolution on my Flickr account.