Updated: Jul 21, 2020
To celebrate the completion of my month in France, I decided to treat myself to the experience of a Michelin-starred restaurant. I researched restaurants in every city that I visited in my month here, hoping that I’d manage a glamorous evening at a wonderful restaurant.
One thing that I did know was that I wanted a tasting menu, so that I could try a large variety of their talents in one sitting. My research finally led me to Le Jardin des Sens. It was a restaurant attached to a hotel (lucky guests!). I called to reserve for dinner on Friday at 9pm, “Reservation for 1, please!” At the end of the call, I hesitantly asked if I called the Michelin-starred restaurant. She was very tickled by the question, but proudly answered yes. Hannah made the joke that they will think that I am a food critic, but I doubt it.
After finishing my exams at Gastronomicom, Lise kindly said goodbye to me, handing me my certificates. Then, I hurried to the residence to shower, say my goodbyes, and grab my things.
I requested a taxi from my hotel in Montpellier 8:45pm. I had 45 minutes to get ready. I had no clue what to expect and I had even less of an idea of how to dress. I decided on my Chartreuse button down and my olive pants. Because I noticed that everyone in France wears jackets (all the time, I grabbed my coat and headed for the door.
In ten minutes, I arrived - early.
The hotel receptionist greeted me warmly in French (of course, she could have just as easily been asking me how to boil an egg. I wouldn’t know.). I quickly said hello in English. Just as quickly, she said, “do you have a reservation.” As soon as I gave he my name, she motioned for me to follow her. She walked me straight to my seat. Right then, I knew service would be phenomenal.
The dining room of 20 tables was modern and very spacious. The room was staggered in different layers, giving some drama to the layout. I was seated beside the window on the bottom corner. I could see everything. I could also see that I was alone. You can ask anyone I know, but restaurants alined not thrill me whatsoever. I actually try to avoid it at all costs. One things that I know as fact in France is that a meal is not to be eaten quickly. How does someone sitting alone at a restaurant avoid looking lonely and sad? I can only stare at my food or hold my drink for so long before I have nothing to do again.
I was seated for 4 or so minutes before a lady came to me and asked “Aperitif?” Great… am I supposed to know what the choices are? She noticed my hesitation and said champagne. Before she went on I said “Oui”. “Blanc au Rosé?” “Blanc.” Why was that so stressful? I can only imagine it will get harder. I still had no menu. She poured the champagne and a server came with a small plate of Whipped Saumon Fume with guacamole, and cube of pork foot that was deep fried and had pine nuts in it. I was terrified of how delicious that plate was. If this surprise appetizer is this good, what could they do with a whole plate? A few moments later, another server arrived with a menu in French. I guess I should be flattered, but I hope they have an english version. On another note, there is no salt or pepper on the table. Like daddy used to say - that means they know their food is perfect. The server came back to ask if I had any questions on the menu… Again, I hope that is what he said. My response was, “do you speak English?” He chuckled and said he will bring me an English menu right away. I was relieved that he took it so well. Now, I have to break it to all the other servers. I could already tell that I was going to have multiple servers over the course of the evening - just like Houston’s. The third server with another appetizer of Octopus in a Puff Pastry and a fried tomato with parmesan and olives. I knew this because he spoke in English. NO WAY! From that point on, everyone spoke to me in English. When Yvan came to my table, he immediately apologized for his poor English. I told him that I didn’t mind at all. I made an effort to put him at ease. He knew more than he thought he did, which impressed both of us. I asked him what his name was, in an effort to show him that I saw him as a person, not just my server. I can’t imagine that many people break that divided. I had no one else to talk to, so I wanted a friend.
The second appetizer was only a few bites, but they lasted mental it was time to order my menu. I was hungrier than I thought I’d be at that point and selected the 8-course menu. I watched Chef’s Table during my first week at Gastronomicom and one chef actually timed out the courses for his tasting menu. I noticed that this was the case at Les Jardin des Sens. And now the courses begin:
An espresso cup filled with pureed pumpkin and a cep foam, adorned with a small shredded beef triangle in 1 sheet of fills dough.
Lobster, sliced marinated turnip with a lobster salad (tasting much like a potato salad), honey-lemon-Port reduction, citrus and Sichuan Pepper sorbet.
Fried Calamari atop baked Turbot, fish soup jus, and a calamari ravioli with a salty foam. As we saw in class, the soup was poured around the rest of the components to put on a show for the guest.
Orange Duck with the skin on, a small crisp with foie gras. There was a small slice of potato that was cooked on the griddle and a small cylinder of shredded beef. It was so delicious and so moist. At this point, I knew that they treated their meats very well in the kitchen.
The Cheese Course.I saw the servers like strong ballerinas (like synchronized swimmers) tip-toeing and carrying a table to and from various tables around the restaurant. When the table made its way to my neighbors, I noticed that it was the cheese table. It had at least 20 cheeses, from goat, sheep and cow. Excited by the chance to try something new, I tried a blue cheese from the sheep, a very “sec” goat cheese, a Comte, and with sour cherries. The blue cheese was amazing. The goat cheese was dry as he promised. And the Comte had crystalized centers that resemble a Parmesan. The Sancerre was not my favorite and I could not finish it. When Yvan picked up my plate, he seemed disappointed that I didn’t like the cheese.
A tall glass of mango and passion fruit. The second part was a raspberry lollipop made with chocolate. The third was a small plate with a mini macaron, 2 mini Madelines, 1 beignet with raspberry jam, a marshmallow, and a mini nut tart. All of these things were bite sized and almost too cute to eat. Almost.. As Yvan set my plate down, he warned me that this wasn't dessert. Looking back, I don’t know if it was a warning for my stomach or is he wanted to avoid disappointing me with a dessert trio.
A firm lemon foam on top of a slice of meringue that was on top of a lemon granita that was on top of a Lemon shortbread. Surrounded by a Strawberry gazpacho and drops of lemon curd. Despite doing my best to finish everything, I struggled at this course. it was cloyingly sweet and very sour, but not the sour that I yearned for. Besides that, I was getting fuller and fuller by the bite. I ate every bite, so as not to disappoint anyone. I ordered a new bottle of water though. My small one wasn’t going to cut it.
This time, the server sweetly placed my last course in front of me and said, “We must finish with chocolate!” I smiled landlocked down. It was a bitter chocolate ice cream with a mint tulle. Next to it was a thin layer of chocolate cake with caramel mousse and crispy layers for biscuits.
I felt like I had Thanksgiving dinner. I couldn’t breathe form my 8-course meal. Somehow, I forgot that I had no company, because I made friends with Yvan. He practiced his English and I had someone to feel normal around. I also remembered what Hannah said. I’m certain they didn't think I was a critic, but it was nice being treated so well.
This was my experience with The Michelin Star.
Stuffed like Thanksgiving
1 Thing off the bucket list