Before we go any further I need to enter several disclaimers. First, – no starving children anywhere were harmed in any way by the eating of this meal. Second, – any similarity between the names of the human male who is the consort of Milady and the name of this restaurant is strictly coincidental. Finally, – any conclusion drawn by the reader or other consumer of this review about anything mentioned in this review should be referred to a competent authority before being accepted as anything other than the independent impression of a slightly off-center dragon. (Are the lawyers satisfied?)
Lasserre is in an elite group of restaurants around world whose wine list prices read like the national budget account of a third world country. The prices on the food menu are so secret that they are actually printed only on the menu of the presumed host. This is a serious attempt to prevent one’s guests from suffering severe altitude sickness should they ever glimpse them. The waiters (no waitresses here for obviously sexist reasons) are dressed in real tuxedos, are groomed to a fare-thee-well, and are far more handsome than the guests. Finally, the roof opens and closes silently during the evening to allow the accumulated hot air to dissipate without disturbing the diners.
Our reservation was honored promptly and we were escorted by private elevator to the second floor dining room. In truth, the room was elegant and tastefully decorated with golden silk wall paper, fine Empire furniture with linens, bone china, crystal and silver to match. It was probably the most classically beautiful room I’ve ever encountered. The cartes des vins (multiple – one red, one white) magically rotate, depending on which edge is presented to the reader; one is presented with either the “better” or “inferior” (truly a relative measure, there was nothing second rate about any of the wines) selections. The rouge carte was presented with a flourish. The menus were short and to the point. This is a kitchen that knows what it does well, and refuses to even contemplate a presentation that is not extraordinary. After very careful consideration, I chose a fine Loire Valley Chinon vintage 2005 from a named, but unfamiliar vineyard. Light, with an elegantly refined edge and long follow through, I hoped I would be able to bury the cost deep in my expense account. To prevent any claims of light-headedness on the part of anyone, two amuse bouches were presented. One was a delight basket of parmesan sticks – gently warmed and just the right size to pop in one’s mouth without thinking, or having to bite. [Slurp.] The other was a lovely melange of fresh spring vegetables with a light sauce served on a slice of country bread divided into four bite-sized morsels.
Starters were listed in descending price order. Being a dragon of distinct tastes, I started at the top and ordered macaroni and cheese, for slightly more than I usually spend on dinner for two with appropriate wine. It was extraordinary. The pasta was stuffed with foie gras, covered with more black truffles than most places have in their kitchens on a very good night and augmented with a veal sauce. Under no circumstances would I ever consider serving this mac and cheese to anyone under the age of thirty, nor to anyone with a cholesterol issue; it gave new meaning to “rich” food, and was delicious. Milday chose this evening to compare last night’s preparation of white asparagus against this evening’s platinum standard. (The asparagus was weighed and the value of an equal weight of platinum was charged.) Perfection isn’t cheap. The asparagus were huge, delicately flavored, steamed in lemon and bathed in a perfect hollandaise. She was thrilled.
Main courses were equally exalted – in both price and quality. Milady had real Tournedos Rossini – complete with more black truffles and a generous slice of sauteed foie gras. I snuck a little taste (but only after I received permission) and was completely convinced that these were the best I’d ever tasted. Succulent beef with rich foie gras and accented with earthy truffle flavor. Frankly I was surprised Milday wasn’t overcome – but then again, she’s tough and a mere overload to her tastebuds is unlikely to present a serious obstacle. I chose the rack of lamb – a perfect pair of chops cooked exactly right – and lamb sweetbreads served as tiny morsels to provide a contrast. Lightly steamed spring vegetables were also served, but the highlight of side dishes were puffed potatoes as perfect as those we had in Cincinnati last month. Hot, crispy suggestions of potato ready for a fleur de sel and immediate consumption. [Slurp,slurp.]
Realizing there might be some funds left in the reserve account, the waiter suggested the house specialty for dessert. The absolutely, without a doubt, best chocolate souffle I have ever, ever, ever scarfed down – accompanied by a house-made vanilla ice cream that almost convinced me that vanilla ice cream can approach greatness on a par with chocolate. Speaking of which, coffee was served with a lovely loaf of pound cake and chocolate truffles.
Upon request, the bill was presented – and the maitre d’hotel stood discreetly by with smelling salts should they prove necessary. There seemed to be very little concern that we would have any excess fund balance in our purse. We outfoxed them though – we had enough left to return to the hotel by cab after an extraordinary experience.