L’Assiette Champenoise, Reims…3 Michelin Stars

So this place was our base camp for the Reims trip, even though we went other places on other nights, I figured we’d stay here so as to get an inside track with recommendations on where to go, hookups on champagne tours, etc, but that was all useless. Though this strategy works better in Japan, it did not fly here. You need a wine distributor friend to contact the specific champagne house for you like 6 months ahead of time to get a tour most anywhere.

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We had the most giant room I had ever seen. It almost did not make sense that anyone would need this much space. I feel like the use of space here in the entire hotel was a little off. The style was a weird 1990’s contemporary/modern mixed with Baroque. Slightly abstract, with giant flower pots and lamps like the Mondrian hotel’s Skybar in Hollywood. I liked this alien blob of a blanket though, you just jump into it and it envelops you like a macrophage. It was like staying in that weird futuristic hotel in that Woody Allan spaceship movie Sleeper.

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The inside patio area had various sets of living rooms with sofas and just an odd mix of mid-century modern with ultra modern furniture. Don’t get me wrong, I lust after Ligne Rosette abstract ultra-modern and minimalist design, but everything in their living rooms felt really crowded and looked too busy. Like whoever designed this place was really kind of ‘trying too hard’.

The first impression of such a room looks pleasing to the eye, but when you get up close and you see the Ikea smoked glass mirrored walls for the closet and bathroom, it looks kind of tacky. There was a whole other living room area in our room for drunken guests I assume, that had a weird low lying amoeba couch. The balcony, just off this area, had metallic shutter/blinds and the view went straight into a brick wall of the next door house. Just bad feng shui and an inefficient use of space.

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A lot of 90’s themed lighting, like those paper-mache Ikea lamps I used to have in college. Again, I really hate to be negative on my blog and I really wanted to like this place, but the taste level in decor was just a little off.

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The food, on the other hand, was spot on. Even the dining room looked cool in a 70’s modern kind of way.

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The pre-binge photo which will contrast greatly with the post-binge hung over sleepwalking photo at the end.

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Un petit pue of some amuse bouche.

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We started off with an excellent couple of aperitifs. They had some very rare types of champagne that were not just the typical Blanc de Blancs, but grape varieties I had never heard of before, that you can only find here at smaller wineries in the Champagne region. I really enjoyed the wine pairings here. This is when it is worthwhile to get a pairing when they showcase their region’s lesser-known specialties.

I had the 2006 Charles Heidsieck rose Millesime to start. This was a 94 pointer from not only James Suckling but also Robert Parker. Here was the review that most resonated with me.

“A pale hue in the glass, this has a savory nose that delivers a very nicely struck toasty edge with chalky pastry and faint red fruits. The palate’s sophisticated fine texture is mesmerizing. This really dances, leaving a trail of red berry fruits in its wake, through to a long, pure and fresh, spicy finish.”

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This was the Potée Champenoise, which was basically a cube of cabbage and pork. They poured an amazing consommé on it out of a silver decanter.

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It is basically taking the regional peasant food of a cabbage and pork hotpot and elevating it to the next level. This was where I first noticed the absolute stand out of this restaurant. His consommé and sauces were very complex and had an extreme depth of flavor. He really shone brightly in his expertise in this area. I would have to say, with regard to this aspect of cooking, he was the best of all the restaurants we went to on our entire France trip. If you are a fan of ‘a million and one ways’ to have variations of French traditional sauces and consommés, then this is the place you must visit.

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We had the same champagne pairing with this plate as with the following dish, the 2008 Bonnaire Blanc de Blancs Cramant, which I will discuss in detail further below.

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The next dish of the night was their fresh D’vectens tomato puree with tomato water, very refreshing, nicely paired the acidity of the champagne they paired this with which was the 2008 Bonnaire Blanc de Blancs Cramant. I was loving this variety of 8-10-year-old champagnes by the glass just coming at me left and right. Though generally, I like to get several nice older bottles with a meal instead of the baby-killing young wine pairings they typically serve, this is the kind of restaurant where you would be stupid NOT to get a wine pairing. Nowhere else will you get, in one sitting, this depth of a variety of amazing champagne from obscure regions of champagne that you probably have never heard of at a price that won’t break the bank.

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It’s important to distinguish Cremant from Cramant. Cramant is a region in champagne that grows 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay grapes. Cremant, on the other hand, is sparkling wine from France outside of the Champagne region.

Here is a fascinating deep dive into this region:

“Cramant is usually considered to give somewhat “creamier” Champagnes than the other Côte des Blancs villages, and therefore not as “hard” as those of Avize (where there is a higher proportion of pure east-facing slopes), but with more concentration than those from Cuis (where there is a higher proportion of north-facing slopes) and more dominating minerality than those in Chouilly. It can be noted that there is some variation of slope (steepness) and direction in the vineyards of Chouilly, so some sites are likely to deviate from the “standard style”. There are also those that describe the villages differently than the version above, and another version describes the Cramant-style as powerful and the Avize-style as characterized by finesse.”

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This was the Green bean dish. Again, the sauce he made was outstanding. Most sauces are just there for presentation purposes, or not much time or thought is not put into them, but his sauces were like the secret star to all the dishes. We were really taken by this aspect of his cooking.

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Look at these true ‘micro-greens’. Amazing produce from local farms. This was served with the next pairing of the Nicolas Maillart Franc de Pied Ecueil. This was the most bizarre rare champagne I had yet, made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes.

Here is a summary of this wine:

“Champagne from a specific area of old vines of Pinot Noir ungrafted on sandy soil in Premier Cru Ecueil, south facing hills, planted in 1973. Produced only in great years, this Champagne is made in very small quantities. A great white wine of Champagne even before becoming a Champagne. Slow, gentle pressing using gravity flow techniques. Exclusively vinified in wooden vats and with regular battonage. Long maturation on wooden vats and no filtration before the bottling. Disgorged by hand and laid down for at least three months before release. Dosage : 2 g/L”

Very robust and tannic champagne. So nice to get a chance to try other styles and grapes not commonly seen in whatever store in the US that only ships over the big name chateaus. Unfortunately, I did not get photos of the glass.

If you are reading this blog and planning to go to the Champagne region, please do yourself a favor and contact this Chateau and arrange a visit and tasting there, as they are probably lesser know and you can maybe get a private tasting with the owner. I am posting the link for my own future reference to do so in case we ever come back here.

http://www.weygandtmetzler.com/nicolas-maillart/

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Just kill me now. This was the gastronomic version of premature ejaculation. I was finished after this, and at the same time disappointed in myself as there is so much more to come. The creamy potato-heavy cream-butter whip was like a TKO. I was instantly stuffed. But, oh was it worth it. Again, highlighting this expert sauce maker. He was relentless, the consommes and sauces kept coming.

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This was the Kaviar on top of a jelly of smoked Haddock with whipped potato served with Krug Grand Cuvee. I wondered about the wordplay with the K’s. So Krug Grand Cuvee is a blend of more than 120 wines from 10 different vintages to produce their trademark secret balance of flavor profile. This Grand Cuvee is the archetype of their brand, which tastes like this:

“As you taste it, notes of toasted bread, hazelnut, nougat, barley sugar, and jellied fruits may take you by surprise. You may even taste hints of apples still on the tree, flowers in bloom, ripe and dried fruit, almonds, marzipan, gingerbread, sweet spices, and even brioche and honey.

You may also notice its exceptional freshness in the mouth, with rich and tangy flavors of lemon and grapefruit enhanced by the subtlety of its fine and elegant bubbles. Krug Grande Cuvée can age beautifully.”

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Here is their famous dish that they are known for, the Brittany blue lobster. We were at the halfway point here and I was already starting to sweat and unbutton my shirt.

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Again, look at all the solid silver little pots he is coming out with, we take notice of old-school cookery items like this, really added to the experience. It looks like it was hand beaten with a hammer.

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I asked him to leave the pot and I was digging into it like a meth addict looking for dropped rocks in the bushes.

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This was one of the most amazing bisque’s I’ve ever had in my life. It was paired with the Charles Heidsieck’s “Blanc des Millénaires” 2004. Even though the most pleasing combination I picked up was the oily citrus and lemon zest, which could not pair better than with lobster. I found this crazy review of this champagne from the Champagnist website:

“Light golden color with green reflections, a very refined effervescence and nice mousse in the glass. Seductive nose of lemon oil, apple blossom, candied kumquat, salted butter, almonds, and lovely tobacco overtones together with a very distinctive almost austere minerality with flint, saffron, a haze of roasted coffee beans and the rustic scent of gray Tomme de Montagne cheese crust. The aroma is compact but after a longer while it opens up nicely with a wealth of citrus, cocoa butter, baked apple, foie gras with Sauternes, white truffle and gunpowder. After more than an hour the aroma evolved to French patisserie (frangipane) and crème anglaise. The mouthfeel is dynamic and perfectly structured with a concentration of flavors and depth. On the palate, you get ripe Golden Delicious, citrus oil, dried fig, white cherry and a nice bitter touch of lemon zest and cumin with a suggestion of cognac and spices — almost like sauce Grand Veneur — on the mid-palate. It has all the autumnal romanticist flavors that I would expect from Charles. The finish is long and nicely rounded. The beauty lashes in with sexy citrus, pink grapefruit, candied lemon, and kumquat. Only to come to a renewed phase spiced with walnuts, dried porcini mushrooms, Kampot pepper with a suggestion of roasted coffee and a tiny hint of graphite. In the distant aftertaste, you also get delicious dark chocolate. In contrast with a painstakingly young champagne like Salon 2004, this wine is already very accessible to drink now and can age at least another twenty years. For now, I would recommend to decant it. This 2004 is for me the new 1985! 90 points with 95 potential. “

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Felt like we were on intermission in a play. Good thing we had some preparation with heavy meals thus far as this was the heaviest yet.

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Relentless sauce abuse again, I love it. John Dory, one of my favorite white fish. Served with Coteaux Champenoise blanc Dehours Les Rieux 2012. So even more unique, a white wine from the Champagne region. It had a deep golden color, reminded me of a Corton Charlemagne. Again, I did not take photos of the wine pairing for some reason, I think it was just too dark in there and I just had asked for the wine pairings to be listed on the menu so I could look them up later. Here are the tasting notes:

“It is a wine with a deep golden yellow color and shiny highlights.

His nose is greedy, round, awakened by a nice minerality and a touch of iodine.

On the second nose, woody notes evolve into aromas of toast, coffee, and caramel.

On the palate, Les Rieux 2012 offers a pure texture, saline, and mineral.

A beautiful Coteau Champenois.”

Here’s where to buy this:

https://www.plus-de-bulles.com/fr/champagne-dehours/les-rieux-2012.html

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Sauce pairing with the white wine was delectable. John Dory just flaked off and served more like a blank slate for the vegetables and onion to dance on.

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Final dish before the cheese cart. Quite a hearty and busy plate compared to what has come so far. It was way too much to handle at this point but we got through it. What makes it harder is that I have to eat what Erika can’t finish on top of my own plate. The zucchini polenta was amazing. It tasted like a Lebanese dish called mujadara, which is made with lentils and caramelized onions, which gave it that similar mushy umami profile. The caramelized endive gave me that flavor profile of the caramelized onion. There was this amazing little dumping of je ne sais quoi.

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Since Erika did not get the champagne pairing, and only I did, we decided to add a bottle of red for her to pair with most of her meals and I would catch up to her by the meat course. This was the best suggestion the som could have made. this Bordeau is right down my alley of dirty stink-bomb bionic barnyard shit. OMFG, what a home run. I came home and immediately bought three bottles of this online. Not only is it drinking amazingly right now, but I can also just imagine how this would taste in another 5 years.

This was served with some veal chimichurri, which was kind of bland actually. Final protein ended on a flat note for me. Not to fear, the cheese and dessert will remedy this easily.

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This wine carried us through the meat course and well into cheese and dessert. We still had some left to drink in the decanter after everything was done. Thoroughly shit-faced by the end of dinner as you will see.

Here are the reviews on this killer bottle.

“One of the top wines from the Right Bank in most years, and 2007 is no exception. Finesse in style, there is a freshness to the black raspberry tinted fruits, with the added nuances of cherry blossoms, wet earth and hints of thyme. Softly textured, with silky, soft, polished red fruits in the finish, the wine was produced from blending 80% Merlot with 20% Cabernet Franc.”

Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/wine-tasting-note/?vintage=2007&wine=Tertre%20R%F4teboeuf

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Look at those candle cups, beautiful etched rose.

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The calm before the storm. The somm even brought me some dark beer from Reims to pair with my cheese. I love that, beer and cheese pairing, yeast and bacteria fest.

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Look at this amazing glass it was served in.

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This even had a secret drawer where they kept the putrid-smelling cheese. I told them to wait before opening it as I positioned my nose right above the tray. The blast of funk hit me like a hurricane of farts after Korean BBQ. OMG, was this so good and nasty.

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I have a confession to make, when I was 5 years old I would love picking my toes after running around all day and having developed green toe jam. I would then smell my fingers and loved doing this for hours. Little did I know this would lead to an unhealthy addiction to stinky cheese.

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Here comes the candy cart. I liked the Starwars poster of their Michelin star depiction above.

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Then this amazing silver Christofle egg that carried silverware in it.

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The amazing birthday cake they made me.

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Look at those white chocolate feathers.

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Here was the most amazing thing I saw on this trip. Totally realistic looking lemon.

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Guess again.

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I love how the house music kicks in right when Erika digs into the lemon. It’s as if we staged this, like a stylistic soft-core food porn shoot.

Bravo Chef Lallement!

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I was seriously feeling like a stuffed pig with a lemon in my mouth at the end of this meal. My button literally popped off and flew across the room by the time we were done. I thought this only happened in cartoons.

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Here is my drunk ass trying to get undressed at the end of the night.

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I literally fell asleep standing up for a few seconds.

All in all, definitely eat here. You can skip staying in the hotel, but do not miss eating here. It is the best restaurant in the entire region. I do not say such things lightly. The sauces are to die for and probably the best in France. Do not miss the Champagne pairing either. You will love the cheese and desserts as well.

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