There’s nothing quite like French cuisine; the variation of the food is almost a reflection of the country. One Frenchman explains.
By ALICE CHING
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Tel: 6105 9668
Chef Arnaud Lallement is considered one of the rising stars in the French culinary world. Not only did he assume leadership of L’Assiette Champenoise (a charming turn-of-the-century restaurant in Château de la Muire, just outside Reims) when he was just 24, he also earned the restaurant a Michelin star two years later. It was a personal triumph of sorts for Lallement as the coveted recognition was previously held by his father, Jean-Pierre, for 18 years.
After launching his cookbook titled ‘Carnet des saveurs en champagne’ (Notebook of Champagne Flavours) in 2003, Lallement was invited by Alain Ducasse to participate in the legendary master chef’s Fou de France project in which talented provincial chefs are invited to showcase their culinary skills in Paris. At 29, Lallement was one of the youngest chefs to be selected.
Ducasse was not the only one impressed by Lallement. In March 2005, Chef Lallement earned a second Michelin star for L’Assiette Champenoise. So it came as no surprise that under Genting’s Michelin Star Dining series, two champagne powerhouses – G.H. Mumm and Perrier-Jouët – stepped up to showcase their elegant champagnes with Chef Lallement’s culinary creations.
At the media luncheon hosted by Pernod-Ricard (M) Sdn Bhd, the self-assured Lallement managed to share some of his food philosophies via a translator.
Citing master chefs Michael Bras and Alain Ducasse as inspirations, Chef Lallement said that he prefers a minimalist approach to cooking, emphasising one or two ingredients.
A fine example was his Tomato Water, which tasted like a refreshing gazpacho but looked nothing like it. Presented in a wine glass, the clear yet intensely tomato-flavoured broth was studded with tiny, colourful pearls. They turned out to be gelatinous droplets of liquefied courgette, yellow and green peppers. Complementing this was G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge NV which lent a sparkling freshness to the unusual concoction.
“In France, – chefs will present various preparations using a main ingredient to entice diners,” he said.
We knew the langoustines’ freshness was up to mark, courtesy of a fellow writer who told us the fresher they are, the faster her shellfish allergy would be triggered. True enough, she had to forgo the remainder after she sampled it. The rest of us, though, relished the exquisite langoustines – the first was complemented by a light creamy lettuce sauce whilst the second came with sliced radish, finely chopped onion and tartar sauce. The third was accompanied by a lemon nage (a thick, well- seasoned reduction of cream, white wine and lemon juice topped with a sliver of preserved lemon).
The subsequent French Seabass with Carrot Confit, Vegetables and Star Anise tasted almost humdrum by comparison, had it not been for the balsamic vinegar and star anise reduction dotting the plate. The fish’s delicate sweetness made a nice match with the fresh, slightly herbaceous Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV.
Lunch rounded off with Declinaison of Lemon Strawberry Tart, Almond Mirabelle and Red Fruits Vacherin. The sweet Lemon Strawberry Tart was a delightful treat after our last course but the overly sour Red Fruits Vacherin (mixed berries topped with a slice of meringue) was a jolt on the palate. The best was the Almond Mirabelle, a dainty tart with an almond crumble base and sweet yellow cherry plums which went like a dream with G.H. Mumm Grand Cru NV.
As we departed, most of us felt we had only caught brief glimpses of Chef Lallement’s real talents. His best, we believe, is yet to come.
Genting’s Michelin Star Dining 2007 will conclude with Chef Christian Moine from December 1-7.