Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse
by The Wandering Epicures
Last visited: October 10, 2009
Linda and I first came across Alain Ducasse when he was chef at the Hôtel Juana in Juan-les-Pins. Shortly after that, in 1987, he moved to the Louis XV at the Hôtel de Paris in Monte Carlo. We were thrilled and started going regularly. The cuisine was extraordinary, the ambience was successfully grande luxe, the clientele was upscale and the prices were low, subsidized by the hotel. By 1990 the Louis XV had gained three Michelin stars, the first time they had been awarded to a restaurant in a hotel. Then the crowds started to arrive, attracted by the publicity and the glitz of Monte Carlo. Slowly the prices tripled, at least, but was difficult to combine the celebrity atmosphere with the gold-plate elegance. In 2007 Le Loius XV ranked 8th in the World’s 100 Best Restaurants list; in 2008 15th and in 2009 43rd. It is still the flagship of the Ducasse empire. The cuisine remained well regarded, but we did not go any more, deterred by the prices, the change in ambience and the opportunity to enjoy other good restaurants on the Côte d’Azur. Finally, Linda and I decided we should try it again and returned to the Louis XV for dinner on October 10, 2009, preparing ourselves for the start of our olive harvest two days later.
The entrance to the restaurant from the lobby of the hotel gives you some idea of the décor inside, but we found the ambience quite changed. Most of the men did not have on ties; ties were always required when we had dined before at the Louis XV. At two tables people were wearing jeans. The service was still correct, but now seemed to lack some savoir faire.
The champagne cart with a choice of five different bottles arrived shortly after we were seated. We ordered glasses of the Ducasse Réserve Champagne which was very nice, a bit toasty. Some wafers were brought, fresh butter was served. An enormous bread cart arrived with many varieties, including seasonal pumpkin bread.
There was a vegetable menu at €210, but we chose the menu Pour les Gourmets at €280.
We ordered a half bottle of Château Simone blanc and a bottle of one of the sommelier’s suggestions, a 1999 J. M. Boillot ”Le Ronceret” Volnay, which was excellent.
The amuse-gueule was a glass of very thinly sliced raw vegetables with salad greens underneath and a black olive purée for dipping.
A good fresh start and indication of the minimalist chic to come.
The menu started with
Vongoles, gamberoni, supions et poulpe de roche
rafraichis aux amandes, sucs acidulés
The seafood was top quality and perfectly cooked. The almonds and the seafood/almond sauce went very well.
Fines feuilles de pâte
à la farine d’épeautre,
cèpes de châtaignier dorés au sautoir, cœur de salade rôtie.
The cèpes (porcini to our Italian and American readers) were superb. I particularly appreciated this as what I have been finding this season in our local markets are not worth buying, but we have not been to Ventimiglia. The sheet of spelt flour pasta and the sauce were very good, but the roasted lettuce heart didn’t make any sense to me here.
Loup de Méditerranée
piqué d’olives de Nice,
garniture et bouillon d’un minestrone, basilic vert et pourpre.
The thick seabass filet was excellent. The sauce was dominated by basil, which was consistant with the region, the season and the theme of our menu, but did not seem like the best match for the fish to me.
Poitrine de pigeonneau des Alpes-de-Haute-Provence,
foie gras de canard sur la braise, polenta du Piémont, jus goûteux aux abats
The grilled pigeon breast was paired with a grilled foie gras. Underneath were a crisp triangle of polenta and a rich dark sauce. I found this somewhat disappointing. The pigeon did not have the same great flavor as the pigeon breast we had at La Réserve de Beaulieu a few nights before. The foie gras was enjoyable, of course, but not unusual cuisine at this level.
Sélection de fromages
affinés pour nous.
The cheese cart was beautiful with a selection that as just wide enough. We each took three cheeses.
Le dessert de votre choix à la carte.
There was no pre-dessert. We each chose a dessert from the à la carte menu.
Baba imbibé de du rhum
de votre choix, accompagné de crème peu fouettée.
There was a choice of several different fine aged rums from the French Caribbean islands. Some was poured on the rich baba, some left in the little pitcher for the diner to add. She thought the dessert was excellent.
Monte-Carlo au gianduja,
glace aux noisettes du Piémont.
I am a great fan of hazelnuts, which are grown in the neighboring Piemonte. Here they are in the ice cream and topping the rich dark chocolate disk.
There were a few mignardises and a bag of madeleines to take home.
We did not have coffee or a tisane, the herbal tea popular in France. It can be made from a wide variety of herbs. The Louis XV has a cart which comes around at the end of the meal with more than a dozen plants from which one can select a very fresh variety for infusion. (The champagne cart also returned with the dessert.)
We had certainly enjoyed a good meal, but was it up to the hype and the price? Our meal the week before at La Réserve de Beaulieu had been half the price and I thought was better, or at least more in tune with the ambience, which was equally luxurious, but without the over the top glitz and a clientèle attracted by the hype. During the course of the meal at the Louis XV we had been provided with three finger bowls, although I never needed one. The whole color scheme of the plates, tableware etc was changed from gold to blue with the dessert. It all seemed over the top as I looked at the next table with tieless men in jeans drinking coca cola with their meal.
Above the €280 menu we could read:
“Le respect du vrai goût des choses m’amène parfois à composer des plats très simples, ne comportant pas plus de deux ingrédients, relevés d’un seul élément aromatique.”
Translating: Respect for the real taste of things leads me to compose very simple dishes, with no more than two ingredients, seasoned by a single aromatic element.
I agree with this philosophy and am often criticising dishes in this blog for being overly complicated. This meal generally did follow the idea, but seemed out of place. It was not better than the similar €110 menu we had enjoyed at La Fenière a few weeks before or than the many very good uncomplicated meals we have had the pleasure of enjoying at a wide range of prices. At this price the Louis XV needs to find a better formula than simplicity. Pierre Gagnaire, Ledoyen and Le Meurice in Paris have all conquered the challenge of matching great cuisine with a grande luxe ambience much more successfully than the Louis XV has. There were three empty tables the night we were there. I would guess that there will be more unless things change.
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The real Louis XV watches over the lobby of the Hôtel de Paris.
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