In late 2016, I started planning a two-week trip to Paris for late April 2017. In my planning, I came across a number of articles lauding the Japanese chefs making their mark on the Parisian food scene. A number of different restaurants were mentioned, and based on John Talbott's review, I added Restaurant Montée to my itinerary, and was able to secure a reservation for Thursday, April 20, 2017.
Montée's chef, Takayuki Nameura, opened the first iteration of Montée in Kobe in 2006 after spending seven years in the South of France (Nimes) gaining professional experience in French restaurants. In 2016, he moved to Paris and relaunched Montée in the 14th Arrondissement.
First, the inside of the restaurant is very small, with the main room able to seat about 20, and a second back room that can seat another 6-8. As a result, I highly recommend getting reservations, which can be done via their website. On that first trip, I shockingly had the restaurant to myself. It could have been the cooler than normal April or the fact that there was a bit of an incident on the Champs-Élysées that day, but in any case, it was a very unique experience.
There is no a la carte menu. Rather, at both lunch and dinner, it is a set menu. If you have allergies or dietary requirements, let them know when reserving. Like most restaurants, they will make every effort to accommodate. On my visit in 2017, the set menu was 80 Euros per person and included 7 courses plus 3 desserts as well as snacks to start and a cheese course. Unlike other restaurants in Paris, there is no wine tasting menu to order with the set menu. Rather, they have wines by the glass or bottle.
As I was dining alone, I decided to not order a whole bottle and stick to wine recommended by my server to go with my meal. The first wine I ordered was the Domaine Michel Viré-Clessé. This wine is 100% Chardonnay from vines of an average age of 50 years planted in clay-limestone soils of the Mâconnais region of Burgundy. I am unsure of the vintage, but I imagine I was drinking either the 2013 or 2014. I really liked this wine, which surprised me because I am not a big Chardonnay fan. I ended up having at least 2 glasses of this as it paired well with the first half of my meal.
First, the meal starts out with a number of small snacks, also known as amuse-bouche. In 2017, this consisted of a puffed cheese cracker with a gooey, creamy cheese filling, a candied walnut, and the signature eggplant layer "cake". The eggplant layer "cake" had eggplant layered similar to an opera cake, and the unexpected slight smokiness to the eggplant made this bite taste divine.
The first course of the meal was a riff on mackerel sashimi. The mackerel was chopped and served in a ring of its own skin with herbs, spices, edible flowers, and green peas. This was served with citron noir (i.e. black lemon) and a tomato jelly. The presentation was absolutely gorgeous. There was a hint of spice throughout the dish, and the mackerel itself had an outstanding flavor. While historically, I had not been a fan of mackerel, I really enjoyed this dish.
The second course of the meal was cod and Noirmoutier potatoes. The cod was shredded and had a beautiful, buttery finish. The potato was simply cooked, but with a Noirmoutier potato, simple is ok as the potato itself was sweet, saline, and nutty due to the type of ground it is grown in. As with the prior dish, I really enjoyed this.
The third course of the meal was foie gras and banana. Banana was not something I had ever thought of pairing with foie gras, but it definitely works. In addition, this dish is garnished with what is in essence coconut powder. Unfortunately, due to the passage of time, and loss of a phone, I do not have my notes on how this is prepared, but it is not simply powdered coconut that you can buy in the store. Rather, is not grainy, but light as air and the flavor compliments both the other elements perfectly.
The fourth course of the meal was squid served with a fermented grain (it was not barley, but not exactly sure what it was) and an emulsion of coconut milk. The fermented grain gave a sour punch to the dish. All these elements really melded well to create a complex and excellent flavor.
The fifth course of the meal was white asparagus served with a perfectly executed hollandaise sauce. This dish was incredibly simple, but flawless in the execution. I admittedly used some of my bread to sop up the rest of the hollandaise sauce once all the asparagus was gone.
At this point, I switched to a red wine. As I am a fan of all things Burgundy, I went with the 2014 Olivier Chanzy Cote de Nuits-Villages. What I distinctly remember about this light-bodied pinot noir was the cherry notes and the pepper aftertaste. I really enjoyed this wine, and it paired well with the remaining courses.
The sixth course of the meal was langoustine and avocado served in an au jus. The langoustine was perfectly cooked, and the avocado was possibly the most beautiful I have ever seen. The au jus was delightful and yet another sauce I sopped up with bread.
The seventh and final main course was duck, cooked medium rare, with sprouted lentils. While I really enjoyed this course as well, the flavors here were just not as exciting as some of the earlier courses which really knocked it out of the park. That is not to say this was not excellent. I could find no fault, just enjoyed a number of other things more.
Once the main courses were wrapped up, it was onto dessert. The first dessert was listed on the menu simply as, "Pomme, cidre, safran" or Apple, cider, saffron in English. This took the form of saffron ice cream and a paper think pastry filled with a tiny bit of apple and apple cider. The textures and flavors here, from the cream of the ice cream to the fizz of the cider, melded very well together to make a very interesting and different dessert.
The second dessert was simply entitled, "Chocolat." This consisted for a chocolate cake layered with chocolate crispies (not sure the technical term for this, so we will go with crispies) swimming in warm chocolate sauce. Decadent is the word I would use to describe this. I really enjoyed the various textures within this dessert as well.
The final dessert was Oreillettes. An oreillette is a traditional Provençal dish that are in essence sweet tasting small doughnuts. Rather than being small, this Oreillette was quite long, very crisply (which they are supposed to be) with powdered sugar on the top. All in all, very simple, but a nice contrast to the decadent "Chocolat."
After my meal, I chatted with my server and the chef, who was a delight. When telling my friends about Montée and my experience there, I declared that I would not be surprised if they had a Michelin star in 2018. Lo and behold, I was correct. It was announced that Montée was awarded its first Michelin star on February 5, 2018. As a result, I decided to return on Thursday, July 5, 2018 as a part of my 40th birthday celebration trip. That review will be covered in Part 2.