Cromesquis: breaded deep fried cubes stuffed with truffle foie gras with Port. They’re so good that we are very happy he borrowed the recipe from papa.
“HE” is Pierre Meneau, who at the age of four started making pastries in a corner of the kitchen, and “PAPA” is Marc Meneau, chef and owner of L’Espérance, a former 3-Michelin-starred restaurant in Saint-Père, in the Bourgogne region.
Pierre Meneau was not at all destined to become a chef. His father always told him to do something else. But after three years in law school and an internship in a constitutional law firm in Los Angeles, quite far from the family fiefdom, he decided that it wasn’t his cup of tea. He returned to Europe to land a hotel management diploma from the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, EHL. Thereafter, he consolidated his culinary knowledge, working first with Marc Meneau and then with Michel Guérard, another 3-Michelin-star chef. Guérard invented the lean cuisine; and this is where Pierre learned the art of attaining a maximum of flavor with a minimum of fat.
This 180º change of direction is not surprising. Pierre Meneau inherited both his father’s genes and his father’s passion. Nevertheless, Crom’Exquis gastronomic restaurant is his achievement, his baby, which he opened in the 8th arrondissement in September 2012 – at the age of 26.
A confident and assertive chef, Pierre often draws inspiration from his childhood memories. Like the madeleine of Marcel Proust, a taste, a glimpse, or an association of ideas allows him to create new recipes. Very proud of his French heritage, he likes to start from the bases of the 17th and 18th centuries and modify and adapt them to current tastes.
He likes travelling and discovering the world with its different flavors and tastes. He is tempted by the influence of foreign cuisine but only parsimoniously. In his opinion, too much yuzu, wasabi, or soy sauce destroys the soul of French cuisine – a cuisine that lists more than 80,000 different recipes, the most extensive in the world.
Eleven people work in the restaurant; three in the dining room and eight in the fairly small kitchen, where strict organization is required. There are different spots: one for cold dishes, one for dessert, one for hot meals, and slightly to the side, the sink.
France has the some of the best food products in the world, and with the Marché Rungis Paris has direct access to them. Pierre is convinced that what makes the quality of the cuisine is 80% due to the quality of the ingredients a chef uses. Even more important is drawing out their value without ruining them.
He carefully showed us the products in his kitchen and the ingredients he likes using in his cuisine: chicken from Bresse, a rack of lamb from the Pyrenées, and Alaskan cod. He keeps the fish vacuum marinated in a clarified butter and matcha infusion. Cooked at 48ºC in the thermocook, it retains all the water inside and makes the flesh juicy and tender. His organic salmon comes from Norway, and his prime rib is matured for 30 days.
Crom’Exquis also has its own garden products, such as pea shoots, red shiso and cress. The restaurant has two sides: one is represented by the menu served during the week – more traditional, but still elaborate. The other side is the table d’hôte (host’s table) on Saturday evenings, when Pierre indulges his creativity. Only three tables are accessible, and Pierre is alone with his clients.
What is the benefit of the table d’hôte?
Pierre says: “I love it. I do whatever I want. I go to the market in the morning, and while buying my products, I decide on the menu for the evening. Saturday evening I’m the chef, the server, the sommelier, the dishwasher, and I can see my clients. I can have direct contact with them, get to know them, and show them how fun I am!” (Laugh)
I had the pleasure of tasting the menu, and I hold a fantastic memory of it. Five mysterious dishes follow each other without a written menu, leaving it up to you to discover and experience Pierre’s creations:
- The traditional cromesquis.
- Asparagus cream-Maltese-way with orange; what a fabulous combination!
- Crawfish Carpaccio from Brittany.
- Whiting with powder of Iranian black lemon.
- The poultry from Bresse with truffles was excellent. The chicken was so tender; it melted in your mouth.
- The dessert was absolutely fabulous! Coconut mousse, mango coulis, caramelized apple, milk emulsion with ginger, with hibiscus grain.
Crom’Exquis is Pierre Meneau’s priority, but he has many ideas and plans. On June 18th, he is opening a gastronomic restaurant in Shanghai with his father. M by Meneau on the Bund will be a French restaurant with only French products shipped from France. He is also creating the menu for a luxurious cruise boat in Greece, and he has a gastronomic week coming up in Sardinia. Several chefs will take turns every week in July and August to propose their menu.
Pierre Meneau is a tireless young chef who manages his restaurant with organizational mastery. Crom’Exquis is worth visiting, and the host’s table is strongly recommended.
Address: 22 Rue d’Astorg, 75008 Paris
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 65 10 74
(All images provided by Caliwa Photography)