Restaurant Francais is part of Steigenberger Hotel Frankfurter Hof, probably the poshest in a most classic way of all Hotels in Fankfurt. The interior of the building reminds old Napoleon style with high ceiling, lots of marble and gold elements. The restaurant presents itself in the same elegant way which somehow reflects a certain conservative sublimity. Maybe you could feel out of place without wearing a business suit. But on the other hand, the very charming and welcoming staff makes you feel at ease in this majestic decor (which could be in Paris btw) as if it was your own humble dining room.
Chef Patrick Bittner, who also worked with Dieter Müller before taking over in Frankfurt, was awarded his first Michelin Star in 2008. He is known for his Mediterranean style cooking, in particular for light and refined fish dishes.
We came for dinner on a monday night. Weird enough, this is one of the few restaurants open on a monday in Frankfurt. But then again, considering the slight business crowd orientation, it isn’t that weird after all.
We opted for the full Chef’s tasting menu for EUR 129 and chose the wines from the list.
We were first entertained with a couple of Amuses. I don’t have exact memory of what they were. But I assume they were similar to those Ingo had on his recent visit.
This little tube was an interesting bite. You could qualify it as a destructured and restructured Caprese in a shell. The crispy pastry shell was filled with a basil mousse, mozzarella and tomato. A good bite with a nice crispy structure! And definitely Mediterranean!
Raw Marinated Tuna, Tapioca Pearls / Radish / Coriander Spume
It was a beautiful piece of Tuna of good quality. But honestly, since I didn’t take notes, that’s all I remember about this dish. Of course my memory is better on the more inspiring bites which were yet to come.
Alsatian Goose Liver, Elder / Yoghurt / Green Pepper
This was an excellent version of a classic. The Goose Liver quality was outstanding. All the other ingredients, including a delicious chocolate glaze, a layer of green pepper, the elderflower sorbet and yoghurt, never overpowered the Foie flavour but only played ball with it. We wondered quite a long time if it was actually chocolate on top of the Foie since we couldn’t believe the combination worked so well.
Brittany King Prawn, Pink Grapefruit / Green Asparagus / Pork Chin
A very interesting dish but which could be better. In fact, the pork chin, while being tender and well tasting on its own, adds nothing to the delicious carpaccio of raw prawn which is already beautifully dressed with zesty grapefruit, a microscopic vegetable Brunoise (they seem to love cutting Brunoise here), herbs and asparagus. I would even say, the pork chin steals the purity of the actual dish. In fact, our Vegetarian friend claimed her version without pork as one of the dishes of the night. I beieve that the use of the crispy pork skin alone would make more sense as it would add structure and some sort of iodized richness without bothering the beautiful Prawn!
Russian Ossietra Imperial Caviar, Iced Cucumber / Crème Crue / Dill
Wow! Now this was the dish of the night! A genuine 3 star combination. You wouldn’t believe how well those ingredients work together when you haven’t tried it! The Iced Cucumber is actually an iced Brunoise (again microscopic!) of cucumber. The dill builds somehow a bridge to the iodine flavour of the Caviar which was of outstanding quality. A dollop of crème Crue in between added a mellowing and at the same time enriching element.
Our White Wine, a 2006 Bourgogne Aligoté by Coche-Dury worked wonderfully with the dish since it also holds certain iodized flavours in it.
Brittany Sea Bass in Salt Crust, Artichokes / Tomato Chutney / Tagliolini
This was an extra course we ordered, as we were very tempted by a well prepared whole fish. And it didn’t disappoint. Quite the opposite ! And even if this dish doesn’t tell stories about the chef’s creativity but it sure depicts his great craftmansship.
Our red, a 1964 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, is a true monument from Rioja. It’s not a wine that gets old; it just changes. Intense nose of Coffee and caramel maybe even chocolate. A definitely prominent acidity, which structures the wine. It softens up with some time, while a hint of fruit notes come back. An Excellent experience. Thanks a lot, Toby!
Close up of the Ygay. Hard to capture the colour on camera. The red was a bit brighter, but you can still see the pureness of this 46 year old wine.
Brittany Turbot, Young Artichokes / Caper / Tomatoes
Again nice quality of the fish. The tiny artichokes had a nice flavour and the dish indeed tasted very Mediterranean. Hard to be very creative on such a dish without disturbing its delicate flavour so, well done!
Breast of Veal, Cabbage / Snail Ravioli / Butter “Café de Paris”
Very tender and juicy piece of veal. Unfortunately it was covered with a very thick butter sauce which, albeit kind of yummy, appeared a bit too rich and overpowering. It actually surprised me since Mr Bittner has a reputation for keeping the use of butter low. It was a good dish, but not in a fine dining kind of meaning. In a brasserie context this sauce would have made my day.
Mieral Pigeon, Topinambour / Peach / Green Asparagus
A replacement dish one of our friends ordered. The Pigeon meat was excellent: juicy, flavourful and so tender you could nearly cut it with a fork. And this time there wasn’t a thick sauce on top but some flavourful jus on the side. A wonderful pigeon from the Bresse’ most famous producer, Mieral!
Degustation of Cheese, Affineur “Bernard Antony”
A very beautiful cheese cart from Christofle was pushed to the table (“see, the French can build nice cars… for cheese”). The famous affineur from Alsace only delivers his cheeses when they are matured to the point. They went marvelously well with our last sips of Ygay.
Pistachio / Cherry, Mousse / Dumpling / Yoghurt Spume
Unfortunately I don’t have much memory of the dessert as my hunger wasn’t so big anymore. But I also forgot to take a picture of the previous dessert, which was a Lemon parfait with Caipirinha. Finally, with the espressi, another Christofle cart was pushed to our table with not only Petits Fours, but also a whole selection of homemade icecreams, cakes and other candies à discretion. That’s what I call dessert ;).
We had a very enjoyable night at Restaurant Francais.
And we alll agreed it clearly deserves its 1 star rating. Some dishes show that even more is possible. Especially the Caviar was a genuine 3 star epxerience. Some other dishes seem a bit overload with ingredients. I believe that with a bit more getting to the core a second star shouldn’t be too far. But I also believe that the restaurant is doing a really great job so far. Probably it is a balancing act satisfying business diners and leisure diners to the same extent.
Again, check out Ingo’s report on his blog High End Food. He seemed to have a few different dishes, in particular another version of the Caviar with Crème crue. I wouldn’t wanna miss out on the Iced Cucumber though..