Essential Architecture-  Paris

Lucas Carton




9,place de la Madeleine, Métro Madeleine




Art Nouveau




Get Disgusting at Lucas Carton
Lucas Carton by Majorelle 
(9, place de la Madeleine, Métro Madeleine) 


Alain Senderens could be viewed as the Andy Warhol of food, the Mark V. Shaney of gastronomy. Staunch but continually misunderstood he delivers the goods. So far this makes about as much sense as the last review I read of Lucas Carton. Here is the real grit, painstakingly recovered from the my jacket pocket. 

Many good Parisian restaurants offer le menu dégustation, a tasting. At a restaurant with a star to its name this can be a great value growl. At a three star star it can be disgusting. I mean this in the finest sense of the word, and justify this linguistic interpretation as plausible from someone who learnt not to speak french by watching dubbed Miami-Vice reruns1. 

As an experiment in cultural diversity Mark Shand, Alan Skea, and myself transported the Strodell Lunch paradigm to Paris. It was to be gruelling, la dégustation at a three star. Bon, Homme. 

Once the door had closed behind us we knew that we had entered a strange part of perhaps a different reality. Once past the screen designed to keep the outside world "out there where it belongs" we were greeted by a row of Restaurant Militia, decked out by rank, who bowed in succession, ever so slightly towards us as we approached. A row of penguins pondering the passing jet-fighter. The officer with the darkest uniform and the most ornate, but not overstated, frilly bits greeted Prof. Shand and after a short hushed exchanged announced that our papers were in order. I must stress that my french is not good. 

We were assigned officers of differing ranks who proceeded to facilitate our entrance, and introduce us to the various eating implements at our disposal. It was only a ploy as any item on the table that wasn't organic was likely to be replaced, upgraded, or at least moved at any time, by any officer with sufficient rank. 

Five Disgusting Acts
Our meal was orchestrated in five acts2, but all in secret. We never knew what to expect next. Thirst things first. We decided on Kir Royals all 'round and an endless supply of Budoit3 (a fine French water) and proceeded to ponder the menu and its annex, "Les Créations Alain Senderens depuis Avril 1968". Things we may be served. The Kir Royals were superb. Fine champagne, but not too gutsy to wraith the cassis. 

Act I - Teasers
The first offering was a delicate arrangement of morsels, each more intriguing and delicious than the previous. This may seem to contradict laws of this universe. Nevertheless this order worked for me. 

Identical twin oysters rescued from drowning in a champagne broth. 
A patch of some flying fighting fish from planet-X cohabitting with rival roe. 
A mystery pastry containing, it was postulated, bits of the duck to come. It had at least eleven flavours and had to be attacked with care. 
Even more of him or one of his mates in some outrageously rich Foie Gras de Canard. 
With this came the first wine. My notes are sketchy here because the complexity of the meal was quickly overtaking us. I do have the word Jurançon and an unidentified stain. The wine was surprisingly yellow and looked very pleasing in the otherwise green setting. Sweet, but with a slightly diesel nose. But with fruit confusion. In combination with any or all of the delicacies quite a potent little mover. Here it is - '88 Domaine Cauhapé - Ramonteu. A touch of Budoit for reality calibration. Yes. We are getting disgusting. 

Act II - Filo Facts
Next we were served very large scallops in filo with cèpe mushies along with a Bourgogne white, '85 Meursault "Clos de la Barre" - Comtes Lafon. And there was this hexagon of persimmons just to confuse. 

By this stage the food and the wine seemed to be just incidental to the deed. The disgusting thing. Shand pointed out that there were actually other people in the restaurant. A large pear-shaped man slides under the adjoining table. They give him a very big plate. 

I notice the silver salt and pepper shakers, apparently there only because you wouldn't use them. I notice that the mirrors are such that I can detect that we are being observed by the penguins before they observe I am observing them. Shand thinks he has one of Skea's forks but I point out that the chef has the same initials. I am once again caught scribbling things down. Too many mirrors. The large man is eating something bigger than his head. 

Act III - The Duck
How did they know? In my opinion two of the great finds for us omnivores are the duck and the raspberry. As you will see I was not disappointed. Here we see Senderens in Ringo Starr mode presenting us the magnificent Canard Apicius rôti au miel et aux épices, "Plat de l'époque romaine". Sort of a blast from the past. This is a wonderful thing to do with a duck, caramelized and possessing extraordinary complexity of taste. A neat arrangement, a row of four duck bits and an offset row of three other bits. Apple, baby turnip and date, each intertwined in the whole magic to Apicius' delight. This was served with the '76 Banyuls - Parcé, a brown wine and suitable potion of confusion. Once again Budoit to the rescue. 

A chef (not the man) emerges from the kitchen. Someone must have ordered a coke. Or a vegetarian meal. A brief moment of agitation. The penguins totally ignore the flailing madman. He retreats. 

Act IV - 3 by 3 by 3
Cheeses! Three waiters arrive with three wines a piece. We sit and stare at the semicircular arrangement of the nine urine samples. The cheese dude arrives, the bread dude arrives. This list is sketchy 'cause the notes were getting a bit inebriated at this stage. 

Crottin de Chauvignol with '88 Sancerre, Le Grand Chemarin Pinard, Loire and a fruit bread. The grit and the sweet. The Loire separates the world into two halves. That's what Shand said. It's in the notes. Very cleansing, like a good D.A. No choice. Just sit and be disgusting. 
Gruyère de Fribourg with '87 Côte du Jura Blanc, Rolet, Jura and an unidentified crusty bread. The notes say Pain de smudge. The wine has an almost industrial pungency. Heavy fruit but hiding behind a barbed wire fence - guarded. Distant but not subtle. The cheese looks like soap and is truly incredible. The two fight. We win. 
Munster with '86 Gewurztraminer "Kritt", M. Kreydenweiss, Alsace and little white rolls (I'd lost interest in bread by now). The cheese is truly offensive. Good and bad. It bounces well off the pin cushion that is now my tongue. The wine retaliates and now I have a whole pineapple in my mouth. Spikes - Grrr - Yum! More Budoit. 
The large man has spread out under the table due to unavoidable gravitational pressures and is given an even larger plate. 

Act V - Reality Check
How did they know? Two of my true faves are duck and raspberries. Did Alain check with my mum? Am I repeating myself? For dessert we were served raspberries with pistache glacé entombed in a fine hair net of toffee, embellished with trinkets. A strange "where is the piss" look traversed the table a few times. Surely we would be served some intolerably obscene wine with this. Have we been forgotten? I tried to pour myself some more Budoit but was beaten to it by a waiter, just as another arrived with the '89 Muscat de Rivesaltes - Cazes. 

Situation normal, continue to probe the net. Scrumptuous. Touch of mint and something else exotic entangled in the raspberries. The toffee is rapidly disintegrating into duelling crabs, the remaining raspberries are uncomfortable. Explore the rest of the plate, cumquats, gold leaf chocolate morsels. Play with the crabs, there is profit in confusion. 

Well that's about it then. After some seemingly logical debate we decided to finish with a '69 Armagnac. I know a '62 was considered for assassination reasons but the summer of love got the go. We scrambled together a large wad of banknotes (no cards then but I think they take Visa now) and Strodelled out into the real world, knowing well that we had eaten something from each of the 27 major food groups. 


Deux Flics à Miami says Boyd. 
Skea recalls there being many more courses, maybe a total of eight. It is quite possible that I am missing a page of notes. I'll just add that the first and last courses were served in stages. If we call the first act 3 and the last act 2 that makes 8 all up. There may have also been a course between the filo and the duck. You were pissed, Skea. 
As Shand (and later Boyd and Skea) have pointed out the water in question is la Badoit. Shand justifies my interpretation along the lines of "This BUDoit's on me". Consistency. 


© 1997, Bruce Ellis:

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