Da Dong/Squid/Les Jules Verne/Yquem

geoduck

I now have conclusive proof that I’m not imagining it: There is an international conspiracy to get me to eat squid. Before you say, “You should try it breaded and dipped in spicy sauce!” or “You haven’t tried had my Thai-style squid!” – I should let you know that I’ve installed a special filter on the site that bans the words “You should…” or “You don’t know what you’re missing” just to save folks the trouble.

I was invited to a Chinese lunch, cooked by Da Dong, who is considered one of the best chefs in China. Because I’m from San Francisco, Asian food feels like it’s part of my culture and although more and more good Asian places are opening in Paris, I still miss digging my chopsticks into salt & pepper crab or a big pile of fresh pea shoots sautéed in chicken fat. Paris was a horrible, horrendous mess – one of those crummy days when the wind is blowing sideways, deep puddles are everywhere, and the heavy rain just refuses to stop blasting away at you, and the entire city. I felt sorry for all the tourists lined up in the watery blitz to visit the monument, because just one lone elevator was operating as the rest in the tower were out-of-service.

Fortunately when I reached the Eiffel Tower, there was a canopy for refuge for restaurant patrons and the elevator to the restaurant was functioning fine. I was happy to be inside and making my way up, with a spectacular view of Paris, and ready for a Chinese feast. Lunch was sure to be a bit more refined than the family style Chinese fare that I often wolf down with pals, but I was interested in tasting a few things that I was completely unfamiliar with. I am fairly astute when it comes to knowing ingredients, but I was thrown for a loop by most of what was served, and came face-to-face with my aforementioned nemesis.

Eiffel TowerJules vernes paris
bean cakesParis

Because it’s France, and we were at Le Jules Verne restaurant, the wines were incroyable. We started with 2002 Dom Pérignon, and wound our way through several vintages – until we landed with the main course, a 1973 bottle. You’ve mostly likely had Champagne before, but vintage Champagne is a whole other story. It’s not ‘crisp’ or ‘refreshing’, but it’s richer, most complex, and demands a lot more attention that a regular glass of bubbly. And, of course, it’s Dom Pérignon. ‘Nuff said folks. As they say, once you’ve been at the front of the plane, it’s hard to head to the back again.

(But right now, my budget is more in line with bottles of its downscale cousin, fizzy crémant. So I’m back there with you.)

Some of my French dining companions admitted they didn’t know much about Chinese food, as they looked around for some forks, but they said that they thought a lot of it was spicy. And a lot of people everywhere aren’t all that familiar with Chinese cooking, which is one of the world’s oldest cuisines, predating French by a longshot. So it was great that the restaurant was hosting a lunch such as this, so people could see – and taste – all the unusual flavors and textures that Chinese cuisine has to offer.

Few people “got” the Biscuit impérial, a compact square of dried bean powder, which I wasn’t thrilled about with my first bite either. But when others politely put theirs down, I kept on eating and grew to like it. A Chinese woman told me that it’s often put in a bowl of water, where it dissolves and is consumed like soup. And no, I’m not a rube, and didn’t put it in my Champagne to test it out.

squid egg soup

Then, right off the bat, here’s where I started to falter. I opened the menu and saw that there were five savory courses, and two of them had squid in them. Including what was coming up next. I don’t like to be a picky eater, or “the problem” person in the group, but I’m just not a tentacle-eater. And I don’t want to be.

So out came a little bowl of frothy soup, Œufs de calmar pochés; poached squid eggs. Great. Now I’ve got to face the little beasts at their source. Folks, I did the best I that I could, I really did – and dug my spoon in.

sesame bread glasses

Because I wanted to be polite, I dug my spoon in again and again, sliding the slippery egg sacs down my throat. So I get an A for effort, right? There was a crispy little pain au sésame alongside, filled with red bean paste, which I happily finished every crumb of because although I liked the pleasantly sour taste of the soup broth, I was having a hard time with the little devils bobbing around in it.

I had to explain Geoduck to my tablemates, which consisted of me making sliding hand gestures about a long, supple, cylindrical object, that was rubbery and flexible, until I started getting some weird looks, so I stopped. Thankfully the waiters came by with bowls made of ice, with thin pieces of raw clam neck tucked inside before the women at my table, and a few of the men, got even more uneasy.

sichuan peppercorns

Alongside was something I’ve never seen before: fresh Sichuan peppercorns. “Surely that was a misprint on the menu” I thought, since they looked so much like green peppercorns. But I nibbled a few off the stem, and soon enough, that familiar fizzy taste of Sichuan pepper had taken over my mouth. The dish was great, pretty excellent, and I urged my dining companions to try the borage flowers, since their cucumbery taste would be a nice bit of refreshment along with the very fresh cou de coquillage.

Then came my deuxième reckoning: Velouté d’encre de seiche, julienne du tofu. Usually if you don’t want to eat something, you can delicately push something to the side and eat around it. But my mind was racing, because there’s just no way you can push aside the main ingredient in a creamed soup. Merde. Out came the waiters with little ceramic pitchers, filling our bowls with the viscous, inky – and very fragrant – black liquid.

velouté of squid ink

Poised over the bowl with my spoon, I could spill it off the table, and apologize profusely. I could hit the men’s room, and hope it’d be gone by the time I got back. Although folks might get suspicious about me in the men’s room for that long, especially after my description of the elongated clam neck. Or I could make a dive for the window. But since we were 125 meters up in the air, and with my luck, I’d probably hit a pylon and dangle off the edge of the Eiffel Tower and look like a buffoon, instead of the much-revered martyr that I hope to be remembered as (although at least I’d give those poor tourists standing in a freezing rain something to watch while they waited in line for the one, lone working elevator in the tower) I dipped the spoon in and slurped up a mouthful. It was fishy, not unpleasant, and I tried to concentrate on the extremely fine slivers of hand-shredded tofu. Then I took another spoonful, then another.

squid ink soup

Then I put my spoon down, and waited for the next course.

crab dish

Out came heavy bowls with quenelles of Seafood Royale with little pearls made pink with beet juice. It was lovely, but I was even more loving the custardy base rich with eggs and crabmeat.

crab

In what is probably the most pretentious statement you’ll read today on the internet, I’m going to call it and say that the 1973 Dom Pérignon was a revelation, even with my mouth still buzzing a bit from the Sichuan peppers that came with the clam neck. Probably not the best way to celebrate the world’s classiest Champagne, but I wasn’t complaining.

sea cucumber and noodles

Finally came the wind-down; Concombre de mer braisé with Beijing noodles. In spite of my resistance to eating anything hideously ugly and vicious (ie: squid), I love those goopy sea cucumbers. I mean, what’s not to like about a leathery, stinky slug that cling to rocks in murky ocean waters? And when one arrived alongside a neat tangle of fresh noodles, and woefully too-few leaves of pea shoots, I gobbled it up with my chopsticks; most of the others at the table had moved on to forks and knives – and when no one else was looking, I gestured to my Chinese co-diner that I was going to grab my plate, lift it to my mouth, and stuff the noodles into my craw, which got a muffled giggle out of her. (I think because I was mimicking what she wanted to do as well.)

Château Cheval Blanc Red wine

And I may not have changed my mind about squid (and no, I promise I won’t do another blog post about how I don’t like it), but the magnum of Château Cheval Blanc, which didn’t have any of that heavy brusqueness that turns me off to a lot of red wine, was lush, ripe, soft, and velvety, gentle and elegant. And it wanted to make me want to use more adjectives than that, but my wine vocabulary is pretty limited, and words like “Holy sh*t!” and “Oh my God!” don’t really go over all that well at French wine tastings, which I’ve learned from experience.

Château Cheval Blanc

Chinese meals don’t really include dessert, which was a dilemma I faced daily when I was the pastry chef at a Chinese restaurant a number of years ago back in San Francisco. So I wish it had occurred to me to roast a mango, because it’s a great way to serve them. Since it’s mango season here in France – (or somewhere else) – I loved scooping up the pulp of a warm, ripe mango dusted very lightly with what may have been the slightest whisper of black pepper. Butting put against it was a red bean paste-filled pastry enrobed in mango jelly and two jellied “cherries” made out of beet juice.

roasted mango

My wine vocabulary – heck, my entire vocabulary, after all this food and wine – was kaput by the end of this meal. But then out came My Favorite Thing in the World: Château d’Yquem. If you haven’t had it, I can’t say that I blame you. And it starts at around 200 dollars a bottle…and goes way, way up from there. But aside from the hazelnut praline paste from Jean-Charles Rochoux and chocolate-covered marshmallows, this Sauternes is really the best thing in the world.

You tip a few drops of this amber liquid into your mouth, and it’s like – well, holy sh*t. There’s a whole lot of marvelous flavors that start zinging around your head – baked ripe apricots, caramel, chestnuts, Justin Timberlake – in short, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of. I had it for the first time when I was just a nitwit baker toiling away in the back of a restaurant, when some customers sent me back a small glass, which they were enjoying with their almond custard with mangoes. And for all those people who write to me, who are coming to France, who kindly ask me if there’s anything they can bring me – the answer? Château d’Yquem.

Château d'Yquem

Now that I’ve managed to alienate a wide berth of readers, I’ll leave you dangling with these curious little Mignardises of sweets.

roasted mango dessertjules vernes eiffel tower
Chineses MignardisesChinese pastry

I’m not sure what they all are. So it’s a good thing I’m not a restaurant reviewer because I’d have to give all of you your money back. The bottom knots are made with chestnut flour, the brown rolls dusted with roasted soy flour had soy sauce in them, and the little rice paste balls were filled with bits of green and red, which I liked, but was also multitasking by scanning the tables to see who hadn’t finished their Sauternes, and how I could wrangle the rest of the glass from them before slipping away down the elevator, and back into the water-logged streets of Paris.

Château d'Yquem


92 comments

  • “Angels peeing on your tongue” is what my dad reverently calls Chateau d’Yquem. :)

  • This is exaclty like when I was a teenager and had to eat salmon (which I now like, but detested then) because I had been invited to a friend’s for dinner and didn’t want to be rude.

    Yep, exactly like that, only with calamari, and your in the Eiffel Tower instead of Cleveland. And the rest of the food is insane. And you drank d’Yquem. Other than that, though, it’s pretty much the same.

  • Brilliant post, David. I loved your descriptions of the wines – they sound like mine. “Wow, I really like this!” “Berry… something… fruity…” lol It sounds like an amazing experience. I’ve never seen fresh Sichuan peppercorns either but I love cooking with the dried ones – I make this Xinjiang lamb skewer I used to buy all the time in Shanghai.

  • I think that the little brown dust-covered mignardise is lu da gun, a very traditional Beijing snack food that means “rolling donkey”. They have rice flour and a bean filling, usually, and I don’t find them all that wonderful.

    Looks like an “interesting” menu, and for a Chinese menu it’s quite odd to have two items with the same meat (the dreaded squid). That is not at all typical of a Chinese banquet, where variety of all kinds is usually prized.

  • Hilarious post David! I read lots of it out loud while giggling to my boyfriend who was trying (unsuccessfully) to watch rugby …

  • I’m with you on the squid. I absolutely cannot swallow squid. Good on you for at least having the manners to try all the dishes despite your “issues”. It sounded like a fabulous meal, squiddly bits excepted.

  • Hi David. Loved your squid post.Lots of great one liners and beautiful pictures. How is your apartment coming. I blew it and lost your links on how to find your videos. Please let me know so we can continue posting.

    Debbie and I love them and have watched your market trip/lunch a number of times. Both posted on our site. Our new Paris series is started on the site with our first two posts, We are going to include your fine work in part three. Hope all is well – Warm Regards Dick&Debbie.

  • I did not think my aversion to squid could increase, but thanks to this wonderful and entertaining description of your dining experience, it has.

    The Chateau d’Yquem gods, of course, rewarded your politeness and courage. But I have heard they are fickle, so bravely eating squid may not work for me, so I will have to get Chateau d’Yquem by some other means.

    (One of the nice aspects of having a veggie garden, is the easy availability of pea shoots).

  • Vintage Champagne is amazing! I was lucky enough to attend a Champagne tasting session last weekend with a very respected Champagne expert, and she told us that with vintage wines one tastes the year only, not the Champagne house. NV wines conform to the house style, but vintage wines are exclusive to the year. She could tell you the year of a vintage Champagne, but never the house. Fascinating. Well done on the squid front too!

  • Miss Jane: I never “got” vintage Champagne before, preferring the regular lighter bubbly “house” styles. But they really are two different things and I was glad to have a chance to try them.

    Richard: The videos are in the right sidebar under “Categories” – you’ll find them archived there. Am in the process of adding more. I’ve been providing apt. updates in my newsletter. Nice to hear from you!

    Jane: In these kinds of situations, unless you have an allergy or something, it’s somewhat impolite not to eat least try something. So in spite of my strong feelings, I did. Château d’Yquem is really special and I have seen a few places that use a cruvinet (wine by the glass system) sometimes have a bottle, and you can order a sip. But yes, it’s a pricey indulgence -

  • I’m sorry but the only way I could ever be convinced to consume that soup would be a promise of sex with Tom Selleck afterwards. It looks like motor oil after an oil change. My hats off to you David for even lifting the spoon to your lips.

  • we chinese do have desserts! mango pudding, red bean pancake and so on! If you ever come to singapore, id encourage you to go to imperial treasure :) their wantons are incredibly good as well as the xiao long bao! plus most of their dishes dont have squid ;> annnd they serve dessert too!

  • David–

    What vintage was the Yquem?–the color makes it look well aged.

  • I thought I was a brave eater – I adore tentacles – but this meal is truly out there. I would have tried anything served with those wines and in those surroundings, but holy crap, that soup looks like Klingon haute cuisine.

  • My only experience with the squid-that-is-not-breaded-and-fried was in Venice.

    A plate of pasta with squid in its own ink. Unless you’ve seen it, you cannot imagine how gross-looking black (not dark brown) sauce is. I could almost feel my throat close.

  • What a great way to escape the deluge and our troubles in euroland, despite the squid – unborn ones too! I do feel sorry for the soggy tourists wandering around. As I read today in a leading French news magazine ‘we may not yet have the economy of Bangladesh, but we already have its monsoon’.

  • Must say, lacking in dessert is not a usual problem for chinese food… they might just be lacking in chinese places in SF. Roast mango… that’s weak :)

    And I must say that this is far from what chinese food look like any where back home either… and the attempt to make it “french” dont’ seems to work too well. Squid eggs, ink soup… sorry you have to put up with it.

    the Da Dong that I know of is just a fancy peking duck place…and not the best one to speak of…. oh well. Heston.

    But the petite fours do look interesting and impressive. Too bad they didn’t tell you what they are :)

  • I’m with you on the squid. The fishy-ness and then the chewy texture…I just can’t. My family (we’re Korean) thinks I’m nuts, but they’ve gotten used to it.

  • Wow, it’s probably a good thing you don’t like squid — otherwise you would have been too full to eat dessert!

  • wow, the universe does seem to have an ongoing conspiracy!!
    I’m the same with innards/offal. Under. No. Condition. Will. I. Eat. The. Stuff. And I get the same, especially now when nose to tail is popular, that I’ve only had poorly cooked variants. That’s not really, though, what it’s about.

    I would really like to try geoduck. Was in Vancouver two years ago but managed to miss the geoduck.

  • Great post! Thank you! I know what to get my honey for his birthday! Yquem it is!

  • It’s 11 am here in DC and your photos are making me want to have Yquem NOW. The prettiest photos of wine-being-poured I’ve seen in awhile.

    And, of course, thanks for the kind link-age.

    Cheers! —S

  • If you were going to purchase a bottle of Château d’Yquem, what vintage would you recommend (obviously keeping in mind that I’m probably not Warren Buffett). My husband loves to have things on hand that he can share with special guests (for example, we bought a bottle of genepi while in France), and he might really appreciate this–it will at least go in the file for future reference.

  • Ha! Loved your commentary and got a good chuckle. As I was reading the first part, I wondered if you’d ever eaten “sea slugs”, so what turns up next, they served you exactly that…and you liked it. I like everything in varying degrees, sometimes closing the eyes helps too. The only foods I’ve ever gagged on were canned peas and over-cooked carrots…. too mushy!

  • Holy smokes, you’ve outdone yourself. I could taste everything you described, especially the Sauternes – truly a nectar of the gods. I don’t know if I can find those Doms in Toronto, and when I do, if I can afford to have some, but I now have a new goal!. Great post. Thank you.

  • …wish I’d known about chinese food in the Eiffel Tower when I was there last week. Just added another line item to the list of things to do on my 2nd trip to Paris. Cheers!

  • I now feel like a complete dumbass as I have realized there is not a chinese restaurant in the Eiffel Tower….

  • love your humor and good manners, do you ever catch yourself saying, “How bad could this be?” enjoy

  • For those of you who’ve asked, the wines we had (in order of service) were:

    -Dom Pérignon; 2002, 2003, 1996, and 1973 (which was the incredible vintage one.)

    -Château Cheval Blanc, Saint-Emillion, 2000, premier grand cur classé A (served in a magnum)

    -Château d’Yquem, 1998, premier cru supérieur

    -Hennesey Paradis Impérial Cognac

    I’m not a wine expert, but it was very interesting to taste all these amazing wines.

    __________

    Steve: This was a special meal hosted by the Jules Verne restaurant, which they apparently do a few times a year, to feature a chef from another country.

    Vanessa: There are desserts in the Chinese repertoire, but I’ve rarely been served a dessert after a Chinese meal and usually any sweets are served at other times. (As you know, there are some interesting sugars in Chinese cuisine, although a lot of them get used in savory cooking.)

    Kristy: That’s a tough question and since the prices are so lofty, best to ask an expert. The older ones are much richer and deeper in flavor – and the prices reflect that. Richard Olney wrote a great book about Yquem, including tasting notes (I believe..although my copy is packed away in a box somewhere) which I think is out of print, but perhaps you can score a used copy at a reasonable price.

  • fresh sichuan peppercorns are the best. i had several meals in Japan where they were used as a garnish, and, like David with the Château d’Yquem, i went around the tables afterwards seeing who didn’t care to eat their garnish. for several years the US banned the peppercorns because they were were thought to be carriers of a citrus canker, and then they realized the peppercorns (not really peppercorns, as they are actually berries of the prickly ash) were roasted and so not really able to carry any kind of disease. unfortunately for me i had tried to mail myself two pounds of the most pungent peppercorns from Sichuan, and the post office confiscated all of it, which i think means it got send to the black market in the San Gabriel valley. in any case, it’s now off the prohibited list, so maybe we’ll be able to see some fresh ones too!
    thanks for a great post

  • “Chinese meals don’t really include dessert, which was a dilemma I faced daily”

    huh? David! We have so many desserts! Admittedly alot of them are soup based, but that’s cause most chinese pastries are considered snacks, dessert is almost always in some form of soup – to wash down whatever we ate.

    fortunately i’m not from China, and in Singapore, as mentioned, just about every race is peddling their cuisine on the streets, often mixed together.

    • I’ve never seen a Chinese menu with desserts listed (and I am sure there are some out there – but I’ve eaten at a lot of Chinese restaurants, with Chinese friends, and haven’t seen them), although as I mentioned in an earlier comment, there are ‘sweets’ and pastries as part of Chinese cuisine (and the cuisines and regions are so varied).

  • You are such a wonderful writer, David. You make it all come to life – the funny, the personal, the time, place, and of course taste.

    A warm early summer night at a beach restaurant in Portugal, a romantic moment, and squid in its own ink. It looked at tasted like motor oil must. It was about the only thing in my life I could not eat.

  • David, green, fresh peppercorns are delicious. They are a big part of Cambodian cuisine and I’ve eaten an absolutely divine pepper crab at Kep, on the coast of Cambodia. Unlike the dried black peppercorns, these are gentle enough to the palate, but with a peppery zing to it (though as a Sri Lankan with a penchant for chillies, I guess I’m not qualified to comment on how mild pepper is). I have also heard that Cambodia’s pepper is famous, especially in France, as the best pepper in the world. Have you ever heard of it?

  • I love, love, love squid — especially deep fried and served with remoulade. But those sea cucumbers– can’t even be in the room if they are on the menu!

  • Super fun post! I twiced dined at Altitude 95 (both times with high school aged groups). It was nothing like this! ‘Cept for the views of course.

  • This is hilarious. You must be praised for bravery, David. I guess, the wine helped a lot there. :)
    You were fortunate they didn’t offer you a pigeon head to eat. I heard this is a “food of honor”, so to speak, when you visit a Chinese family. To refuse means an insult to the host. (This is probably not served in restaurants though). Would you be courageous enough to try it?.. :)

  • You’re a brave. No way i’d put this black worm mud into my mouth. God, i believed gastronomy should look yummy. This is far from that. I doubt anybody would get interested if there wasn’t this fantastic view and a winehouse like that. Man, it was a trap.
    I love patisserie because it is a bit safer area. At least i suppose you wouldnt get any squid sorbet anywhere. But nowadays, everything is possible.

  • David, where did you eat salt and pepper crabs,pea shoots in stir fried in chicken fat in San Francisco,what Chinesse restaurant do you eat when in town.Thank you beforehand for any suggestions.

  • Geoduck, ahhhh. (pron. gooey duck) As I child I was able to dig (and dig, and dig) these huge bivalves (clams) from the Washington State coast. We were allowed three per person, per day. When you get “giant clam” sushi it appears that it is goeduck. They have the lovliest, rich flavor. Tough if overcooked, so best eaten raw or barely cooked in soups or fritters. Heaven. But so is raw squid (or cooked squid). I’m not attracted to squid ink, but I sure do like it any other way – raw or cooked, Asian or Mediterranean style. What an interesting feast you had. Did you score any chateau d’yquem on the way out – furtively or otherwise?

  • The photo of that bowl of soup was alarming. You should be very proud of yourself for getting through 3 whole bites of the stuff.

  • What a great experience! I would have enjoyed it all EXCEPT the sea “cucumber”. I’m surprised that you were challenged by all the squid but could manage the slug. It’s been served to me before (in Taiwan) but my good manners went out the window. Simply. Could. Not. So kudos to you!

  • I am beginning to enjoy your sense of humor, David (the imagined escape from the squid course). Alas, I do not have a Chateau d’Yquem budget, or I would bring you some — you’ll find me in the cheap seats and budget hotels, standing at the bakery counter with wide eyes and awake tongue. Brave man to try both squid eggs and ink in one meal.

  • Well done! ;-)

  • Good Lord, that bowl of black is vile, kudos to you for being brave. If that were me, I’d say that was a liquid lunch if I looked over the menu!

  • I started laughing at the geoduck (*exactly* what I have always thought about them) and by Justin Timberlake was sputtering and mopping my monitor. Bravo.

  • OMG, Daveed, you are the Deep Throat of food porn and just as surprisingly funny!

  • Salt and pepper crab. Yum. I have to share that recipe on my blog soon. I love it, too. :)
    Interesting to know that you were a pastry chef in a SF’s Chinese restaurant. Yeah, we have nothing much to offer in the dessert department. :(

  • All Divine! Great Photo’s!

  • Hilarious !!! You definitely get the A for effort ! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • David, this is a lovely post. And LOL about all the geoduck comments! Sounds like a challenging menu.

  • I was served a plate of duck heads in China. As the guest of honor, the big lazy susan with just that one plate on it (it’s an appetizer) swung all the way over to me first! I picked some skin off the head and ate it, but I’m sure you’re supposed to suck on the whole thing. I’m Chinese American but was not prepared for what got served to me in China. At all. And I like squid!

  • The roast mango with pepper sounds interesting and the jellied ‘cherry’ looks so pretty!. Being a squid-ink lover the soup looks so yummy, the braised sea-cucumber dish looks delicious too, so was the geoduck and the sesame pastry. What a lucky guy you are! ;-)

  • Much though I love squid, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed that meal very much – just not my sort of food!

    My nemesis is beetroot, which I can’t bear – they keep giving me it prepared in different ways and saying “Oh, you’ll like it done like this!” but it still tastes like beetroot. I also dislike golden syrup in any shape or form….and dislike prawns/shrimp (although I love crayfish, go figure!) and can’t really digest them, either….

  • Your posts are always entertaining and informative, but this one took things to a higher plane. Was it the restaurant or was it the squid???? No matter. A very enjoyable read.

  • I feel your squid nausea David,
    When I was a kid my Mom would boil squid with the eyes on no less and slap it down on the table, overcooked and stinky. There were other weird Chinese and Malaysian condiments that were just as weird to sauce it with.

    We lived in Arizona (sigh), very, very far from the sea. To this day I cannot even look at the beasts.

  • I am Chinese and I’ve never seen or eaten any of the stuff in this meal. Certainly not squid eggs and ink soup. The mignardaises look really strange to me too. I know China is big, but… What region was this stuff from?

  • You must get this all the time, but I adore your writing! It rings even more as we’ve been living in France for over 1.5 years and have hit many of the frustrations that you described.

    We were actually in Paris for Ascension (with the rain and all) and wanted to try to have some Chinese food as it’s completely foreign here in the south of France. We managed to find two that were decent. One I believe you mentioned before (not quite Chinese): Lao Lane Xang. The other is up in Belleville for dim-sum: Le Pacifique. Would you agree to these? Otherwise, France is really quite foreign to Chinese food!

  • You and your squid aversion!! I bet everyone at the table could tell that you were dying a thousand deaths during the squid courses. I have met you on two occasions and your emotions are all over your face…. a very good thing in my book :)

  • Oh David, you kill me. And what a trooper you are -politely tasting the squid. Texture is such a large and very important part of the food experience for me, I’m afraid I might’ve gagged on that soup and sea cucumber. However, I am a trooper too, and would’ve had no problem tasting it. And oh, the wine, the beautiful wine. I’m sure I would’ve said “holy s**t”, and had no recollection of saying it. Thank you as always for the great post.

  • When lunching or dining at Jules Verne, throw caution to the wind and get the wine pairing. Although the food is as fabulous and beautiful as depicted here (we’ve only enjoyed more traditional French fare there, thank goodness) it’s the superb wines, which so expertly compliment the flavors of the courses, that make the experience truly transcendent. (Yes, the Sauterne is really all that.) The food, the wine, the views, the impeccable service, and yes, the guilty pleasure of the private elevator, (Isn’t there a bit of Marie Antoinette even in plebeians such as we?), are not experiences one will soon forget. The tres haut and exotic Asian cuisine, from which I think most Western palates would revolt, was nonetheless beautiful and fun and funny to read about. Thanks, David

  • You made me laugh out loud. This post is awesome. Up there with one of your best in my book. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience with us.

  • Squid, reminds me about a scene from the movie Shirley Valentine…if you ‘ve seen the movie you’d remember….pretty funny involving British tourists in Greece

  • The best post ever! which has induced me to comment for the first time, though I’ve enjoyed your blog (and cookbooks) for a long time now. I felt I was at that meal with you, laughed, marveled, took notes, gagged at both squid and sea cucumber, and wanted to reach into the photo of the left-behind sauterne glasses to try some. How could those folks not have finished theirs!?
    A note to fellow commenters: the sea cucumber is not a slug of any sort, but related to the sea star. A tidbit of information: sea cucumbers can liquify their tough endo-skeleton to allow themselves to ooze through small openings, then re-harden again.
    Sweet velvety creatures, not my idea of food, though!

  • What I’d do to try that Chateau d’Yquem! I love love love Botrytis wines and this must be the Holy Grail of them I take it? Thank you for the introduction and it may just be something to add to the bucket list.
    As for the squid – I like it myself but I’m not one of those to foist my tastes on others…and you tried it, which is more than can be said for many.
    You know, it took me three goes to actually like oysters. After a recent meal out, my friends and I tried the four different types of oysters on the menu to compare them all. I discovered that I like certain types, but others not. If the flavour tips over the edge of the salty sea towards the metallic, heavy tang then it’s too much. And they are better just plain with a little lemon and salt…cooking makes them too icky.
    So anyway, that’s my little story to demonstrate that you can grow to like things..which I am sure you are familiar with. ;-)

  • Your funniest post yet!

  • I laughed all the way through that post. I will be eating at Le Jules Verne Restaurant at the Eiffel Tower next Thurs for my 50th birthday. I will do my best do bring some warm sunny LA weather with me. I hope to try the Château Cheval Blanc! You made it sound magical.
    Thanks for the great post!

  • My father-in-law brought a bottle of 1982 Chateau d’Yquem to my wedding and it definitely was the best thing in the world.

    The roast mango looks amazing (all of it does, but that especially) I think I’m going to roast a mango soon!

  • A meal not to be missed for many reasons. Living in China has proved a bit challenging even for me who will try most things. Thing I.m having most problems with is texture, slimy gelatinous food just doesn’t do it for me.

  • David, As usual beautiful, informative photos and interesting commentary. I have not been able to confront the sea cucumber yet … then one of your readers said that it can liquify to slide thru a hole and then reharden …Yikes! Curious about the photo of the table setting next to the window, what was the place holder between the flatware pieces and napkin roll? Judy

  • Loved this post…I sat here laughing out loud to your great descriptions. Some very unique items on the menu. I can’t imagine facing the black ink and squid. Kudos to you and your courageous taste-testing!

  • Always thought squid ink was an Italian thing. It seems that is it also found in Thai and Okinawan food.

    Here’s an interesting article I just found:

    http://www.gourmet.com/food/2009/02/squid-ink

  • This is my first time leaving a comment on a blog :) Me and my husband recently went to Paris and visited many of your reco’s from your blog and book. We enjoyed all the delicious sweets and food from Jacque Genin’s, Patrick Roger’s, Pierre Hermes’, Denis Acabo’s candy shop, Les Papilles, Le Timbre, Braizh Cafe, Ble Sucre and many more, and even bought the 3 kg cocoa powder from G. Detou (although I’m not sure if it can be used in place of alkalized cocoa powder?). When we were at Vandermeersch to pick up a kouglof, the salesperson asked how we found out about the shop, so I told her about your blog and gave your name. So next time when you go there, maybe you should tell them you’re the famous David Lebovitz..:) Thanks again for the wonderful blog and books!

  • I did try the cuttlefish and risotto with cuttlefish ink when on the island of Burano. Cleaning the cuttlefish and carefully removing the ink sac was interesting. I have to admit I did not prefer it. Squid is actually preferable. I also agree with Carol about Tom Selleck.

  • I love this. The next time I’m describing something wonderful I will definitely use your “Justin Timberlake” adjective. I agree he is near perfection–just don’t tell my husband.

  • awww i like that you don’t care for some kind of food. it seems like everybody wants to be all zimmerman these days and prove their foodie-ness by just eating what’s put in front of them, however crazy. i respect that you stick by your guns.

    that said, i may not ever wrap my head around squid being out but sea cucumbers being in. just saying. :)

  • From a faithful follower of your blog and books I offer humble superlatives for the quality of your reportage on this unique dining experience in the face of personal preferences! If I simply enjoyed the beautiful photographs against the unbeatable setting it might have been enough. However your Yquem finish replaced a subtle slimy feeling in my mouth with the sublime, merci. Eggs are another food writers tend to avoid (too common? cholesterol?) However I recently discovered Eggs & Co. in Paris in the 6th – delicious menu, freshest ingredients, wonderful flavors in the salads and imaginative range of egg dishes. And – Franklin’s coffee is favored by Italians who regularly come in to drink it! Maybe another exception to your Gallic coffee rule?

  • David,

    How very pretty the peppercorns are! This reminded me of the meal we had at Viajante in London. I will eat almost anything prepared by a talented chef in an outstanding kitchen, just so I don’t accidentally ‘miss out’. But duck tongue must be my equivalent of your squid. I looked and stared and then took the plunge, but sadly small though the item was, I just could not force that last piece down. The rest of the meal was extraordinarily good. So kudos to you for your valiant efforts with the squid. Looked delicious to me!

  • I couldn’t stop laughing! And it’s a shame that many people haven’t had geoduck! They make a great thai salad, deep fried, or just plain sashimi.

  • You are brave. I wouldn’t , probably, do what you did out of politeness… I couldn’t eat that ink soup. But I do love geoduck, we were lucky to have it fresh. Well, first, we had to dig it out of the sand at the Hood Canal (Washington State).

  • You brought me such a smile today, David– many, in fact! I love the comments, photos and commentary you share on your blog in general, but you really outdid yourself with this peek into your experience of this (literally) plus haut monde! While I don’t share your aversion to tentacled cuisine, I can certainly appreciate and applaud the gusto with which you faced the unknown. Thanks!

  • İmage very beautiful…….

  • Yay! A post to show the world that Chinese cuisine offers so much more than the “Kung Pao Chicken” or “Sweet and Sour Pork” served at those poor imitations like Happy Lamp or Panda Express although I have to say I’ve never tried sea cucumber before!

  • I feel the same way about sea cucumbers as you do about squid. I’ve spent a lot of time living in Asia and I have had lots of amazing dishes, but the ones with sea cucumber have all been vile. Fortunately for me sea cucumber is more of a special restaurant dish and less of a run of the mill food.

  • Reading your post was a great beginning of a day. Interesting dishes and a great wine..loved it!

  • I love sea cucumber! The preparation involved in cleaning, washing and soaking the sea cucumber is a long and tedious one, but one is often rewarded with its thick, springy yet gelatinous texture. By itself, it has no taste, but it does a fantastic job of absorbing whatever stock it is cooked in. Would recommend that people keep an open mind and taste it before proclaiming that they don’t like it :)

  • how your taste for slimy dudes is helping a nation rebuild ;)

    http://www.good.is/post/what-a-box-of-sea-cucumbers-teaches-us-about-foreign-aid/

  • Dood, I want you to know that this reader appreciates how you must suffer to bring us these amazing stories and photos of yet one more incredible eating adventure. And I promise that if you ever come to dinner chez moi, I will NOT serve you my beautiful squid salad. B-t-w squid is one of the things on my short list of food to NEVER, EVER eat anywhere but at home.

  • Completely share the aversion to squid . In fact to the degree that My first instinct was to avoid the article as even the word “squid” is already off putting. Congrats on keeping an open mind as it teaches there are rewards and new experiences to be had. Grateful to learn about Chateau d’Yquem. Now if only I kne how to pronounce it. Ironicaly looks like it sounds like yuck-I’m. Sounds about as far from yuck you can get.! :)

  • you are one lucky guy.

  • Hi David, I have been following your blog for a while now and enjoying each and every one, but this one was priceless.

    We have a friend outside of Lyon who when he has an especially lovely wine: comme la sante vierge qui fait pipi dans la bouche.

    Apologies for offending anyone, but it always makes us laugh and you might be able to use it next time. Cheers,

  • another reason to avoid squid:

    Cooked Squid Inseminates Woman’s Mouth
    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/06/15/cooked-squid-inseminates-womans-mouth/