L’Écu de France (Reprise) - Form Follows Function

A well-kept secret, assuredly, but now the secret is out - yours truly & Co. have returned twice to L’Écu de France, the 'atmosphere, atmosphere' venue along the Marne that I reviewed back in June '08. If you've read that review, you already know that I was somewhat conflicted, essentially concluding with the impression that the restaurant was aloof and over-priced. Now that I am a full two years older, wiser, and much more mature, I am willing to admit that I stand corrected - I have no reason to conclude aloofness any longer, I confidently can supplant 'over-priced' with 'pricey', and you no longer have to take a copy of War & Peace to bide your time between courses (and even then, I would instead recommend Larsson's Millennium trilogy, now that I am more than halfway through book 3 and well on my way to finishing before the end of the current decade).

All kidding aside ('a dyslexic man walks into a bra . . .'), no I mean it, all kidding aside, this time I intend to make a long story (my first Ecu review) short (this second review). And in short, the chef is doing a great job conjuring up some interesting and imaginative dishes. Even cooler, the chef requests that specific, specially designed plates are ordered for serving those creations, from an independent (and secret except for those, ahem, who know) createur francais, as a means of further embellishing and enhancing the already artistic presentation of the food. Form follows function.

Now, I hope you are sitting down, because this time I took photos!

Here's the Asiatic-leaning mise-en-bouche:

First course - Co. opted for the Millefeuille de Foie gras de Canard et magret fumé,
pain d’épice à la saubressade, jus au caramel (18€) and I selected Filet de Daurade Royale, consommé froid d’algue et Thon séché marinade de légumes au thé vert (15€):

Co. was very pleased with the delicately layered foie gras, although we found little evidence of pain d’épice à la saubressade, unless it was the sprinkly stuff you see on the plate. My dish hit the mark conceptually, but this was definitely not my cup of tea, green or not.

Moving on to the main dishes, here we go, two big hits. Co. was knocked out (in a good way) by her lamb dish, Canon d’Agneau du Limousin en cappuccino d’arabica,
farandole de poires en compotée et confite au Bourgogne (19 €), the plate comprised of two bowled spaces, one for the lamb, the other for the pear, and the great gesture here was the cappuccino sauce - lamb cooked in coffee?, you've got to be kidding, but like I said, a knockout. My dish was up there as well, the Magret de Canard du Pays d’Auge caramélisé au Pondichéry risotto « Arborio » à la betterave, émulsion de réglisse (21€) - a hint of nostalgia with the return to the beet, last year's big thing, and the combo was Technicolor - the beet red and the duck pink bleeding over the risotto, enveloped by the purple plate.

Desserts also were near-perfect on the satisfaction scale. Co. went with the lemon inspired Macaron au Fenouil et citron vert glacé, litchis à la fleur de menthe (15€), whereas I couldn't deny an after dinner cigar, the chocolate variety, Cigare « Partagas » en After Eight,émulsion d’orange sanguine, turbiné au moment (19€), which looks kind of well, phallic, but the chocolate, mint, orange melange with little squares of lime jello was epic.

Not to be denied, my espresso came with a small plate of tasty patisseries, not that they were needed by this point. But if its free, I'll take it. Before I forget, all this grub was washed down with a Givry « Clos Salomon » 2005 (M. du Gardin), a tasty red for 35€.

Total for the evening - two 3-course meals, wine, and one cafe came to 149€. Just a reminder - L'Ecu has a strange concept - you can order the plates in 1/2 portion or full. Once again, we opted for the less expensive 1/2 portion and could not fathom eating anything more by the end of the meal, certainly not twice as much.

Service was diligent and attentive, with a couple of minor glitches subtly evident in the background, and for an end of August Friday night, the large room was well populated. It's off the beaten path and you'll need a car to get there, but the next time you go visit the Marne, check out L'Ecu. Interesting place.

31 Rue Champigny
94430 Chennevieres-sur-Marne
tel: 01 45 76 00 03
Website (with directions): http://www.ecudefrance.com/
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