Our meal at Senderens began with an amuse-bouche of pumpkin purée which had a sprinkling of crunchy grains of rice fluffed up like 'rice crispies'. The first glass of wine included in the 'menu dégustation' hadn’t arrived at this point, but the elegant soup was satisfying enough on its own.
The first course (scallops with ravioli of swiss chard, foam of Jerusalem artichoke, served with a finger of toast with caper butter and thin slices of raw chestnuts) was accompanied by Côtes de Provence, Domaine Pinchinat 2006 (Rolle and Clairette). The wine’s 'mineralité saline', as described in the menu notes, was a pleasing match for the scallop and had enough breadth of fruit, floral notes and fresh acidity to handle the range of flavours and textures of the dish (even the slightly tangy, crunchy raw chestnuts). This versatile wine might also have worked nicely with the amuse-bouche.
The second course (roasted foie gras with a salad of fresh figs, powdered liquorice and slivers of almond) was served with Porto Rozès White Reserve which had been aged in oak for seven years in a 'tawny' style. This was an interesting and daring partnership – the semi-sweet, spiciness of the port working well with the foie gras, fruit and medicinal spice (on the corner of the plate into which you dip the liver). The broad texture of the port stood up to the richness of the dish, but the alcohol was a little too warm and dominant. About halfway through our meal the sommelier asked us what we thought of the wines chosen for the set menu and agreed that the port might have been a touch too overwhelming, particularly as the foie gras was roasted and then cut into slices, so not as caramelised as it might otherwise have been. He did seem genuinely interested in what we thought, something you wouldn’t necessarily expect in such a 'destination' restaurant.
The main course was roast Spanish milk-fed lamb with pequillo peppers and 'cocos de Paimpol'. The meat was served in three ways – quickly cooked for a pink and juicy result, meltingly slow-cooked and tender and, thirdly, the pepper had been stuffed with loosely minced lamb. The dish had been garnished with fine crispy slices of garlic with a puffed texture like 'Quaver' snacks, and deglazed pan juices were poured over the lamb at the table. Gauby’s Côtes de Roussillon Villages 'Les Calcinaires' 2006 was a particularly successful match. This blend of Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Syrah is a sleek, polished wine with layers of complex dark fruit, spice and stony minerality. These aromas and the wine’s intensity and length were delicious alongside the lamb (slightly sweet), pepper, garlic and creamy beans. The elegant structure of the wine, with its fine-grained tannins and freshly balanced acidity worked seamlessly with the lamb’s delicate texture and slight fattiness.
Our little pre-dessert was iced curry mousse with a thin slice of chocolate: a gently spicy 'pick-me-up' that we enjoyed with a few more sips of the white port that we had left over from earlier on.
The spicy theme continued with the dessert proper – Szechuan pepper meringue served with crystallised lemon marmalade and ginger ice cream. This kaleidoscope of distinct, bold flavours and textures was enthusiastically embraced by Sauternes Doisy Daëne 2002, with its rich, waxy texture, luscious candied fruit and spicy vanilla oak.
We also really enjoyed finishing off the Sauternes with the petits fours and it was particularly mouth-watering with some pink grapefruit dipped in white chocolate: a memorable conclusion to a delicious meal in a very stylish restaurant that seemed to really care.
(Visited November 2007)
Menu 150 Euros incl wines
Menu 110 Euros excl wines
9 Place de la Madeleine; 75008 Paris; tel +33 (0) 1 42 65 22 90 http://www.senderens.fr
This review also appears on matchingfoodandwine.com