June 7, 2004 | Ask Gael
Delouvrier and Ducasse: Can this marriage be saved?
My affluent restaurant-fan pal, famous for his exuberance, tucks into the chef’s offering—a supernal crayfish pea stew with a tickle of foie gras. And moans: “Oh, my God, it’s sublime.” I can barely contain my own whimpers of joy. “I want to hate everything,” he says, “but damn it, I can’t.” Last time he lingered at Alain Ducasse at the Essex House, he got billed $90 for champagne aperitifs offered by the maître d’. He’s still smarting. I’ve hardly been the No. 1 fan of the jet-stream-riding robo-genius myself. But the marriage of Christian Delouvrier, exiled four-star hero of the late Lespinasse, and France’s star-spangled Ducasse, both native to southwest France, is like a tonic in this freshly refined room. Not every gambit knocks us out, but we’re happily stunned by the brilliant complexity of sea scallops with tomato, and by a masterly weaving of acid, bitter, and sweet in a lemon marmalade with ribbons of date under foie gras. A mannered suckling-pig lite will disappoint Delouvrier’s piggy pork fans, but not the luscious stuffed squab or the splendid halibut, shellfish-tossed and tinged with almond butter. I must be brainwashed by sticker shock at Masa and Per Se just steps away, as tonight’s $700 tab for three seems—gasp!—almost reasonable. I’ll hijack a venture capitalist to finance my return.
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