I’m about three months overdue on an account of my evening at Le Chien de Pavlov, a jewelry-box-sized, quiet little brasserie specializing in creative French dishes prepared with market-fresh, seasonal ingredients. We caught our 9:00 pm reservation after a beer out on the terrace of Le Trou Duck around the corner, and sat to a captivating menu that promised each of us something wonderful.
As I wasn’t too hungry that evening, I ordered an appetizer – their beef tartare, which came with a thin sliver of smoked eel, piped florets of frothy wasabi foam and fresh dill as garnish. A gorgeous plate and with very well composed flavors. The eal was tender, practically melting in the mouth and leaving behind only its nutty, smoky, marine taste to mix with the freshness of the cubed beef. The airy cream of wasabi added a fantastic texture to dip each bundle of meat into, along with a sharp, dry, eye-watering heat to wake up the palate and cut the fat in the beef.
Ben ordered the lamb, served in the sous-vide-type plastic bag in which it was cooked with hearty chunks of carrots, sweet potato, chestnut and tender baby onions. As he pulled open the seal, fragrant waves of steam came wafting out – a release of aromas from ingredients that, through cooking together, had come to harmonize beautifully. At one point the aromas became just far too seductive and I cast across the table a hungry, imploring gaze. After just a few “Nope it’s mine,” jokes, I got a nice piece. The lamb was fall-into-its-fibers tender as all hell, retaining that gorgeous bleating lamb minerality, which combined with the natural sweetness of the root vegetables to become something well-rounded and complex. The textures here were wonderful as well – tender, juicy lamb, creamy carrots and sweet potatoes, slippery, smooth onions falling apart into velveteen wedges and the chestnuts… Oh the chestnuts… Perhaps the most clever addition to this recipe. The meaty, mealy texture and roasty-toasty flavor of the nut brought the lamb to a whole new level.
Dessert was beautiful and elaborate, with many different textures and flavors co-existing in perfect harmony. On the one side, a Sable Breton butter cookie glued with a voluptuous chestnut cream to a bowl made of meringue. Inside, a fresh compote of diced khaki fruit and orange, mixed with more chestnut custard and chewy bits of diced roasted chestnut sprinkled over the top. A few inches away, a glittering quenelle of gianduja (chocolate+hazelnut) ice cream lain on a bed of sandy Sable Breton crumble, a bit of crunch to jazz up the otherwise creamy, frothy texture of frosty dairy. Another genius combination – buttery, nutty Breton cookie whole and smashed to pieces, the earthy sweetness of the chestnut nodding across the plate to the hazelnut-infused chocolate, the sharp acidity of the fruit compote adding perfect contrast to wake up the palate and sensitize it even more to the beautiful chaos going on in each bite.