We had a mixed meal at Gagnaire in early summer. I prefer to order a la carte at Gagnaire as his attention seems more focused on these courses which consist of four to five small dishes. Gagnaire knows about the globe’s best ingredients perhaps more than any other practicing chef, and he is always eager to design complex dishes with many complimentary and contrasting elements. This may lead to spectacular results, but to failures, as well. He always treads a very fine line between achieving a high level of harmony or dishes that lack balance. He calls himself an artist, and he is one, but one wonders at times whether his spontaneous way of cooking and his overconfidence is an impediment to perfection which requires more experimentation and fine tuning before dishes are put on the menu.
Another issue with this type of overly ambitious cooking is the availability and quality of ingredients. When one or two elements are missing and/or they are sub-par, they upset the whole harmony. This was the case with one of the courses we selected with my wife, the rouget. This dish featured neither the kokotchas of bacalao, nor the bacalao tripe. Without these elements the course lacked an important part, i.e. the fat/gelatin which was necessary for overall balance. It is also interesting to note that the servers simply recite the menu and are not properly trained about the ingredients. We were first told that the dish had kokotchas of merlu, then of bacalao. At any rate it did not matter. It was also disheartening to note that one course on the written menu that I wanted to savor the most, i.e. Adour Salmon, was unavailable as they had not received the shipment. I made another reservation for the following week to try it as I am a fan of this rich and juicy wild salmon without fat, but when confirming my reservation I was told that they still had not received the shipment. Clearly there is a discrepancy between the capacity to procure so many ingredients and the design of the menu. My best guess is that Monsieur Gagnaire is overstreched and is not dealing with procurement and the implementation/execution of his complicated dishes.