It was a shame that French chef Éric Briffard’s visit last week to Signatures Restaurant in Sandy Hill was so brief.
The executive chef and culinary arts director at Le Cordon Bleu Paris cooked at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa’s restaurant for just one night. Last Friday, with the help of about 15 Signatures staff and Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa students, Briffard served a luxurious multi-course meal that lived up to the reputation that preceded him.
Briffard has received numerous culinary awards, including two-Michelin-star rankings at two Parisian restaurants, the coveted title of Meilleurs Ouvriers de France as a recognition of his craftsmanship, and Paris’s Grand Vermeil medal, that city’s highest distinction. Here’s what he served to the 65 or so who ate at Signatures that night:
Spot prawn and potato in shrimp broth at Restaurant Signatures by visiting chef Eric Briffard
Briffard’s sear duck foie gras sat on a bed of creamed corn and was surrounded by the whimsy of popped corn and colourful dabs or pepper purée. As punchy and likeable as the main flavour notes were with this dish, there were subtle accents too. I’m accustomed to seeing foie gras with a harder sear, but Briffard’s less richly coloured example still ate very, very well.
The parade of expertly manipulated seafood continued with Quebec lobster (claw, tail and a bit of head meat) poached in vin jaune (a white wine made in eastern France’s Jura region, which is similar to a dry sherry but isn’t fortified). The yielding suppleness of the lobster was impeccable, the kumquat and gingered, salted sea asparagus lightened and brightened the plate and the sauce made from the poaching liquid was irresistible — a justification for why God made baguettes with which to sop.
This first dessert of tangy, exotic sorbet of Iranian black lemon (I think they’re limes, technically) with Earl Grey foam was a nice palate reset. The foam, I thought, could have been more airy.
And with a final mignardise of almond madeleines, dinner was over.
Kudos are due to Signatures’ front of house. Service was polished and amiable, and the wine pairings chosen by the restaurant’s sommelier were all strong matches. The whites served with the seafood and the foie were exceptional.
As I said, it’s too bad that Briffard’s dinner was a one-night-only affair. Last fall, Korean star chef Jungsik Kim cooked over two nights at Signatures. Let’s hope that with upcoming guest chefs, Signatures will present their limited-edition dinners over two nights so that more people can savour their artistry.