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At Signatures, Le Cordon Bleu Paris chef Éric Briffard treated Ottawa's gourmets to a luxurious feast


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

Parmesan shortbread and gougères au Gruyère at Signatures Restaurant by visiting chef Eric Briffard
 
After Signature’s cocktail of sparkling wine, cointreau and raspberry, there came a double-barrelled first course — bigger than an amuse-bouche but smaller than an appetizer, you might say. The spot prawn and potato in shrimp broth, parmesan shortbread and gougères au Gruyère all showed a high degree of craft, with just-so flavour and mouthfeels.
 

Raw oyster topped with seafood chip, oyster-vegetable tian and oyster gelėe with caviar, in asparagus milk with licorice at Restaurant Signatures by visiting chef Eric Briffard

Briffard’s oyster course consisted of a sophisticated trio — raw oyster topped with a seafood chip, a thimble-sized oyster-vegetable tian and a wee dome of oyster gelėe with sturgeon caviar, all nestled in a puddle of asparagus milk with licorice. After the bursts of flavour from the oyster-based components, the asparagus-themed sauce was an indulgent but not overly rich finishing touch that practically called out to be lapped up.
 

Foie gras course at Signatures restaurant 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.

 

Quebec lobster poached in vin jaune at Signatures by visiting chef Eric Briffard

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.

Veal chop at Signatures by visiting chef Eric Briffard

 
The red meat course was no less refined, with milk-fed, seared and then slow-roasted veal chop as its star. Again, Briffard used fruit, in this case apricot, for some contrasting sweetness and acidity, while the potato fondant and chanterelles on the right were melting and earthy respectively. The menu, or our very polished server, noted that the dish was bolstered with an infusion of lemon verbena, but I confess that it didn’t leap out at me. I might have been too giddy with the other pleasures of the plate.
 

Black Iranian lemon sorbet with Earl Grey foam at Restaurant Signatures by visiting chef Eric Briffard

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.

lemongrass, strawberry, chocolate torte with tuile at Restaurant Signatures by visiting chef Eric Briffard

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The final dessert hid it strawberries and chocolatey goodness under a tuile and a quenelle of lemongrass black currant pepper ice cream.
 

Almond madeleines at Restaurant Signatures by visiting chef Eric Briffard

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.

phum@postmedia.com
twitter.com/peterhum

 
 





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