Avenue Paul Vaillant-Couturier
Tinqueux (Reims), France
33 (0) 3 26 84 64 64
Langoustine Royale, nage reduction
Green asparagus with caviar
Line caught sea bass with braised
This recent dinner at L’Assiette
Champenoise was off the charts. Proprietor Arnaud Lallement is at the top of
his game these days.
The buzz was everywhere while I was
in Champagne. Arnaud Lallement had just received his third Michelin star at
L’Assiette Champenoise, the hotel/restaurant he and his family have lovingly
restored over the last few years. L’Assiette is located in Tinqueux, an
otherwise non-descript suburb just outside of Reims. I have been staying at
L’Assiette since 2010, well before the glory days. The restaurant has long been
ambitious, but the results were mixed. I never really loved the food. As for
the hotel, well, it took a few years for the Lallement family to convert the
rooms from dingy into ultra-chic. All of that work has paid off big-time.
Royale, nage reduction (not yet served on the plate)
L’Assiette Champenoise is now well
worth a visit, for both the hotel and the restaurant. My most recent dinner was
simply off the charts. The food seems to have gotten a bit lighter and more
finessed in recent years, both of which appear to have elevated Lallement into
asparagus with caviar
The Langoustine Royale is off the
charts. Three succulent langoustines, each prepared differently, adorn the
plate. The flavors are intense yet delicate in this fabulous first course. A
perfectly cooked asparagus spear with caviar is simply divine. The line caught
bass, which is seared and rich in texture, is a surprisingly well suited to red
wine. L’Assiette’s coffee and tea selection is vast, while the numerous
mignardises are more than enough to satisfy sweet cravings.
caught sea bass with braised artichokes
Our wines are equally terrific. Henri
Giraud’s NV Code Noir Rosé is rich,
vinous and beautifully textured in the glass, but it also retains surprising
minerality and tension. Sadly, the Code Noir Rosé has been discontinued in
favor of the new NV Fût de Chêne
Rosé, which includes Chardonnay, as the Code Noir Rosé, which is 100% Pinot,
wasn’t always developing well in bottle. I saw evidence of that with the first
bottle we ordered, but the second was sublime.
noble grapes, three noble wines
If there is one region I wish I could
taste more often it is the Northern Rhône. I adore the Chave wines, and in
particular the Ermitage Cuvée Cathelin,
although, sadly, I don’t get to drink it as often as I would like. Constantly
changing in the glass, the 1991 is
simply off the charts. There is a purity of fruit that is simply dazzling,
while savory and charred notes add layers of complexity over time. Simply put,
the 1991 is thrilling. What a wine. Bruno Giacosa’s 1971 Barbaresco Montefico remains an early masterpiece. Menthol,
dark stone fruits, wild flowers and leather are some of the many notes that
captivate the senses in this uber-classic Barbaresco from the genius of Neive.
Ideally, the Montefico would have gotten a little more air, as the wine really
needed quite a bit of time to open up. When it did, it was gorgeous.
If you are planning a visit to
Champagne do yourself a favor and spend a few days at L’Assiette Champenoise.
The hotel and restaurant are pricey, but well worth a splurge. The remodeled
hotel is gorgeous and the food has never been better. Krug, Roederer,
Taittinger and a host of other houses, both small and large, are only 15
minutes or so away. What could be better?
-- Antonio Galloni