This unique approach to the dining experience is what makes Sur Mesure, the fine dining restaurant of the Mandarin Oriental in Paris is called, such a special place.
The feeling of entering the so-called “planet Marx” begins with the first steps you make in this futuristic restaurant. Here, you are in a place that really operates in a totally different world. The creamy colour that is dominant and the quietness and intimacy of the room make you forget the bustling street that you just came from. Everything has been done in order to create an environment that sets itself apart from the other grand restaurants, and judging from the looks of it, it is an incredible room.
However, apart from the atmosphere and design of the dining room, one thing really sticks out: The food. Thierry Marx who used to be a paratrooper, holds a black belt in Judo and is a fan of Japan amongst other things, cooks food that is modern, but at the same time somewhat classical. The ideas, and amount of research going into his dishes make them certainly as avant-gardistic as it gets, but the flavours and concepts are often much more classical than one might think. We see the great strength of his cuisine in exactly this approach. There is the desire to make things more interesting, and push them if it benefits the flavour, but otherwise, he leaves things as they are. Instead of producing lunatic food, as some consider it, Marx serves cuisine that is always full of flavour, even if the processes involved in the preparations are fairly complex.
Take for instance a dish of egg, butternut squash and truffle. This dish involves a perfectly runny preparation of egg, encased in breadcrumbs and mixed with black truffle. To go with it, a bit of pickled squash, a squash puree and a truffle paste are served. Flavour-wise there is nothing daring or ‘bizarre’ about this, on the opposite, these are tested and tried combinations that shine purely because of the fact that the flavours are both concentrated yet feel light. In serving a dish that could easily feel very heavy, in such a flavourful and airy manner, Marx opens his menu with a brilliant dish.
More adventurous is a scallop with chorizo and caviar. Here, you have a scallop, slowly cooking on a hot stone with a bit of chorizo to season it, and on the side a chorizo cream, with which is served a caviar/scallop toast. If a lot of people criticise modern cuisine for using mediocre produce, and hiding the inferior quality of these behind complex garnishes, Sur Mesure proves this idea wrong. The scallop, as all of the seafood, is of very high quality, and thus makes such a simple preparation work in the first place. The cold part of the dish on the other side puts the emphasis more on the chorizo, as the cream is definitely more powerful, and adds a certain level of smoky richness to the caviar/scallop combination on the toast.
Even more beautiful is a lobster dish. Blue lobster of great quality is served lacquered with a side of squid-ink coated and fried lobster mitts, and a white miso dip. Apart from introducing Marx’ loves of Japan into this dish, it shows again how precise and flavourful his food really is. The lobster tail for instance is properly cooked, and not overcooked as it so often is in France. The meat is both sweet and tasty, being given a kick by the intense glaze. The tempura of claws on the other side is something that is quite simply delicious, bringing a highly unusual, and addictive texture to the dish: The crunchy coating of the dough, paired with a thin creamy layer and the lobster chunks in the middle. Dipped into the miso cream, this emphasises the hedonistic aspect of this otherwise very precise cuisine.
The experience that Thierry Marx and David Biraud have crated at Sur Mesure is clearly one of the most interesting and fascinating one can find in Paris these days. Eating here is not like anywhere else in town, and it might not please everyeone. Those who come here with an open mind however, will most likely be rewarded by a cuisine that is both intellectually stimulating, without loosing what really matters in food: flavour. That is a rare combination.