Contrary to what one might have been led to believe, Michel made a name for himself by changing the trajectory of the cuisine here.
This change however was not quite as radical as one might imagine. Certain dishes from the olden days are still on the menu. The salmon with sorrel or the Charolais beef with Fleury sauce and bone marrow are classics that Troisgros found impossible to take off. Eating these nowadays, one does not only get a feeling for the history of the restaurant, but also an idea of the evolution that has taken place here over the last decades.
On the other hand, the entire look, concept and cuisine of the restaurant have somewhat changed. Nowadays, diners sit in a resolutely modern, minimalist dining room that divides opinions: Some love it, whilst others find it too cold and lacking personality. Whether you like it or not, its minimalist demeanour is in line with the cuisine. Furthermore, sitting here overlooking the little garden, is about as bucolic a scene as you are likely to get in Roanne.
Food-wise, Troisgros’ cuisine is far from the classical French fare of his father and uncle. His inspiration comes from Japan, Italy and other parts of the world. The resulting dishes are unique in style and in some cases not liked all that often. Their simplicity is often criticised, as is the focus on acidity that is said to be over-powering at times.
Oddly constructed dishes such as a white wine jelly with crayfish, pickled vegetables, Orleans mustard and ginger read like random combinations of products. Flavour-wise however this is a remarkably coherent starter that opens the palate for what is to come. Equally odd is a white monochrome. In a bowl, Troisgros serves a layer of hay-infused milk skin, which hides mousseron mushrooms. Apart from the striking looks, the flavours here really stand out and create a pure, intense dish that is as unusual as it is delicious.
The Italian influence comes out in Troisgros’ pasta dishes. No matter if it are his potato plin, stuffed with pumpkin and truffle or ravioli that he serves with parmesan and broad beans, two things stand out: The craftsmanship here is fantastic and the flavours are light, yet intense. These dishes are undoubtedly very simple, but the precision with which they are conceived makes them so enjoyable.
That is perhaps what makes his cuisine so special, the diversity, its light touch, which always delivers pure, full flavours. It is food that doesn’t really compare to anyone else’s in France and is not easy to like at first. Once you come round to it however, the appeal of the restaurant really grows on you. That is perhaps the problem for people who come here for the first time: The odd combinations or unusual flavours might take you aback. However, most regulars would agree that there are few chefs who cook such idiosyncratic food in France these days.
Michel Troisgros managed to establish himself as one of France’s very best chefs. Even though the number of signature dishes he has to his name is already impressive, his food continues to evolve. For serious gourmets, a visit to Roanne is almost a must, as this is a restaurant that is still very much looking ahead.