MY FIRST 20/20 MEAL: Flocons de Sel, Megève, F, 3*, Chef Emmanuel Renaut

Back in the blessed year 2000 we arrived in Megève, to celebrate my fathers 60th birthday…we didn’t think we needed to book at the restaurant we were planning to visit, but how wrong we were! So, there we were, in Megève with no place to eat…

Fortunately enough, the Maître D was kind enough to recommend two places…one big name (but that place was likely to be fully booked too) and a small new restaurant…Flocons de Sel of a young, talented local chef, Emmanuel Renaut.

We discovered a small, cosy restaurant in the middle of town and it was love at first sight with the inventive, creative and terroir inspired cooking of chef Emmanuel. We visited the restaurant a number of times and then the years passed…
So now, 15 years later we were finally back…To celebrate my fathers 75th birthday this time… Obviously, expectations were high…since our last visit, the restaurant gained 3 Michelin stars, making it a member of the very exclusive club of the best restaurants in the world and it moved to a new, beautiful location just outside of Megève. Not only has it become a top place to eat, it is now also a luxury hotel.

We started off with a delicious Puligny Monrachet Les Aubes from JC Bachelet et fils, in the cosy sitting area by the fire place. This excellent 2012

Small tartelette from the garden, a little crisp of polenta, hay and juniper, the famous smoked milk dumpling, Savoie nut and mushroom biscuit and a cristalline of mushroom…a very promising start, illustrating both the chefs technical skills and his love for his terroir… The whole menu would be an illustration of these two important characteristics of Emmanuel.

We left the sitting area and moved a floor down, into the spacious dining room, with lots of wood and modern touches…the perfect mountain inspired setting for a great culinary evening. We opted for the 9 course “Randonnée en montagne” tasting menu, priced at 210 EUR…a very fair pricing considering the dishes chef had lined up for us…

The first starter was parsnip moelleux with beetroot, a jardinière consommé flavoured with horseradish and old Beaufort cheese. This was an outstanding first dish and a very convincing example of how a vegetarian dish can also be of a brilliant, 3* level.

As if chef wasn’t sure we were convinced of the huge potential of vegetarian dishes, he prepared us an exquisite second starter of wild mushrooms (Cèpe, Girolle, Pied Bleu), simply sautéed in butter, served with a smooth and creamy toasted bread and coffee sabayon…heavenly!!!

We continued with a succulent dish of crayfish from the Lac Léman, on a creamy juice of the shells, milk flavoured with autumn fruit (nut, chestnut and almond).

After this, came a perfect preperation of langoustines and caviar with fresh citrus zest, gentian root and parsley. One of the few dishes I ever ate in which the caviar survived next to the other ingredients.

A brilliant dish of Fera from de lake fillets was up next, cooked in salt, served with a subtle jus of hogweed, bringing a herby touch to the dish. I am not a huge fan of sweetwater fish, but I’d gladly make an exception for this dish ANYTIME.

The last fish dish was one of chef Renaut’s signature dishes, a crisp biscuit of pike, with a grilled onion jus and ground ivy…rich, lush, full bodied delight.

Time for a special moment…at the beginning of the meal, we had been asked if we liked game. We were about to find out why…as an extra dish, a perfectly golden brown Pithivier was presented to us, with a shiny, deep tasting brown sauce…courtesy of chef Renaut, as an extra dish. I always am touched when a chef offers me an extra dish…and even more so when it’s a Pithivier…as for me this classic of French cooking, is a culinary token of friendship and the ultimate welcome for a guest.

As a meat main course, Flocons de Sel traditionally let’s its guests make a choice from the à la Carte mains, served in a half portion. This allowed us to try three different meat preparations: suckling lamb, sweetbreads and venison…Great!!!

Time for cheese! A chariot containing perfectly ripe, local cheeses turned out to be the ultimate cheese aficionados’ wet dream….

Another originality of this restaurant is dessert. Indeed, every guest gets a different one…We were treated to lemon dessert, the famous woodchocolate and of course a series of mignardises…

Service was of the highest level: prompt, friendly and professional…and most of all…relaxed. The lady of the house was present, overseeing the whole operation and at the end of the evening we had a chance to great the chef and to have a chat.

So, what’s the overall conclusion? This was simply the best meal I ever had and I scored it a perfect 20/20. Nothing looked out of place; all dishes were perfectly balanced, full of flavours and textures. I just never had a similar experience before…

And finally this… Yes, fine dining is all about top ingredients, outstanding cooking techniques, immaculate service, excellent wine pairing…but most of all, it would be NOTHING without the passion of the Chef (and his team), his love for his terroir, his relentless search for perfection and eternal creativity.

Emmanuel Renaut, I would just like to say THANK YOU…for the warm welcome, for your divine culinary creations, for the friendliness of your staff and most of all for having stayed the great, warm person you already were over a decade ago. We felt incredibly welcome and we enjoyed every second of our stay…see you soon! We will be back….


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