November 12, 2001 | Ask Gael
My mate insisted we cancel France for now

         Drop a small, velvety globe of oyster enrobed in a gel of red-wine-and-shallot confit into your mouth and . . . quite suddenly, you are in France. Yes, parked on a faded chartreuse banquette at a faintly desolate "44" in the Royalton, you will find the taste of France in nubbins of frog's leg and foie gras in a frothy cream, and in startlingly ethereal slivers of foie gras, on the $79 prix fixe of guest chef Jean-Michel Lorain (pictured) and his seconds. It's easy to imagine you are somewhere in Burgundy, specifically the Michelin two-star La Côtes St-Jacques in Joigny. Recruited before September 11, as one of a series of all-star opening acts leading to the launch of Blue Door with Claude Troisgros in a spruced-up lobby, Lorain's team will cook till star whisk Marc Meneau of L'Espérance takes over on December 3. "So many of our clients cannot come now to us, so we wanted to come to you," Lorain explains. "Does that seem right?" Seems merveilleux to me, a chance for local truffleheads to catch up with old friends. There's a $44 prix fixe lunch, too, "44"-standard or French.

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