Editor's note: In July 2020 it was announce that Trosi Mec would not reopen after the pandemic closure.
Trois Mec opened in June 2013, in the unlikely location of former pizza parlour called Raffalo’s, in a strip mall. The humble location, with the old pizzeria sign still above the door, belies the culinary ambition of chef Ludovic Lefebvre, who previously cooked at L’Orangerie from 1996 and later at Bastide in the city. In his early career he worked for three years with Mark Meneau at Esperance, and then with Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Passard at Arpege, and Guy Martin at Grand Vefour.
The menu format is a no-choice tasting menu, though the kitchen will try and accommodate reasonable dietary requirements. You have to pre-pay for the meal when making the reservation. Five courses were $110, with longer and pricier menus available. The wine list is heavily French, with some Californian offerings. Sample labels included Domaine Lionel Faury St Joseph 2015 at $62 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for $35, Patrick Baudouin La Fresnaye 2014 at $85 compared to its retail price of $22, and Domaine de Trevallon 2014 at $140 for a wine that will set you back $73 in a shop. There were some posher wines too, such as Didier Dagenau Silex 2014 at $290 compared to its retail price of $145, and Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 2000 at $600 for a bottle with a current market value of $243.
Trois Mec is small, with just a few tables looking over the open kitchen. The dining room is very gloomily lit, hence the matching photos. The meal began with a potato crisp with avocado, kiwi fruit and matcha. This was a rather odd combination that was not unpleasant but I didn't think worked very well (12/20). This was followed by a little cube of crisp tapioca with Parmesan and passion fruit powder, which had good texture, and the passion fruit’s acidity enlivened the tapioca (14/20). Sourdough bread was good, served alongside some brioche. The first formal dish of the meal was marinated striped bass sashimi with dashi vinaigrette, turnip, some horseradish and a little sushi rice. This was pleasant, though the marinade had rather a lot of vinegar (13/20). Next was a celeriac veloute flavoured with egg emulsion and uni butter, an interesting and rich concoction combining the earthy flavour of the celeriac with the brininess of the sea urchin roe (15/20). This was a lot more successful than a dish of charred sweet potato with onion cream, beeswax flan and caviar, which was visually unappealing and just plain weird to eat. The heap of sweet potato was ordinary and beeswax (which sounds marginally better than bee spit, which is what it really is) has very little inherent flavour, so you were really tasting the sweetness of the potato and the saltiness of the caviar. I just didn't think this dish worked at all (barely 11/20).
Endive with frozen foie gras, citrus, grilled herb mayonaisse and pain d’epice was another peculiar dish, the bitterness of the endive one way of balancing the richness of the foie gras, but for me there was too much bitter flavour (12/20). Better was lobster roasted with carrot juice and served with charred pineapple. The shellfish was cooked carefully and was quite tender, and the acidity of the pineapple worked well with it (14/20). Next was a lobe of poached foie gras with lentils and kimchi broth. The interesting thing here was that the lentils were particularly good, but the supposed star of the show, the foie gras, was peculiarly lacking in flavour, and faded away compared to the strong flavours of the kimchi and lentils with smoked bacon. It was a nice enough dish, but really only worked due to the excellent flavour of the lentils flavoured with the bacon and the pickling juices of the kim chi. The foie gras barely made an impression (14/20). The final savoury course was lamb served with smoked eel, yoghurt foam and dried fresh yeast with artichoke. The lamb was cooked nicely enough, and the eel was fine, but I don't think these flavours are natural partners; they competed on the plate rather than being in harmony (13/20).
The transition to dessert was a crispy breadcrumb ice cream with shaved Comte cheese. This dish was as described but I would much rather have had a piece of Comte and a slice of bread (12/20). Dessert was a Mont Blanc with a chestnut mousse and chestnut cream with unnecessary mushrooms and over salty meringue crisps (14/20). The Mont Blanc was nicely made and I would have scored it a point higher without the meringue crisps.
The bill came to $230 (£163) each on the night, which was for wine, we had pre-paid for the meal. If you drank more modestly and ordered the shortest menu then a typical cost per head all in might be around £120. Service was very good indeed, with a particularly helpful and friendly sommelier called Molly. The evening was pleasant overall, but the kitchen team seemed to me to be trying too hard at times. Some dishes seemed designed to show off how clever they were in terms of weird flavour combinations, but by no means all of these ideas really worked. This is a pity as the best dishes showed there is some talent here, but it all felt rather inconsistent to me. I later remembered that I had actually eaten Ludo’s cooking before, at l’Orangerie in Los Angeles way back in 2001, a meal marred by intrusive star anise in multiple courses and some ill judged flavour combinations. No star anise tonight, but otherwise this was a case of “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”.