Assa in the Loire Valley has it all; Except One Thing!

Assa is a one Michelin star restaurant located in Blois, in the Loire Valley. On paper, the places look like it has high potential: a French and Japanese couple make a menu every morning incorporating Japanese ingredients from small-scale producers in the area. Very very impressive. Does it deliver? Lets find out. The restaurant is set across the street from the Loire River.:

We were given a table with an amazing view of the river. So far, very good!

Our server brought some snacks to start, the presentation was fun and made me look forward for the meal to come. The plant contained some snacks hanging from the leaves and branches and the plate was covered with plastic wrap with things on top, and underneath, giving a “3-D” effect. The snacks were comprised of Japanese cracker, soba egg, and truffle waffle which was to be dipped in the sauce on the plate.

After the snacks, a menu was presented. We would have to choose between 3 lunch options.

Basically, the 3 options varied in number of dishes. As we had stuff to do after lunch, we went with the middle options which was still estimated to take 2-3 hours. We were also given some choices as to which type of main we would want. After selecting our meal, the staff set up for the next course and it was very very elaborate.

The dishes were set in front of us and the server explained the preferred order, and how to eat everything. There was a sushi rice ice cream with fish which I thought was extremely creative, more Japanese cracker, tofu and a broth.

Next, radish dashi, pumpkin and truffle sushi.

After this course, they served a honey bread.

For the fish course, there was a sea bream sausage which I thought was very creative (the whole time the meal was being served, in the back of my mind, I was always thinking about how they JUST created the entire menu that same morning, and how much work and creativity goes into each day, truly impressive; the other thing I was impressed by was the availability of Japanese ingredients so close by). There was also a very delicate sea bream sashimi with dashi.

Before the main course was served, they gave us a palate cleanser of nori ice cream, and some confit tomato.

For the main course, my wife and I differed as she had more fish while I had the lamb that was cooked for 7 hours. Here is a look at both mains.

Now comes the cheese course for which we also went for different items. The first is sheep cheese, the second goat.

Finally, the dessert which was a caramel eggplant. During this trip to Europe, I noticed a trend in fine dining where the desserts were prepared with vegetables. I didn’t like many of them as I felt they were not really desserts. I do not want desserts that feel “healthy”.

To finish off the meal, we were served some mignardise. Just like the amuse, some were served on a plant.

This shave ice machine was a cool concept, but……

This was the portion served! Seriously? I’m not someone who cares about getting supersized value from a meal, but this was just weird.

Overall, this restaurant ticked many boxes for me except one. The service was really good. The setting across from the river was beautiful. The story behind creating a menu every morning was impressive. The presentation and creativity were equally impressive. I saw meat curing; passion for food was there. Using local suppliers for even Japanese ingredients – in FRANCE – was impressive! So many things were right except, the food was not mind blowing. While some things were good, nothing was exceptionally memorable. Also, for incorporating Japanese ingredients, nothing was overly making me think “umami”, and this was the main flaw with the meal (we had lunch by the way). It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t exceptional. In the end, I think taste is the most important factor in a meal so unfortunately, I would not return or recommend someone to go here, especially make the 2 hour drive from Paris.

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