As the food arrives, all conversation stops. Compared with the precisely assembled amuse-gueules handed to other diners, four triangles of sandwich with a pile of curly endive at their centre hardly look spectacular. But the scent—earthy, organic—is almost overwhelming; enough to stifle the bourgeois lunchtime chatter at Michel Rostang’s restaurant here in the 17th arrondissement.
Rostang’s black-truffle sandwich is renowned throughout Paris, the most popular item on his winter truffle menu, yet also the simplest. You could make one at home, but go instead chez Rostang for the care he takes with ingredients. The salted butter is churned to order in Brittany, the sourdough is custom-made at Boulangerie Poujauran with a particularly aerated crumb that soaks up fat like a sponge, while the black truffles come direct from a renowned market in Richerenches, Provence.
“The chef recommends you eat with your fingers,” commands the priestly, black-clad waiter. I pick up a triangle, golden brown on the outside, slivered with black between. First comes the crunch of toast, steeped in salty hot butter, which through some kind of osmosis has drawn into itself both the tang of sourdough and the perfumed essence of fungi. Then comes the chew of the truffles themselves, surprisingly meek after the buttery fanfare to which they have yielded their souls. And that butter—it doesn’t so much ooze out of the bread’s pores as gush, sliding over my fingers. For €65 you can buy the truffle sandwich as a takeaway, to store in the freezer and toast at home. Apparently one customer buys six at a time. I wonder if they eat them all at once?
~ Isabel Best