Behind "Flocons de Sel", one finds winter, naturally, as detected in its name’s nod to “flakes,” but there are all the other seasons, as well, each a source of infinite abundance at this year-round French resort.
Megève would not be quite the same without him, and vice versa. Because Emmanuel Renaut, the town’s triple-starred chef, is one of those all-too-rare culinary artists able to tell guests a story and take them straight to the heart of his land. He and the mountains have been one since his childhood. He knows their every curve, crevice, breath. And though he has a hunger for contemporary art – with which he unreservedly adorns the walls of his establishment, even as far as the garden, watched over by a curious, gleaming bronze grasshopper sentinel –, he prefers to display his own terroir at his restaurant in dishes of simplicity, clarity, and purity.
There is no preening or melodrama in his kitchens, just the verity of his singular, limpid artistry, like this langoustine with citron-gentian marinade, crowned in caviar and topped by an icy swath that might mirror the Planay, the stream that winds through the village below. This serving of emotion, a miracle of equilibrium as fragile as the nature to which it pays tribute, has earned its place in the culinary hall of fame, like the equally masterful smoked chocolate tart with wood ice cream and milk granita. One could list so many other dishes of this cuisine, long called nouvelle and now considered classic and even, in this case, the gold standard. There is never a false note in a meal at Flocons de Sel. It is to be relished from the beginning to the end of its eight dishes, stretched like a string of edible pearls, prepared with a perfect mastery of time and temperature, a skillful exercise in texture and flavor with no object other than providing the pleasure and gourmandise all too often overlooked in the menus of today.
This son of farmer and fishmonger is as comfortable on land as at sea, able to render any ingredient a masterpiece, making it at once essential, intelligible, and delicious. Take, for example, the chicken egg yolk, the polenta, the Jerusalem artichoke, or the roach celebrating the era of botanicals, while each ingredient, in a simple bowl, composes mind-boggling winter scenes; or the tiny marbles of black-and-white flour clustered about the pike and monkfish biscuit showcasing Eric Jacquier’s fishing. Each dish of this mountain promenade, honed by nature and season, also reveals the gifts of an artisan, a man the menu – an oeuvre to study as one would a rare, limited-edition volume – celebrates in turn. Though the chef holds deep respect for the land and its bounty, he equally loves the men and women, both upstream and onsite, who help the establishment attain such heights of excellence each day. To call Flocons de Sel an exceptional restaurant is to commit an injustice, as it lies so far beyond such nomenclature.
It is by virtue of Kristine, his wife, who invariably brightens each service with her smile, that the property also manages to be a warm hotel of a dozen rooms and suites, a place with chalet spirit expressed in contemporary volumes, sprinkled with features that add a character worth savoring, like walls of cuckoo clocks and cheerful naïve paintings. The place is brimming with gentleness, with guest accommodations joined by a spa, an outdoor Swedish bath, a pool overlooking the valley, the chef’s kitchen garden, and the famous smokehouse so essential to the cuisine. True to the mountain principles of preservation, this is where that smoldering seasoning resides, along with the salt the chef so loves to sprinkle over his creations, one of the delicious, signature tastes that give the aptly named Flocons de Sel such unique flavor.