I had hoped that I’d be able to drag Michel Rostang, the Parisian chef who’s notched up three Michelin-stars across his six Paris restaurants, out of Rostang Brasserie at Atlantis and into The Burger Joint around the corner to see what wonders he could rustle up using just a deep fat fryer and a few beef patties. This idea, I was told, wasn’t to the chef’s liking.
I suppose I wasn’t surprised. Rostang epitomises French food culture; his father, Jo Rostang, was the owner of three-Michelin-starred restaurant La Bonnes Auberge in Antibes, while his daughter, Caroline runs his restaurant L’Absinthe in Paris. Why I ever thought he’d be game for flipping burgers with me, I don’t know.
After pitching a number of zany, foolhardy ideas, his representative at Atlantis finally came up with the idea of him making me the world’s most expensive sandwich. The world’s most expensive sandwich? Why didn’t you say so?
I arrived at Rostang on a Friday afternoon, just before the dinner rush, to find the man himself standing behind a makeshift counter at the restaurant entrance. I was surprised, to say the least. After his outright refusal to humour my initial interview ideas, I had prepared myself for a difficult afternoon with a distant, self-important French chef. Instead, I was greeted by a jolly, grey-haired gentleman offering to make me a sandwich. And not just any sandwich – a black truffle sandwich. However, I later discovered that this is not actually the world’s most expensive sandwich. That accolade goes to the UK’s Martin Blunos who made a sandwich costing £110.95 (around Dhs600), made using a bespoke cheddar cheese, white truffles, quail eggs, heirloom black tomato, epicure apple, figs, a 100-year-old balsamic vinegar dressing, sprinkled with gold dust (just for good measure). This said, Blunos’s slightly over-the-top effort was a one off, whereas Rostang’s is stocked and sold for the equivalent of Dhs310 in La Grande Epicerie (www.lagrandeepicerie.fr), Paris.
The truffles he uses in his sandwich are black Périgord truffles. Having heard Giorgio Locatelli wax lyrical about Alba white truffles a few months ago, I couldn’t help but ask, which, in Rostang’s opinion are the best.
The answer is, they’re not really comparable: ‘White truffles and black truffles are very different,’ explains the chef. ‘White truffles, you use with pasta, rice, potatoes. You can cook black truffles if you want, but I don’t like to cook black truffles too much since the flavour is not the same.’
Our attention turns back to the two slices of bread laid on the counter, and Rostang continues telling me the story his sandwich: ‘I [first made it] about 10 years ago. I love truffles. During a season, in my restaurant, we use more than 400 pounds of fresh truffles, but the best way to eat truffles is with bread and butter.’Lots of butter, it seems.
‘Take some French butter – a lot of butter,’ Rostang says, lathering each slice of bread with a glistening layer of milky French butter, ‘because fat absorbs the taste of the truffle.’
Once the butter has been liberally applied, Rostang lays on the truffle. ‘You put about 10g to 15g of truffle [on the bread] – again, not too thin…’
After a sprinkle of the finest French salt, the chef presses the two slices firmly together before wrapping them tightly in cling film. The secret, he says, is making the sandwiches 24-hours before and then refrigerating them, before putting them under the grill.
Luckily for me, Rostang feels that an explanation doesn’t suffice and scoots off, sandwich in hand to heat one up. As I wait, I notice I’m surrounded by a gaggle of sportswear-clad French Atlantis guests who have filtered into the restaurant to catch a glimpse of their countryman prepare his famed dish.
Rostang, back from the kitchen, is more than happy to shoot the breeze with his impromptu audience, allowing me time to sink my teeth into the crunchy bread, temporarily losing my senses to the melted butter and rich, nascent Périgord truffles. Whether I’d pay Dhs300 for such a short-lived snack (I wolfed it down in a matter of minutes), I don’t know, but it was exceptionally good.
Dusting the remaining crumbs from my mouth, I ask Chef Rostang if he ever gets bored of being asked to make his famous truffle sandwich. ‘Of course not!’ he replies, aghast, ‘I love truffles.’
And sandwiches, it seems.
Sadly, the truffle sandwich is not available at Rostang (you have to fly to Paris to buy one), which is why we’re giving you the recipe, as well as suggesting a few cheaper sarnie options around town. Alternatively, try other truffle delights at Rostang Brasserie, Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).