Monday, May 27, 2013


After my adventure in London, I traveled to Paris.  I knew that I when I was going to go to Paris, I wanted to dine in at least one fine dining restaurant that ideally was one of the world's best restaurants.  The restaurant that I chose was L'Arpege, a French restaurant that, while not vegetarian as such, focuses heavily on seasonal vegetables.  It was rated, this year, as the 16th best restaurant in the world.  It is located on the south side of the Seine in the 6th Arondissement on Rue de Varenne  which seems to be embassy row.  The narrow road had high white walls and guarded gates.  I passed four embassies on the way to the restaurant.  Because all of the walls were white and there were no signs, it was a little difficult to find, although the fact that the door was not located on Rue de Varenne didn't help either.  When I found my way into the restaurant, I was seated at what had to be the worst table in the house.  The table was located next to the door from the entry hall.  While the tables were not crowded close together, the glasses, silverware, wine and cheese were located on rolling carts, there was also not a staging area, and it looked like it would be a little difficult to move around sometimes.  While L'Arpege does have an a la carte menu, there is also a tasting menu which I went with so that I could possibly get the greatest idea of what they do.  Before my first course arrived, I was brought my first Amuse Bouche which was served to everyone regardless of what they ordered.  It was very colorful, with a lot of variety, and showed the emphasis that vegetables were going to play in the dinner.  It started with what were essentially three thick sliced potato chips formed into bowls with each filled with something different.  One of the chips was filled with a carrot puree topped with chives, one of the chips was filled with a pea puree topped with a tomato and soy sauce, and the last was filled with a beet puree topped with creme fraiche.  It was very artful, crisp, and really brought out the flavors of the vegetables.
The next dish was also called an Amuse Bouche but it was actually the first course of the tasting menu.  It looked like, and was, a Soft Boiled Egg, but it was more complex than that.  Contained in an egg shell, the egg white was on top and topped with spices.  It was light and creamy and had a sherry vinegar topping.  The egg yolk was in the bottom of the shell and was poached.  This was very flavorful, and fun to eat, and it was a great start to the meal.

My server called my first dish a beet sushi which is exactly what it was.  It was a thin beet slice wrapped around some vinegared rice.  It was very simple but because it was so simple, it had to be done perfectly because there is so little to focus on.  This was very good.  The beet was crisp and tender and was sliced thinly enough that it wrapped around the rice.  The rice was sticky and the slightly flavor reminded me of the vinaigrette that is used on a salad.  It went very well with the beet flavor.
The next dish was called Lanyard Lobster Honey with a Transparent Globe Turnip.  What it was was essentially a lobster ravioli topped with honey and caviar with the turnip used as the ravioli wrapper.  For a long time, I have been unsure as to whether I like lobster or not because they have all been stiff and rubbery.  This was definitely not the case here.  The entire thing was crisp, tender, and flavorful.  It was sweet and slightly briny and was very good.
The next dish actually was called ravioli.  It was actually called Fine Multicolored Vegetable Ravioli with Consumed Amber.  It was ravioli, but it was vegetable ravioli in a vegetable broth.  Each of the raviolis had different vegetable fillings including peas, carrots, beans, and beets.  It had a lot of variety and was done well but despite this, I actually found it kind of boring.
The next dish was another soup although this was richer and had much more substance.  It was a green garlic soup topped with a big dollop of creme fraiche.  I like squash and this was very good.  It was rich and peppery, with a lot of garlic flavor and was obviously very creamy.
The next dish was very simple but again, the simple was very good.  It was a vegetable collection, a carrot puree, sauteed spinach, and grapefruit zest candied in beet syrup.  Every element was was very brightly flavored and actually went together well.  The carrots and spinach go together well obviously but the grapefruit zest candied in beet syrup had both grapefruit and beet flavors which also went together well.

The next course was also a very simple vegetable course but for this course, the main part of the dish was very recognizable.  It was an asparagus stalk served with bay leaves.  It was crisp, buttery, with a good asparagus flavor.

After this, we proceeded past vegetables as the main part of courses.  I was served Turbot with Potatoes, Chives, and Grilled Romaine Lettuce with a Cream Sauce.  It was good and while the vegetables were very good, it was nice to get a little variety.
For whatever reason, there was a hiccup in the service after the turbot and I waited about 40 minutes for my next course.  It was a vegetable cous cous dish with beets, green onions, and garlic.  It was flavorful but it was also a little dry.  This may have been do to the wait, but I would say that this was one of my least favorite dishes.  This was the last savory dish so I would expect a pause after which there was but it wasn't as long.  There was a cheese course next although I forgot to photograph it.
Before dinner started, I was told that I had a choice to make for one of my courses.  I don't remember what my choice was but I do remember that I chose Veal Sweetbreads in a Cream Sauce with Broccoli and Spinach  I have liked sweetbreads in the past and this was really good.
The first dessert course was a lot more complex than it looked and this was actually a little disappointing.  I was served a plate of petit fors which included Macarons, Tarts, Chocolates, Nougats, Marshmallows, and Gelees.  All of the pieces were sweet but they were also more complex than they needed to be.  I don't remember what was used in each of the pieces but I do remember carrots, ginger, rosemary, cinnamon, thyme, and pepper and beets.  I might have liked some of this stuff if I had prepared for them but it was too complex.
For the last dish, I was served a Millefeuille, a multi-layered pastry of alternating thin pastry and cream.  This was very good and while it is complex in construction, it was fairly simple in taste.  It was crisp and sweet and had a slight whiskey flavor.  This made up for the overly complex petit fors and made for a fitting ending to the dinner.

While I did enjoy my dinner at L'Arpege overall, I was not happy with my seating, and the flow wasn't perfect.  I enjoyed my dinner here and Alain Passard does amazing things with vegetables but I don't know if I would return.


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