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 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.
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.