I have just returned from a barge trip in Burgundy with 3 days in Paris following. The trip started in Lyon and I booked a table at Restaurant Paul Bocuse. Others on the group had dinner at Paul Bocuse Nord in Lyon Proper and gave raves.
After a 40 euro taxi ride, I arrived at L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges 10 minutes before 8 pm. The taxi door was opened by a short man of color wearing a Philip Morris outfit. He then disappeared and I detaxied myself. He was busy showing 2 men into the restaurant and I followed. The Maître d' sat the men in one room and then sat me in another; the table was the one most near the kitchen, but was separated by a short wall and there was no visibility. The overhead fans were awhirring and I was cold. The noise from the kitchen was, while not deafening, a major distraction. Then, the magic hour of 8:00 pm. The fans went off and the kitchen noise disappeared. OK.
I was brought a gougere, not the little thingys I make, but a popover sized gougere (to be investgated at a later date). Butter in a logo dish; all the chinaware was logoed. Asked if I wanted an aperitif, I ordered a glass of champagne. They poured a Moet Chandon. Now to the business of ordering. I chose Le Menu Bourgeois with a matching wine for each course. Now, I had to choose 1 out of 3 selections for each course.
Starter: Escalope de foie gras de canard poêlee au verjus, pomme gaufrette.
Fish Course: Turbot au Champagne
Main Course: Côte de veau rôtie en cocotte et rognan, garniture bourgeoise (à partir de 2 convives). I knew it was roasted veal with veggies and the rest, well...
Then I was brought the amuse bouche; a tiny cup of cream of asparagus soup with a dollop of creme fraiche. After a proper interval, the foie gras arrived. As I am munching said foie gras, I notice, out of the corner of my eye, white. I look up and to my left and there is Paul Bocuse in full uniform, saying "Bon Appetit." I extend my shaking hand which he takes (my heart is going a mile a minute) and I babble something like: O Maître! C'est ci bon! He says, "Bon Appetit" and moves on Bon Appetiting the other tables. Shakely I finish my foie gras. The Maître d' comes with pad and pen and asks if I print my name Chef Bocuse will sign a menu for me. I did.
Comes the fish course and the Maître d' asking if I would like to see the kitchen. I (still babbling) say something about that I cook from Chef Bocuse's cookbook, etc. and YES I would like to see the kitchen. I finish the fish and he comes and says this would be a good time. We go. The kitchen is huge and made up of separate rooms more than stations, although the young apprentices are doing salad in the same room as the the ovens and tables, but off to the side. There is a separate pastry room, separate ice cream room, and staff room. I met everyone and shook hands. Everyone is in the traditional chefs' white with tocque (and medal on the head chef) except the dishwashers. The head chef and the pastry chef were "enchanté" and so was I.
I watched, no one else went to see the kitchen; I don't know if he signed menus for anyone else.
Now,the main course. The waiter carves and is going to discard the bone. I say, "Oh No." He says, "Vous voulez?" I solemnly nod. He smiles and later brings me a finger bowl. The wines were wonderful, with the exception of 1; the sommalier took offense, as I consulted with him on all. I remember Hungarian Muscadet with the foie gras and the rest.... To cleanse the palate, an ice of Beaujolais and Cassis.
Madame Bocuse walks through the dining room and nods to me and says, "Bon Appetit."
Then the cheese course. Both the waiter and Maître d' are deciding what I should have. I put in my 2 cents and say, pas de Chevre. Also I point to the Pont L'Éveque. I end up with 4 cheeses. Another table is ready for dessert (I think they passed up the cheese) and 3 huge trays of desserts are brought out. A chocolate tray, a pastry tray, and one with fruit and ice cream. I ask for framboise and they are served with a sauce and ice cream, insisted on by M.D. A coffee and assorted petits fours and chocolates.
I ask for the check, I ask for a taxi, pay the check, the taxi is here and I leave. The M.D. is not in the room when I depart and comes running after me as I am about to enter the taxi, the Philip Morris man holding the door . We shake hands and kiss on both cheeks. Many au revoirs are exchanged, I leave and have another 40 euro taxi ride.
This was one of the best experiences of my life. I am 75.
Other gastronomic adventures:
Bouchon (Lyon, 1st nite), Le Val d'Isere. I had Salade Lyonnaise (egg and lardons with greens) and sweetbreads. Excellent. I tasted the tripe one of us was having. I don't remember how it was prepared, but it was crispy on top. Marvelous. The other couple and the husband of the tripe eater ordered nothing exciting. I recommend this bouchon.
Beaune: Lunch. Le Gourmandin. Oeufs meurette (egg poached in red wine sauce) as a starter. Main course, a pike dumpling dish in an orange (color not fruit). Both are Burgundian dishes. Excellent! However, the service was poor. Slow does not describe. People who ordered after I did were being served. I had time constraints, but had left enough time for this lunch. I ran out still eating. Oh, the food was good.
Another tasting: the chefette on the barge ran into whatever town we were in for foodstuffs. In Dijon, she bought for herself a favorite--pig's brains. I said--will you give me a taste. Yes. So after dinner I tasted. Good!
Senderens in Paris: A big disappointment. Tables cheek by jowl. Made friends on either side of me. Was fun. Senderens was there, never visited tables. Probably because he couldn't maneuver around them. Food equal to what I can get in Chicago. Service, indifferent.
Paris lunch: Huitrerie Regis. Delicious oysters.