Restaurants & Bars

France Paris Lyon Trip Report

May/June trip report: Paris, Burgundy, Jura, Savoie, Lyon


Restaurants & Bars 36

May/June trip report: Paris, Burgundy, Jura, Savoie, Lyon

johannabanana | Jun 23, 2013 05:53 AM

Thank you everyone for helpful advice in previous threads on the recent trip my husband and I took! Here's the report, divided up by region.


First day:

We arrived on the Eurostar and, after dropping off our stuff at our hotel, quickly made for La Table d'Aki. The restaurant was about 2 thirds full at lunchtime. We liked the lunch format, which features larger portions than the dinner menu we had in December, the total cost for lunch coming out at not much less than dinner (but we ordered the most expensive dishes). We ordered the same things: to start langoustines with morels and asparagus; for the main course dos de saint pierre (john dory) with a mousseline of artichokes. Both dishes were superb. Each of the langoustine dish's ingredients were perfect -- the morels were huge -- and there was a cream-based, slightly frothy sauce that also tasted of mushrooms and shellfish. The john dory was a lovely, generous piece of fish (as you'd hope for 38 euros), cooked just right, very gelatinous. The sauce served with it was brown, very savoury, almost like a meat jus, spiced but not spicey. For dessert we walked from the 7th to Jacques Genin and ate a great tarte au citron in the tea room.

For dinner we switched from fish to meat and went to Le Severo. We were particularly struck, while there, by the endurance of another couple who managed to polish off a full portion of the iberian ham, then 2 starters (including a black pudding), then the huge côte de boeuf, then 3 desserts! To start we had (large) half-portions of the iberian chorizo and rosette d'auvergne. The chorizo was exceptional, meltingly fatty and full of flavour, the rosette d'auvergne less compelling but not bad. For mains we ordered an entrecôte and a faux filet. The entrecôte, cooked rarer, was our favourite but both were excellent, the faux filet having more dry-aged flavor perhaps but less interesting texturally. We ordered the same wine we had the last time we ate at the restaurant, a well-priced 2009 Houillon Poulsard.

Second day:
Our eating on the second day was limited to lunch at l'Arpège. It must have been something like our 6th or 7th time eating lunch there and the first disappointing lunch we've had at the restaurant. We would certainly go back on the basis of previous lunches (but wouldn't go back purely on the basis of this lunch), and might order à la carte next time as we've now had many of the lunch tasting menu dishes before.

What went wrong and why? The lunch lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes, only a little longer than past lunches there, but was very awkwardly paced, and fewer dishes were served. Towards the middle of the lunch, we only received 3 small dishes in the space of an hour and a half, which made us feel like dogs waiting to be fed! I think we were unfortunate to have given the kitchen carte blanche and then to be served much of our lunch in tandem with a neighbouring table of three Jain vegetarians, who arrived after us. The kitchen was clearly simultaneoulsy cooking the dishes for both tables, and some of the dishes weren't great. The meal really picked up again when we diverged from the neighbouring table's menu and started on the fishes and meat.

A possible reason for our disappointment in some of the dishes served is that due to recent cold weather the vegetable season has been greatly delayed this year in France and the produce at l'Arpège wasn't as stellar as usual.

Finally, the service didn't live up to its typical refinement-- the sommelier spilt quite a lot of wine on the table when clumsily pouring from an awkward position, out of laziness, and really should have righted that wrong, but didn't, and the waiters seemed rushed and less charming than usual. We also didn't love our table, which had a cart of bottled waters jammed up next to it for most of the meal.

Anyhow here's what we had, with a few comments: a small celery-onion pastry puff; "chips" with various toppings; beet sushi (delicious, one of the restaurant's classics); spinach, carrot purée, confit lemon (the excellent spinach was coarsely chopped and then massed together; altogether a very beautiful dish to look at with the three components arranged triangularly on the plate, and a thoughful flavour combination, the lemon confit extremely pungent); jardinière, aigre-doux sauce (another lovely dish, asparagus, turnips and other lightly cooked vegetables in a delicious sauce, similar but slightly different to the aigre-doux served with the restaurant's classic lobster transparence de navet dish); ravioli with consommé (always so flavoursome! love this!); asparagus soup with speck cream and wild garlic (this is the point when the pacing slowed and quality sunk -- the soup with speck cream is another of the restaurant's classics but is actually quite dull after you've had it a few times -- an enormous blob of the overwhelming speck cream is dolloped on top of the soup, which was this time quite dull-flavoured); vol-au-vent (the low point of the meal -- the same vegetables as in the jardinière, but overcooked, were piled into a vol-au-vent for no apparent reason... sad); smoked potatoes with vin jaune sauce and green beans (the last of the three dishes in the one hour and a half lull); monkfish, white asparagus, calcot (the lunch picks up again: a very small portion of monkfish, the fish l'Arpège nearly always serves, very well-prepared, good accompaniments); cod and peas (beautifully cooked piece of fish, divine peas); lamb with carrot and confit potatoes, radish and cabbage (delicious lamb, slightly underwhelming accompaniments); fresh cow's cheese, scallions and radish (a lovely cheese but we were a little disappointed that for the lunch menu l'Arpège seems to have stopped including- judging by this lunch and the last we had in Decemeber - its famous Bernard Antony comté and other cheeses from the cheese cart); île flottante, black cardamon and coffee, with mélisse sauce and salted caramel (delightful -- the soupy mélisse sauce was especially compelling); apple tart with salted caramel sauce (also excellent).

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