Chowhound Presents: Table Talk with Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh of Sweet: Desserts from London's Ottolenghi | Ask Your Questions Now ›

Restaurants & Bars

Washington DC & Baltimore

Le Paradou--Mon Dieu! (long)


Restaurants & Bars 6

Le Paradou--Mon Dieu! (long)

Sallie | Sep 8, 2004 10:39 AM

So...where to start with the Le Paradou experience of last night? I guess at the rather odd beginning.

We sat down (five of us) with the remainders of our drinks from the bar. We were asked if we would like another cocktail. We said we were going to have wine with our dinner, so we'd wait until we decided on that. So we ordered water, and waited.

And waited. No menus. No wine list. No bread. Just some beautifully poured water, and a lot of people milling around our table. For about 15 minutes, we sat there wondering what was going to happen, while the captain came over and smiled from time to time.

Then he said, "We are waiting for the amuses-bouches."

Fine, great. Looking forward to it, starving. Still no menus, though. Just bread going to other tables. Then he comes over and says, "This is why I asked you if you would like a cocktail." Ho-ho! Well, sir, in that case, I would like to see a wine list. But no, I think, I will get a second glass of the chablis I had from the bar, since I still don't know what I'll want for dinner.

The amuses-bouches came. Grilled shrimp in carrot sauce with cilantro "micro greens" (i.e., sprouts with secondary leaves). Good, not great. I was desperately hungry at this point, though, so...gobble, gobble.

Then we get menus. No wine list yet. The point of this whole charade, apparently, is to bring you to a dangerously low blood sugar level so that you will agree to anything. He explains the 6-course tasting menu. One of the girls is veg., so she asks if she can have a veg. version. They are all very accommodating. We have one of those subtle, polite, Continental exchanges about the wine flight, ordering the tasting menu for the whole table, whether the wines will go with the veg. menu, etc. "Oh yes, no problem, Oh no, you must all, but he is in a good mood tonight--" Captain seems confused by veg. idea-- "What, no fish? No meat either? [!!] Hmmm. We will see what Yannick can create!" (Veg. had called ahead to ask about this.) We take some time to read the menu and become so overwhelmed by confusion and hunger that we fold. There are no prices on anything--just at the bottom a choice of two, three, six, and nine course menus. I am starting to lose focus on the reading at this point, and we realize we will not get bread or a wine list until we order, so we come to an uncomfortable agreement that we will get the tasting menu and the wine flight as this seems easiest.

Then we get bread. We devour the bread.

Hookay, lets leave the image of five hungry young professionals stuffing their mouths with bread and skip to the courses.

Veg. gets some asparagus in chive-butter sauce as her second (complimentary) amuse-bouche. The rest get a lovely egg custard in egg shell with chopped scallops and corn with ossetra. This was delicious.

Next, tiny oysters in the shell with some sauce and ossetra. These were also very nice. The sauce led me to feel desperately in need of a demitasse spoon to get it, but alas only an oyster fork. (Veg. had sauteeed mushrooms that looked lovely.)

Then a tuna carpaccio with tomato sorbet and tomato confit. The tuna was good, but undressed, so a lot like eating thin sashimi. The sorbet was too sweet, rendering it weird in a bad way (to me. Someone else loved it.) and the tomato confit the best part of the dish. (Veg had cold carrot soup here, I think--looked like the shrimp sauce, chilled. Proclaimed delicious. I suspect chicken stock, but don't tell Ms. Veg.)

Then a sole with tomato risotto and squash blossom filled with shrimp mousse. Very nice. Fish had a delicate texture. The risotto had a nice, silky texture. I was not overly fond of the shrimp mousse, having fallen in love with goat cheese in my squash blossoms, so I don't know if this was unreasonable prejudice, but it tasted a bit like those Thai seafood balls with the same consistency. (Veg had squash blossoms filled with potatoes.)

Then (actually, can't remember where this went? Here?) perhaps the best thing we had. The foie gras. It smelled like a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie and tasted like foie gras. It was just lovely. A good sized portion, nice and jiggly, seared well on the outside and just delicious. (Veg had some sauteed vegetables in chive butter sauce again. The baby turnips in this were perfect.)

Then the much-written-about overcooked lamb chop. It was (ding-ding-ding) overcooked. And oddly (again, to me) with a potato-filled ravioli--very starchy. Tasty, though. (Veg. had beet ravioli. Looked good.)

Then strawberries in balsamic vinegar with sugar crust and rosemary ice cream. The ice cream was delicious but had a grainy texture. And the rosemary sprig on top was frozen, too, which was disappointing. The strawberries were nice, and the vinegar provided a nice counterpoint to the Sauternes.

Which leads me to the wine pairing. The pacing was off. Wines came out too early, so we would hold off on the next one because we would be concerned that we would drink it before the food came, but then the sommelier would clear off our last glass. So we would be sitting there with wine we could not drink, while he poured the old ones down the drain. Towards the end, I learned to drink faster and put two fingers on the base of the older glass so he could not take it. Further, it was a very Alsatian flight. Actually, a sweetish white Burgundy, followed by two Alsatian Rieslings, an Alsatian Pinot Gris, a more-nose-than-tongue red Bordeaux, and a good solid Sauternes. The problem was that it was overwhelmingly a sweet white flight. The differences between the whites became more and more subtle with every one we had. Anyone out there know the Spanish verb empalagar? (To be overwhelmed by sweetness.) I could taste the differences, but all in all, very similar wines. And the clearing became stressful.

At the end were these little pastries? petit fours? anyway, the most adorable little desserts I've ever seen, which we had with our coffee. Tiny key lime pie, tiny mango-pistachio tart, tiny chocolate raspberry ganache...9, I think, different ones. When I say tiny, I mean under an inch. It sounds almost gimmicky, but the small size made it possible to try a few different tastes, and every one was delicious. (Except maybe the quince jelly.)

At any rate, here's the damage: $1019 plus tip.


Which means that our wine flight was ~$400. And arguably the worst part of the experience.

Which leads me to the same conclusion as our previous posters. Expensive, bordering on not worth it. $200 per person is about two times what I'd like to spend normally, and so I would want this to have been an overwhelmingly abnormal experience. It was very good, and a fun experience overall, but I will come forewarned next time, with a box of raisins in my purse so that I don't lose my focus and bow to the inevitable tasting-menu pitch. And I will definitely not get the wine flight next time.

I would like to add, however, that our veg. was overwhelmed by gratitude to be "normalized" in this situation, and it speaks to the kindness and skill of Yannick Cam to put together a last-minute menu for her.

The service was, indeed, lovely, (yay for fish knives!) but given M. Captaine's impatient remark re. the cocktail, I had the feeling that I was playing along to make them happy, not the other way around. I.e., if I had said "Please stop taking my wine away" there would have been an eyebrow and the sound of crickets.

Oh, well. C'est la guerre.

Want to stay up to date with this post?

Recommended From Chowhound