Last night my wife and I joined Pappy and his wife for dinner at Yannick Cam's Le Paradou in downtown Washington. I must say that what I am about to write is only my opinion and not that of Pappy who, like myself, is a frequent contributor on these boards.
Carol and I thought the service was superb, "Michelin correct" if you will. Team service with a half dozen coat and tie clad staff constantly filling wine from a Duck decanter (not Reidel), replacing silver, removing exquisite china, hovering efficiently at our service throughout the evening. The Captain noted that he had been with Yannick for 19 years from Le Pavilion and long after.
This was revealing since I felt that if there was any restaurant that this dinner reminded me of it was Le Pavilion, once arguably D. C.'s best restaurant at Connecticut and L. Jean Louis Palladin would have had an opinion about this but at his best, on top, Yannick may have been Jean Louis-and almost anyone's-equal.
Tonight he was everything he was then.
He just hasn't grown. Yet D. C. and our/my expectations have.
I do not have the menu in front of me so I cannot go into detail on each dish. Still, this was a very expensive meal, in league with Citronelle, Maestro, Laboratorio and "The Inn." As such, at $100 for six courses and $135 for 9 courses it must be judged against them. The wine had roughly a 300% markup with 2000 Cantermerle $90 a bottle. Costco sold it for $19.95 a year ago and Calvert Woodley had it for the low 30's. $90 seemed a bit of a stretch, especially since only 10% or so of the bordeaux on the wine list were under $100.
There was not a great dish out of the six course prix fixe we ordered which included two amuse. There was no pre dessert. Portions were very small, probably roughly similar to what Roberto serves as part of his 12 courses at Laboratorio, less than what Maestro serves for what amounts to ten plus courses there for $125 (same at Laboratorio).
Split pea soup was excellent as a first course. Lobster risotto was incredibly disappointing, certainly not in league with what I have had elsewhere. Exemplery texture, fairly rich in taste, yet-for me-not a haunting, deep flavor. Probably the stock, perhaps the overall concept but I have had (and made) lobster risotto in many restaurants here and in starred restaurants in Europe. This was a weak version.
Foie gras was delicious. Not extraordinary but delicious. The veal chop (which was "sold" by the Captain as extraordinary) was much less than extraordinary. In fact it was pedestrian and, simply, overcooked. I really liked the San Marzano tomatoes that topped it, though.
The real disappointment was the canned peach with homemade chestnut ice cream for dessert. I liked the ice cream. But I swear the peach tasted for all the world like it came straight from a can. Certainly, it tasted no better than what I have in my refrigerator right now.
I am overlooking several other courses which were very good but, honestly, don't come immediately to mind. (This was not a meal that I took notes at, which I have done many times in the past.)
Overall, Le Paradou was a disappointment. A $900 disappointment for four. If I were rating it I would give it a strong two stars, perhaps three stars as Restaurant Eve. Yet, it was the service that put it over the top, not the food. I could not help but feel that the immensely talented Yannick Cam (who I raved about at Le Relais) has just not grown. For me he is putting the same thing on the table at Le Paradou that he did at Le Pavilion. But today I and Washington have grown. We expect more. And I believe he has not grown to our current level. At least not yet.