Restaurants & Bars

Paris report -- Amazing Day 6 (long)

wyf4lyf | Jun 17, 200501:09 PM

Day 6
Lunch -- We ate very little breakfast to prepare for the feast which
awaited us at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. We wanted to experience a
different side of Paris cuisine -- newer and more contemporary, and my
McDonald’s-loving hubby was up for a food adventure, so off we went. We
put on dressier day clothes, took a cab, and anticipated needing to wait
in line, only to find the place half-full at noon, and most people
dressed more casually than we were. Perhaps dinner is the time for lines
and dress clothes. Nonetheless, we walked in and had the most amazing
3-hour lunch of our lives (the ONLY 3-hour lunch of our lives!) Much has
been written about their 98e “discovery” menu so we had to try it. WOW.
Not every course of the 10 was a total WOW, but the overall experience
definitely was. Here’s the rundown:
1. Amuse-bouche of gazpacho -- unlike any gazpacho. Hubby actually
doesn’t like gazpacho usually...he drank every drop of this! Pureed,
smooth, creamy, not too spicy. A couple of crunchy croutons floating on
top. Loved it.
2. Le Tourteau -- THE dish of the meal. It looks like avocado soup with
almonds floating on top. But it’s thicker than soup, totally silky and
creamy, and there’s a creamy crab concoction underneath. The textures
and flavors are to die for. I don’t think I saw Glenn’s eyes light up
over a food all week like it did when he tasted this. And I was ready to
sing again! WOW. There were little drops of chile oil floating on top as
well, and my chile-phobic husband ate it all up and said those chile oil
droplets “balanced the dish” and I about fell off my barstool. :) We
wanted to skip all the courses and have 8 more of this. Really amazing.
Go to this place just for this. Seriously.
3. Les Palourdes -- 3 little clams, served hot in open shells on a bed
of rock salt. Much like traditional escargots -- a garilc-butter-parsley
sauce with very finely minced mushrooms. Quite lovely.
4. Le Volaille -- a deep-fried chicken wing drummette with the bone
whittled down to a twig, We couldn’t figure out what kind of bird we
were eating so we asked. :) Served with a sweet-and-sour sauce on a
razor-thin slice of pineapple. Nice.
5. La Morue -- Cube of codfish, draped in a wonton, with a beautiful
leaf of some kind of herb peeking through. Art on a plate. This artful
cube was set in a light broth, with parsley oil and veggies floating
about. Very very delicate flavors, so in contrast to the first 4 dishes,
it seemed rather bland. But in saying that the bland flavors were quite
fresh. I know that doesn’t make much sense. Anyway, I think this dish
served to cleanse the palate for what was to come.
6. L’Oeuf -- This was another WOW for me. Served in a martini glass, the
top layer was a froth, with sauteed girolles (mushrooms) floating in it.
Dig deeper, and you break into a warm coddled egg in butter, dig even
deeper, and there is a parsley puree. Scoop it all into your mouth at
once, and die happy. Another “I need to sing” moment. Glenn wasn’t as
wowed by this, but I forgave him. :)
7a. -- Glenn’s meat choice (of 2) was the L’Agneau de Lait -- 2 little
lamb choplettes with a smidge of mashed potatoes. He was happy. I had a
taste of the lamb and it was pretty good.
7b. -- I chose the other meat called Le Ris de Veau -- my biggest food
adventure of the trip -- sweetbreads! I was impressed. Delicate flavor,
texture just fine. Not sure I’ll order them again, but so glad to say I
tried them, enjoyed them enough, and ate the whole little mound.
8. La Framboise -- First dessert...fresh raspberries in a thin sauce
with lychee and vanilla, with both grapefruit and raspberry sorbet. A
paper-thin lemon-lime cookie on top with a twig of chocolate. Another
artistic presentation with bursting flavors. Loved the combination of
grapefruit and raspberry. But since they are 2 of Glenn’s favorite
flavors, he wasn’t sure he liked them combined. He tends to like one
intense flavor at a time. This dish definitely cleansed the palate for
the intensity of the next dessert which was...
9. Le Chocolat Sensation -- another top dish of the week. A large
serving (more than I should have eaten) of a layered masterpiece. Dark
chocolate on the bottom -- really thick and smooth (almost like a
fondant, not quite though), then layered with chocolate cookie crumbs,
with white chocolate ice cream, and a milk chocolate mousse layer on
top. This chocoholic was swooning.
10. Our surprise gift from the restaurant. I’d whispered to the hostess
that we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary (hey, why not milk the
occasion all week?) and could they put a candle in my husband’s dessert.
Well, neither of the planned desserts came with a candle, but I was OK
with it because everything was so good. The next thing I know, one of
our several servers is coming to us with a plate, the entire staff
starts singing “Joyeux Anniversaire” and on the plate is written in
chocolate sauce “Joyeux Anniversaire” along with a cake/tarte with a
candle in it. The nice man says he will cut up the dessert and bring it
to us. I’m so bummed we didn’t stop him to get a picture of the platter,
it was so lovely. A couple of minutes later, 2 small plates are brought
to us, with 2 small wedges of the most glorious dark
chocolate-caramel-nut tarte, with squiggles of chocolate sauce. We were
so stuffed already, but I ate both of my slices of course! Never turn
away free food, esp. when it involves chocolate and caramel. We did have
coffee, and they might have brought a small treat with it, but I don’t
remember and didn’t write it down. I paid this bill, as I’d been saving
up for this specifically, and we rolled out of there happy after 3 hours.

Afternoon treats -- You’d think we wouldn’t ever eat again after lunch,
but I was on a mission to collect treats and sweets and baked goods for
“later” and so we went to Laduree and Pierre Herme for assortments of
macarons (will report later)...also picked up chocolates at Herme, as
well as miniature versions of his Ispahan (amazing rose-lychee-raspberry
tarte) and Plenitude (ultra chocolate thing). Then went to Poilane for
a wedge of their famous pain de campagne and a small apple tarte. Snuck
a taste of the bread after leaving the shop and understood immediately
the hype. Wow. I have promised myself to splurge later in the summer and
have a loaf delivered to us here in AZ. I’ve never experienced such a
soft crumb with such a crusty crust. No one in the states has figured
out how to do that. Amazing. Hopped on the metro to Montmartre to go to
L’Etoile D’Or, the chocolate shop Patricia Wells said not to miss, and I
knew I wouldn’t be able to visit many others, so we took the time to go
there. A wonderful, unique experience. The shop owner, Denise, is
exactly as I’d read about -- eccentric and absolutely passionate about
chocolate. I spent 1/2 an hour in the store, looking at everything and
listening to her (and understanding about 1/4 of what she said)...and
spent over 140e on chocolates and caramels to bring back to the states.
Her citron vert (lime) caramels are fabulous, as are the orange-ginger
ones. I bought many different bars of chocolate from different regions
to try. Have only broken into one from Lyon so far and it was great. And
the caramel de sel sauce I bought is heaven in a jar.

We arrived back at the B&B a little after 6 and gave our hosts a box of
macarons from each place, and they were delighted. They insisted we
break into them then and there for a pre-dinner treat. So they made tea
and we had a couple of macarons along with lovely tea in china cups that
matched the Laduree box. :) I tried a caramel one from Herme and a
chocolate one from Laduree...wow. More on this taste test later (I
performed a more detailed one on the plane ride home!)

Dinner -- Thankfully our reservations were for 8:30, so we were actually
a bit hungry after our walk through the Latin Quarter to La Truffiere.
Another magical, amazing 3-hour meal experience. Should people be
allowed to have 2 of these in one day??? I had forgotten that La
Truffiere was as pricey as it was, but it was worth every euro. (The
bill came to 211e for both of us.) We were seated downstairs in the
cave, which was mostly lit by candles (a small strip of unobtrusive
track lighting was on the ceiling)...the stone cave with just 8 small
tables created a cozy and very romantic atmosphere. Given the price and
caliber of cuisine, this could have been and incredibly stuffy place,
but the staff was probably the most wonderful of the week, not going
overboard (as they do at La Tour d’Argent...and rightfully so there!),
but being so warm, friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and even funny. We
felt instantly welcomed and relaxed and settled into our corner for some
of the most unique and splendid food in the city. The sommelier
suggested a red wine cocktail for an aperitif, which he said he liked
better than a kir, so we took his suggestion, and it was delicious, a
bit like sangria. Not sure I liked it better than a kir royale
(champagne being a favorite!), but this was a lovely change of pace. The
menus came and mine didn’t have prices on it, so I knew we were in for a
big bill. :) The specialties of the house all involve truffles (hence
the name of the place) so I decided to go with the flow, and order the
specialties recommended by our server. But first, they brought us an
amuse-bouche of the cutest little tureens, filled with cream of
courgette (zucchini) soup. Glenn does not like zucchini, but he ate his
whole serving. It was masterful...creamy, delicate, with a drizzle of
white truffle oil...a perfect start. We split the starter of a pressed
potato cake with foie gras and morel mushrooms. Lovely textures and
flavors, very earthy and rich. Lovely sauce with little vegetables
about. I’m glad we split it as we were starting to get full and much was
ahead. To our surprise, they brought us each a tiny foie gras creme
brulee, which was fantastic. What a divine idea...foie gras silk with
burnt sugar on top. We were sorely tempted to take our finger and lick
the little bowls clean. Of course we did not! My main was the last “make
me sing” food moment of the trip -- duck leg stew with mashed potato
cake and black truffles. I had pictured a shallow bowl of the stuff, but
what came to me was a lovely plate, with a layered timbale in the
center -- the duck stew on the bottom, potatoes on top, paper thin
slices of truffles on the outside and a piece of cooked foie gras
resting on top with a fried herb piercing the very top... all surrounded
by an outstanding truffle sauce which was also drizzled over it. I took
my first bite, and decided to eat very very slowly. This, like the pork
at Le P’tit Troquet, was a dish that needed to be savored. I had a glass
of wine hand-picked by the sommelier...wish I had written down what it
was...but it was the first time I truly understood what it’s like to
have the perfect wine with a dish. Each bite and each sip married
together. I’d heard of this before and thought people were exaggerating,
but now I get it. Red wine and steak will never be the same. Oh well.
Meanwhile hubby is across the table swooning as he eats his tuna and
foie gras in a filo crust, with a lime and honey sauce. He said he never
would have thought to put tuna and foie gras together, but that it was
amazing. Next came the cheese TROLLEY...a beautiful thing of wood and
brass, carrying at least 20 different kinds of cheese. The server took
the time to explain each one, and then asked us to choose a few, then he
added one or two, and then put them in clockwise order from mildest to
strongest, and told us to eat them in that order, and also gave us
certain condiments to be eaten with a few of the cheeses. This was a
wonderful thing we hadn’t experienced at any other place. I remember
having chevre, and a cheese made with Calvados (apple brandy) and then
something really strong that was fabulous. Can’t remember the other 2.
There was a drizzle of the most delicate orange honey (and I don’t like
honey as a condiment usually) to go on the chevre (fabulous), cumin
seeds for one of the other cheeses, and then an apple chutney to eat
with the Calvados one. The most wonderful cheese course. If this wasn’t
enough, our pre-desserts came next -- a little glass with rice cream
(the silkiest rice pudding ever) topped with an apricot-mango sauce.
Dessert for me was the house specialty of (and I quote the menu from the
website) Hot Black Truffles Soufflé, Caramelized Custard Cream with
Truffles, Yoghourt Sherbet Flavoured with Truffle Honey. Not mentioned
in this description was the little pitcher of cold mango coulis the
server poured into the center of the piping hot souffle. (Love that
hot-cold thing!) Well, this was the most unique thing I’ve ever eaten in
my life. Every bite, I’d say to Glenn, “This is so weird!” but I
couldn’t stop eating it! The earthiness of the black truffles (and they
didn’t skimp here!), with the sweetness of the souffle and the fruit
sauce, along with the creaminess and sweetness of the
sherbet (which really tasted like ice cream)...just amazing and bizarre
and everyone should try this once because it is something that is
totally unique to this amazing restaurant. Of course, a tray of
apres-desserts was brought to us with our coffee one of which was the
teeniest little chocolate tart with one blueberry on top. Fabulous. (I
love blueberries!) We rolled out of there, totally amazed at the level
of cooking we had experienced in one day.

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