Foolishly planning a moderate fixed price menu, I made reservations at L'Arpege, after asking if the environment was appropriate for my four-month-old son. "No problem" they said. So my husband and I arrived on Valentine's Day, baby in front pack, and luckily, credit card in pockets. 700 dollars lighter and 10 courses heavier, we departed 3 hours later. We had seriously misunderstood the place, both in terms of food and elegance. Nevertheless, the staff seemed to have no problem with our middle-class appearance and our son's minor noises. They served us our tasting menu in the quiet, ancient wine cellar (Siberia to some, a comfortable private dining room for us.) As each dish was served, the waiter enthused about the dish, the ingredients, our responses. After my husband noted my love of truffles (he misspoke; I had told him that I would love to try truffles) the waiter brought out several specimens for me to smell and left them on the table for us to contemplate before he grated them on the final dish, a cheese and onion mixture. He showed us a pigeon whole and sauced before it was cut and prepared . He told us his personal preferences about the food and discretely waited for us to finish each course before verbally preparing us for the next. And the dishes generally justified the hype. Many have written about the eggs in maple syrup, and it is a shame that this, the finest dish of the menu, is first; it sets up unrealistic expectations for following courses, such as caviar in avocado cream (superb) and cream of mushroom with peanuts (below standard.) The lobster in sherry is nice, but meagerly portioned. The vegetable soups, the cheese course, and mille feuille are well done, and the candied tomatoes provides a tart and piercing end to the melange. As I remember this accidental 3-star meal I think of the food and the kind and expert staff. I try not to think about how many hours I will have to work to pay for it. It was lovely.
As you may note from the stunned neophyte tone above, I am not in the class that ususally patronizes these sorts of restaurants. The staff was clearly aware of this and just as clearly determined to make it worth our investment.
30 euros, 3 course, classy service and environment, excellent food, duck was particularly succulent, escargots tender, and desserts lovely, followed by a smooth pot au creme and walnuts. an excellent value
30 euros, 3 course, tough meat (and a surcharge for it), indifferent service, inedible desserts with horrible presentation, grainy pot au creme, but excellent crab tart and ceviche appetizers. My second trip, and it was just as bad the previous time ( I know, I know, why did I go again? I don't know) it is in a lot of guidebooks, so either it has gone downhill or both times I went it was unusally bad. I suspect the first