Restaurants & Bars 5

Paris Trip Part 2

Wendy Lai | May 31, 200303:02 PM

Tuesday night’s dinner was at Le Grand Vefour. This was our second high end restaurant of the trip, we knew from here on it’ll only get better. Unlike Laperouse, Grand Vefour was not set up to be discreet. There were only two dining rooms, and while sitting there, the atmosphere was loud and festive. Rich ornate decor were all around us, it felt like sitting in the middle of a period piece movie. What I can remember now was swashes of reds and glittering gold. The waiter made us feel welcome immediately. He spoke English (in fact all of the high end places spoke English to us without problems) and helped my friend with her menu selection – and flirted a little J Here we didn’t choose their tasting menu but opted to order starter, entrée and dessert. However, as we found out later with their amuse bouchee and the multiple dessert courses, our meal still had more than eight or nine courses by the time coffee was served. My notes for the food here is short. Three of us got the foi gras raviolis while my husband had the foi gras pate. The texture of the pasta wrapper was al dente yet thin and delicate, much like a wonton skin. We each received five pieces, and we wished there was more! My entrée choice was lobster “risotto”. Here I misread the menu and thought I was going to get a bowl of lobster risotto, but instead I received a risotto style vegetable and cheese medly served along side a roasted lobster. While the flavor was great I can’t help but object at the high price they charged for a tiny lobster (no bigger than five inches) and the small pile of “risotto”, 84 euros. My companions had lamb chops and beef fillet “stew”. They enjoyed their food, and didn’t find their portions lacking. If it wasn’t for the multiple courses to come later, I would have left the place hungry!

After the main courses, the sweets started to arrive. First came the petite fours, unaccustomed to them arriving so early in the process (in the U.S. they come with your check) we thought our dinner was coming to a close. But than came our fabulous desserts, then the fruit pate, then the sponge cake with coffee/tea, then came chocolate selections, then baked mandalins, then more chocolate!

A bottle of 1979 red was ordered. They didn’t decant it and it left large sediments in our glasses at the end. I don’t drink so I can’t talk much about the wine I’m afraid, but the drinkers were happy. For four people with one bottle and coffee and tea, the bill was 826 euros.

Le Grand Vefour is a thumb’s up. Just don’t order their lobster, too small!

Chez Denis is also known as La Tour de Montlhery. This came highly recommended by this board, and we were highly pleased with it. The setting was very local and very friendly. Much like Capp’s Corner here in San Francisco, the seating arrangement were shared with strangers. Lots of conversations were going on all around us, and more than a few started with “Where are you from?” We roughly followed the advice of Patricia Well and ordered their house specials of hanger steak, mutton stew, braised salmon in mustard sauce and fried pig’s foot. Everything was in huge portion and served family style. Our French neighbor was very impressed that there was a pig’s foot on this American’s table. I didn’t have any :P but my friend Hao who ordered said it’s was terrific. Apparently the foot was cooked for a long time until the skins and tendons were very tender, than the whole thing is breaded and fried to a golden crisp. PW suggested ordering their house Beaujolais wine, poured from a large cask in the bar area to individual bottle. We tried to order that but the waiter heard us wrong and brought us a bottle of 2001 Chateau de Seguin Bordeaux instead. It turned out the Bordeaux was better than the Beaujolais (a glass was ordered later), it was smoother, and had a better finish for our taste.

Everything else we ordered was prepared well. The salmon was done just right, cooked all the way through without a hint of dryness. The mustard sauce was complex with tart and creamy playing well with the fish. The hanger steak was big, bold and juicy, beefy taste in every bite, perfect for the meat lover like my husband Von.

For dessert we had simple raspberries with sugar and cream. The berries were so sweet and fresh by themselves; little sugar and cream were added. We did have trouble ordering desserts. The waiter didn’t offer us any, just asked if we wanted coffee. When we inquired about dessert, he told us there wasn’t any. We weren’t sure if he was joking or not, since we see desserts on other tables. They don’t have printed menu, everything were written on chalk boards placed around the room, we didn’t see any dessert selections when we first ordered. In the end we just asked for some raspberries and he brought them.

Chez Denise is a definite thumb’s up.

Now for the highlight of our trip, Guy Savoy. Before I got into the details, let me just say the experience (notice I didn’t say just the food) is the only time a restaurant has come close to competing with our first time at French Laundry (in Yountville, California). The exact opposite of Grand Vefour, GS was super modern, down to the fact the ladies’ menu had prices on them (when all other places only the gentlemen’s menu had prices, which bothered some of us quiet a bit :P)

From the moment we step into the door to the time we left we were treated to awesome service and awesome food. They were polite to ask us permission to speak English to us. In fact our main waiter spoke four languages. When joked if he spoke Japanese (since one in our party is Japanese), he started talking to her in fluent Japanese! He asked us how we knew about Guy Savoy and we told him of Chowhound. He than asked us to mention his name in my posts. So, his name was Jean Philippe Legras. Ask for him if you go there!

We opted for the chef special tasting menu instead of the seasonal tasting menu. Every course was delicious, but the few highlights were the seared tuna, green lentils with black truffles, glazed oyster with caviar, and of course the many many desserts courses that followed. Sea bass is in season right now, and every restaurant was serving it. By Thursday night we decided we have had enough sea bass so we kindly asked them to substitute. They accommodated us and were we glad the substitution was tuna. Seared tuna is a very common dish but not many place do them so well that you remember it days or weeks after. Guy Savoy’s seared tuna WAS memorable. Meltingly tender and buttery, a perfectly pink center cut tuna steak is served with a black truffle jus and generous slices of black truffles. Green lentils are not usually seen as luxurious ingredients, yet combined with more black truffles, the resulting “stew” was rich in its depth of flavor and yet still refreshing in every bite. The main meat course was paper thin slices of duck breast served with sautéed spinach and crispy potatoes. They must have cooked the spinach then hand laid out every round leaf to form the perfect round bed that the duck and potatoes rested on. Oh, and get this, they had paired bread for every course, served by a young men who seems he is still in high school. Explaining in perfect English why this bread goes with this dish, we were of course delighted with this added touch of attention.

A cheese courses was included in the tasting menu, and the previous bread steward was also the cheese man. Admittingly, we are the kind of American that do not appreciate cheese, but not to give up on this once in a lifetime experience, my dining companions opted to have cheese. I, on the other hand decided to skip, to save room for the desserts to come. More than 40 cheeses were wheeled around to us, and after a detailed cheese profiling, the cheese man selected cheeses for my friends that they all enjoyed.

Two desserts were on the tasting menu, one citrus and the other chocolate, first the sour then the sweet. But many others weren’t on the menu, including a dessert cart that was wheeled around with selections of fruits, chocolate mousse, wine steeped prunes, house-made marshmallows, rice pudding, fruit sorbets and others I can’t recall. Everything was all you can eat! Towards the end of the meal (when the restaurant was beginning to empty) the friendly waiter brought the cart around for seconds and left the chocolate mousse bottle with my friend. He said the best part about chocolate mousse was to have all you can possibly eat! Of course there were petite fours, coffees, chocolates and more chocolates. When Von asked for the name of wine written down. He was presented with the label peeled off the bottle and laminated in a custom Guy Savoy folder. They thought of absolutely everything. Oh, and for some reason, all the ladies of our table received a host gift (we didn’t notice other table getting them), it turned out to a commemorative Guy Savoy plate. The tasting menu was 235 euros a person, but after wine and aperitifs, the bill came to about 300 euros a person. This was the most expensive meal of our live (so far) but it was worth every single euro. Not only was the food innovative and delicious the service was beyond anything we had expected. The staff treated us like royalty and we will remember Guy Savoy as the definite highlight of our entire Paris trip.

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