Michelin starring through Paris

You might know of my love for French cuisine if you follow my blog. If I had my way, we’d be celebrating every birthday, anniversary, or any other special event or non-event, with a French meal (also in part due to the fact that HK is home to several fantastic French restaurants).

So it was only to be expected that a week in Paris was going to be a gastronomic overload – Gorging my way through charming patisseries, picturesque cafes, quaint bistros, as well as world-renowned restaurants.

We had the pleasure of dining at three Michelin-starred joints during this trip… Here’s my take on them:

L’atalier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon (2 stars)

I’ve mentioned in the past that I am a huge (figuratively, not literally… as of now!) fan of Joel Robuchon, and even though I’m lucky enough to live in a city which has his restaurants, I can’t resist trying one in any other city that I visit. L’atalier de Joel Robuchon in Saint-Germain, ranked amongst the top 50 restaurants in the world, was therefore on my must-do list.

The only seating option is at the counters surrounding a stylish open kitchen, and there are no private tables unlike L’ataliers in some other cities. There is no set option and the regularly priced a la carte menu is available for lunch – it offers many similar dishes as their other outlets, but adds some local twists as well.

I had dragged along my semi-skeptical friend NB, and unwilling friend NS, who was convinced she would be left hungry, given her  mostly vegetarian, chicken and fish only diet. However, after having been served some exquisitely presented and supremely crafted dishes, they had both been converted (hallelujah!).

Hits: Everything. Especially, La Langoustine en ravioli truffée au chouxsucculent prawns in a thin pasta roll, topped with truffle and a light creamy sauce with hints of foie; and the 5-tomatoes salad – because who knew tomatoes could look and taste soooooo good? Also, the foie gras. And the lamb. And the fish. Okay, everything!

Misses: The menu was only in French, and while our waiter helpfully translated and provided descriptions of dishes we requested, an English menu would have been nice to browse through.

In a nutshell: In the words of first-timer NS – “It was a life-changing meal”. Enough said.

 

Michel Rostang (2 stars)

A fifth-generation chef from a family of illustrious cooks and restaurant owners, Michel Rostang is renowned in France for his old-school cuisine.

The décor of his restaurant is classy and intimate – dark wood paneling, themed dining rooms and walls adorned with fine art. Perfect for a special celebration.

One of their specialties is the canard au sang (pressed duck)– roasted duck, served with a sauce of red wine and duck stock, enriched with blood and juices pressed from the bones, fat and gristle of the duck. Unfortunately it was not included in our (mostly wonderful) 5-step discovery menu, but we got to witness a performance by the head waiter, as he sliced the duck and pressed the bones in a special contraption, by the table-side of another couple.

Their wine cellar is highly reputed as well, and we witnessed several diners savouring bottles of wine that pre-dated A and me.

Hits: Each dish had several elements and a thoughtful combination of flavours. The standout ones were the savory macarons served in the trio of starters (a creamy and mildly sweet fish and feta mixture enclosed within fluffy and crunchy discs), the smoked foie gras (an absolute revelation on the perfect way to cook foie gras) and the salted butter caramel soufflé with pear sorbet (which had us oohing away and rolling our eyes with pleasure).

Misses: I did not enjoy the texture and flavour of the fish wrapped in green leaves and left it half-eaten. Our waiter seemed heart-broken that I had “rejected” the dish but did not offer to replace it. (Which was just as well, because I was stuffed by then – 5 was wayyy too many courses for me.)

In a nutshell: Magnificent food in a refined setting, which will definitely bring me back.

 

Le Jules Verne by Alain Ducasse (1 star)

Iconic. That’s the only way to describe the location of Le Jules Verne – it is situated on the 2nd level of the Eiffel Tower. A private elevator zips you up to 125m above ground level, to sample chef Pascal Féraud’s specially designed tasting menu (there are no a la carte options), while gazing at stunning vistas of Paris.

A dinner reservation was difficult to secure with a couple of weeks’ notice – we were told that the window-side tables at Le Jules Verne are reserved three months in advance with full payment. However, when we managed to get a last-minute lunch reservation (there is never any downside in trying!), it is needless to say that all other plans for the afternoon were cast aside in favour of a 2.5-hour meal.

Hits: The barigoule style tiny artichokes. Though, very honestly, I can’t name even one dish that I would go back for.

Misses: We received a very warm welcome from every member of the staff as we walked in, but the service through the meal was robotic and fairly indifferent. Perhaps they know that most of their patrons are tourists and likely one-time visitors. Also, while pouring us the tap water that we requested, our waiter referred to it as “water from the Seine”. Not cool.

In a nutshell: It is all about the view and the experience, not so much the food.

How about you? Have you been to any of these and what did you think? Which are your favourite restaurants in Paris?