Paris is as romantic as a city comes. As far as cuisine goes, it is a place with deep culinary roots and classic cooking techniques. There are many people that think the Paris food scene has been dead for sometime but those people obviously don’t know what they are talking about. Paris is rising up again and proving itself as a city to be reckoned with. Not only do they have some of the most well known traditional food haunts but there are also great deal of progressive newcomers making there way onto the scene. It is this diversity that makes the culinary landscape of Paris so intriguing.
When planning this trip we made a point to get recommendations from people we trust. All of our chef friends, whether modern/progressive or traditionally focused, told us we had to check out the well established L’Arpege. We took our friends advice, bit the financial bullet and made the reservation.
L’Arpege is a quaint three-star Michelin restaurant serving a vegetable forward menu. This menu is not comprised of your standard produce, it is produce grown with love by Chef Passard at one of his bio dynamically focused farms outside the city. That being said we have been told by many of our knowledgeable gourmand friends that Passard has many tools in his toolbox and that that his expertise goes far beyond vegetables. In fact Passard was considered quite the Roast master before going veggie forward in 2005. (So meat lovers have no fear there is something for you) It is clear that this is one of the more established kitchens in the city and as a result has a great deal of draw and focus in the culinary world.
When 8 oclock was near we picked our jet lagged bodies up, dressed to impress and walked to L’Arpege. When we arrived at this little corner restaurant we walked in and were immediately greeted and seated at our tight/intimate candle lit table. The interior of L’Arpege is cozy and basques in an old school kinda class. The waiters are classically attired in freshly pressed suits and elegantly dance around the limited floor space. The service is smooth, swift and on occasional paused by visits from the man himself, Chef Passard. Passard is a handsome and sweet man with a limited English vocabulary. To make up for this I found myself gesturing in as many way as I could to communicate how delicious everything was…thinking about it now I must have sounded and looked ridic!
Speaking of delicious, lets get into the food. There are a few ways to dine at L’Arpege but in typical fashion Jose had to go with the tasting menu and wine pairing. His thinking is that this is something special and we should experience the flavors to their fullest. Overall Passard’s food is playful, innovative and grounded in traditional technique. The aromas of the dishes have an unusual way of lingering and implanting themselves in your sense library. The Ravioli was one of those dishes that Jose and I could not stop inhaling. The bouquet was fresh and sweet, most likely due to the tomato consume.
All of the dishes had a special story to tell but there were a few that stuck with us. The lobster was one of those dishes. Not only was it sweat and tangy but it was plated in such an unusual way that caught the Mainer in me a bit off guard. I particularly liked how they plated a bigger portion for guys and scaled it down for the ladies. I wish this sort of thing happened at other restaurants. Some of the other standouts were the Scallop which was cooked attached to its shell, what a thoughtful plating. The Turbot was also amazing! So delicate and fresh! The chicken was tender and we loved how the flavors changed depending on what element you paired it with from the plate. The Millfuille was one of the last things that I put in my mouth, thankfully cause at that point we were both unbelievably full. This dessert is their signature and I have to say that I can understand why! The flakey pastry layers were perfect! I wish I could have taken the rest of it with me cause I believe I would have apreciated it more on an empty stomach.
As for the wines… I have to say that the pairings were brilliant! In many ways I felt it was a total french wine education. I will put up the wine list very soon.
Overall we are happy that we have had the opportunity to experience Passard’s beautiful and aromatic creations. All of the food and wine was of the highest quality and the service never missed a beat. Perhaps the only drawback is the very steep price tag. Dropping $500 for tasting menu with wine pairing is the norm here. For that reason it is one of those places that we will most likely not visit again…unless we go with some friends at lunch. There is one upside to the high sticker price, a take away memento: at the end of the meal they clean and fold up the knife that you use throughout your meal. I love this for we will forever remember this night when we use our L’Arpege knives to cut into our dinners at home. More restaurants should do this.
84 Rue de Varenne
75007 Paris, France
01 45 51 47 33