The first restaurant report in our series 25 for 25, in which we chronicle our dining adventures at the world's 25 best restaurants. Richard shares our meal at L'Arpege in Paris.
Elizabeth and I had happily accepted friends offer to ring in the New Year in the south of France. Our friends' restored farmhouse is perfectly located in the heart of the "golden triangle" of Provence, in Maussanes-les Alpilles, and a short drive to the delicious wineries of the Rhone, concentrating almost exclusively on the Syrah varietal, featuring Cote-Rotie, Saint-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and of course, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, perhaps the best known wine of the region.
Having ate and drank our way into 2015 in the sleepy ambiance of off-season Provence, and with Maussane-les-Alpilles being a hop, skip and a jump (otherwise know as a train ride) from Paris, we decided we would end our French holiday by adding a couple of days in Paris, one of our favourite cities and - more importantly - the home of Arpege, number 25 on San Pellegrino World's 50 Best list.
So…..come hell or high water, we weren’t leaving Paris without kicking off our culinary marathon. Chef Alain Passard, one of France’s greatest and most influential chefs, opened Arpege in 1986 and within a year, Chef Passard had collected his first star from the Michelin firmament. By 1996, Arpege had three Michelin stars, which the restaurant has held onto since, firmly establishing Arpege’s position as one of the brightest beacons in the restaurant constellation.
The elegant yet unassuming Art Deco dining room is warm, comfortable and intimate. On the dark and chilly Monday night we dined, the cozy room was full, but not crowded. Old school formality, crisp white linens, everyone from a young family celebrating a birthday, a table of business colleagues on a splurge, to two Asian tourists minutely examining every bite and a young couple on a date.
The attentive and knowledgeable staff brought at a leisurely pace course after course, suggesting wine pairings to go alongside. Although the tasting menu listed 12 courses, by the end of the evening, we would count 17 courses, including several amuse bouche and one or two additional dessert bouchées….just because.
Even these several months later, the tastes still dance on our tongues. Each dish truly a marriage of "Terre et Mer" - earth and sea. Below a description of a few of our favourites. From left to right:
’heritage Louise Passard: A dish hearkening back to the chef's grandmother, Louise Passard (whose portrait graces the restaurant's dining room), veal was the star of this dish, perfectly pink, meltingly tender and flavourful. Served with: Tenuta Enza la Fauci Obli 2010 (Nero d'Avola blend)
A beautiful meal, and an auspicious start to our culinary journey. If this was number 25, who knew what further amazing food adventures awaited us?
Until the next meal,
PS. See below for the recipe of Alain Passard's Chaud Froid d’Oeuf au Sirop d’Erable.
Up next: A new list and a new journey?
RECIPE: Alain Passard's Chaud Froid d’Oeuf au Sirop d’Erable
(from The Paris Cookbook, Patrica Wells)
4 tablespoons heavy cream
About 3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar, or to taste
Sea salt to taste
6 very fresh eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 2 teaspoons maple syrup
An egg cutter or a very sharp knife, 6 porcelain egg cups
1. Place a bowl in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. In the chilled bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Season with the sherry vinegar and sea salt. Set aside.
2. Place an egg in your hand, tapered end up. Using an egg cutter of a very sharp knife, carefully slice off about the top third of the eggshell. Carefully pour the egg white out of the shell into a small bowl, holding back the yolk with the flat side of a knife. (Reserve the white for another use.) With a damp paper towel, wipe the bottom of the shell. Place the shell in a porcelain egg cup. (If you return the eggs to the egg carton, they are likely to stick and will be impossible to remove later.) Repeat with the remaining eggs.
3. Select a large, shallow skillet that is large enough to hold the eggshells in a single layer. Add water to about 2 inches in depth. Bring just to a simmer.
4. Carefully lift the eggshells from the egg cups and place them in the simmering water (the eggshells should just bob on top of the water). Cook just until the yolk begins to set around the edges, about 3 minutes. Using your fingertips, carefully remove the eggshells from the water and return them to the egg cups.
5. Sprinkle each cooked egg yolk with minced chives. Season with sea salt and pepper. Then carefully spoon the whipped cream over the yolk up to the rim of each egg cup. Drizzle with maple syrup, and serve immediately.