L’Arpège (Paris, France)
84 rue de Varenne
75007 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/27/14
L’Arpege has been high on my list of restaurants to try for some time. When I first traveled to Paris seven years ago, I remember walking around the corner from the Rodin Museum just to see the restaurant from the outside. Having just graduated from college, I sorely lacked the funds to consider dining here and wondered if I ever would. On this next trip, this was my most anticipated meal in Paris.
L’Arpege has been around for almost 30 years and has become one of the most notable dining establishments in the city. Cheffed by Alain Passard, it’s a Michelin three star (and has been since 1996) and is currently ranked the #25 best restaurant in the world (the highest ranked Parisian establishment). Passard is known for being a visionary and pioneer particularly as it relates to vegetables. The restaurant maintains its own organic gardens to supply its produce and even removed meat from its menu for a period of time. Today, meat is back on the menu but the focus is still clearly on vegetables at l’Arpege.
As with many Michelin starred restaurants in Paris, it can get expensive. Very expensive. The restaurant’s current tasting menu runs at €370 with a vegetable tasting at €290. However, lunchtime brings one more option – a €140 lunch tasting. A relative bargain, we came for lunch and opted for this choice.
Billecart Salmon Brut kicked off this meal.
carrot, spinach and beetroot puree tarts
Clean vegetable flavors started off the meal in these crusty tarts.
L’Arpege had excellent bread and butter even for French standards.
tomato gazpacho and celery mustard ice cream
A cool and refreshing gazpacho was next, complemented by a mildly spicy celery-mustard ice cream.
beet sushi with fig leaf
This one didn’t really work for me, being heavy on the rice (with the thin slice of beet) and a soapy aftertaste.
sweet onion gratin with parmesan
The onions were as sweet as advertised, accented by parmesan and brightened up by the greens.
radish risotto with spinach emulsion
The crunch of the radish was nice, paired well with a spinach emulsion.
This deconstructed ratatouille again showed off vibrant garden flavors including a smoked eggplant.
vegetable ravioli with tomato consumee
These ravioli were a highlight for me – puréed vegetables were wrapped in al dente pasta and a warm tomato soup. The fillings were tomato vadouvan, spinach, cheese, and carrot. All were good.
tomato, onion, garlic, bell pepper veloute with speck cream
Our first hint of meat was here in the form of a speck cream, bringing porky flavor to the sweet velouté.
beet tartare, horseradish, quail egg
Loved the creativity in this dish which looked spot-on like a beef tartare. The flavors were really reminiscent of a beef tartare but with a different texture (more crunch than chew); quail egg added a lot of richness.
cous cous, semolina, vegetable sausage
There were plenty of savory flavors in this dish particularly in the vegetable sausage (not sure what it was made out of). Crisp vegetables added some nice texture.
sole with smoked potatoes and white wine sauce
Our last savory course was this large sole fillet, the only dish without a vegetable focus. The fish was cooked beautifully with a nice buttery white wine sauce. Smoked potatoes provided a welcome accompanying flavor too. Given the rest of the courses, this kind of seemed out of place but I was happy to get a big piece of flesh on my plate.
A few dessert plates followed in quick succession.
hay cream with salted caramel
chocolate millefeuille with ice cream
The hay cream with salted caramel showed off some subtle flavors, while the millefeuille displayed bold chocolate flavors within both the layers and sauce.
A bit of a digestif came next in really appropriate form – a juice. We also had a €13 cappuccino with the petit fours.
apple, tomato, green pepper juice
cappuccino and petit fours
L’Arpege presented one of the more unique meals I’ve had and the most interesting and creative vegetable-centric experience I’ve ever had. Granted, this isn’t the type of meal I typically gravitate towards. My mom would love this place. It was apparent early on that the produce was clearly top notch and relatively simple preparations helped coax out the natural flavors. Was I craving a steak or burger at the end of this meal? Kind of (though to be fair, this was a lot of food and we left completely full). Was I glad to have had this experience? Absolutely.
I was unaware of the lunchtime bargain! Next time!
Great way to try the place!