I recently visted Paris for the first time, in fact that was my very first time visitng Europe. The weather was chilly, the architecture phenomenal and the people all dressed as if they were supermodels. I had the opportunity to travel with a group of 8 that grew to a group of 12 (if you count other friends who met up with us while there). I don't speak a lick of French but thankfully my friend Will Chen, who is also a Le Cordon Bleu graduate and phenomenal chef, does.
When Will posed the question 'Do you want to eat at a 3-Michelin Star restaurant, of course I said "yes." If you don't know too much about Michelin Stars for restaurants consider them the finest, most complicated, most coveted and most sought after ratings and reviews for fine dining establishments in the world. To compare it to Yelp is a slap in the face, but for those who haven't heard of it before here's a what food and travel expert Akila McConnell said to define what the Michelin Star meant to restaurants: "The term "Michelin Star" is a hallmark of fine dining quality and restaurants around the world... The anonymous restaurant reviewers generally are very passionate about food, have a good eye for detail and have a great taste memory to recall and compare types of foods. Each time a reviewer goes to a restaurant, they write a thorough memorandum about their experience and then all the reviewers come together to discuss and decide which restaurants will be awarded stars."
Ultimately, Michelin awards 1-3 stars to restaurants deemed worthy. Word is that Chefs including Gordan Ramsay cry when they receive and sometimes lose their Michelin star. If you want to learn more watch the movie "Burnt" starring Bradley Cooper for a simple story about trying to obtain a Michelin star-rated restaurant.
Anyway, now on to this dinner. L'Arpege is located in Paris and the Chef and Owner of this haute restaurant is famed Alain Passard. Known for taking fresh garden grown ingredients and utlizing them in a creative and innovative way, L'Arpege holds 3-Michelin stars and is also dubbed as one of the World's Best 50 Restaurants. Located within sight of the Eiffel Tower this unassuming restaurant is known for it's vegecentric food and maintaining the 3-Michelin stars since 1996.
We enter and it's warm and cozy inside. Each table is set with white linens and topped with a candle. The staff is young, some looked like they were teenagers, but they were welcoming and polite. Most of the table ordered the Tasting Menu and my self and one other ordered the Vegetable Tasting Menu. You can order ala carte (for $90 an entree) but hey this is a once in a lifetme experience that is going to cost me around $450 so I will just go for it.
Here's a look at the meal:
Overall the canapes (not photographed) were outstanding, they were litle bits of tasty goodness served on potato crisps topped with differnt toppings a good starter.
Then you move on to the classic dishes and some aimed at being innovative and unique, but then everything seems just repetitive without any transformation of the ingredients. There are a few hits but some misses that make me feel like the stars of the show are those classic dishes that have been served for decades.
In the end, the experience was good, but not great. Going into it thinking you're going to eat at a 3-Michelin star restaurant you would perhaps expect your mind to be literally blown at the end of the meal. The servers didn't all speak English and those who did had a bit of a strange sense of humor. It was a comical to watch. There was also the chef in the kitchen clearly firing courses and sending the dishes out who seemed very stressed and frantically looking through the kitchen window at the tables and running back and forth, that was entertaining.
The servers are presumptious and at times appear a bit snooty, but that could just be the French thing. They were attentive in the beginning but it started to tapper off toward the end. We left full and happy but not super impressed. I would say it was a great experience but I wouldn't return. I am thankful I had the opportunity to try the restaurant, meet the chef and experience haute French cuisine in the heart of Paris!