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In a state of hibernation. My backlog has long become unsustainable. Will probably tweet more and write less full-length stuff.

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Thursday
Sep082005

Le Meurice

Alright, so it appears the FTP issues are being caused by the wireless router we got over here. Hopefully I'll be able to sort them out; either way I've been able to upload files using a different connection. In the mean time, I've been having a blast here in Sydney, and some good eats too... but those are for later.

On the Friday of our France trip we finally bade farewell to our base camp in Maillane and got on an afternoon TGV for Paris. It turns out that on that day there was some kind of injury on the track that was causing delays throughout the country. Luckily for us, it was only for the southbound trains, so ours was fine. Hope the guy was okay... we had dinner reservations to make though. We arrived Paris in the late afternoon and checked into Hotel Scribe, a Sofitel-run spot at the edge of the 9th arrondissement. My dad had done his research well, and we got 3 connecting rooms with a big living room meeting area. The hotel is right near La Madeleine and walking distance to all the big shopping action.

 

lemeurice.jpg
Our dinner for Friday night was booked at Le Meurice, a Michelin two star that was this year awarded the title of "espoir." The translation is "hope," and it is a new designation in the guide for restaurants that appear to be approaching a promotion to three stars. Le Meurice has certainly been getting a lot of buzz throughout the blogosophere; most people seem to think the place is excellent and that it will get its third star soon. The chef, Yannick Alleno, actually used to helm the kitchen at the restaurant inside Hotel Scribe until he went to Le Meurice a few years ago. Since then, Le Meurice's reputation has been growing.

The dining room is just off to the right when you walk inside Hotel Meurice. If I had to use one word to describe it, I'd use grandiose. There are some pictures on the website that give you an idea of the place, but it's a pretty impressive sight in person. The place is extreme, formal, even gaudy. It kinda feels like it's meant for royalty, with crazy chandeliers, paintings on the wall, extremely fancy furniture, the whole deal really. I, being the modern high-tech jetsetter that I am, would say it's a bit stuffy of a place to eat at regularly, but I do admit it really is beautiful, and would be a great spot for that special occasion.

ham bread I actually sat a bit later than everyone, because I'd stupidly left my camera at our hotel, and I wasn't going to miss out on these photos. So by the time I got back, everyone was seated and had already had a bite of this ham bread stuff. It was browned on the outside and almost croissant-like inside. Very tasty.

melon gelee They had an interesting tasting menu that looked great, but there was a certain main dish that I really wanted to try, so we went a la carte. This amuse came soon after, and it was a great one. You can't see, but there are a good number of little chunks of melon inside, and the whole thing was sweet, refreshing, and very fresh. It got us all very eager to eat more.

lightly smoked back of Balik salmon in potato scales, leek cream and French caviar from the Aquitaine region - 68 euros I'm not usually one to order salmon, but this appetizer called my name, and I have to say this was the most exceptional piece of salmon I've ever had. At the time I had no idea what Balik salmon meant, but after the fact I looked it up and apparently it's one of the most prized smoked salmons in the world. It's a prime center cut from Russia, also known as Fillet Tolstoy. The potato on the edge gave it a light, crispy edge, while the meat itself was impossibly tender and smooth. The leek cream and caviar did a wonderful job salting each bite. I'm not caviar pro, but this stuff was good to me, although I don't think I'd ever had caviar from France before. Simply delicious.

breast of chicken from Bresse region, foie gras between skin and flesh, chanterelle mushrooms and stuffed turnips - 85 euros From there we moved immediately to our main dishes, which was mildly disappointing because I expected some kind of inter-course freebie. Can't complain too much though. This dish, which I saw on their online menu, was the major reason for me requesting Le Meurice as a stop on our trip. Foie gras between skin and flesh? How awesome does that sound? Thankfully, this dish absolutely delivered. When they served this, the foie gras was still actually between the meat and the skin; the photo above is after they cut it up and plated everything. This chicken was just ridiculously tender. Re-frickin-diculous. The turnips were also great - soothing, almost juicy, with a delightful chopped mushroom filling. And, needless to say, the foie gras was silky smooth.

Of course, I'm sure you're all asking: "Well Arthur? Which chicken was better, Le Meurice or Baumanière?" And to that question, I honestly have to wimp out and say I don't know. They were both delicious. I think the one at Le Meurice had a more pure chicken flavor that interacted with the chanterelles, while the one at Baumanière leaned a bit more on the sauce. I guess I'll have to eat a few more Bresse chickens before I can make a more concrete comparison...

poached filet of beef with bone marrow, early onion raviolis flavored with ginger - 58 euros I had to sneak a picture of this dazzling main dish that my dad got. We were perplexed as to how Alleno achieved such a perfect beef texture through poaching - we still don't understand. The beef was just cooked on the outside, and perfectly medium rare throughout the entire inside. The buttery bone marrow melted right in. The bite I had was amazing, and for 58 euros this was a relative steal on the main dish list.

white cow's cheese, Livarot, Pont-l'Évêque I tried a couple of new ones this time around... Didn't catch the name of the fresh white cow's cheese, but it looked better than it tasted. It looked really nice and creamy, but was actually a bit dry. The Livarot was nice... a bit stronger than the Pont l'Évêque.

chocolate shell with cream, strawberries with lemon sorbet and basil, macaroon with rose cream and berries These pre-desserts were excellent. Although I didn't care too much for the chocolate one, the macaroons with rose cream were delicious - very light, with a strong berry flavor and a very noticeable hint of rose. I had 3. The sorbet one was very refreshing; my aunt Agnes will attest to that. She had 3. Lucky for us both, there were people at the table who were too full to clean up their portions. :)

Caribbean chocolate fondant, speculos ice cream - 24 euros We'd yet to have a truly satisfying dessert experience - the stuff we had in Provence usually had an element that was overly sweet. At Le Meurice, the dessert finally started coming together. This chocolate was like a very rich cross between a cake and a wafer. Very satisfying for chocolate lovers, and well-balanced by the speculos (a type of cinnamon) ice cream.

vanilla, coffee, or chocolate: napoleon your favorite way - 24 euros My dad's dessert was a much more elaborate operation and very worthy of a story. The waiter brought a trolley over, a sort of millefeuille cart. On it was a huge pile of millefeuille-style pastry in plain and chocolate, a few containers with different flavored creams, as well as a few different sauces and a few toppings. My dad got to pick what combination of creams, pastry, sauce and nuts he wanted, and the waiter plated it at the table. This picture shows plain pastry with vanilla, coffee, and chocolate cream, chocolate sauce, and pistachios.

My dad couldn't stop fawning over this deconstruction of the millefeuille - it was like a Cubist interpretation of the common dessert. He ate his whole portion as well as half of my aunt's. I will say right now that in 21 years, I have never EVER seen my dad eat more than one portion of dessert, so the fact that this actually happened should earn Le Meurice some kind of gold star. No... platinum star. Le Meurice, I salute you.

lemon and olive oil madeleines With our coffee came these plump, green, healthy-sized madeleines. And they were the best madeleines of the trip, browned and crusty on the outside, buttery and cakey on the inside. The lemon and olive oil were both subtle but definitely there. Delicious.

This was an amazing meal, and a great start to our Paris stay. The only bummer, and I'm nitpicking here, is we didn't seem to get as many freebies as some other places. It would have been nice to get a hot amuse after the melon gelee, or something in between the app and the main. Still, the food and service are all class, and like Pim said, it seems a matter of time before it gets its third star. Maybe next time we should get the dégustation...

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    arthur hungry - food photos and restaurant reviews - Le

Reader Comments (10)

Arthur,

Those (dare I say, FOOD PORN) pictures have got me slobbering. :) This website of yours really is one of my favorites. I can't wait to see what you come up with for Sydney. Oh and if you ever get the chance you should try to eat at some places in Denver... We've got some amazing chefs out here.

~erin
Friday, September 9, 2005 at 6:31AM | Unregistered Commentererin
Spectacular write up! Almost as good as being there! Applause.

The Caribbean chocolate fondant looks extraordinary.
Sunday, September 11, 2005 at 1:49PM | Unregistered CommenterScottie
Thanks a lot guys. Food porn - that's how I roll. I must say though, my Sydney eats aren't nearly as extravagant. I am trying to budget $175 for a meal at Tetsuya's during my stay, but I also have to find someone else willing to shell out that much to go with me. I've never been to Denver, but I do hope to go some day.

Scottie - it definitely tasted as good as it looks.
Sunday, September 11, 2005 at 2:31PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Che
Hi Arthur - I've been following your blog since you started writing about the Reef Cafe here in Boston! Anyways, the technique that produced that fantastic filet is called sous-vide. Hesser recently wrote an article about this and I remembered Alleno was quoted in there. It's from August 14th in the New York Times - really interesting. Basically sealing food in vacuum-packed plastic bags and cooking for a long time in hot water at highly calibrated temperatures. "...the cooks at Le Meurice, a nearby up-and-coming restaurant, were using sous vide to prepare more than 50 items on the menu". Thought you'd find the article interesting and solve the mystery. Enjoy Sydney - can't wait to hear more. I visited years ago - love those Moreton Bay Bugs!
Thursday, September 15, 2005 at 3:35PM | Unregistered CommenterRubee
Rubee, thanks for the great info. I'd heard and read about sous-vide but I never put two and two together. I do wonder which exact items we ate used the method. It sure worked to perfection on that beef...
Sunday, September 18, 2005 at 5:33PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Che
I have just found your website, and have really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005 at 12:01PM | Unregistered CommenterClaudia
Loved your review of Le Meurice. Only question I have is if the menus are in English? I would love to try 'high-end' Parisian cuisine, but as my French is not great, I would hate to think that I arrive in only to find menus which I find hard to understand.. especially if I'm about to spend many hundreds of euros! Your help would be appreciated!thanks.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 10:58AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank
Frank - just saw your question. Don't worry about a thing. All of the high-end Paris restaurants have English menus, as well as English-speaking staff. They're pretty used to having guests from around the world.
Saturday, February 4, 2006 at 10:07AM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Che
Both Le Meurice and Guy Savoy are restaurants that I like a lot, but they are not the best of the Parisian 3 star tables. I think L'Ambroisie (when Pacaud is cooking) and L'Arpege (on a great day) surpass Le Meurice and GS. Of course, that's all subjective naturally.
Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 5:36PM | Unregistered CommenterS Lloyd
I certainly don't have the experience to claim which of the 3 stars is best. Absolutely hoping to try L'Ambroisie and L'Arpege when I return to Paris, along with a host of others.... some day!
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 6:36PM | Registered CommenterArthur Che

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