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Le Meurice


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#1 cabrales

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 06:23 AM

I had a good, but again uninspired, lunch at Le Meurice, in the hotel of the same name in Paris. This one-starred restaurant is ornate and formal, and offered food that left me wondering whether I am becoming jaded of late or whether so many restaurants in France actually are so similar. To be clear, the dishes were well-designed and appropriately executed; there were no obviously flaws with the meal. Yet I left feeling somewhat dissatisfied.  

In fact, I am becoming even indiffernent to my choice of restaurants in Paris because I am resting up for a visit to Michel Bras and have visited all the restaurants about which I could potentially truly care in Paris. I was originally going to explore Chiberta, because the chef there was a sous-chef of Lucas Carton's Alain Senderens at one point in time, a chef whose progeny rather intrigues me. But that being said, I could not find the address of also-one-starred Chiberta when I got into a taxi, and decided to sample the cuisine at Le Meurice for the first time instead. No big deal either way.

Les Morilles Blondes: Les tetes farcies a la morille, reduction de vin d'Arbois (Blond morels -- the heads of the morels stuffed with morels, reduction of a wine from Arbois) (26 euros)

Le Bar de Petite Peche: Le filet transparent, chou tendre et tourteau, releve au sevruga (Bass from small boats: The filet in a "transparent" presentation, tender cabbage and a special type of French crab, with sevruga caviar) (43)

Le Citron de Menton: Decline au mille feuille craquant, une fine gelee et coulis au miel (15) (Lemons of Menton: In a crunchy millefeuille, a fine gelee and a coulis with honey)

       1/2 Mersault, Boillot 1998 (60)
       Glass of Muscat Rivesalte (13)

The meal unfolded with an average gelee containing small lobster chunks. On top of that, a veloute-like item flavored again with lobster and containing certain, limited creamy elements. Then, the appetizer of blond morels. There were three large morels that appeared a medium brown color. Each was at least 4 cm in length, and looked bulbous and "full".  I did not particularly appreciate the grainy, bread-like texture (for some reason) of the diced morels inside the three large morels, but their inclusion could not be said to have been misguided. The morels themselves were delicious, although I could not tell how blonde morels tasted markedly different from regular morels. The reduction of the described wine from the Jura tasted like an overly salty red wine reduction. There were meat-like aspects of the saucing that added to the intensity of the morels, although I have generally, and subjectively, always preferred sauces with weaker meat connotations with these mushrooms (unlike, for example, porcini).

The bass was presented in two circular-shaped thick pieces, which appeared to have been cut from yet larger pieces. The flesh was appropriately prepared, and the fish was of appropriate quality. However, not an inspired dish despite the nice touches of (1) a large square-shaped "package" of green cabbage (nicely between crunchy and soggy) around shreds of torteau crab meat, (2) a small quenelle of sevruga caviar (this reminded me very slightly of Pic's infamous bass with caviar dish, in which the caviar was directly on top of the bass and for various reasons more interesting) served on the side, and (3) a blanc-manger of bass with slight hints of sweetness in the mouth afterwards.  The white-colored sauce for the bass was attractive, being a light, cream-based sauce utilizing the same torteau crab. Overall, a good bass preparation.

Finally, the best part of the meal for me. Menton lemons. These had been the subject of discussion between Susan Brown and me when Robert, Susan, Steve P and I had dined at Beacon at Cap d'Antibes. The discussion had ben spurred by the lemon tree right on the other side of the glass window next to our table. When I saw the Menton lemon dessert, I had to order it. It did not disappoint at all, even relative to my anticipation of this dish. The coulis of lemon had a nice, medium consistency and honey to augment the naturally sweet tones in the Menton lemon. The main part of the dessert, a long, rectangular single piece of thin pastry (not necessarily a classical millefeuille), sat atop two quenelles of Menton lemon sorbet that pleased me. Tart, but still lingeringly sweet. Below that, another piece of thin pastry and lemon-taste-infused, soft, cake-like portions. Surrounding this rectangular item was a ring of small Menton lemon pieces in a light syrup. The Menton lemon gelee was not particularly noticeable in the dish. I enjoyed this dessert tremendously. The dessert wine recommended by the sommelier was not overly thick in the mouth, and went very well with this dish.  

Overall, a good meal at a relatively strong one-star restaurant. However, not a restaurant I feel I need to visit again any time soon.   :wink:

Background

The food service was very good, although, admittedly, the ratio of dining room staff members on the food service side to the diners during lunch exceeded 1:1.  The sommelier team was a bit weak, and the wine list of the restaurant lacked the depth I would have expected at a hotel (although it was above-average for a one-star Michelin restaurant).  Water is expensive at 7 euros for a 1/2 bottle of Chateldon, and at 7 euros for an espresso.

The decor was stunning, if one likes formalism, large areas of black and white marble, old paintings, and a medium pink/yellow color scheme for the curtains. More seriously, the decor was very ornate and classical, and conveyed a sense of opulence. This was enhanced by the fact that I was the sole diner in the room for at least 1/2 of my meal experience. The ceiling contained beautiful artwork that has faded over the years, but that was more attractive without refurbishment. Certain parts of the room were cateogorized as a historical monument or similar type of facility.  The Meurice hotel is, of course, very conveniently locted close to the Louvre in the 1st arrondisement.  Next to the restaurant is a nice area for afternoon tea (reportedly) called the Jardin d'Hivers (the Winter Garden), although the facility is not inexpensive.  :wink:

#2 Bux

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 07:40 AM

Overall, a good meal at a relatively strong one-star restaurant. However, not a restaurant I feel I need to visit again any time soon.   :wink:

Not every meal we eat is memorable. Sometimes we eat for fuel and sometimes we dine for social reasons. We here at eGullet may forget that, but for the rest of the world the proportions are reversed and I suspect refueling and socialization drive the restaurant world far more than gastronomy.

... although the facility is not inexpensive.  :wink:

An understatement, I suspect. Nevertheless it's an interesting aspect of dining rarely touched on here. It's generally (but not universally) true that one will dine far better at a one star luxurious restaurant than at a plain one and that among unstarred restaurants the food will be "better" at the more expensive ones. This is not to imply that the food improves in proportion to the price. The increase in luxury and the ambience will account for most of the price difference. In fact, even in a three star restaurant, a good part of the bill will reflect these things, only some of which are directly related to the food--a fine glass helps the wine for instance.

There is something very nice about a good lunch in an an opulent restaurant, but for me, there's always an undercurrent of depression. While a great rustic meal eaten off a wooden table without cloths and from heavy crockery with my sleeves rolled up in the company of good friends can compete with a fine meal in elegant surroundings with good friends in the best clothes, good but uninspired food in elegant surroundings under any circumstances pales as anything but a social curiosity.

In spite of all that, I was fascinated by the details of your uninspired meal.
Robert Buxbaum
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#3 cabrales

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 08:14 AM

Bux -- I wouldn't say Le Meurice was depressing in my particular case -- perhaps uninteresting beyond the decor and opulence (which probably says more about my current condition than about the restaurant).  In my mind, Le Meurice is among the stronger one-stars in Paris cuisine-wise, leaving aside its opulent surroundings (together with L'Astrance and, at a distance, L'Espadon, Helene Darroze and Hiramatsu, Ghislaine Arabian). It did feel unusual being the only diner for over an hour admist chandeliers, marblework, drapery, etc. The room feels spacious because the ceilings are high, among other things.

I was thinking about the decor and my being amidst it, although I also continued to review the menu after I had ordered. I felt a bit fatigued, but that is not from aspects relating to Le Meurice.  But, Bux, you pinpointed the prominent aspect of the lunch -- what I was feeling about the non-food aspects and about myself. :wink:

#4 Bux

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 08:39 AM

Bux -- I wouldn't say Le Meurice was depressing in my particular case -- perhaps uninteresting beyond the decor and opulence

I meant that I am always a bit depressed under those exact circumstances. I suppose it's about seeing a missed opportunity. It's part of what makes l'Astrance so thrilling. They got the food right without worrying about opulent surroundings or luxury ingredients. But of course that's my orientation. My mother would have clearly preferred the Meurice to l'Astrance unless someone told her the buzz is about l'Astrance. Rest assured, I would probably enjoy lunch at the Meurice, although I am not likely to choose it given the short time I am likely to get to spend in Paris. I would even enjoy the opulence. The "depression" I describe is an intellectual depession, not a mood altering one.
:biggrin:
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#5 cabrales

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 09:10 AM

Bux -- Yes, there was an aspect of intellectual depression. In my case, it was partly the intellectual depression of realizing that so very few restaurants can truly please subjectively. Contributing to this was the fact that normally I am quite curious and excited about visiting a restaurant for a first time. And previously, I had thought about going to Le Meurice on several occasions, but never quite gotten around to it. Hence, although Le Meurice was never particularly high on my list of restaurants in France to eat at, it was not something in which I had had no interest.

When I arrived, there was such a sense of deja vu. Its look was like the Bristol or Les Ambassadeurs at the Crillon. The service and welcome were like those at countless other places. The menu, although nicely crafted with respect to product combinations, had many of the same things as a sufficient number of other restaurants. The wine list looked surprisingly familiar as well, as I tend to concentrate on white Burgundies and old champagne, with a nod to white Bordeaux. I have been ordering mostly seafood (usually turbot, red mullet or bass, in the case of fish), Bresse chicken, mushrooms and vegetables (veal and beef included only rarely). Perhaps this is a temporary situation; perhaps it is my chosen focus on French cuisine.  :confused: I don't mean to appear to be complaining about my restaurant visits; that is not the intent, and I appreciate them greatly. However, the question is the marginal utility derived from additional restaurant visits of late.

#6 pirate

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 02:24 PM

I find black morels superior to all the beige to brown types.

#7 ajay

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 04:35 PM

Cabrales,

Forgive me for being presumptuous, but I wonder if you might not be happier and (less intellectually depressed) if you were to visit your old favorites a bit more often.  You seem to have found a handful of restaurants that really do hit the mark for you.  So perhaps that's where the marginal utility of further fine dining is to be found.

Perhaps it's just that you only post about the new and interesting so that we that don't know you well are under the impression that you don't return often to your favorite places.  In which case please excuse the erroneous comments, and you owe us some posts on how those experiences compared to the newer places like Hiramatsu and Herme that you have told us so much about :raz:

#8 cabrales

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Posted 15 May 2002 - 03:34 PM

ajay -- While it is the case that I may choose not to post about some meal experiences, I hope the ones I end up writing about are helpful and interesting to other members.  Coming up -- Angle de Faubourg, Auberge de L'Ill.  :wink:

#9 Hypnotic

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 10:31 PM

Has anyone eaten at Le Meurice since Yannick Alleno took over in September? I recently saw photos of some of the dishes, and the presentations/colors/textures look very impressive, not to mention delicious.

#10 Explorer

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 09:32 PM

I am surprised that nobody has answered that one. I am booking there in early January.
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#11 pirate

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 08:22 AM

Patricia Wells had an article about the restaurant in last weekend's International Herald-Tribune.

#12 Hypnotic

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 10:45 PM

Hi,

Explorer, what a coincidence, I have a reservation for early January also- for lunch. Will you be having lunch or dinner?? Maybe we can compare notes. Unfortunately, since I'll be alone, I won't be able to taste as much as I'd like to.

Pirate, I read the P. Wells article which was quite positive- I would have liked a few more details though.

Anyway, I'm definitely looking forward to it. Also, if you check out the website of Le Meurice http://www.meuricehotel.com/, it seems like they're trying to appeal to a younger, hipper clientele which is encouraging from coming from one of Paris' "palace" hotels.

#13 pirate

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 04:02 AM

I have been disappointed with Patricia Wells' recommendations. In October I lunched at the Winter Garden in the Meurice (under Alleno's supervision) and also at the comparable Relais Plaza of the Plaza Athenee. The latter was superior.

#14 Explorer

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 07:07 AM

pirate. i hope your experience was an anomaly. was it a week-end that you were there at Meurice? Anything more specific regarding your experience? Relais and Meurice are different types of restaurants.
Incidentally, i had planned lunch at Relais too, but not sure about it yet.

Hypnotic-it's dinner for us. i'll pm you on it.
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#15 tony h

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 12:10 PM

Le Meurice – March 2004

There’s a high camp quotient to this fine room of black & white marble, 4 dominating chandeliers, a kick ass painted ceiling and far from shy pink curtains

Amuse of tiny pastries filled with leek & asparagus – wonderfully creamy

Substantial pre-starter of saffron bouillabaisse containing red mullet & monkfish with disks of tomato and miniature melon balls. Its kind of hard to describe the depth of flavour to the clear stock but my lips were left with a stick gelatinous covering – a marvellous start for what’s essentially a throw away dish.

A quick look around the room shows that its full of power diners

Wine list – v expensive – 1/2 bottle time, I’m afraid (still reeling from the 20 euro G&T in the bar beforehand, gulp)

Starter of 4 of the largest plumpest langoustine tails I’ve ever seen. In the middle is a shellfish custard with a very large dollop of oesteria (sp) caviar crowning it. Unbelievably good – it’s the first time I’ve really had caviar of that quality & quantity before – I’m beginning to see what all the fuss is about. Curiously the custard was quite tasteless on its own but when eaten with the caviar & langoustine the whole thing came alive. Oh, and there were lettuce tips & lettue froth to accompany this. Magical.

Unable to decide on a main they let me choose two half portions.

The first was no half portion – it was a large single caramelise sweetbread so light & fluffy roasted in clay served on a bed of delicious salsify with lots of slices of truffle. This came with three sauces – one truffle, the other frothy delicately places around the dish & a white wine sauce (didn’t catch the name) that came in its own little dish. The sweetbread was good – very good – but was completely belittled by the salsify which had depth & earthiness taken to impressive heights.

Second main was the pigeon and came with artichoke stuffed with foie gras – how could anyone resist? Easily as it turned out – the pigeon despite being plump & luscious sadly had no depth of flavour. Also the was very little taste to the artichokes & foie gras – the bit I was really looking forward to. The stuffing turned out to be a large slab of FG roasted to perfection – sadly no taste. This was accompanied by a very very rich truffle sauce which did deliver on all counts – shame about the meat & veg.

This was a very good meal only slightly dented by the last dish – there’s some very impressive cooking going here.

Post Note

4am & I am suddenly wide awake & gasping for water – a thirst like this I have not experienced for some considerable time. Perhaps just a little too much salt to the meal.

#16 Andy Lynes

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 10:51 AM

About 18 months before the event, I had pretty much decided that I wanted to mark the occasion of my 40th birthday with a weekend in Paris. Just my wife and I, with the kids safely off loaded onto a willing relation and the dog in kennels. The highlight of the trip was to be our first ever meal in one of the city's 3 Michelin starred restaurants.

As a food writer, it was an embarrassing gap in my experience and a major birthday was a good excuse to fill it. More importantly, I couldn't think of anything I would rather do. Hot air balloon rides, track days or scuba diving hold as much attraction for me as a tax inspection. Its not that I have limited horizons…scratch that, I do have limited horizons. I'm obsessed with restaurants. There really was nothing to think about.

Nothing, except the creeping dread that it would all be a horrible disappointment, and a crushingly expensive one at that. Would it not be better, I rationalised, to seek out the best bistros in the city or find the hottest young chef working in a dive in some far flung suburb. Wouldn't that be just as thrilling as the haute cuisine option, only a hell of a lot cheaper? We could have our weekend away, and still be able to feed and clothe our children when we got back which would be something of a bonus, especially for them.

Posted Image

Throughout the protracted planning stages, my mind changed on an almost daily basis, as I combed the internet gathering evidence to support first one side of the argument that was raging in my mind, then the other. "Ducasse has gone up again", I'd shriek, "No one in his right mind would possibly pay €200 just for the menu!” Twenty four hours later would find me calm and reflective, "You know, when you take everything into account, the a la carte at Tallievent is really quite reasonable. For a three star I mean." My wife was no help. "It's your birthday, do whatever you want to do. Just don't let me see the bill."

Perhaps she knew that I was secretly enjoying wrestling with myself, prolonging the pleasure of pouring over guidebooks and menus for as long as I could, and didn't want to spoil my fun. Perhaps after 12 months or so of endless debate, she had tired of the whole idea and just wanted to get it over with.

As my birthday approached it became clear that the man of the moment in Paris was Yannick Alleno, executive chef of the five star Hotel Meurice on the Rue du Rivoli. It was simply impossible to read a bad report about the man's food or the restaurant. The fact that he had bagged a second Michelin star within 5 months of taking the job and was hotly tipped by Le Figero to get a third sometime very soon was another good sign. When a chef friend, a very hard man to impress and whose judgement is rarely off, recommended it without hesitation, I at last made that long delayed decision and booked a table.

Hotel Meurice is almost ridiculously opulent. Although relatively small with just 160 rooms and compact public areas, there’s enough marble, hand carved moldings and columns to keep a battalion of Llewelyn-Bowens happy. The hotel was closed for two whole years while the Dorchester Group refurbished it to its full 18th Century glory. I can’t imagine that move particularly amused the accountants, but from the guest’s point of view, it was worth every penny of lost revenue. Unless you are a member of the fur-clad tribe of super rich that swarms the hotel’s corridors, I challenge you not to walk around slack-jawed at the sheer beauty of it all.

The moment for our dinner arrived. I turned to my wife as we rode the lift down from our palatial room and, almost quivering with excitement said, “This is it then,” as if I expected the doors to open and for us to step out onto the moon.

I’m not going to go into detail about what happened during the next four hours, it was too important to me to be picked over in public like some day old chicken carcass. Besides, others have described similar meals in greater detail that I could ever be bothered to do. What I can tell you is that if a dining experience can be faultless and transcendent, then this surely was. Not everything we ate was perfect because nothing can be. But it was close enough to make me believe that Yannick Alleno is destined to be one of the greats.

Dining at Le Meurice is the culinary equivalent of riding in a sedan chair – the last word in indulgence. From the first bite of kugelhopf to the final glass of 25 euro Calvados, the 10 course meal was shot through with startling flavours, inventive twists, high craftsmanship and the flashing blade of genius. Alleno manipulates flavours and textures with the dexterity of a card-sharp; a master of close-up magic that will take your breath away.

Posted Image

You want examples? Well, how about the three lettuce leaves served with the goose fois gras from the quercy region confit with truffles, gelee and red beet salad with walnut oil. Not impressed? You try finding salad that is so bursting with fresh, crisp flavour that it almost overpowers the liver. Or imagine the sort of lateral thinking that results in parmesan shaved at the table and served with whipped vacherin mont d’or from meaux flavoured with white truffle oil and mustard fruits.

I could tell you about the stunning breads and the very fine pastry work; I could describe the extensive gueridon work, the millefeuille built at tableside. I could explain how exquisite that first sip of 1989 Pommery champagne tasted and how good the slight burn from the last drop of calvados felt as it slipped down the back of my throat. But I’m not some sort of exhibitionist. And I know you’re not any kind of voyeur, so I’m keeping all that stuff for myself.

If you want to really know what Le Meurice is like, there’s only one way you’re going to find out, isn’t there?

#17 pim

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Posted 26 February 2005 - 10:10 AM

I've gone back since that meal that I wrote up on the blog, and was impressed still.

While the guide is not out until next week, the secrets are (in the form of press release). Unfortunately they didn't get the third star this year, perhaps something about being a new team yet at this kitchen, but they were distinguished from the pack of 2-stars by the new designation "espoir", which is given to restaurants that are not only better than the other in the same class, but also represent the hopes of the gastronomy world of tomorrow. The espoirs designated restaurants are -by all appearances- the ones to watch for a star promotion.

A huge congrats to them.

Edited by pim, 26 February 2005 - 10:11 AM.

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#18 mcwein

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 02:03 PM

Andy --

I'm glad you so enjoyed le Meurice. My wife and I have reservations for late May. Can you please comment on the wine list in terms of selection and price? Also, I read that they're now serving wine by the glass to match each course. True?

Thanks

#19 oldschooltie

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Posted 18 March 2005 - 02:23 AM

"Can you please comment on the wine list in terms of selection and price?"

On the basis of a visit this February, selection is astounding and so are the prices.

#20 RichieRich

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 10:42 AM

Long time lurker, first time poster.

I spent a week in Paris at the beginning of May eating my way across town with a buddy of mine. Belated thanks to all at eGullet for such a treasure trove of recommendations. As part of the trip, we dined at Le Meurice and at Ledoyen on successive nights (the better to compare and contrast). I hadn't really planned on posting my notes, but several friends and a guilty conscience have nagged me into it. I don't normally take a lot of dining notes, but this seemed as good an occasion as any to start. Apologies in advance for the length.

If this generates sufficient interest, I can follow it up with notes from Ledoyen.

Dinner at Le Meurice 5/3/05
Hotel Meurice
Chef: Yannick Alleno

Room décor is consistent with the rest of the hotel – gorgeous over-the-top baroque décor with every surface either gilded, marbled, or multi-colored cast plaster friezes.

Dining room itself is actually fairly small with only a total of 14 tables.

We both choose the 8-course tasting menu (170Euros per person) with wines to match each course (additional 130Euros per person).

For an aperitif, we each choose a glass of Henri Boillot Meursault 2000. To accompany this, we are brought a small amuse of what seems to be a small brioche baked in a tiny bundt pan. The brioche is savory, with small chunks of duck meat mixed into the dough. It is pre-portioned into bite-sized pieces skewered with toothpicks. The very outermost crust is crunchy and buttery, but the rest is just melt-in-your-mouth soft brioche with savory duck bits. It was an OK match with the Meursault, but had I known in advance, I might have gone for a red burgundy to match with it – but that’s probably splitting hairs and more a personal preference than anything else.

At the same time we are offered a selection of the house breads. I choose the olive bread. Again it seems perfectly done. I could eat the butter that accompanies it with a spoon as a separate course…but I digress.

Second amuse: 3 small bay scallops in their shells topped with a cream/foam. Again, perfectly prepared and actually a nice match with the Meursault.

First course: A small langoustine tail, marinated but otherwise raw, surrounded by a crystal-clear green apple jelly and topped with osetra caviar. Wine was a 1999 Clos Saint-Yves Savannieres. This was one of the best dishes of the evening for me. The tart green apple jelly was incredible in combination with the crisp clear clean shellfish essence of the langoustine. The caviar garnish just put it over the top. The wine also reinforced the sense of crisp/clean (apologies for my lack of better wine descriptions).

Second course: Four asparagus wrapped in a Spanish Serrano-type ham, roasted, and then each topped with 3 tiny disks of bone marrow. The bone marrow was the interesting part of this course for me – it added a certain depth and fullness to the asparagus and ham and of course wasn’t just laid on in a slap-dash fashion. When the plate was first presented, the bone marrow looked like tiny white perfectly-formed mints placed on top of each asparagus spear. It obviously had to have been formed in some sort of a tube or ring mold and then sliced perfectly, but even so, the effect was really impressive. Wine was a 2001 Domain Trimbach Muscat d’Alsace. This was a revelation as a food/wine pairing as I’ve always struggled to try and beat the classic conundrum of trying to match asparagus with any wine. But the slightly sweet/syrupy character of the Muscat worked very well in this case – perhaps helped by the bone marrow. But at some point you just have to say the combination worked.

Third course: Roast seabass wrapped in spinach, served on a bed of spring peas and fava beans with roasted spring garlic and tiny Noirmoutier potatoes. Wine was a 1978 Domaine Leroy Puligny-Montrachet premier cru. While the seabass was first-rate, what made this course for me was the wine. I have never had the opportunity to taste a really fine, aged white Burgundy until now. I was amazed at how young this wine tasted. I kept sneaking a look at the label to make sure it was really as advertised. This wine (besides being an obvious first class burgundy) tasted like it was still on its upward slope. An amazing experience and may have ruined me forever in terms of what I can find in my local San Diego wine retailers.

Fourth course: Duck Fois Gras poached in Gevrey-Chambertin. This was the other course of the night for me (beside the langoustine). The fois gras was outstanding, poached in the same wine served with the course – a 2000 V.Geantet-Pansiot Gevry-Chambertin ‘Vielle Vignes’. The fois gras was served with a truffle jus that was more truffle chunks than jus. But what made the dish really interesting to me was the little “gnocci” that accompanied it. They looked like they were piped with a star tip and then filled with a green pea puree. Then they were poached in the same truffle jus as was served with the fois gras. Finally, they were each trimmed off flat at one end and covered with a thin disk of parmagiano-reggiano.

Fifth course: Choice of poached filet of beef with bone marrow or poulet de bresse with fois gras and moreilles. We both chose the poulet de bresse. This was ¾ inch vertical slice of breast meat with a thick slice of fois gras placed between the skin and the breast. It was served with a truffle sauce (again) and also with several small moreilles in a cream sauce on the side. In addition, 3 small perfectly turned baby parsnips stuffed with some sort of forcemeat (I couldn’t really identify and it wasn’t listed on the menu). Wine was a 1995 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. This wine was listed on the menu as the wine for both the beef and the poulet de bresse. It had a most amazing nose – something like a cedar cigar box but with other aromatics and deep rich plums as well. And while it was a fabulous wine, I found myself wondering if it wouldn’t have been a slightly better match with the beef than with the chicken – but that’s nit-picking.

Sixth course: In lieu of a strict “cheese” course, this was a compose of razor-thin beet slices covered with comte cheese, drizzled with hazelnut oil, melted, and then surrounded by baby spring greens (mostly baby beet greens I think). Wine was a 1998 Domaine Rolet Arboise Blanc from the Jura. The compose was good, but I found myself wishing for a more straightforward cheese course at this point (although they do have a regular cheese course it wasn’t part of the tasting menu). But this wine was the wine discovery of the night for me. I had never tasted any wine from the Jura region before although I have heard of the “vin jaune”. But this wine (described by the sommelier as 80% chardonnay and 20% jura grapes – my notes are a bit unclear at this point) simply didn’t taste like anything I’d ever had before. I can’t really describe the flavor other than to say it was strong, rich, but not syrupy or cloying in the least. Of course, it’s now a few weeks later so my memory is a bit faded…

After this was the mignardise tray: a tiny fraise des bois macaron, a tall shot glass of grapefruit sorbet, and a tiny chocolate scallop shell filled with what I think was a chestnut puree.

Seventh course (dessert 1): A vanilla crème “log” wrapped by a tuile cookie with sliced hazelnuts. This was topped with a perfect line of tiny “fraise des bois”. Wine was a Loire valley dessert wine – 2001 O. De Cenival Couteaux du Layon ‘Chaumes’. The strawberries and the vanilla were perfectly balanced and the wine was not too sweet so the combination worked very nicely. It’s amazing how intense the flavor can be in those little fraise des bois.

Eighth course (dessert 2): A poached pear that had been hollowed out and filled with a vanilla filling and topped with another tuile cookie on top. The pear was somehow both poached and seemingly caramelized (at least that’s how it tasted). The vanilla crème was made from some sort of exotic Venezuelan vanilla bean (whose name escapes me at the moment). In fact, when I asked about it they made a point of bringing out several beans in pieces on a serving plate to show me. It was surrounded by a drizzle of pear puree as a garnish. Same wine as dessert 1.

Overall, it was a wonderful meal. I thought the langoustine and the fois gras courses really highlighted Chef Alleno’s reputation for creativity with classic ingredients. He came over to our table at the end of the meal and I said how much I enjoyed the combination of the green apple jelly and the langoustine. He said “you know, it’s funny – we first tried that jelly with fois gras and it was disgusting!”. Somehow I found that very refreshing. Service was dedicated, thorough, and very personable but with a few minor glitches along the way. Ex: at one point they brought out the third wine instead of the second, though they quickly corrected themselves. Another minor nit on the wine service: You are only given one glass of each wine for each course. And the wines are served somewhat ahead of each course. If you finish a wine too soon, too bad. While it’s certainly a fair pour (and the sommelier is particularly personable), I found it an interesting contrast to Ledoyen where each course’s wine was continually refilled until well after we had finished that course.

Total bill for two (including 2 1962 Armagnacs): 761Euros.

#21 wyf4lyf

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 01:39 PM

What a wonderful report! Please do post your report about Ledoyen, too. Anything to transport me back to Paris!!! :)

#22 RichieRich

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 10:57 AM

Thanks very much, wyf4lyf! I'll post my Ledoyen notes in a separate topic.

#23 mcwein

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 11:53 AM

I was browsing and happened to notice your post. We ate at Le Meurice about a month after you did -- also the tasting menu with wine matches. My notes are very similar to yours. It was the best meal on our 10-day trip to Provence/Cote D'Azur (we spent the last night in Paris) -- and that includes dinner at Louis XV, which was a minor disappointment. As for the Chateau Chalon from Jura, it is quite different indeed. You might know that it's aged for over 6 years in virtually uncovered oak (a filmy yeast is what covers it). We bought a 1976 Chateau Chalon (Darraud-Perron) in Nice, and were told by the shopkeeper that the wine is in its infancy :shock: I've read the wine can go 100 years.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading your post. It brought back great memories.

#24 vinobiondo

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 07:05 PM

LE MEURICE

I have rarely been more excited for a meal than I was for my late April dinner at Le Meurice. After reading seemingly limitless hype and being urged to go by friends who had been, I was confident this would be among the best meals of our trip to Paris/Barcelona/Mallorca.

It was impossibly romantic to be dressed up in a nice suit, strolling down Rue de Rivoli in a light drizzle, holding an umbrella over a beautiful woman dressed to the nines – and all right around sunset time. Yeah, that’s tough to beat.

The jet lag having just worn off, we felt well adjusted to Europe and ready to go. I was confident that Le Meurice would show Melissa just what “Fancy French Food” was all about.

Taking the advice of our hotel concierge, we made sure to leave extra time so we could enjoy a Meurice Millennium Champagne at the hotel bar. This is an impossibly cool bar and a truly fantastic cocktail. It is champagne rosé, liqueur de rose and Cointreau garnished with a gorgeous oversized knot tied out of orange peel (I pictured a basement sweatshop dedicated to nothing but orange-peel bows – I’m sure it takes 4-5 tries to get one just right). I have never been so glad to pay 40 Euros (or was it 50?) for a pair of cocktails. Indeed, this prompted us to spend the following afternoon taking a survey of the champagne-based house cocktails at the chi-chi Paris hotels – Meurice won hands down.

Here it is:

Posted Image

By now we were downright giddy with excitement.

The room is beautiful if a bit cold – the high ceilings and lack of floor coverings make it feel like an ornate baroque racquetball court. Both the strange acoustics and stiff atmosphere make you feel like you have to whisper and sit up straight – like you’re in church.

Posted Image

We quickly opted for the tasting menu (170 Euros each) with wine pairings (another 130 Euros each). In April, that was nearly $800.

Before I tell you why I ended up profoundly disappointed with this meal, a few positives. I read RichieRich’s post on Le Meurice …

http://forums.egulle...9866&hl=Meurice

…with some interest, as we were there at almost the same time (seven days apart). Indeed, I had many of the same dishes and many of the same wine pairings. What’s funny is that I don’t disagree with much of what he wrote. And yet, just a few subtle differences made all the difference. To wit:

(1) I agree that the wine pairings were fantastic. Even when the food wasn’t great, every single wine was a very thoughtful and appropriate companion to the food. This is even more remarkable because several of the wines aren’t exactly collector’s items. In particular, allow me to second RichieRich’s favorable comments about the Zind-Humbrecht Muscat and asparagus combination. I didn’t like this dish, but the food/wine pairing was undeniably successful.
(2) I agree that both the seabass and the ’78 Leroy were excellent.
(3) I really enjoyed both the ’95 Leoville Poyferré and the Poulet de Bresse (by far the best Bresse chicken I had in France).

So why was he so happy and we were so disappointed?

It was all in the early courses.

Our surprise amuse was a (quite large) avocado mousse with a gelatin layer and some crab underneath. Alas, yet more French avocado abuse! This was downright disgusting – awful taste, worse texture -- so bad, I said so to Chef Alleno later in the meal. To be precise, I told him rather pointedly that some of the courses I didn’t enjoy might just be a matter of taste, but that “as the grandson of an avocado farmer who has eaten hundreds and hundreds of avocados in many, many different forms, this was just plain wrong.” I honestly can’t see how anyone with any familiarity with avocado would enjoy this dish. I note with interest that it was off the menu by the time RichieRich arrived exactly one week later. I’m not saying we made this happen, but we could not possibly have been clearer in expressing our displeasure, and I assure you all that RichieRich is very glad he wasn’t subjected to this abomination. It appears the Parisian chefs are hell bent on using avocado after all the praise heaped on L’Astrance’s now-famous crab-and-avocado dish. This was NOT a good knock-off.

I don’t want to be too dramatic, but it is hard to emphasize how deflated we were after this course. Fresh from the Jules Verne debacle, this is exactly what we didn’t need at the start.

Alas, our second amuse has been forgotten. All I remember is that we really didn’t like it either. By now, a sense of gloom began to descend upon our table.

The first course was “Fresh Anchovy Seasoned Like a Tabouleh.” We both love anchovies. Although it was quite pretty to look at, we both hated this. The real problem here was the “fresh” part. These anchovies weren’t. Unfresh, unpreserved anchovies are not tasty.

Next was the second course – the “vegetable” course of “Green Asparagus Glazed with Bone Marrow and Parmesan Cheese.” Although not in the menu description, there was also some ham involved. This was veritably slathered with bone marrow, cheese and ham, resulting in a dish that was outrageously heavy, soaked in fat, in no way refreshing, and having very little to do with asparagus. I’m not sure this is a bad dish, but the way our particular servings were executed was way, way, way too rich – to the point of being unpleasant.

By now, we have had four items – and both disliked every single one of them.

By now, 600 Euros poorer and with our sky-high spirits having come back to earth, this meal was going to be a failure no matter what. And to have your first fancy meal and a half be Jules Verne followed by these four courses was very discouraging for both of us (fortunately, Le Pre Catalan got us back on track in a big way the following day at lunch).

To the extent we remained capable of enjoying our meal, we both were pleased with the sea bass (same as RichieRich’s). The foie gras (Duck Foie Gras poached in Chambertin Wine with Pasta Cooked in Truffle Jus and Stuffed with Green Pea Puree) was the next course. It had a texture in between soggy bread and chicken fat, and was exceptional in its blandness (hard to do with foie gras and truffles!). Melissa doesn’t dig on organ meat, so she subbed in a “Light Shellfish Soup Opened with Seaweed Steam” that tasted basically like salty, canned fish stock.

Our main courses – the Poulet de Bresse for me and the Poached Fillet of Beef for her – were excellent. But by now, it was far, far too late for one or two good courses to save this meal.

The cheese (same as RichieRich’s) was pretty good, and the desserts (a strawberry and ice cream situation and the same pear RichieRich was served) were quite nice but far from revolutionary.

The service was very, very formal and stiff – enough to make one almost uncomfortable, actually. By the middle of our meal, it was pretty obvious to everyone that we weren’t enjoying ourselves (even the people at the next table, who felt free to cast disapproving glances and insult us and all things American to such an extent that even my limited French could understand some of it). Dish after dish was being returned unfinished, and the service staff knew we were displeased. At the end of the meal, Chef Alleno came out to chat with us, and it was clear that he had been briefed.

He was very gracious and professional. We did not mince words, and he took what criticism was offered in the spirit in which it was offered. He seemed genuinely disappointed that we had not enjoyed ourselves, genuinely interested in what we had to say, and a genuinely nice guy.

We walked back home in rain, all the excitement and romance having been sucked from such a promising evening.

LE MEURICE
Final Grade: 76 ( C )

Edited by vinobiondo, 27 July 2005 - 07:07 PM.


#25 RichieRich

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 09:02 AM

Wow vinobiondo! That was definitely a contrast to our meal. I can only say I'm glad the appetizer courses had changed by the time we were there. And I would have to say (and did so on another thread comparing Le Meurice with Ledoyen) that some of the dishes had a certain "rollercoaster" quality that felt like our palates were being pushed and pulled (sometimes a bit aggressively). Nonetheless, we left feeling very satisfied. I've noted several other positive reviews about Le Meurice here on eGullet, but it sounds like your experience goes beyond the kitchen just having "one of those nights". Hard to know what to make of all that.

#26 vinobiondo

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 12:24 PM

Wow vinobiondo!  That was definitely a contrast to our meal.  I can only say I'm glad the appetizer courses had changed by the time we were there.  And I would have to say (and did so on another thread comparing Le Meurice with Ledoyen) that some of the dishes had a certain "rollercoaster" quality that felt like our palates were being pushed and pulled (sometimes a bit aggressively).  Nonetheless, we left feeling very satisfied.  I've noted several other positive reviews about Le Meurice here on eGullet, but it sounds like your experience goes beyond the kitchen just having "one of those nights".  Hard to know what to make of all that.

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More than anything, I think it just goes to show how little has to go wrong to torpedo a meal at a restaurant of this caliber. After all, our fish, our meat, our cheese, our dessert, our wine were all very good to excellent. The room is beautiful if cold and the service is very professional if equally stiff. I actually think it mostly was the kitchen having "one of those nights" along with one poorly conceived dish served to just the wrong people and just the wrong time. But when you pony up the big bucks, you expect perfection, which is just what we got at three other Parisian restaurants this same week. By the way, your Ledoyen post was excellent, and I kicked myself for choosing the romantic setting of the Eiffel Tower at Jules Verne over the romantic setting of Ledoyen. It also amazed my that two people who live in San Clemente and San Diego find themselves eating nearly the same meal at the same restaurant on a different continent one week apart...

#27 pim

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 02:04 PM

Was that amuse this dish?

Posted Image
chez pim
not an arbiter of taste

#28 vinobiondo

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 08:19 PM

Was that amuse this dish?

Posted Image

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This is similar with at least one important difference. Assuming the ingredients are the same (can't tell just by looking), the green layer on the bottom of yours was up at the top of our and, partially because of the conical glass, probably 6 times as large volume-wise. We had less crab, less gelatin and much more whipped avocado (which, for me, was the main problem). This does look similar, however. Let me guess ... you loved it. :wink:

#29 docsconz

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 08:21 PM

I must say I don't know how it tasted, but the photo sure looks appetizing! That is a great restaurant photo.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
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#30 tony h

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 04:02 AM

I'm a bit hazy but here's my recollection of last Saturday’s tasting menu

- Couple of amuses which escape me
- melon gelee, melon soup & sauterne forth on top. v refreshing
- aubergine “cube” with sardine cream - various garishness – sucked
really badly (still evolving, I guess)
- snapper with artichoke, celery & saffron “broth” – really good
- roast foie gras on a bed of roast cherries – fantastic (needed a little
more salt, though)
- lobster tail stuffed with herbs on a bed of girolles – v good cream sauce
- beef fillet poached with bone marrow; little ravioli filled with
minced veg – great sauce
- chicken stuffed with foie gras & mini turnips stuffed with
something (forget) – v good
- goats cheese with olive oil ice cream – the ice cream not a patch
on gangaire’s
- bombarded with desserts – all pretty wonderful

Certainly gone up a notch since my last visit a year ago - only one bum dish the aubergine thing at the start.