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Bu Pun Su

Arpege: 2006-present

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This year Spring I went to L'Arpege for dinner. Below is my short summary of what I think about that place

Food and Wine

The food here is superb from caviar dishes to seafood and poultry (I think this place no longer serves red meat anymore), the best I've ever had in my life - beating JG, ADNY, Le Bristol, Can Fabes and Calandre, only ADPA comes close. The veggie dishes and vegetables complemented the fish or chicken are above anywhere else. Even though Passard (he was in his garden outside Paris) did not present that night, the chef de cuisine still did a great job. Passard truly elevate the humblest vegetables to sublime heights such as: thin raviolis, onion gratin and spinach. The tomatoes here are amazing. I ate their fresh tomatoes grown in its garden, man I could not believe if a simple and raw tomato tastes that good. Moreoever, I ate the best caviar and chicken dishes as well as dessert here. The cheese is very delightful as well. Eating here is like ... I really don't know how to describe it, ethereal perhaps.

I didn't really see the wine selection right here, maybe the list won't be as thick as its competitors. I did this since I told the sommelier directly to pair me some glasses of wine for the dishes. The chef sommelier was very friendly, easy-going and knowledgeable. He's a very nice person to talk to, not only that he gave the best champagne and port I've ever drunk. The wine over here is all about the qualities (good wines do not have to be Petrus, Burgundy or Chateau d'Yquem), like its food. The wine tasting here is my 2nd best (hard to believe I drink better wine here than in Plaza Athenee restaurant), slightly below my Essex House wine-pairing experience.

Decoration and Service

The restaurant's decoration is quite simple, even understated but I like it (It seems they try to avoid gloomy cellar room). One can see etched glass, burnished steel, pearwood paneling and monochromatic oil paintings. There is nothing fancy like a big crystal chandelier or very expensive sculptures/paintings, yet it's still comfortable. The service? I would say it's very fantastic - one of the best one I've ever attended. Despite a few numbers of staffs, they were never short-handed and very attentive to its guests without being icy or overwhelmed. They really show what 3* michelin service should like. In these 2 departments, I would say L'Arpege is the opposite of all traditional Parisian luxury restaurants whose staffs often outnumber the number of guests dining there or which were full of many luxurious and expensive goods to show off.

The link below show more details (review) about my experience in L'Arpege including the description of the dishes and wines that I had as well as my little adventure there

L'Arpege Spring 06

If any of you simply would like to see pictures directly, you can see them here

L'Arpege Dishes Spring 06

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FYI: Forbes.com reported that the world's most expensive tasting menu is that at l'Arpege at $465.

Yeah, Arpege is the most expensive one especially when EUR 1 is close to USD 1.4

Veyrat decreases his price into EUR 338 from EUR 385 (for 16-18 courses?) Arpege served 8 courses ... I think ADPA is not cheap either if not more (1 amuse - the famous langoustines caviar, 3 courses, cheese and dessert cost about EUR 320)

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FYI: Forbes.com reported that the world's most expensive tasting menu is that at l'Arpege at $465.

Yeah, Arpege is the most expensive one especially when EUR 1 is close to USD 1.4

Veyrat decreases his price into EUR 338 from EUR 385 (for 16-18 courses?) Arpege served 8 courses ... I think ADPA is not cheap either if not more (1 amuse - the famous langoustines caviar, 3 courses, cheese and dessert cost about EUR 320)

Well, now that it's cheap, I may go back :rolleyes: . Actually, you're cheating! I just checked the website and there is a special offer of a 12 course menu for 420. (though they announce ân 18 course one for 338 as you mention). And also the night + meal (including breakfast!) for two persons for only 1445€.

Have you been lately, Bu Pun Su? I went twice in 2000 and I thought at the time that it was not better than the good classics like l'Ambroisie or l'Arpège. But now that I know what other "moleculars" do, I have a whole new respect for Marc Veyrat's cooking, which is always good, well composed, and full of ideas that are truly brilliant also because they are easy to replicate.


Edited by julot-les-pinceaux (log)

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julot-les-pinceaux,

Actually, I've never been to any Marc Veyrat's establishment - I'd love to one day. If not mistaken, the EUR 420 (12-course) would include aperitif, wine and coffee/tea? Arpege is very expensive since we hardly find "luxurious" ingredients (like Iranian caviar, morels or white truffles) in their dishes anymore. I think the guests really pay for the Passard's cooking skills and his garden vegetables most of the time, not very much of the rare ingredients

Mind sharing your experience at Veyrat's? Is Gault Millau's 20/20 bestowed to his establishment(s) justified? Thanks

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Well, As I said, I only went back in 2000, so my memories, even if they were acurate, would not be really relevant to Veyrat today. But the things which, in retrospect, strike me, are:

1- Veyrat never forgets to do really good food, ingredients and preparations are absolutely flawless and always very pleasant to eat (no innovation for innovation's sake)

2- Veyrat's menus are really well composed, with a carefully constructed progression

3- Obviously, he likes to show off. In plates and in person.

My specific memories include "legumes oublies au gout de terre", some uncommon vegetables with a truffle sauce, intense. A boudin de lotte (monkfish sausage), just perfect, melty and complex in tastes. A wonderful turbot cooked on some bark which gave it particular flavour. A funny and a bit pointless "soupe de potimarrons au lard virtuel", pumpkin soup with a milk foam, bacon having marinated in the milk. But great soup, light and intense, no butter. There was a genepi sorbet inside a chocolate sphere that looked like the Death Star in Star Wars, and they would pour hot chocolate on the Death Star, and the star yould melt from the top, and reveal the genepi "core" -- and that was good if you liked Genepi and chocolate (I don't). A set of five crèmes brulées flavoured with different local herbs -- more a guessing game than an actual dish.

And, even if Passard is worse, that was god damn expensive.

All in all, as I said, I think it is simply less good than Loiseau or l'Ambroisie, but this was the best mix I know between crazy innovation and good food. And I like that most of Veyrat's innovations are real innovations: they spread quickly, from Grand restaurants to bistrots everywhere. Veyrat contributed to everyday cooking, and still does. In that sense, the 20/20 of GM is justified because GM cares a lot about innovation and quality and precision of cooking at the same time.

But, as you know, I believe that ranking restaurants is crap -- you define a preliminary criteria and then you can rank restaurants according to these criteria. But if you focus on the restaurants as a human, multi-faceted, cultural experience, then the real questions are about what is the singularity of the place, what can you expect, how to enjoy it best, what kind of occasion is it best suited for? And that does not fit in a scale.


Edited by julot-les-pinceaux (log)

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Thanks for sharing

I don't take the restaurant ranking as absolute, but it's still useful as a guidelines combined with direct feedback form people in the forum, otherwise I would be lost or get confused which ones to choose especially since I need to fly more than 10 hours to get to France - in a sense I already know where to go.

How do you pick your restaurants? I know that your experience is very extensive (if not the most experienced one). After being to so many starred restaurants, what are your fav. and why? Is it the same like many heavy weight diners - usually they loved Robuchon's Jamin or Girardet's l'hotel de ville. Thanks


Edited by Bu Pun Su (log)

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Thanks for sharing

I don't take the restaurant ranking as absolute, but it's still useful as a guidelines combined with direct feedback form people in the forum, otherwise I would be lost or get confused which ones to choose especially since I need to fly more than 10 hours to get to France - in a sense I already know where to go.

How do you pick your restaurants? I know that your experience is very extensive (if not the most experienced one). After being to so many starred restaurants, what are your fav. and why? Is it the same like many heavy weight diners - usually they loved Robuchon's Jamin or Girardet's l'hotel de ville. Thanks

I agree about the utility of ranking. Which is I argue that two or three stars are characterisations, not ranking. Two stars means top quality food, three means unique restaurant.

How do I chose my restaurants? Like all of us: a lot of reading everywhere, with particular attention to the opinions of some persons. And sometimes I am attracted to a place. I also beware of too unanimous opinions, one way or the other (esp. unanimously bad opinions saying all the same thing, like for Bocuse or Winkler).

Never went to Robuchon's Jamin or Girardet's. My best meals were consistently at Lucas Carton and Loiseau, followed by Roellinger, l'Ambroisie, and Guichard's Jamin. What they have in common in an obsessive care and perfectionism that allows their style to express and the food to be truly exceptional. There are people there with an obsession of doing the best possible meal. And the skills to deliver, of course.

I don't like places that have industrialised their process and are not taking risks (if you see whom I mean). To me, an exceptional meal must indeed be exceptional -- a way to capture the moment. It can be a roast chicken but it must be made with sensitivity and care, adapting to the singular ingredients and the moment. It's not about price, or novelty.

Which are your favorites and why?

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My favorite restaurants?

Actually my L'Arpege's review in this forum is the best dining experience I've ever had (my 2nd visit, while it's still much better than other starred restaurants, was fall a bit behind - I will share this in the other occasion). I pretty much liked everything there ... food is very sublime, simple yet complex, innovative and very delicious. The ingredients, while not always luxurious, are first class (i.e. the butter, the vegetables or even like the lobster - while most places will get from Brittany, they got it from a smaller island - ile chausey - where I had to admit that it's extremely delicious and special). Somehow, the food there is very flavorful - Passard has the ability to unleash all the potential and elements of every ingredient and combine them in a wonderful dish - tasty and balanced.

I don't like places that have industrialised their process and are not taking risks (if you see whom I mean)
I guess the person you refered to is Alain Ducasse ... (true?) I'm sorry to say but ... my dining in ADPA comes in at 2nd place as my fav. after L'Arpege. Food wise - again, the raw materials are amazing - both fresh (and luxurious - typical Ducasse). What I like is the intense and rigorous preparation done by chef Moret. Like the scallops with coconut curry and/or the Bresse chicken with crayfishes & mushrooms - they actually contained quite a few different elements in the dish, but they blend together nicely without losing out the flavor of the main ingredient (definitely not as complex as Gagnaire).

Then, restaurant is not 100% about the food for me, the service also matters to some degree. Ducasse's team in his 3-star places always very professional, you hardly found any misteps, they're all friendly without being intimidating. The one in L'Arpege is more personal except they're overcrowded like in my 2nd visit. While for the rests of places I like would be Gagnaire and Ambroisie. Followed by the next tier are places like Calandre, Can Fabes, Oud Sluis etc.

No wonder you still often visit Senderens since Lucas Carton was one of your top lists. Is it still possible to eat Lucas Carton's level food in Senderens suppose one makes a special request (the price would be more of course)? Loiseau? Do you like it in the past or even until now?

John,

Just curious, what's wrong with current restaurants? It seems that the restaurant you cherised all are "old" to me - I would still love eating KFC and McD at that time. Isn't there any place now that even closed? What is the different between the current and the past Lameloise?


Edited by Bu Pun Su (log)

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"langoustines, huitres et ormeaux au jus d'ortie", (what's ortie in English? I always forget)

ORTIE would be stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) as in nettle soup.

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Host's Note

I've started a new topic over here on places long gone for the troisieme age bunch. I moved some of your posts that seemed relevant. This can now revert to l'Arpege.

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Arpege is the only 3-star restaurants so far that I (finally) visited more than once. Serving the meal of my life in April 06 and the fact that they have many new "dishes" provide me sufficient basis to return there. Moreover, this time around chef Passard was actually in the kitchen even though I did not see him walk around the dining room during my dinner. Anyway, here is my report:

Food/Wine (98/95)

I ordered the degustation menu (again).

- Poached egg. This is the official amuse at Arpege - it doesn't matter what you order, your meal will begin with this wonderful egg, combining the bitter and sweet taste. As always good.

- Veloute of veggies with ham-flavor cream cheese. I prefer to eat the "vegetables" soup by itself, the ham slightly "polute" the pure taste of the vegetables.

- Radisotto. I'm a big fan of risotto and paella. This one? I still find it kinda "funny". There are many sour/acidic flavor on this disc that I did not really enjoy it. I guess rice is still the best ingredients for any "risotto" dish

- Selection of chef's vegetables. This is supposed to be one of the dish Passard is proud of. There are beetroots, couscous, different kind of carrots inside. As far as I could remember, only the carrots are memorable (similar to my tomato last year - I could not believe that carrots could taste this good). The argon oil is light and delectable. Overally, it does not integrate as good as I would like to, but still it's still above other vegetable dishes cooked by other chefs. Perhaps, I'm not into veggies ...

So far ... I wonder whether my decision to return here is correct. Then, comes ...

- Turbot cooked at low temperature. The turbot was precisely cut and cooked with its bone and skin. The taste is very rich and delicious, one could taste all aspects of the turbot. If that not enough, mix the decadent butter sauce to make it even more flavorful. If that's too much for you, take the fava beans to turn down the turbot intensity. Many dimensions to play around ... simply wonderful, this makes Ledoyen's turbot to be bland. The best fish in my life (only Gagnaire's seabass comes close)

- The timeless lobster braised in yellow wine. The lobster here is very special, it's from a small island in the middle of Brittany in which the size is somehow smaller than normal blue lobster, but tastewise ... oh la la. The texture is slightly "tender" yet the structure is still firm. Even by itself, the lobster is already tasty and sweet. But, that's not it ... it's enhanced with the acidic taste from the yellow wine and sorrels ... it's simply ethereal. Plus a sip of white burgundy ... simply perfect. Sorry monsieur Pacaud, I have to put this lobster dish slightly above your navarin de homard

These 2 perfect dishes alone are enough for me to come here. Comparable to last year's back to back of the monk fish and free range of chicken prepared by the sous chef - Anthony

- Vegetables ravioli in clear soup. A simple and balanced consomme - break time before the main dish I suppose

- T-bone of lamb. Did I win a jackpot here? Almost ... the side's part of the lamb is incredible - combination of crispy skin, sinful layers of fat, rich & tender meat are really good. A harmony is created with fresh potatoes and parsley sauce. However, as you go to the back part near the "bone", unfortunately, the meat was overcooked - it became rather hard and tasteless. Oh well ... the first 2-3 bytes were enough to make me say this is still a very good dish. The surprising part is that Passard still cooked red meat and he did it very2 well.

- Cheese. I was disappointed when the restaurant told me that no comte available at that time which is unbelievable (only goat/sheep cheese available). Actually, they're not bad at all. I had 4 slices only - soft La Gayrie, nearly sweet Chevrotin des Aravis, creamy Laurentine, and buche du Gers

- The tasting menu dessert is not very interesting. So, I requested the kitchen to provide me with simple fruits - raspberries served with olive oil, vinegar and honey (the original version is with strawberries, but not available - recommended by Alain Llorca). How's it? I think it did not really work - the raspberries are not very sweet, then those olive oil, vinegar and honey don't mix well - you could taste all of them separately in your mouth. Not as good as I expected

- Despite requesting special dessert, the restaurant still give me the regular sweets - 3 macarons (with veggie flavors: rhubarb, sorels and mint) - uniquely L'Arpege plus some chocolate and almond biscuits

- Similar to my last visit, they gave me a bonus dessert. This time is mocha sorbet with lemon grass sauce and caramel milk. Ice cream is always a nice way to end a meal for me.This one, however, is a bit too intense for a dessert - the excellent mocha flavor with caramel sweetness ... not easy to swallow. The portion is generous, I could only finish half of it

Some of you have been wondering what a really 3-star food for me since I hardly gave it to any places ... well, Arpege is definitely one of them. I bestow 98/100 (a solid and convincing 3-star) for this dinner. I'm not sure about the creativity, but I find Anthony (the sous chef) interpreted the philosohical technique of Passard very well, especially the execution is rigorous and precise (similar to the way chef Moret cooks Ducasse's food) - this was very clear in my first visit when Passard was not around in the kitchen. Give 2-3 years time, I won't be surprised that people will begin to know the name Anthony in the world of haute cuisine (even though it might not be to the extend of Pascal Barbot)

The wine list here is known to quite bad in terms of value of money, so I don't really bother to see the list this time. I just told the sommeliers (yup, there are 2 of them now and Stephane Thivat was no longer there) to give me a glass of white for the seafood/fish and a glass of red for the lamb. At the beginning, I had a glass of Champagne Krug Brut Grande Cuvée - balanced and full of finesse, wonderfully creamy and more importantly has a long, lingering finish. For the wines, I drank Domaine Laroche Les Vaillons Premier Cru Chablis 2004; it is fruity and full bodied with mineral structure and very good balance, a lovely choice for the turbot and the lobster. For the lamb, the sommelier suggested: Château la Gordonne Domaine Listel 2002; this still wine is fresh and light; barely sweet which is good since the lamb is palatable. Overally, I was happy with their selections.

Service/Decoration (95/94)

Nothing has changed in term of the dining room decor of the restaurant. Last year the restaurant was full, this time it's actually more than full. What do I mean? They decide to put 2 additional tables in the middle of the dining room (these 2 tables were not there when I ate last year). This addition, made the small dining room more crammed. The staffs often waited for each other just to walk around the room or bring the food - in and out of the kitchen. The unique part is that at every table, there's a water melon from the garden - just for decoration only. It's still a small and intimate dining room, the limited light create a nice atmosphere but it makes more difficult when I try to take the pictures of the dishes - the results are not that great. If not mistaken, more than half of staffs are new, but the manager is still the same, Laurent Lapaire - probably the best maitre d'hotel in my opinion (seriously even better than ADPA's Mr. Courtiade or Ambroisie's Mr. Pascal). Mr. Lapaire is very friendly and helpful. For instance, he went over the dishes in the menu one by one in details - pretty much in every single table he served; he also brought me the 2 sample lobsters from the kitchen when I was curious what Ile Chausey's lobsters were liked. Under his guidance, the service here is more informal, but very personal. Diners feel like eating at home, and they can ask pretty much everything. Another good things for me is that almost 2/3 of the staffs could speak English - a feat that I hardly find in other establishments except if the restaurants are located in the hotel. The downside is probably - because the restaurant is really full and the number of staffs are not that many, so I did not get a chance to talk with them as much as my first visit (last time, they often stopped by and entertain a lone diner); nevertheless it's a 3-star service. I think it simply means that the next time I come here again, I should not book on Friday night

The overall score for this dining experience is 96/100 (a 2 3/4* but very close to 3-star). The crammed dining room and the slightly lower service than my 1st visit (due to the overflow of the guests) contribute to the lower score. And also the food ... I will put some comparisons later on when I have time. Here are the links for the pictures: L'Arpege Summer 07

And if you want to know more details about this adventure, please click:

L'Arpege 2 review

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Arpege is the only 3-star restaurants so far that I (finally) visited more than once. Serving the meal of my life in April 06 and the fact that they have many new "dishes" provide me sufficient basis to return there. Moreover, this time around chef Passard was actually in the kitchen even though I did not see him walk around the dining room during my dinner. Anyway, here is my report:

Food/Wine (98/95)

I ordered the degustation menu (again).

- Poached egg. This is the official amuse at Arpege - it doesn't matter what you order, your meal will begin with this wonderful egg, combining the bitter and sweet taste. As always good.

- Veloute of veggies with ham-flavor cream cheese. I prefer to eat the "vegetables" soup by itself, the ham slightly "polute" the pure taste of the vegetables.

- Radisotto. I'm a big fan of risotto and paella. This one? I still find it kinda "funny". There are many sour/acidic flavor on this disc that I did not really enjoy it. I guess rice is still the best ingredients for any "risotto" dish

- Selection of chef's vegetables. This is supposed to be one of the dish Passard is proud of. There are beetroots, couscous, different kind of carrots inside. As far as I could remember, only the carrots are memorable (similar to my tomato last year - I could not believe that carrots could taste this good). The argon oil is light and delectable. Overally, it does not integrate as good as I would like to, but still it's still above other vegetable dishes cooked by other chefs. Perhaps, I'm not into veggies ...

So far ... I wonder whether my decision to return here is correct. Then, comes ...

- Turbot cooked at low temperature. The turbot was precisely cut and cooked with its bone and skin. The taste is very rich and delicious, one could taste all aspects of the turbot. If that not enough, mix the decadent butter sauce to make it even more flavorful. If that's too much for you, take the fava beans to turn down the turbot intensity. Many dimensions to play around ... simply wonderful, this makes Ledoyen's turbot to be bland. The best fish in my life (only Gagnaire's seabass comes close)

- The timeless lobster braised in yellow wine. The lobster here is very special, it's from a small island in the middle of Brittany in which the size is somehow smaller than normal blue lobster, but tastewise ... oh la la. The texture is slightly "tender" yet the structure is still firm. Even by itself, the lobster is already tasty and sweet. But, that's not it ... it's enhanced with the acidic taste from the yellow wine and sorrels ... it's simply ethereal. Plus a sip of white burgundy ... simply perfect. Sorry monsieur Pacaud, I have to put this lobster dish slightly above your navarin de homard

These 2 perfect dishes alone are enough for me to come here. Comparable to last year's back to back of the monk fish and free range of chicken prepared by the sous chef - Anthony

- Vegetables ravioli in clear soup. A simple and balanced consomme - break time before the main dish I suppose

- T-bone of lamb. Did I win a jackpot here? Almost ... the side's part of the lamb is incredible - combination of crispy skin, sinful layers of fat, rich & tender meat are really good. A harmony is created with fresh potatoes and parsley sauce. However, as you go to the back part near the "bone", unfortunately, the meat was overcooked - it became rather hard and tasteless. Oh well ... the first 2-3 bytes were enough to make me say this is still a very good dish. The surprising part is that Passard still cooked red meat and he did it very2 well.

- Cheese. I was disappointed when the restaurant told me that no comte available at that time which is unbelievable (only goat/sheep cheese available). Actually, they're not bad at all. I had 4 slices only - soft La Gayrie, nearly sweet Chevrotin des Aravis, creamy Laurentine, and buche du Gers

- The tasting menu dessert is not very interesting. So, I requested the kitchen to provide me with simple fruits - raspberries served with olive oil, vinegar and honey (the original version is with strawberries, but not available - recommended by Alain Llorca). How's it? I think it did not really work - the raspberries are not very sweet, then those olive oil, vinegar and honey don't mix well - you could taste all of them separately in your mouth. Not as good as I expected

- Despite requesting special dessert, the restaurant still give me the regular sweets - 3 macarons (with veggie flavors: rhubarb, sorels and mint) - uniquely L'Arpege plus some chocolate and almond biscuits

- Similar to my last visit, they gave me a bonus dessert. This time is mocha sorbet with lemon grass sauce and caramel milk. Ice cream is always a nice way to end a meal for me.This one, however, is a bit too intense for a dessert - the excellent mocha flavor with caramel sweetness ... not easy to swallow. The portion is generous, I could only finish half of it

Some of you have been wondering what a really 3-star food for me since I hardly gave it to any places ... well, Arpege is definitely one of them. I bestow 98/100 (a solid and convincing 3-star) for this dinner. I'm not sure about the creativity, but I find Anthony (the sous chef) interpreted the philosohical technique of Passard very well, especially the execution is rigorous and precise (similar to the way chef Moret cooks Ducasse's food) - this was very clear in my first visit when Passard was not around in the kitchen. Give 2-3 years time, I won't be surprised that people will begin to know the name Anthony in the world of haute cuisine (even though it might not be to the extend of Pascal Barbot)

The wine list here is known to quite bad in terms of value of money, so I don't really bother to see the list this time. I just told the sommeliers (yup, there are 2 of them now and Stephane Thivat was no longer there) to give me a glass of white for the seafood/fish and a glass of red for the lamb. At the beginning, I had a glass of Champagne Krug Brut Grande Cuvée - balanced and full of finesse, wonderfully creamy and more importantly has a long, lingering finish. For the wines, I drank Domaine Laroche Les Vaillons Premier Cru Chablis 2004; it is fruity and full bodied with mineral structure and very good balance, a lovely choice for the turbot and the lobster. For the lamb, the sommelier suggested: Château la Gordonne Domaine Listel 2002; this still wine is fresh and light; barely sweet which is good since the lamb is palatable. Overally, I was happy with their selections.

Service/Decoration (95/94)

Nothing has changed in term of the dining room decor of the restaurant. Last year the restaurant was full, this time it's actually more than full. What do I mean? They decide to put 2 additional tables in the middle of the dining room (these 2 tables were not there when I ate last year). This addition, made the small dining room more crammed. The staffs often waited for each other just to walk around the room or bring the food - in and out of the kitchen. The unique part is that at every table, there's a water melon from the garden - just for decoration only. It's still a small and intimate dining room, the limited light create a nice atmosphere but it makes more difficult when I try to take the pictures of the dishes - the results are not that great. If not mistaken, more than half of staffs are new, but the manager is still the same, Laurent Lapaire - probably the best maitre d'hotel in my opinion (seriously even better than ADPA's Mr. Courtiade or Ambroisie's Mr. Pascal). Mr. Lapaire is very friendly and helpful. For instance, he went over the dishes in the menu one by one in details - pretty much in every single table he served; he also brought me the 2 sample lobsters from the kitchen when I was curious what Ile Chausey's lobsters were liked. Under his guidance, the service here is more informal, but very personal. Diners feel like eating at home, and they can ask pretty much everything. Another good things for me is that almost 2/3 of the staffs could speak English - a feat that I hardly find in other establishments except if the restaurants are located in the hotel. The downside is probably - because the restaurant is really full and the number of staffs are not that many, so I did not get a chance to talk with them as much as my first visit (last time, they often stopped by and entertain a lone diner); nevertheless it's a 3-star service. I think it simply means that the next time I come here again, I should not book on Friday night

The overall score for this dining experience is 96/100 (a 2 3/4* but very close to 3-star). The crammed dining room and the slightly lower service than my 1st visit (due to the overflow of the guests) contribute to the lower score. And also the food ... I will put some comparisons later on when I have time. Here are the links for the pictures: L'Arpege Summer 07

And if you want to know more details about this adventure, please click:

L'Arpege 2 review

NIce review.However it seems that your score is higher than your satisfaction ,in that you were disapointed with most vegetarian dishes and the dessert.YOu were very happy with the turbot and lobster,so overall it does not seem to warrant the high score.Also what was your overall cost ,including tips ,if any.

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Hi Pierre, thanks for your comments

When I stated I was not very satisfied, it's with respect to my 1st visit there which is the highest score I've ever given in any restaurant. So, if it's compared to other places, it's still better. Yeah, most of the time, I kept comparing to my 1st visit ... pretty much for every single dish

The lobster and the turbot I had are ranked as probably the best lobster and fish dishes, I've ever had so my level of satisfaction is very high. Similar to when some people said that 1 great dish from Gagnaire is enough to make a visit there worth it even though the rest of the food may be just OK.

The way I grade is as follow:

Food - 40%, Wine - 20%, Service - 30% and Ambiance - 10%

97 or above would be a solid 3-star. For the rest, I did not have my notes with me as of know. The reason I'm being picky and stingy is that because I believe not all 3-star are the same - well, of couse it's subjective

I will try to put the comparisons of my 1st and 2nd visit soon

Again, if I compare this visit even with my Pierre Gagnaire or L'Ambroisie, this Arpege part 2 is still slightly better

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Arpege part 1 vs part 2

Here are some comparisons of my Arpege experiences (in terms of food, I will put the first one at the top and the second one below). I might not be able to make side by side comparison for every single dish, but I’ll try as some of them are quite close. Here is the link for the pictures of the Arpege part 1

Arpege part 1

Food-wise

L’oeuf, fermier de la Bigottière

L’oeuf à la coque

Verdict: They’re about the same. But, the 1st impression was usually better. I give the 1st one a slight edge

Carpaccio de langoustines du Guilvinec, caviar osciètre royal d’Iran

(Radisotto) printanier à la moutarde d’Orléans parmigiano reggiano

Verdict: Hands down, 1st one better by a mile.

Bavarois d’avocat et caviar osciètre royal d’Iran, huile de pistache

Jardinière Arlequin à l’huile d’argan (cuisine choisie) à la coriandre

Verdict: 1st one. Moreover, I like caviar. The mixture of the vegetables are not in harmony.

Fines ravioles fleuries aux herbes, consommé vegetal

Fines ravioles fleuries aux herbes consommé vegetal

Verdict: Yes, they’re exactly the same, so it’s a tie

Gratin d’oignon doux au citron, parmigiano reggiano

Parfums (belle saison) crème soufflé au Speck

Verdict: 1st one - Simple, fragrant, tasty

Homard des Îles Chausey en aigre-doux, miel d’acacia

Aiguillettes de homard des Îles Chausey côtes du Jura

Verdict: A closed call, but I like the 2nd one better. The yellow wine is simply divine

Lotte de Bretagne à la moutarde d’Orlèans, huile de noisette

Turbot de Bretagne (belle saison)

Verdict: Compare strictly from the fish point of view - the turbot’s flavor is slightly better, the structure and texture are equally good. The monk fish’s side dish is more superior (slowly cooked spinach) to some extent. Anyway, tough call – they’re the same (a tie)

Antique poulet du Haut-Maine au foin, (jardinière)

T-bone d’agneau de Lozère aux algues et escargots de mer poivre noir Serawak

Verdict: If only the lamb’s meat were consistently tender … the chicken was unbelievable though, plus the fresh vegetables on the sides. It’s clear that the 1st one wins.

Fromages de Bernard Antony, affineur

Fromages de chèvre de Bernard Antony affineur

Verdict: The 1st one – more varieties, not restricted to goat/sheep cheese. The qualities are very similar

Tomato confite farcie aux douze saveurs, sucre à l’orange

Framboises à l’infusion de l’huile d’olive, le vinaigre et le miel

Verdict: Hands down. The 1st one is much better

Millefeuille pralin

Île flottante moka-mélisse caramel lacté

Verdict: Both are sweet, the the 1st is better – more precise and not too intense.

Wine-wise (all by the glass)

1st time

1996 Billecart Salmon - Cuvee Nicolas Francois, Brut Champagne

2002 Verre de Chablis - Rene et Vincent Dauvissat

2000 Saumur Blanc - Chateau Yvonne

1991 Porto Colheita Niepoort

2002 Mambourg Grand Cru - Marcel Deiss

2nd time

Champagne Krug Brut Grande Cuvée

Domaine Laroche Les Vaillons Premier Cru Chablis 2004

Château la Gordonne Domaine Listel 2002

Both the champagne and the Chablis are equally good and matched well with the food. But for the rests, the wines from the first dining were simply much better. Stephane Thivat was possibly the most entertaining sommelier I’ve ever met – I think he would do a good job as maitre d’ as well

Service and decoration

The first time I ate, the restaurant was 90% full, the second visit – I think it’s 105% full (with 2 additional tables in the middle that halt the staffs/guests movement a little bit).

The decoration does not change much – they never have planned to make them super luxurious; nevertheless it’s simple, nice and comfortable

The service was more personal and friendly in the 1st visit, they would not let the guests “feel bored” when they’re waiting for the food. They still tried to do the same for the 2nd one, but only when you have something to ask then they will happily entertain. Another issue in the 2nd visit was that the time between a few dishes were unusually slow – I was doin’ nothing for 30 min waiting for the lamb dish to come. However, the service is still very good overally – the staffs showed interest when they served not simply try to do their jobs. They really have the passions.

Therefore, based on the info above, I think it should be quite obvious that my first experience is more memorable than the 2nd one. The most surprising part was that I ate better when Passard was not in the kitchen! So, this is the kind of place where I would not worry very much whether the owner is in or not since the standard is very high all the times.


Edited by Bu Pun Su (log)

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Arpege part 1 vs part 2

Here are some comparisons of my Arpege experiences (in terms of food, I will put the first one at the top and the second one below). I might not be able to make side by side comparison for every single dish, but I’ll try as some of them are quite close. Here is the link for the pictures of the Arpege part 1

Arpege part 1

Food-wise

L’oeuf, fermier de la Bigottière

L’oeuf à la coque

Verdict: They’re about the same. But, the 1st impression was usually better. I give the 1st one a slight edge

Carpaccio de langoustines du Guilvinec, caviar osciètre royal d’Iran

(Radisotto) printanier à la moutarde d’Orléans parmigiano reggiano

Verdict: Hands down, 1st one better by a mile.

Bavarois d’avocat et caviar osciètre royal d’Iran, huile de pistache

Jardinière Arlequin à l’huile d’argan (cuisine choisie) à la coriandre

Verdict: 1st one. Moreover, I like caviar. The mixture of the vegetables are not in harmony.

Fines ravioles fleuries aux herbes, consommé vegetal

Fines ravioles fleuries aux herbes consommé vegetal

Verdict: Yes, they’re exactly the same, so it’s a tie

Gratin d’oignon doux au citron, parmigiano reggiano

Parfums (belle saison) crème soufflé au Speck

Verdict: 1st one - Simple, fragrant, tasty

Homard des Îles Chausey en aigre-doux, miel d’acacia

Aiguillettes de homard des Îles Chausey côtes du Jura

Verdict: A closed call, but I like the 2nd one better. The yellow wine is simply divine

Lotte de Bretagne à la moutarde d’Orlèans, huile de noisette

Turbot de Bretagne (belle saison)

Verdict: Compare strictly from the fish point of view - the turbot’s flavor is slightly better, the structure and texture are equally good. The monk fish’s side dish is more superior (slowly cooked spinach) to some extent. Anyway, tough call – they’re the same (a tie)

Antique poulet du Haut-Maine au foin, (jardinière)

T-bone d’agneau de Lozère aux algues et escargots de mer poivre noir Serawak

Verdict: If only the lamb’s meat were consistently tender … the chicken was unbelievable though, plus the fresh vegetables on the sides. It’s clear that the 1st one wins.

Fromages de Bernard Antony, affineur

Fromages de chèvre de Bernard Antony affineur

Verdict: The 1st one – more varieties, not restricted to goat/sheep cheese. The qualities are very similar

Tomato confite farcie aux douze saveurs, sucre à l’orange

Framboises à l’infusion de l’huile d’olive, le vinaigre et le miel

Verdict: Hands down. The 1st one is much better

Millefeuille pralin

Île flottante moka-mélisse caramel lacté

Verdict: Both are sweet, the the 1st is better – more precise and not too intense.

Wine-wise (all by the glass)

1st time

1996 Billecart Salmon - Cuvee Nicolas Francois, Brut Champagne

2002 Verre de Chablis - Rene et Vincent Dauvissat

2000 Saumur Blanc - Chateau Yvonne

1991 Porto Colheita Niepoort

2002 Mambourg Grand Cru - Marcel Deiss

2nd time

Champagne Krug Brut Grande Cuvée

Domaine Laroche Les Vaillons Premier Cru Chablis 2004

Château la Gordonne Domaine Listel 2002

Both the champagne and the Chablis are equally good and matched well with the food. But for the rests, the wines from the first dining were simply much better. Stephane Thivat was possibly the most entertaining sommelier I’ve ever met – I think he would do a good job as maitre d’ as well

Service and decoration

The first time I ate, the restaurant was 90% full, the second visit – I think it’s 105% full (with 2 additional tables in the middle that halt the staffs/guests movement a little bit).

The decoration does not change much – they never have planned to make them super luxurious; nevertheless it’s simple, nice and comfortable

The service was more personal and friendly in the 1st visit, they would not let the guests “feel bored” when they’re waiting for the food. They still tried to do the same for the 2nd one, but only when you have something to ask then they will happily entertain. Another issue in the 2nd visit was that the time between a few dishes were unusually slow – I was doin’ nothing for 30 min waiting for the lamb dish to come. However, the service is still very good overally – the staffs showed interest when they served not simply try to do their jobs. They really have the passions.

Therefore, based on the info above, I think it should be quite obvious that my first experience is more memorable than the 2nd one. The most surprising part was that I ate better when Passard was not in the kitchen! So, this is the kind of place where I would not worry very much whether the owner is in or not since the standard is very high all the times.

So how much did you pay? You forgot to answer that.Also to wait 30 min between courses in a 3 star restaurant is not acceptable.

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Yeah, that 30 min part was a bit annoying, that's why I guess they gave me that raviole consomme to compensate. So far, they're quite generous to me by often giving me a few additional dishes

If not mistaken, I think it's about EUR 400 - it's almost half year ago

Have you been here before? What do you think about this place?

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I have had four meals at Arpege over the last 18 months, as well as 36 other meals at two and three star restaurants in Paris during that time. It is extremely hard for me, when asked, which meal I found to be the best. The first meal at an extraordinary restaurant is often the most memorable based on the novelty. With more experiences, one might better understand the food or the chefs goals or approach to dining, but the first is always special.

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Yeah, that 30 min part was a bit annoying, that's why I guess they gave me that raviole consomme to compensate. So far, they're quite generous to me by often giving me  a few additional dishes

If not mistaken, I think it's about EUR 400 - it's almost half year ago

Have you been here before? What do you think about this place?

Yes i have eaten at Arpege.TO me ,ITs very expensive relative to what I got.

ITs true that the ingredients are high quality ,but at 300 to 400 euros or $600 its a rippoff.However everything is personal ,perhaps its worth it for you or for any body else ,since many have gone there several times.

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Sethd,

Yes, the first is often very special

My first extraordinary meal (aka big splurge) was Alain Ducasse at the Essex House about 2 years ago - I could still remember more than half of the event even minute-by-minute. Lunch at Le Bristol was my first big dining in Europe, but neither was in my top 5 of my dining experiences.

Despite many bad reviews, I still plan in 1-2 years time to try Ducasse London, hopefully by that time it would be more "mature" and most of the current issues are solved.

Since you're more experienced than me eating at Arpege, what do I still miss from the list of the dishes I had? Pigeon with dragee (sugar-coated almond) or the duck or something else? When is the best season eating there? Any memorable dishes? Thanks

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Sethd,

Yes, the first is often very special

My first extraordinary meal (aka big splurge) was Alain Ducasse at the Essex House about 2 years ago - I could still remember more than half of the event even minute-by-minute. Lunch at Le Bristol was my first big dining in Europe, but neither was in my top 5 of my dining experiences.

Despite many bad reviews, I still plan in 1-2 years time to try Ducasse London, hopefully by that time it would be more "mature" and most of the current issues are solved.

Since you're more experienced than me eating at Arpege, what do I still miss from the list of the dishes I had? Pigeon with dragee (sugar-coated almond) or the duck or something else? When is the best season eating there? Any memorable dishes? Thanks

I have had the tasting menus at all four of my meals at Arpege. My favorites include his famous egg, the duck, and the turbot. I am also happy that I had the famous tomato desert which I thoroughly enjoyed. September was vegetable heavy: including the best tomato and mozzarella I have ever had. My January meal was a black truffle meal which was the best of the four. (I love truffles). I have had meals at ADNY which have been as good as any I have had in the US. Eating lunch outside at Le Bristol is a wonderful dining experience.

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I went to l'Arpege with IanT last weekend.

We were massively pumped for this meal. Runningupthestairsfromthemetrostation pumped. But at the same time (for me anyway), slightly wary. For every stellar experience at l'Arpege, there is someone who felt ripped off to offset it.

The restaurant itself is very plain. Almost slightly tired at the edges. But it gave an extremely intimate feel that you don't get at l'Ambroisie, and certainly not (I imagine) at the more palatial dining spots in Paris. We were sat at the table just by the door, which was slightly disappointing. We whispered grumbles to one another, and within 30 seconds, the head waitress came over and asked if we'd like to move to a different table. We gratefully obliged.

Ian and I quite fancied her, by the way.

And the service continued in that vane for the remainder of the evening. It was probably the best service I have had in a restaurant. Their manner was charming, helpful, humerous, and extraordinarily professional. I hadn't appreciated that service was so top notch here - it is rarely stressed in reviews - so it far exceeded our expectations. The waiting staff were around 80% female, which is unusual. Perhaps there's something to be said for this. Hell of a contrast to the sausage fest at l'Ambroisie the next day.

We decided to split a la carte courses rather than incur the financial wrath of the tasting menu. This is definitely the way to go.

The first two dishes were the best of the evening, and we almost didn't order them. And that would have been 100% Ian's fault, I should add. Luckily, our waitress put him right.

Damn it, that butter was good. Ian was eating it like cheese, occasionally with some bread. Much saltier than than the good butters I have had before.

Course 1: Wild asparagus consomme with lemon and cabbage ravioli (Ian, is this right?)

I can't describe how good this was. The broth looked so innocuous, but had incredible length and depth of flavour. Four tiny ravioli packed a citrussy punch, and then gave way to the cabbage and onion. Then the consomme took over. Phenomenal.

Course 2: Robes des champs multicolores «Arlequin » chou-rave bleu azur, radis white breakfast, navet atlantic, carotte white satin

Basically, this was the garden vegetables course, all cooked for varying lengths of time and accompanied with argan oil, couscous, herb puree and plenty of butter. Again, the purity and depth of flavour were stunning. Very different from the gargouillou at Bras - more butter and fewer herbs and flowers. More decadent and perhaps less "pure" (not a criticism - I preferred the l'Arpege dish). The binding elements made it more similar in style to the Mugaritz dish bound with the emmenthal sauce. But again, very different.

Course 3: jerusalem artichoke soup with speck cream

Not up to the dizzy heights of its predecessors, but very good nonetheless. An enormous quenelle of speck cream is served into your bowl at the table. The soup was very good, and I love jerusalem artichoke, but it lacked the depth and complexity of the consomme.

Course 4: grilled abalone

This was a special that we had to try after Tupac (from eGullet) recommended it. These were lovely, again doused in browned butter, and served with a leaf or two from the garden and some fancy pepper. We had two and a half each as a split portion, but this seemed very generous. Ian got a little more excited than I did about these, but they were excellent. I actually had a real hankering for one yesterday. How strange.

Course 5: Lobster with vin jaune sauce

The famous whole cooked lobster is brought to the table in its pan before being whisked away for service. You have all seen the photos on here, and ours was no different. I loved the confidence of the service: nothing more than a couple of sorrel leaves and a tiny baked potato shared its plate. This is absolutely the kind of cooking I favour these days, where the quality of the ingredient is allowed to take centre stage. The lobster itself was stunning. Sweet, buttery, meaty and moreish.

Course 6: Veal sweetbread with liquorice, pear and lemon rind

One enormous sweetbread was shared between us. Again, brought to tableside in a huge copper pan still sizzling. Again, served with no more than a couple of leaves from the garden. I loved this course. Beautifully cooked, crunchy and creamy, and the lemon rind flavour lent a rounder and more subtle acidity. The meaty buttery juices just cried out for some serious mopping.

But I was flagging at this point. Our half portions had seemed very generous. So we asked if we could go for a little walk. The waitress said that was fine, and then sprinted off into the kitchen, shouting "arrete arrete...". Bollocks, we had some pigeon on the way, as a freebie from the chef, and we didn't want to appear rude or throw the kitchen off kilter. They assured us the walk was not a problem, so we popped out for a few minutes.

Extra course: pigeon with pepper an honey?

Breast for me, leg for Ian. This was delicious, and perfectly cooked. We felt exonerated for stealing our walk. And I had found a second wind. Happy days.

Bernard Anthony 4 year old comte (and another cheese whose name I forget)

We saw the comte being wheeled around the room throughout the evening, and I was certain it had to be younger than the four year old. It looked fresh and creamy, quite unlike the hard gnarly parmesan esque chunks I have been served in the Capital or the Greenhouse. I now know that these were mere imposters that hadn't been kept properly.

This comte was insane. Still immaculately fresh and creamy, but riddled with tiny crystals. They shaved wafer thin servings off the main round of cheese, that packed an incredible punch. A far better way of serving this cheese than lopping off great big chunks.

Wow.

Desserts - all four of them

Before our parade of desserts, I should mention the most perfect perfect perfect coriander cannelle. Crunchy, but ridiculously moist and light inside.

Dessert 1 was the best in my opinion. Millefeuille of rhubarb with salted caramel. There can be no lighter millefeuille. It was like it wasn't there. Totally weightless. Crunchy, light and buttery. Beautiful rhubarb. And when is salted caramel not good?

Dessert 2 was a textbook pistachio and chocolate souffle. Not in the slightest big eggy. Delicious, and made in tiny little ramekins, which makes it all the more remarkable.

Dessert 3 was a delicious apple tart where apple had been thinly sliced and rolled into tiny rose shapes. Again, the pastry was immaculate. Luckily, there was another dollop of salted caramel to shake things up a little.

Dessert 4 was the only low point - lemongrass floating island in a coffee creme anglaise. The combination just didn't work.

I should mention the wine. The list IS ridiculous. We counted maybe 8 wines under 100E. So we rather worriedly asked our sommelier to match up some wines. We wanted to give a budget, but she kept saying, "don't worry, leave it to me". This put the fear of god into us.

It turned out being 80E a head for some delicious wines. They steam off the labels from the bottles, stick them to a card and leave them on your table throughout the meal. Lovely touch. I have the names at home, if anyone's interested.

Before pouring our second espresso, the other sommelier, whom we had not spoken to throughout the meal, came bounding over with a huge bottle of old calvados. "This will make it much better." He poured an enormous glug of calvados into our cup. And of course, he was right.

I should mention that David Kinch (chef at Manresa in California) had been in touch with the restaurant before we arrived. So that might explain the extra special treatment - I can't say if the service is so good every night.

Two or three times throughout the whole meal, Alain Passard would walk around the room, and on his way back to the kitchen, pat me on the shoulder and say hello. Ian was resolutely ignored, and he was getting upset by this point. But at the end of the meal, when we were the last people in the restaurant, he gave Ian a good pat on the shoulder, and all was right with the world.

He was such a dude. There's no other word for it. He seemed so at home in the restaurant, and so passionate about what he was doing. We explained (in pidgeon French) that we respected him for not expanding and globalising, like the Ducasses and Ramsays of the world. His response?

"Gordon Ramsay? 'ee can fuck off. Ducasse? Fuck off. Come into my kicten and we see 'oo can cook."

We've been invited down to the vegetable garden an hour or so south of Paris. Needless to say, I am wetting myself at the prospect.

This is a very very special restaurant. It was a wonderful evening. It felt like we were sitting in his front room being cooked for by him. The staff made us feel one of the family. And the food was exquisite. When we left at 1.30 in the morning, it felt like I was walking on air. Can't wait to go back.

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Thanks for the great review Andy

The dishes you had, are there all from the a la carte menu or a mixture of tasting menu? I think L'Arpege often has dishes that's exclusively for the degustation menu. Did you not have any Arpege's famous egg? :biggrin:

Are you allowed to order the a la carte dish at half-portion? Suppose you eat alone or eat with the odd number of people (i.e. 3) since you mentioned that the portion is very generous there ...

Hmm ... I'm thinking of coming back there, latest by next year

Mind sharing your L'Ambroisie's experience? What is the let-down? Or Passard simply moves up one notch in his skills?

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