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Arpege: 2006-present


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  • 1 year later...

As far as I’m concerned, L’Arpege is the best restaurant in the world, period (as a corollary, Alain Passard is the world’s best chef of course). Sure, I have not been to El Bulli or Noma, but a few visits to the like of per se, 3 Robuchon fine dinings, Calandre or Ledoyen may justify my statement. Anyway, feel free to disagree 

Food (and wine) - 98/100

The food at Arpege is often deceptively simple, but very palatable. All elements in any dishes are well prepared, including the vegetables whether they act as main ingredients or simply as complimentary. This is especially true, when (as most of you already knew) Passard decided to focus cooking fresh vegetables from his “garden of eden” in Normandy and town of Fille in ’01. Known as a master of roasting and preparing seafood/fish for about 30 years, I would say his “art of fire” technique is pretty much nearly perfect. Well, it’s not a non-sense since I’ve tasted 6 times and each passed with flying colors. These are the report of my last 2 visits last year

- The earlier meal, I ordered the a la carte. After the famous egg, then comes the multicolor display of winter vegetables.

- The real thing began with plum and well-flavored scallop from the emerald coast mixed with subtle green tea powder. Winter is a haven for scallop indeed.

- After that, I had a half-portion of Passard’s legendary duck from Challans with hibiscus sauce. Excellent meat – moist and succulent. The sweet and sour hibiscus glaze is sophisticated without being overpower plus the top notch vegetables on the sides make it a wonderful dish.

- Another Arpege’s classic: pigeon served with sugar-coated almond. The juicy meat, along with crispy skin and thin layer of fat, is perfectly cooked and deliciously tender. The sauce is ethereal ... it's rich and complex with a sense of little sweetness from the fermented honey, yet still very balance. My favorite of the night

- As always, the 4-year old exceptional Comte served with black truffle was excellent.

- The memorable dessert was a ‘giant’ macaron (in artichoke flavor) with heavenly chocolate sauce. I thought it’s perfectly done – right texture, chewiness and frosting. Another dessert was a simple and fresh pineapple with olive oil and turnip

The later meal was more like the tasting of the kitchen’s several small dishes (about 12 of them including the desserts). Some of the highlights: fresh and crunchy celerisotto with green emulsion (Passard loves this kind of ‘play’ – last time I had the radisotto). But, there’s also the real risotto with white truffle emulsion – smooth and creamy – an excellent platform for truffle dish. I loved the magical flavor of smoked potatoes dish served with sour cabbage and slices of white truffles. For the heavier side, there were light and tasty monkfish cooked in salt except I was not too keen on to the cabbage mousseline as the side dish. No matter what, get the meat main course here – seriously. This time, I tasted slowly cook veal – it’s juicy and clean in your palate, the skin is the best part, did not really care about the side dishes when your main was very good :P The interesting dessert will be Arpege’s interpretation of “Mont-Blanc” dessert - The sweet chestnuts topped with whipped cream is served with dark chocolate sauce and house radish. There's chocolate cake inside. It's an intense dessert having rich flavor. I was really full … oh before this; they also served their famous and scrumptious Millefeuille with vanilla cream/hazelnut.

For the wines, I will let you read my longer review below. A short note, L’Arpege did offer $15-20 wine by the glass these days. I suppose I can be considered the restaurant’s “regulars”. I often challenge them to cook me something that I have not tried. While it’s very difficult to entirely prepare new dishes, so far 70% of them are something I haven’t eaten before. Again, these are other great meals to remember – they consistently provide superior feasts. I rated 98/100 – an absolute 3-star meal, it should not come as a surprised since 5 out of 6 visits, Chef Passard was behind the stove.

Service (and ambiance) - 97/100

L’Arpege not only prepares great food consistently, but also delivers impeccable service regularly. The current manager, Ms. Helene has been there ever since my first visit 5 years ago (when Mr. Laurent was still the main manager). In all my 6 visits, she’s always there and ready to give diners courteous and attentive service – nowadays, she got the assistance from another female maitre d’ – Nadia, who is equally as good. I suppose I’m very comfortable with the service here or Guy Savoy/Hof van Cleve because they’re both warm and professional. Nothing wrong with the professional but serious and ‘colder’ hospitality type at L’Ambroisie/L’Hotel de Ville – I guess it’s just my personal preference/unconscious perceptions about how service is supposed to be at 3-star institutions

Nothing is really changed as far as the décor is concerned here. Wood-paneled walls in minimalist interior design. The lights were dimmer during dinner with a candle to create more romantic feelings while the day, it will be best to get the outside natural lights. One thing that some of you may probably have noticed is the restaurant’s innovative VIB plate in stark white and deep red. The designer, Mr. Colucci said that to imagine the plate’s supple and wavy lines, he drew inspiration from the chef’s recipes, and even helping Passard out in the kitchen. Just a nice little detail. Without a doubt, this is my favorite place to eat and as expected, the overall experience is simply stunning and worth considered as one of the world’s best – 97.5/100

For more detailed reviews: L'Arpege 2010 reviews

For the dishes’ pictures: Some L'Arpege dishes 2010

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  • 4 months later...

They have a menu at the moment which is a 25th anniversary menu. Some of the highlights were:

langoustine carpaccio with caviar sauce,

celeriac with white truffles

turbot with a vin jaune sabayon, and a smoked potato.

roast chicken in hay

plus of course many of the other classic dishes -- the egg, the cous cous with vegetables.

Slightly too much food overall, but very good indeed. Not the best meal I have had there though.

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