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Le Paradou with Yannick Cam


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His new place around 7th street opened on Tuesday...

any of you folks been yet (Rocks)?

I hear he is open 7 nights a week plus 5 lunches. With a 5 course menu set at $85 plus an extra $30 for wine pairings.

If any of you have been or know someone who has been, i'd love to hear the first impressions.

thanks.

Nothing quite like a meal with my beautiful wife.

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Yes, I attended opening night service of Le Paradou on Tuesday as the guest of the formidable Janet Cam. I won’t go into a lot of detail since things will be dynamic over the next few weeks (the wines that evening were $35, not $30, but that’s all going to be changing soon, with more menu options to open up in the next week or so), but let me use the morel soup served that evening as an example of what people might expect from the kitchen:

A little bowl of morel soup, streaked with a touch of crème fraiche, and containing only a quail egg, looked impossibly simple. The first thing you notice is that it’s served lukewarm, the chef being a big proponent that subtlety and nuance are lost when things are served piping hot. The flavor coming from this soup was so deep and earthy that I thought sure he had cheated and used truffle oil. Janet later discussed this with Yannick, and nope, there were no shortcuts here: Proscuitto San Danielle, a piece of chicken slowly roasted to achieve a level of caramelization, roast sliced shallots, shiitake mushrooms (dryed because this gives more intensity than fresh), covered with stock and cooked. I did not detect any of these things in the dish. This is classic Yannick Cam: something looks deceptively simple, and yet you wonder why it has so much intensity and depth of flavor. I thought the same thing just yesterday when reading through a late Mozart sonata.

From the front lines,

Rocks.

Edited by DonRocks (log)
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A little bowl of morel soup, streaked with a touch of crème fraiche, and containing only a quail egg, looked impossibly simple. The first thing you notice is that it’s served lukewarm, the chef being a big proponent that subtlety and nuance are lost when things are served piping hot. The flavor coming from this soup was so deep and earthy that I thought sure he had cheated and used truffle oil. Janet later discussed this with Yannick, and nope, there were no shortcuts here: Proscuitto San Danielle, a piece of chicken slowly roasted to achieve a level of caramelization, roast sliced shallots, shitake mushrooms (dryed because this gives more intensity than fresh), covered with stock and cooked.

what about the morels?

and how did i know that you would have been to yannick's already?

it's a tough job, Mr. Rocks, but you seem to do it well.

Nothing quite like a meal with my beautiful wife.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My wife and I had a very good meal last night as Le Paradou finished its first week of operation in downtown Washington at 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. (Entrance is actually on Indiana Avenue.) Chef Yannick Cam and his associates are clearly aiming to make this a dining experience on the level of Maestro and Cintronelle. Two beautifully decorated rooms, elegant (if still rough around the edges) service, and delicious food beautifully presented.

There is a $68 prixe fix dinner menu that includes the choice of two (out of ~15) first courses and a main plate (out of ~7 choices). Desserts are $9 extra. Only way to order ala carte is to sit at one of the few tables in the bar area. There is also a $100 chef's tasting menu, which can be matched with various wines for another $50. The wine list is heavy towards $100+ bottles, although there are a few nice choices at a lower price. We had a good Chambolle Musigny 2000 for $84.

Higlights include: lobster pockets (lobster, marscapone cheese in a ravioli-like packet, with carrot and ginger sauce); boudin blanc with tiny Jerusalem artichokes; wild salmon tartare with coriander and olive oil, accompanied by a mini blintz topped with ostrea caviar; roasted lobster with a reduction of sauterne and grapefruit zest; roasted pigeon breast on red cabbage with cumin and dates, served with duck foie gras.

Le Paradou will probably begin serving lunch later this week, with a $29 prixe fix menu.

It is good to have a chef of Cam's talent back in downtown Washington. Let's hope he makes Le Paradou a lasting venture.

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By my line of reasoning, they actually have a pretty decent bar menu:

Creamy Soup of Morel Roasted Scallops, Parma Ham $12

Smoked Salmon, Coriander Sprouts and Madras Curry $12

Lobster Claw Salad with Coriander, Avocado Terrine, Gazpacho $14

Lobster Purse with Carrot Jus and Ginger $16

Baby Arugula Leaves with Anchovy Filet, Parmesan Shavings $9

Wild Salmon Tartar, Quail Egg and Caviar $14

Cuttlefish stuffed with shrimp, Black Trumpettes, Garlic Butter and parsley $11

Roasted Sea Scallops, Truffles, Parma Ham, Parsley Sauce $13

Pepper Crusted Red Tuna Roasted, Red Pepper Coulis, Roasted Parma Ham and Basil $14

Polenta Cake, Escargot with Garlic, Parsley, Morel, Black Olive Jus $12

Boudin Blanc with Truffles, Fennel Purée, Caramelized Onion Jus and Oregano $14

Roasted Shad Roe, Pimientos 'Piquillo', Dried Cod with Rosemary Cream

Foie Gras Seared, confit of Quince Caramelized Pomegranate Jus $26

Lobster Risotto $12

Roasted Rack of Lamb, Green Asparagus, Black Olives Jus $34

Duck Breast, Boudin Blanc, Turnips, Jus of Caramelized Onions and Oregano $32

Roasted Breast of Pigeon, Compote of Red Cabbage with Dates and Cumin, Seared Duck Foie Gras $30

Mediterranean Bass Stuffed with Shrimp Mousse, Roasted Scallops, Sauce Vermouth Saffron and Rosemary $29

Beef Tenderloin, Salsifis and Morels, Cabernet Sauce, Marjoram $34

Bavarian Chocolate Cream with Caraway Seed Ice Cream $9

Apricot Baba, Perfumed with Rum, Roasted Pineapple Coconut Ice Cream $9

Melted chocolate, Mascarpon Acacia Honey, Lemon confit, Chocolate Sauce $9

Gazpacho of Strawberres, with spices, mint leaves, Creamy Sorbet with Strawberry $9

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Had lunch at Le Paradou today. Two of the courses DonRocks lists for the bar menu are avialble for prix fixe of $28 (plus another $9 for dessert) Not bad for this quality cooking, if you can take the time to eat well in midday

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Went April 21 to Le Paradou for a very special lunch.

Had the following with Champagne to start and a lovely white Burgundy.

Creamy Soup of Morel Roasted Scallops, Parma Ham

Lobster Purse with Carrot Jus and Ginger

Mediterranean Bass Stuffed with Shrimp Mousse, Roasted Scallops,

Sauce Vermouth Saffron and Rosemary

The room has a quiet, almost Zen-like peacefulness to it.

Every course exceeded expectations with subtle combinations of flavors.

The service was of a quality one would expect in such a restaurant but seldom receive.

The wine steward was helpful, charming and made sure our glasses always had just enough wine in them. Nice stemware too.

The $28 pre fixe at lunch for two courses of this quality is a steal!

Go now before the crowds arrive.

-Ed

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

I’ve been “lurking” here on eGullet for a long, long time, first because I wasn’t sure I knew enough to be a meaningful contributor, and later because I was just waiting for something significant enough to overcome the inertia and make me want to post.

That moment came after dinner last night at Yannick Cam’s Le Paradou. This restaurant just doesn’t seem to be developing the attention and “buzz” that, based on the food being served, it rightly deserves. If my two meals there are representative, Le Paradou has surpassed the good-but-inconsistent Café 15 and Gerard’s Place on the list of best French restaurants in town and is, at least, competitive with Citronelle for the top perch.

If I had to describe the common threads in what I’ve eaten here, it would be intensity of flavor and earthiness. The “Creamy Soup of Morel, Roasted Scallops, Parma Ham” is among the best soups I’ve had. It has a powerful aroma and a remarkably concentrated mushroom flavor. The smooth texture of the scallops complements the creamy soup. It is fortunate that Le Paradou serves good bread, or else I would have resorted to sticking my face in the bowl and licking it clean. One quibble – so few restaurants warm their bread like Le Paradou, but why is the butter ice cold?

For both meals, I ordered the same entrée, the “Duck Breast, Boudin Blanc, Turnips, Jus of Caramelized Onions and Oregano.” If at first you do succeed, try, try again. The boudin blanc is amazingly light and airy and complements the duck breast very well. This dish also includes an uncredited appearance by a slice of a prosciutto-like salty pork, which helps balance the dish.

Ordering the same thing twice really reinforced for me the importance of ingredients in a dish. The first time I had this dish, the baby turnips had an almost candy-like sweetness to them. The second time, they were less sweet with more of the earthy, slightly bitter flavor that I usually associate with turnips. Both versions were excellent, but this slight change in one element made for an almost entirely different dish.

The only dish that has been less than fabulous was a “Lobster Claw Salad with Coriander, Avocado Terrine, Gazpacho.” The cold lobster claw had too much of a mealy consistency for my taste, which I believe is a symptom of either overcooking or having been steamed too far in advance of service. Otherwise, this was a great dish in the making. I suppose this might be thought of as another take on “deconstructed guacamole.” The gazpacho had a particularly strong tomato flavor.

I sampled two of the desserts, and both were excellent. The “Apricot Baba, Perfumed with Rum, Roasted Pineapple, Coconut Ice Cream” surpasses even the excellent Baba that I order every time I visit Café Atlantico (apologies in advance to Steve Klc). The coconut ice cream is very smooth but intensely flavored. Roasting the pineapple really accentuates its sweetness, but without it becoming cloying. The rum flavor is also powerful, but doesn’t overwhelm the dish.

A “Minestrone of Fruits with Banana-Passionfruit Sorbet” was not quite as good, but still a wonderful way to end a meal. It includes finely diced fresh fruit that tasted as though it had been macerated in sugar, with fresh strawberries, sliced pistachios, and the aforementioned sorbet.

Le Paradou can be an expensive treat, culminating in a $100 chef’s tasting menu. But most of these items are available a la carte at the bar. More importantly, the $28 lunch (one appetizer and entrée; $7 more gets you a second appetizer) represents the best dining value that I’m aware of in Washington.

Service was efficient and courteous at both meals. I recognized some of the waiters from other restaurants in town, including the guy who first recommended that I try the hunkar begendi at Zaytinya, for which I am ever grateful. Although I hope that the other waiter who told me that the Bordeaux being offered by the glass – the 1996 Demoiselle de Sociando Mallet according to the wine list – was the “second wine of Latour” was merely mistaken and not trying to pull a fast one.

The location, frankly, could be better. The phone book will tell you that it’s at 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, but it’s really hidden on a difficult-to-find, one-way stretch of Indiana Ave. This spot has been something like Seinfeld’s “Bermuda Triangle of Retail.” Since I moved to town, Bice, Villa Franco, and Maloney & Porcelli have all struck out in the same space. We owe it to ourselves and our city’s dining reputation to support this place.

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Extremely expressive and well written, thank you for taking the time to share your experience. With a dinner coming up there in several weeks your post was also quite timely.

I am not certain how much buzz Le Paradou is receiving in D. C. There are many restaurants on both here and Chowhound that are rarely if ever discussed yet are enormously popular. I also suspect that Sietsema not having reviewed it yet is a factor working against it. If his is a rave then it should take off. Less than that I suspect there is far too much competition for it to succeed at its price point. Still, Citronelle, Maestro and Laboratorio are booked up over a month in advance for weekends-there is a market there. I also expect the new restaurant opening in August at the Mandarin Oriental is going to make a serious play for the title of D. C.'s best. Again more competition at this price point.

One factor that works against Yannick is his "transiency." He has been in a number of restaurants over the past seven or eight years and I suspect part of his reputation may have eroded a bit from what it was when he closed Le Pavilion. But, at his best, he is superb; probably worthy of a couple of Michelin stars if he were in France. I know that at Le Relais the owner tried to work a deal with him for a piece of ownership in the hope that it would cause him to stay.

Overall, though, we benefit from his newest effort. In combination with all of the restaurants mentioned above and the upcoming fusion effort from several Inn alumni D. C. is moving up quickly on the national level.

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the upcoming fusion effort from several Inn alumni D. C. is moving up quickly on the national level.

what restaurant is this? where will it be? and who are the alumni you speak of?

Nothing quite like a meal with my beautiful wife.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Okay, I've been to the dining room of Le Paradou twice now, and have had a full meal at the bar once, and multiple desserts and drinks twice, for a total of five visits.

My friend there with me this evening, who had never been before, summed up her thoughts quite succinctly while we were walking out the door: "this place is going to go belly-up." There's no question that statement was premature, but things aren't starting out on the right track, either.

Nobody in his right mind questions the culinary abilities of Yannick Cam. He is one of the greatest technical cooks ever to set foot in Washington. I do not, however, assign the unquestioned genius to him that some others have. He is a great cook, a world-class cook, but a very flawed chef from what I have observed.

The service at Le Paradou is impossibly stilted and affected, making the diner feel uncomfortable and squiggly. Standing in front of a patron with a fake smile, with one hand placed firmly behind your back does not make you good at what you do; quite to the contrary, it's annoying as hell, and a clear sign that you're inexperienced and green. I have seen two - precisely, two - people on staff there that I would consider to be honest, genuine, forthcoming and welcoming.

When Yannick is in the kitchen, which has occurred on occasion but not each time, the food has often been brilliant. However, when he has been sitting in the bar area, also which has occurred on occasion, the food has been inconsistent. Witness the brilliant cream of mousseron soup with parma-wrapped scallops brought as a first course the other night. Profound, deep, complex, and worthy of any praise that could be heaped on it. Then two courses later, a loup de mer (mediterranean sea bass) with shrimp mousse and parma-wrapped scallops was an unmitigated disaster, the fish being grossly overcooked, the shrimp mousse nowhere to be found, and the parma-wrapped scallops the exact same things that were in the soup. There are other mixed examples I could site, ranging from the sublime through the mediocre to the just plain overpriced. That said, I've seen Yannick at his best, and he is truly a great cook - question: how many more years are we going to be saying this before he delivers on a consistent basis?

Romain Renard, one of the greatest pastry chefs ever to set foot in Washington, has been consistently spot-on with his great desserts. Comparing his Baba au Rhum to Galileo's Baba al Rum (had the night before) is like comparing a world-class dessert to something merely ordinary. The difference in quality between the two desserts is striking.

But I see nothing coming from Le Paradou, other than the sporadic genius of Yannick, or the supremely talented Romain Renard, that is worthy of a top-notch restaurant.

Add to this that the Washingtonian just published a glowing review, but the restaurant is still uncrowded, the bar has the atmosphere of a crypt, and the staff still chooses to remain affected and snotty, and you have the makings of a future college course on How Not To Open A Restaurant.

Le Paradou is not beyond hope, but it's certainly off to a bad start, and unless the staff begins to show some humility and starts to realize they're in the service industry, they're going to end up looking for new jobs, probably with the same chips on their shoulders, saying that they worked for the "great" Yannick Cam.

Whatever,

Rocks.

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Rocks,

What on earth are you talking about?: Thomas Head says:

"Yannick Cam is back in DC--and at the top of his form. At Le Paradou, Cam's new downtown restaurant, the raw materials are very good, the flavors intense and clear, and the technique flawless"

flawless, he said. :raz:

...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Rocks, I haven't agreed with you many times in the past but based on a dinner tonight for four you were bang on in your analysis.

Simply, Yannick is superb-for a 1985 or 1990 restaurant. For 2004 and competition from Maestro, Citronelle and Laboratorio he pales. He simply hasn't shown the imaginative growth that the others have. A very good meal. But this is not enough when you are paying $900 for four people with 300% markup on wine.

Yes, he was in the kitchen. Still, there was nothing that was sublime, not the veal chop, nor the foie gras, nor the middling lobster risotto. Overall, a good meal with superb Michelin correct team service. We would return if the price was half of what we were charged. At this level we will go elsewhere next time. Frankly, HE was not on the level of the service presented to us in the dining room.

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A very good meal. But this is not enough when you are paying $900 for four people with 300% markup on wine.

That's almost insulting. Yeah, I guess I rather eat tacos in my bed and pay bills...

...

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  • 2 months later...
At another dinner, a first course featuring sea urchin roe contains an unexpected ingredient: grit.

This is so unimaginably disgusting it made the little hairs on the nape of my neck stand up when I read it.

But there was something else really interesting in the review:

Unlike the restaurants it aims to compete with, however, Le Paradou is missing a vital ingredient: heart.

Admittedly, I'm young and broke and starving (but not an artist; maybe that's why this went over my head), and I don't find myself too often at Le Paradou and its aimed competitors. Maybe you wise-and-worldly fine diners out there can answer for me: are heart and soul to be found in abundance in this city's best dining rooms? What's the distinction Tom is drawing here? The food tastes and looks good, but seems joyless, like June Cleaver during sex? Is it something (or lack of something) in the way it's presented, in the service, in the actual taste of the dish? How does one quantify this elusive quality?

Edited by eunny jang (log)
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The food tastes and looks good, but seems joyless, like June Cleaver during sex? 

Actually, I heard that June was something of a wild thing in the sack. :raz:

Not that I'm a Don Rocks or anything, but...

Heart isn't just what's on the plate, it's the whole restaurant -- whether the waiters are trying to welcome and even teach you, or whether they're showing off; whether the sommlier is selecting and pricing wine to provide value and broaden your horizons, or to show off trophy wines and enjoy ridiculous profits; whether the cook took the time to get the grit out of the sea urchins and actually tasted the sauce before he sent the dish off, or cooked-by-numbers with eye towards getting out early tonight.

It's why meals with family and friends are almost always good, even if the food is forgettable; it's why some dishes taste like their ingredients and why some transcend them.

It's the difference between being a good dancer and a good lover.

You don't have to eat at a high-end restaurant to taste the difference, you probably recognize it now.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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So, then, it's the difference between technical proficiency and real intimacy? Certainly, we all appreciate our grandmother's food - soup she's spent an hour stiring and seventy-six years making. Soul food, blah blah blah. Absent history and personal relationships, what makes the food itself soulful? Enthusiasm or superior creativity on the part of the chef? Pride in what he's doing? Does clever or witty food have the opposite effect of distancing the diner?

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