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Le Grand Vefour


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Just as I was coming to think that Ducasse would be the greatest meal of the trip, we ran head into Guy Martin and Le Grand Vefour. Smack, bang, pow!  Let’s be up front and say that as a total dinning experience, it was not comparable to AD, which wraps you up in some kind of cocoon of pleasure.  The service wasn’t as good—our server looked perpetually bemused by us.  The wine, which was excellent, couldn’t really compete with the Montrachet at Ducasse, though it was the second best wine of the trip.  

OK, now that the few negatives are out of the way, let me say that what we ate was simply a tour de force of excellence, subtlety, balance and texture.  I have never eaten like this.  Almost every dish contained 3-5 flavors, each preserved and distinct from the others but working in harmony with the others to bring the absolute essence of whatever the focus item of the dish was into clarity.  Each dish was also multitextured in the way the very best Japanese food us.  Yes, I have had occasional dishes like this, where all the flavors and textures work together to create a greater whole and yet each voice is still unique.  But what really impressed was that this excellence was so sustained.  It was one of those fantasy meals where each dish keeps getting better and better, until the desserts, which floored the entire table.  It was like a Mozartian opera. Emotive, mental, clever, soulful, and infinitely yummy.

Thanks to our balding sommelier’s advise, we ordered a superb Chateauneuf de Pape 1996 Chateau de la Gardine, which was probably the greatest bargain we found the entire trip.

We selected a la carte from a slightly deceptive menu.  Looking back its clear that the description of each dish on the menu are sort of the tip of the iceberg.  Yeah, they describe the 3 basic ingredients of the dish, but then there are 2 other things which perfect dish that aren’t mentioned.

Oh, and your meal happens to be in one of the most beautiful rooms in all of Paris.  You eat at lunch in a room speckled with the light of the Palais Royal.

Onto the food:

Two of us started with a salad of potatoes with black truffle shavings and sea salt.  Each small potato was cut into 1/8th inch slices and served at room temperature in a slight balsamic vinegrette—seemingly intended as much for color as for flavor, and then the whole thing was umbrella-ed in the thinnest black truffle slices and sea salt.  This was totally different from the similar dish at Ducasse, but I thought equally as good, and if not as hearty, then in some ways more complex texturally with sea salt bite, crispy truffles and the warmth of the potatoes and the aroma of the truffles occurring all at once in a way Ducasse did not pull off.

Vivin had Ravioli with Foie Gras served with foamed egg whites, foamed sweet butter, black truffle bits and some pepper.  Again simply a stunning dish of texture and flavor might.  The egg white foam and foamed butter dropped off your tongue like silk, while the black truffles rose into your breath and you break the papery lip of the ravioli and bite into rich Foie Gras.

Next came Languostines with 2 lightly encrusted and fried eggplants with a small portion of greed salad in basilic vinaigrette.  Again this was brilliant combo of vineger, basil, crunch, softness and sweetness of eggplant and buttery, lobster-like Langoustines.  Ten feet high and rising, dude.

Scallops in mushroom sauce and parsley root.  The one dish that didn’t knock me to the floor with pleasure. After Arpege all scallops were doomed.

Anyway, onward and upward.  Next came main courses.  Vivin’s wife and I both had Filet of Brittany sole in caviar and cream sauce.  This may be the best non Japanese fish preparation I have ever had.  Who knew that sole was not ordained to be eaten with 16-20 caviar per square inch of bite? Again a textural and taste masterpiece.  Firm sole, cream and squishy softness of salty caviar rising together into your mouth.

I only had 2 bites of Vivin’s main course—which was the famed lamb in chocolate and coffee with fresh goat cheese and garlic—but was astounded. This perhaps more than other dishes showcased his ability to combine 4-5 tastes and textures simultaneously into one dish and have them all work together and all being distinct.  Again simply operatic cooking.

Vivin also had a turbot half portion, which I will let him write up.

I had what I thought was the best cheese course of the entire trip next, along with a 1986 port that was well matched.  

And then the desserts of devastation.  In case every part of your being were over stimulated in this point, it was necessary to do one last dance.  And so let’s put lot’s of veggies in dessert.  Passard gets some kudos for the tomato dessert thing.  But put an artichoke and celery in my dessert AND make it one of the greatest dishes I have ever eaten, and you begin to win over my soul.  Ok, so here’s what for dessert tonight honey—artichokes trapped in a torte surrounded by a sweet celery reduction and a sorbet of almonds.  Brilliant or foolish in conception, you decide, brilliant in execution, you bet.  Absolutely astounding dish.  Lmost equally good was Vivin’s wife’s dessert—a fresh goat cheese gateau with coriander, lychee sorbet  and cracked red pepper.  Must eat, must try.

Masterpiece, Devastating. Floored.  Life is and can be an absolute pleasure—when you gaze out across the Palais Royal and eat the greatest food of your life, you do wonder if the angel’s don’t get just a little jealous.

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Perhaps Mao or Vivin can shed some light on this, but you can always check the Michelin web site for fairly reliable prices. Prix fixe set menus are noted when applicable and an approximate a al carte range is given. The 2001 guide is still the most current and prices are in francs.

Robert Buxbaum


Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Per head.  I think we jacked up the bill because I have certain dietary allergies that put the tasting menu off limits and we ended up doing lots of half portions from the a la carte menu instead of the standard thing.  We also had a 130 EUR bottle of wine etc.  About 200 EUR worth of wine in various guises.  So I think if you were wine modest you could go nuts for under 250 EUR per capita.

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  • 10 months later...

Hello and happy new year, everyone!

I'm sorry I have been away so long, but I will make comments as best I can on my trip generally and several eateries specifically.

First of all, the 3-week trip I took to France with my brother and parents was not a gastronomical trip, and my father is on a restrictive diet (more about that later), but we did get in some excellent meals.

Lunch at Grand Vefour was a highlight. I liked it better than anyone else in my party of 4; my mother and brother felt another meal on our trip was better (I'll post about that separately). First of all, the room is absolutely gorgeous (see a picture here: click). The service is gracious, extremely professional, and brilliantly choreographed. The Maitre d' was very helpful to my father in selecting items from a list I gave him of "legal" foodstuffs for him.

I didn't take notes and don't remember everything everyone had during the meal, but I'll mention what I do remember. First, we were given a delicious amuse-bouche of lobster bisque (I think it was) made with gruyere cheese and asparagus. We also had a selection of delicious breads. My mother had a divine lobster salad for an appetizer (expensive and busting the prix-fixe to Hell but worth it at 77 Euros); my brother had a salad of fois gras sauteed in red wine which was excellent in every respect; I seem to remember that I had a salad with various kinds of mushrooms and hazelnut oil, unless I'm confusing this with another meal. My father had a plain but excellent mesclun.

For a main dish, I was adventurous - perhaps too much so - and got the Tete de Veau, which choice was met by the waitstaff and patrons with approval. It was too salty and fatty for me, but it was a specialty, it was interesting, and it was worth ordering. My mother had a terrific magret de canard cooked in red wine and accompanied by creamed sweet potatoes and savoy cabbage delicately sauteed in sweet butter, if I remember correctly. My brother had a cold dish of tuna with aspic and dill in squares which was subtle and excellent. My father had a piece of white fish (I forget which kind) with broccoli puree. I thought it was great, but my father wasn't as thrilled. Generally, he felt during the whole trip that when the French accomodated his dietary restrictions (including low-fat), they eliminate taste. He was not impressed with the chef's solution of making his fish a bit crispy ("slightly burning it," my father felt). But the staff certainly did its very best to accomodate him. The rest of us enjoyed our main course greatly.

The cheese course was a revelation! It was at Grand Vefour that I and my mother and brother first fell in love with Comte' cheese. So creamy and delicious! And it was never nearly as good in any other restaurant we ate at in France as it was at Grand Vefour, though I've found some good Comte' cheese at times at Balducci's in the Village in New York. I also got a clice of Roquefort cheese. I've never liked the Roquefort cheese I've had in the U.S., but I was open-minded enough to think this would be the place to try it. And boy was I right! It was a bit salty, but it had a wonderful flavor! I will never again say that I don't like Roquefort cheese. I also enjoyed a Camembert-type cheese very much. My brother enjoyed the Epoisse a lot and cultivated his taste for very sharp, runny cheeses during the trip. To accompany the cheese, we were given some delicious little slices of bread. I believe the bread I liked best was the raisin/caraway bread.

I can't remember all the extras we were given, nor all the desserts.

I do remember being given three sorbets: raspberry (excellent, with a strong flavor of the fruit), amaretto (also excellent), and some other fruit that wasn't as strong. Accompanying it was some kind of very high-quality cookie-ish confection and coulis of raspberry. We were also given pates de fruit. We later found a bakery in a smallish town in Burgundy (I can't remember which one!) that had more consistently strong and delicious pates de fruit, but I enjoyed these, and they were an extra (the apricot ones were great; the banana ones, weaker). We were also given a choice of chocolates and delicious chocolate almonds were put on the table for us. Finally, my mother said "We're finished." The waiter's response, with a smile: "We're not finished with you!" For no-one can leave before having a slice of the special cake, a unique white cake with orange zest, refreshing and light.

With the appetizers, my brother and I had a glass apiece of fantastic Taittinger Champagne, just ambrosial, which was poured for us out of a magnum bottle. My brother decided to have another glass of the Champagne, figuring that no other wine could top that.

All in all, a wonderful experience. All the staff spoke excellent English, by the way.

The cost? Approximately E 500 for 4 people. My folks thought it was worth it for one time, but when I reminded them that it would cost us more to go to Arpege 3 days later, they decided to cancel that reservation. We later cancelled Astrance, too. I called about a week in advance to cancel, and the reservationist was very courteous, thanked me for letting her know, and expressed the hope of accomodating us in the future. (I did speak French when communicating with them, if that's relevant.) My brother turned out to be busy that night, and my folks just weren't interested in paying some E 70 a person for dinner once more. But I'm getting ahead of myself: Grand Vefour was the place we went to on our first full day in Paris (it was about 3 blocks from our hotel), and a lot happened on the rest of our trip. But more about that in subsequent posts.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"


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I don't have any pics. My brother took some, but I don't think any are online.

1 Euro was essentially equivalent to 1 US Dollar last June.

Find the current exchange rate here: click

I think the tuna aspic my brother had must have had fennel, rather than dill in it. My brother likes fennel and hates dill. :smile:

Michael aka "Pan"


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Ahhh, the Comte cheese at Le Grand Vefour. I still remember having it. The first time, in 2001, I went to four different cheese shops (the usual suspects in the Fromagiers of the World lineup) afterwards trying to find an equivalently heavenly version. No dice - the specimens were excellent, but not as excellent.

The chef is from the area that produces that cheese, he must know every producer of Comte.


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  • 14 years later...

My journey to visit more 2-star restaurant in Paris last spring continued with a dinner at Le Grand Vefour (GV), one of the oldest restaurants in which chef Raymond Oliver made his name as one of the best in France especially during the mid-50’s until late 70’s. These days, the restaurant is probably more well- known because of its history and beautiful dining room. Under the current chef-patron Guy Martin, he tried to make the food to be more up-to-date such as the use of foam and re-interpret some traditional dishes.


Initially, I was tempted to order “menu plaisir” but after learning that it’s not necessarily about Guy Martin’s classic and it had nearly 10 dishes … I decided to go for an a la carte. I ordered 2 half portion appetizers, 1 main course and 1 dessert. My favorite was the main course: the whole pigeon (Prince Rainier 3) – no way to serve this as part of the tasting menu; also another excuse to skip the degustation menu. The bird was deboned and stuffed with foie gras, black truffle and veal forcemeat. I thought the pigeon’s meat, with its jus and truffle sauce, was delicious whereas the additional stuffing was ‘too much’ for me and I could not finish them. It also came with some seasonal vegetables + tasty mashed potatoes. You can see the rest of the dishes from the link’s below – there were generally above average but nothing memorable. I’m afraid that Le Grand Vefour, at the current state, would never re-gain its status as a 3-star restaurant


The restaurant was quite busy filled with the locals and foreigners alike (the table next to me was 2 couples from the US; there were also a big group of Japanese occupying the private room upstairs). So, business-wise, this institution was doing fine. Guy Martin didn’t come to the kitchen until after 8 PM. In spite of the elegant dining room, many people were (surprisingly) dressed casually – some were in jeans, or shirt with folded sleeves and no jacket. Except the hostess, all of the service staffs were men dressed in black. Like the food, the service experience overall was ordinary. Water was often not refilled until I raised my hand, napkin was not replaced (or even folded) after leaving the table – not sure if I have to “blame” this because I was seated at the far corner from the entrance and the dining room was kind of tight / crammed.


Apparently, I have similar taste with the Michelin guide. Among the 2 star places (Rostang, Roth’s Espadon, Carre des Feuillants etc.) I’ve visited in the past decade; only at Le Bristol (in ‘06) and this year’s Taillevent I found the meals to be really satisfying. That being said, I will possibly still continue my quest to visit more of Paris 2-star restaurants particularly the ones I’ve never dined there before.     


Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157685496596633/with/36655086416/



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