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Bux

Alain Ducasse -- Plaza Athenee

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Just as Passard has a style all his own, I think Ducasse's food has to be rated (and appreciated) in and of itself. I am not sure by doing the truffle menu we got a comprehensive sense of what his other dishes might be like. I would rate, purely food wise, Passard and Guy Martin as being the most innovative but Ducasse is right up there for pure yumminess (sans the shock). It kind of grew on you as you ate more and more.

His philosophy of giving you the best of what is available - be it wine, truffles, tea, desserts, cheese and certainly not excluding the food - is formidable. I am usually the first person turned off by the hype of the showbiz - different pens etc. I saw none of that at ADPA. Snipping off mint leaves in front of you was the only thing I considered over the top. Otherwise, all the little touches had class written all over them.

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Steven, could you open the nominations to include who would you rate three stars that are now only two, or for that matter currently rated less than two?

You know, the Michelin is the closest thing in the food world to the great American justice system where 98% of the population may believe you committed murder, but if your lawyers can confuse 12 people you get to go free. No matter what we say, only Michelin can make a three star restaurant.

I'm not an expert on Ducasse and I tend to beat around the bush a bit when talking about his food because I'm always afraid I'm going to come out say something that will be interpreted as "if you don't appreciate his food it's because your understanding of food isn't deep enough" and that's not what I quite believe and if it was, I'd be too policitally correct to say exactly that.

:wink:

I was impressed by what he set on our table and much more impressed with the food in Paris than in NY. (Disclaimer: One meal in each leaves me in no position to claim any sort of expertese.) I do find a distracting level of service in the dining room. It may just be my inability to delegate responsibility or my unfamiliarity with the lifestyle of the very rich, but it seems as if Ducasse bends over backwards to offer services that are questionable and which I, in my boorish naivety, find distracting. I would, for instance, find it a greater service to have the sugar left on my table for a few moments, than to have the sugar sommelier come to my table and personally place the cube in my cup. What I fear is that the service moves toward offering to cut my meat and spoon feed me. The former I can get in any cheap dive in Chinatown.

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Steven, could you open the nominations to include who would you rate three stars that are now only two, or for that matter currently rated less than two?

I do not mean to ursup Steven's start, but here goes (not comphrensive lists of items for me, as, among other reasons, I have not eaten at all restaurants in each relevant group and I may come up with more after further thought):

3-stars in France that Should be a 2-star:

-- Clearly -- Paul Bocuse (of course, Bocuse will never be demoted by Michelin in his lifetime, absent a clearer break from the restaurant than just less frequently being there), Georges Blanc, Pourcel twins.

-- Subjectively -- Plaza Athenee (I know this is controversial), Taillevent, Marc Veyrat (yes, the six-star chef)

-- Note above lists are shorter than the list of chefs whose cuisine I dislike. For example, I recognize that I subjectively dislike Gagnaire, but his cuisine may be interesting to certain other diners and he is creating his own cuisine and not being shy about it.

2-stars in France that, leaving aside expensive ingredients and other non-cuisine elements (these are significant caveats in the Michelin world), Should Soon be a 3-star:

-- Loubet at Moulin de Lourmarin

1-stars in France that, leaving aside expensive ingredients  and non-cuisine elements and duration of operation of restaurant, Should Be a 2-star with Strong Promise for 3 stars:

-- L'Astrance

1-stars in France that should be a 2-star:

-- L'Espadon at the Ritz, Paris

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cabrales,

are you going to post about your meals in Paris? Just curious...

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vivin -- My Ghislaine Arabian meal is briefly posted under "lunch or dinner in Paris on March 6" -- sorry if it's unclear from the thread title  :wink:

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Below is a description of a good-plus lunch at Plaza Athenee during 2Q 2002.

Araignee de mer decortiquee, jus emulsionne lie de corail (French spider crab removed from the shell, an emulsion jus linked with the coral)

Volaille de Bresse, chapelure de morille, jus/garniture d’ecrevisses (Bresse chicken, morel sauce, jus and garnishments of crayfish)

Fromages (Roquefort)

Caille de brebis, caramel-poivre, miel d’arbousier (ewes' curdle?, caramel-pepper, honey)

Chassagne Montrachet, Clos de la Truffiere, Niellon 1996

Menthe chocolate infusion – a special type of mint

The amuse was a piece of slightly-below-room temperature red mullet, with a light-apricot-colored aioli on top. Nice use of garlic, and not a bad accompaniment in the form of small discs of thin potatoes decorated with diced olives and red peppers. Around these items was a greenish colored oil that likely contained some of the ingredients of pesto. The amuse displayed Ducasse’s style of Mediterranean-style cooking that, among other things, renders his cuisine less attractive to me. Nonetheless, the amuse was an appropriately-executed dish. The breads offered were varied, and one was of an unusual shape consisting of several pieces connected in an “unnatural”-looking way.

The spider crab appetizer was very good, but for some over-salting. Even with this problem, it was an attractive dish. The visual appeal of the dish was obvious – there appeared the roundish, cardinal red/orange colored shell of the spider crab (with its eyes, etc. included) on its back. There was a large volume of light coral-colored emulsion (made with the coral/roe of the crab) filling the entire area above the edges of the shell of the crab. When one delved below the emulsion, there were abundant amounts of strands of fresh-tasting, flavorful spider crab meat (as noted, oversalted). There was a brownish crab jus mixed in with the spider crab meat, and the resulting mixture was intense and tasty. The coral emulsion itself was very light, but highly expressive of roe.

The Bresse chicken dish consisted of poularde, instead of poulet (I prefer poularde, which has to meet different requirements than poulet per AOC standards). It consisted of three main components: (1) the largest component was a breast piece with a layer of grated morels on top of it – this was unduly dry and caused the overall dish to be so-so, (2) three or four curled ecrevisse bodies (small), with their tails on, and (3) a good mixture of cut-up morels integrated with coral-colored ecrevisse sauce and bits of both white and dark meat from Bresse chicken. On top of the mixture in (3) was a whole ecrevisse, orange and stark and dramatic in its presentation (with the head, tail, shell, “whiskers”, etc.) as it “stood guard” on top of the mixture. The overall saucing of the dish was a morel sauce, but added to it (and poured at the table) was a coral-colored ecrevisse sauce. This ecrevisse sauce reminded me of lobster bisque (in a good way). The color effects as the different components of the saucing ran into one another were appealing.

The caille of brebis was good, and the caramel cold item was rich and tasty. The honey ice cream was also attractive. A good combination of desserts, because there was a slight element of saltiness in the caille of brebis that rendered the sugary aspects of the caramel and of the honey ice cream more interesting.

The tea/infusion trolley was nice, and being the recipient of the snipped leaves, etc. left me agreeing with mao and vivin that this was a nice touch (as opposed to my previous position that this was arguably gimmicky). There were four little plants on the trolley, along with various accoutrements necessary for the preparation of the drinks – romarin (rosemary), thym-citron (a type of thyme perhaps?), menthe chocolate (a special type of mint, with no particular chocolate connotations) and verveine (verbena). I could not say the mint tasted better than other mint infusions I have had, but I did like the snipping and preparation process for some reason. The mignardises were appropriate: (1) numerous chocolate macarons and caramel macarons (the latter were not bad), (2) little “churizo” long donuts, in miniature size, that one sometimes finds in NY street fairs, offered with warm chocolate dipping sauce, and (3) other items.

Decor and Service

The dining room is nice. The classical gold and white backdrop of the old-style room is well-utilized by a Starck pupil who provided very modern and attractive designs. The beautiful large chandeliers are enclosed, from the ceiling down, in very dramatic greyish mesh sections that are conical and long and enclose the chandelier. There are curvy grey partitions used along certain sections of the walls of the room, and also two pictures of young people clad in white on the side of the non-functional mantleplace. Medium grey chairs, with some apricot chairs. The same color schemes for the carpets. Nice lighting, and a very attractive environment in my view. Nice touches included the availability of a handbag stool matching the seats in the restaurant. Unappealing touches included the table ornament being a quasi-abstracted bronze (?) depiction of the Tour Eiffel.

Service imperfections were (1) the lack of availability of the late 1980's half- bottle of L. Jadot Batard Montrachet I initially chose, (2) the lack of explanation of the amuse until I asked, and (3) the sommelier’s assumption that I would order wine by the glass and his slow provision of the wine list (which was not unreasonably priced for a restaurant of this caliber in certain areas). Overall, the service was very good, with the dining room waiting team being a bit stronger than the sommeliers on that particular day.

My assessment of Ducasse’s cuisine has improved, from not having liked it (not that I like it a lot . Based on this visit, I would say that I still do not subjectively prefer Ducasse’s cuisine – it’s a bit “in your face” and direct with respect to flavors and lacks the subtlety I prefer. However, the flavors were crisp and distinct (if slightly uncontrolled), and the dishes were generally well-executed. I now rate Ducasse a bit more highly than before, and I do not think he should be stripped of his third star at Plaza Athenee.

Other Items From The Spring 2002 Menu (Rough Translations)

Plaisirs de Table (Pleasures of the Table)

Homard bleu, asperges/caviar, sucs de cuisson reduits (available also in ½ portion) (Lobster, likely from Brittany, asparagus/caviar, reduction of cooking juices)

Specialtes (Specialties)

Langoustines rafraichies, nage reduite, caviar oscietre royal (available also in ½ portion) (Langoustines, reduced nage, special type of oscetra caviar)

La Carte

Asperges vertes de chez “Blanc”, comte/vin jaune/truffe noire (Green asparagus like at Blanc’s – unlikely to be Georges Blanc and likely to be referring to a producer, comte cheese/yellow wine/black truffle)

Foie gras de canard confit, condiment de fruits epice (Confit of duck foie gras, spiced fruit condiments)

Bar de ligne, mariniere au jus de persil, morilles (Line-caught bass, marinated in a parsley jus, morels)

Sole de petit bateau a la riche (Sole caught from small boats, “a la riche”?)

Turbot de Bretagne a plat, coquillages, sucs au beurre demi-sel (Brittany turbot, various clam-type shellfish, saucing based on semi-salted butter)

Agneau laiton du Limousin marine aux truffes noires (Lamb from Limousin marinated with black truffles)

Pigeonneau desosse, puis farci, jus a l’olive (Pigeonneau ?, then stuffed, olive jus)

Veau d’eleveur en piccata, facon Argenteuil (Veal piccata, Argenteuil method)

Collection “Caviar/Crustaces” (Collection of Caviar/Shellfish)

Trois plats “caviar/crustaces” en demi, fromages et dessert (Three half-portioned dishes “caviar/shellfish”, cheese and dessert)

Menu “Plaisirs de Table”

Trois plats en demi choisis dans “la carte”, fromages et dessert (Three half-portioned dishes chosen from the “La carte” section of the menu, which includes the spider crab dish), cheese and dessert

Dessert

Baba au rhum comme a Monte-Carlo (Baba au rhum as in Monte-Carlo)

Banane a la banane, en feuilles croquantes (Banana dessert, in crunchy leaves/layers)

Choco/menthe en chaud/froid (Chocolate/mint)

Fraises de Plougastel en coupe glacee a la napolitaine (Strawberries from Plougastel)

Vacherin facon contemporain: fraises/fraises des bois, au parfum de thym-citron (Certain cake, contemporary style, with strawberries and wild strawberries, flavored with thyme-lemon)

:laugh:

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I visited the bar at Plaza Athenee Hotel recently. This is not affiliated with Ducasse's restaurant; however, it was described as offering food very generally (i.e., not actually) supervised by Ducasse. This bar has been hyped of late because of (1) its design by a P Starck pupil, (2) its ice blue, illuminated bar area (which was beautiful, but not as long as I had anticipated), and (3) its use of jello shots in drinks.

The bar's food menu was much simpler than I had imagined – (1) a selection of amuses (e.g., smoked salmon; foie gras on toast), (2) various salads and tartines and sandwiches, and (3) a decent selection of desserts (including an almond ice cream that I considered ordering, but did not). Below were the items taken:

Chaud/froid de volaille au vert; cuisse de volaille de Bresse nappe au sauce verte accompanee d’une marinade de legumes croquants (23 euros) (Salad with Bresse chicken drapped in a green sauce and accompanied by vegetables)

Tartine Landaise; fine tranche de pain de campagne, marmelade de figues epicees, foie gras de canard confit (22) (Tart from the Landes region of Southern France; thin pieces of country bread, a marmelade of spiced figs, and duck foie gras confit)

Glass of Lanson, Nobel cuvee, 1989 (22)

Rose Royal drink (rasberries and champagne, one of the signature drinks of the bar) (22)

Jelly Shots

I picked the most complex dish on the menu with the salad of Bresse chicken, covered in a green, vegetable-and-herb-based sauce and a light, liquid white mayonnaise. The chicken was well-prepared, and the green sauce and white sauce formed broad stripes on top of the chicken. A decent, entree-size dish with an appropriate salad included. The tartine dish consisted of three long segments of hard-tasting bread, with foie gras terrine on top. Fortunately, the unduly sweet figs marmelade was served in a little dish and not included in copious amounts on the bread segments. The foie gras was nothing special.

The jello shots consisted of 9 small slices of jello. There were three varieties, each of which had three colors within it representing the distinct principal ingredients of a corresponding drink: (1) B52, (2) a pineapple based drink whose jello shot had a strong peach flavor for some reason, and (3) a drink featuring an apple-based liquor (not Calvados).

The drinks were all average. This bar is overhyped, although the decor is rather attractive. Apart from the ice blue bar, there were generally long communal tables with low-hanging tiny, silver/blue chandeliers. Also, on the right hand side upon entering the bar, more low sofas for groups of 3-4, with their own tables, and some red lighting. Probably not worth a visit, except for drinks and the "hype" factor (if relevant). I don't feel a need to return any time soon, although I am glad I visited to find out. :hmmm:

A quick note on my Avatar. I like this Charlie Brown one quite a bit, and will likely adhere to it for a while.

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I never realized before how much the roundness of Charlie Brown's face resembles an egg yolk. :rolleyes:

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Beachfan -- Unfortunately, I do not recall the price. Note that the version of the menu I received did not contain prices. I had considered ordering that menu and did not think the prices exorbitant (in the context of Ducasse). However, the chicken I sampled would not have been an available choice. :wink:

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Our visits to this bar in recent years ended with our sitting in

the 'lobby' bar as first there was a fire [i think I recall this

correctly] and then renovation. I can't say that your

description makes me want to run to the new venue. I

was very fond of the 'old' bar. Is there anything of the

former comfy feeling left? Is there piano music still?

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Is there anything of the former comfy feeling left? Is there piano music still?

PaulaJ -- From your description of the old bar (which I never visited), the Plaza Athenee bar has changed markedly. The new bar is a trendy place currently in Paris. Its decor is designer (P Stark pupil, I believe) and modern. There is sofa-type seating on the left as one enters the bar, but not in the comfy sense you are seeking. There was no piano music, and I doubt the clientele would have been impressed with piano music the way you or I would have been.

Speaking of bars, have members visited the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz? It apparently may have a truffles-based drink. Also, have members visited Bubbles, the champagne-specialist restaurant in Paris? I have not. :blink:

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I love the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz! I haven't visited post

renovation so my comment addresses pre....but...it was more

clublike than the Plaza Athenee. There was a fabulous pianist.

And one drink [barbotage, I think] could make your contact

lens loosen!

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Cabrales,

Thanx for the nice report. I think we are in agreement, more or less, with our assessment of most everything sans food. Our one experience might be unusual due to the very very fresh and extremely good quality black truffles that were used in the menu that we had. It is a definite go back to despite the price (where as Guy Savoy was not).

Need to go to ADNY soon...

vivin.

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I am going to take Bux's advice and rather than add this post to an older Ducasse thread, start a new thread with up-dated information.

On our last night in Paris before going on the road to the countryside, we decided to try Ducasse at his new location. By the time we got to Plaza Athenee, we had seen a demonstration of grid-lock Paris style--what a mess--people blocking streets, nothing moving, no gendarmes to be seen anywhere, and this was 7:45 at night--our 15 minute taxi ride took 35 minutes. Our friend was waiting outside for us--fortunately he was late due to traffic also.

Ducasse is undoubtedly the most expensive restaurant in all of France--we can't imagine anyone having the nerve to charge more. Plan on mortgaging your house and your neighbors, too. Eating soup for a week might help also.

Is the food 3 star?--absolutely, although not innovative. It is cuisine based on the finest ingredients. Is the service 3 star?--questionable.

The room has been Ducasseized--lots of little kitchie stuff--chandeliers have been encased in cylinders, lined with light gray gauze to minimize the effect of the Louis the 14th look. The windows have the same gauze effect. The colors are muted, starched white table cloths over gray underskirts.

We had to wage the "table battle" as we were among the first in the room and, as usual, the desk people wanted to "sell" their worst tables first-- i.e. by the service station, the bathroom door, the kitchen door.

The menu is presented on parchment in a gray aluminum frame set in a "sign holder" type of aluminum device. It is placed in front of each diner so immediately after you sit down you can no longer really see your companions--conversation becomes very difficult.

The menu itself is very confusing; it is hard to figure out just what this meal is going to cost. Figure on a lot. His signature appetizer, langoustines with caviar is $ 130.00 with a "real bargain" of a 1/2 portion for $ 65.

After much discussion, we decided to create our own tasting menu. The head waiter/captain was helpful with this.

Amuse--a crayfish and mushroom soup with a mushroom cappuccino foam on top. Very nice--well executed.

We got a first mortgage and dove into the menu--the langoustines (1/2 orders) rafraiches nage reduit, caviar oscietre. This was an amazing dish--the langoustines were served as rectangular strips about 3/4" wide on top of a square of deep yellow lemon flavored nage mousse. Strips of caviar adorned the length of each langoustine. One thing about this dish--it got better with each bite--and we for sure took it slow and enjoyed our champagne with the bites--figure about 15 bites--a little over $ 4.00 per bite--

Sorry if we sound very mercenary or overly concerned with cost--it is just that the price of everything hits you in the face--and it stings.

One of the major problems in the service was that as each dish was presented there was absolutely no description of the food by the server. It was sort of --you bought it--you own it--eat. Not quite as nasty as that, but very much--"my job is to bring it out and put it in front of you." That's it, no passion, no enthusiasm for the food. Generally, then, service was robot-like, correct, professional but no sense of pride or passion concerning the food.

2nd course--sole de petit bateau. Again an absolutely wonderful dish. But with no help from the server, we were left to our own devices to understand the elements of the dish. Eventually, the captain did provide some help - the sole was served as a "log", beautifully set on top of chanterelles, crushed almonds and a sauce based on wine from the Jura--lemony and sweet but not cloying--spectacular!

3rd course--tian dí agneau a la Parisienne -

With this dish there occurred one of the worst service errors we have ever experienced in a Michelin 3 Star restaurant.

We ordered the dish--rose. For 2 people the lamb was perfectly done, but my husband's was overdone. We called over the waiter, showed him his meat, he apologized and took his dish away.

We decided to wait and not eat our lamb, until my husband had his, otherwise we would have been finished, drunk most of the red wine and he would have to eat alone.

About 10 minutes later, the waiter noticed we had not eaten our meat. He said, "You better eat or it will get cold." We said we will wait. Finally a captain came over and said, "I'll hold your dishes in the kitchen." I had visions of a heat lamp. When the 3 lamb plates were re-presented we were told by the Captain--the chef made you 3 new dishes. Considering the price, I would hope so.

After finally getting the lamb properly presented in front of all 3 of us--it was delicious - 5 perfect strips of rare lamb with an aubergine tian underneath, served with truffle de noir, parsley, basil and garlic.

4th course--a gift from the chef--an attempt to apologize for the lamb mess up--slices of mushrooms that were under-seasoned on top of salad greens--the whole thing tasted like cardboard.

5th course--Cheese.

The cheese cart was wheeled to the table, the glass lid lifted and our server gave very minimal descriptions and asked, "What do you want?"

Selling dessert--early in the meal

Some time after the menu signs are removed a smaller version is stuck on the table--you can see over this one. It is designed to help the waiter give his sales pitch for desserts (around $ 40 each--did not ask what the commission rate is) We decided to pass on dessert and have the mignardises with coffee.

Wines:

Champagne, 1988 Pommery "Cuvee Louise"

1998 Puilly Fume "Silex" Didier Dagueneau

1997 Ch. Certan de Gay (Pomerol)

The Bordeaux provided an example of real quality service and personal attention. By the time we got to ordering the wines, working our way around the menu signs and getting the tasting organized, the sommelier (head guy, Laurent--big time without a question) had realized that our friend had been in the wine trade for many years in Europe and that my husband was also a knowledgeable wine consumer. Our friend deferred to my husband's ideas, but when the sommelier and he were working on the red wine--Laurent very politely asked if he could make a suggestion--this is the time for anyone, regardless of their level of experience to be quiet and listen--we did. Laurent suggested the Bordeaux because, although the Meo Camuzet Cros Parantoux that my husband had in mind would be good with the lamb--he felt--and it turned out to be absolutely correct, that the Pomerol from 97, a very wet year, would drink more successfully right now with the exact preparation of lamb - a perfect choice.

Looking at the totality of the Ducasse experience leads to the following conclusions:

This is definitely fine cuisine at the highest level. Food is generally perfectly prepared (discounting the mushroom salad). The flavors are delicate, the preparation perfect, the ingredients superb. However, is the cuisine unique, something special, imaginative and creative? Not really and the bottom line becomes is it worth the unbelievable high prices?

The service, as I have said, is correct, professional yet robot-like. The staff has very little regard for the intelligence, sophistication or dining experience of the guests--I don't think this is just an attitude toward Americans as they seemed uniformly disdainful of the customers.

Unlike Ledoyen, Gagnaire, and Faugeron (those posts will be forthcoming) the room was mostly non-French. Probably, the French either can't or won't pay the high prices.

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Great review, THANKS! Interesting that the service we had at ADNY was much better -- they were very good about explaining each dish.

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On my last visit, the dining room team members did describe (not explain) the dishes (their names) that I ordered, but made no attempt to indicate what the amuse was until I inquired. :hmmm:

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I had that exact same reaction to my cheese guy at ADP -- I found the presentation perfunctory and offputting. It was strange since there were at least two cheese carts with servers who seemed exclusively devoted to the task of presenting the cheese course. I can't tell whether it's intentional or not, but either way it's something that needs fixing. And for me it was doubly strange because, with respect to every other element of service I received throughout the meal, my service experience couldn't have been more different than yours. The maitre d', a guy whose name I think might be Donnie, is sort of a legend. The buzz is that he's the best maitre d' in France, and he certainly was the best I've ever dealt with -- rivalled only by the old guy at Les Crayeres. He ran a tight ship when I was there and the people working under him were good natured and engaging. We received thorough descriptions of our food. Strange. Any other ADP service experiences out there that we can look to for comparison?

Here are some notes I wrote up about ADP last March:

ALAIN DUCASSE PARIS (ADP) AT THE PLAZA ATHENEE

I had no experience of Alain Ducasse until he came to New York last

summer, but it was immediately apparent to me that ADNY had set a

whole new standard for American fine dining. The gap between ADP and

every other restaurant I've tried in Paris is less striking, but its

excellence nonetheless confirms that Ducasse's reputation as the

world's top chef/restaurateur is well deserved. Though I've had

individual meals that exceeded my recent experience at ADP (most

notably at the old Lespinasse under the currently AWOL Gray Kunz), I

can't say I've ever dined at a better restaurant. Ducasse's

particular strength is that he thinks of everything -- you can fill a

couple of pages of a notepad just observing all that happens before

you even place your order. Of course food should be the paramount

consideration at any restaurant, and Ducasse has that well under

control with his low-key, classically inspired but eminently

contemporary, intellectual approach to cuisine (it's not exactly my

favorite kind of cooking, but I recognize it as a paragon of its

kind). His ingredients, too, are a cut above and upon them he places

the proper emphasis (as he said to Jean-Francois Revel, "Turbot

without genius is better than genius without turbot."). Still, when

you get to the top of the three-star heap (and there are several

restaurants in this category), you reach a state where the food

couldn't conceivably get much better, and so the differentiation must

occur in the non-food realm. And when it comes to thinking about all

of what I would call the externalities, Ducasse has no rival. At ADP

(as well as at ADNY) one's table becomes an evolving work of art

throughout the meal, as food, wine and a staggering array of

implements are added to the already-present sculptures that grace

each table. The service staff is tremendously engaging, possessed of

the understated confidence that can only come from knowing that

you're the best. And the setting could not be more pleasant or

attractive, with modern touches (such as the cylindrical fabric

screens enclosing the antique chandeliers) juxtaposed against the

Plaza Athenee's lovely old dining room in a manner remarkably in tune

with the way I think Ducasse views cuisine. (If Ducasse's Monaco

restaurant falls anywhere within ADP's sphere of quality, then

Michelin's recent decision to demote it once again from three stars

to two was surely political.) As for the inevitable question -- ADP

versus ADNY -- the similarities are far more noticeable than the

differences, but there are definitely distinctions. There are of

course differences in ingredients, some of which cut each way, but

most notably ADNY is still playing catch-up with the quality of its

cheese selection. This may be an inherent limitation of the cheeses

available here, but I don't think ADNY has yet pushed the edge of

even that envelope (Memo to Alain Ducasse: Visit Picholine).

Conversely, I prefer the desserts here in New York for their sheer

reckless abandon (the ADP desserts are too tame for my tastes, and I

submit dessert isn't the place for this kind of composure). The two

restaurants are, physically, as different as could be, yet each

displays a similar sensibility. As for service, I'd say that ADP now

is where ADNY will be in a year or so -- the inevitable result of a

service team that has been working together for a long time (ADP is

in a new location, but the staff mostly carried over from the old).

We are lucky to have ADNY; we will be luckier still when ADNY closes

the gap with ADP.

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I include below a description of the service imperfections in a PA meal. :hmmm:

Service imperfections were (1) the lack of availability of the late 1980's half- bottle of L. Jadot Batard Montrachet I initially chose, (2) the lack of explanation of the amuse until I asked, and (3) the sommelier’s assumption that I would order wine by the glass and his slow provision of the wine list (which was not unreasonably priced for a restaurant of this caliber in certain areas). Overall, the service was very good, with the dining room waiting team being a bit stronger than the sommeliers on that particular day. ...

My assessment of Ducasse’s cuisine has improved, from not having liked it (not that I like it a lot . Based on this visit, I would say that I still do not subjectively prefer Ducasse’s cuisine – it’s a bit “in your face” and direct with respect to flavors and lacks the subtlety I prefer. However, the flavors were crisp and distinct (if slightly uncontrolled), and the dishes were generally well-executed.  I now rate Ducasse a bit more highly than before, and I do not think he should be stripped of his third star at Plaza Athenee.

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Great report.

Lizzie: how much more expensive is Ducasse than other Paris three stars? (I gather from reports here and elsewhere that most French non-Paris three stars are less expensive).

Cabrales: which is, if there is one, your favorite restaurant in France? (I have read many of your reviews--thanks-- but I can't recall right now if you have a favorite).

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One of the reasons that I focused on the service issue is that our experiences at Ducasse in the old location were extraordinary. We were taken aback by the difference.

Also, as Fat Guy noted when "you get to the top of the three-star heap (and there are several restaurants in this category), you reach a state where the food

couldn't conceivably get much better, and so the differentiation must

occur in the non-food realm." I couldn't agree more!

Miguel - Ducasse is significantly higher in price than the other three stars particularly if you want to try some signature dishes i.e. the langoustine dish. Also, this was our third day being in France and we were just beginning to experience the significant increases in price plus the relative strength of the euro versus the dollar.

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I was going to refer people to the menu on the Ducasse Web site, but it seems not to be caught up to the prices you're reporting. It lists 115 Euros for the langoustine dish (though 65 for the half). Well, here's the link anyway:

http://www.alain-ducasse.com/carteadpa_us.htm

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Langoustines and caviar. I assume much of the cost is related to the caviar. When I was there most of the dishes were 400-500 Francs (I guess that would be in the 60+ Euro range?) and there was a prix fixe for maybe 1250 Francs (190 Euros?) where you got three savory dishes from the menu, plus cheese and dessert.

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