When Vegetables Go to Heaven | Restaurant Review: L’Arpège

_MG_5811 L'Arpege

I can only recall the end of the meal when I was graciously escorted out the front door with a menu in one hand and a pocket knife in the other. The rest seems like a big blur. A giant, buttery, cloudy blur. Consequently, everything written today may or may not be the figment of my imagination.

_MG_5717 L'ArpegeMy reservation was at thirty minutes past twelve, but I decided to arrive early that day so that I would be the first to see all the courses first before anyone else. As soon I entered the restaurant, I remember the smell of butter flowing throughout the room. I quickly excused myself to the bathroom before the start of the meal. Indeed, the bathroom smelled like butter too. This was a good sign.

L’Arpège overturned my assumption that fine dining restaurants in France are strict and overbearing. In fact, the experience at this establishment in the 7th arrondissement of Paris was very much fun and playful, just like my time at Eleven Madison Park. The young staff at L’Arpège, albeit a bit frantic, seemed all aboard on the L’Arpège vegetable trail. That day, Chef Alain Passard was in the driver’s seat.

_MG_5754 L'Arpege

When vegetables go to heaven, they’ve probably also crossed paths with Chef Alain at L’Arpège. In the spring time, the L’Arpège garden gives life to crudités of baby radishes and an amuse bouche of vegetable tartelettes. It’s no short of warmth and delight.

_MG_5774 L'Arpege

This is only the beginning. As courses began to flood my table, I quickly realized that magic was ensuing in the kitchen. First, it was an earthy bite of beet sushi made me grin with pleasure. Then the simple mixed salad of Japanese mustard plants and hazelnuts. There was a flashback. I remember an episode of The Cosby Show when Rudy refused to eat her vegetables. It hit me that if Rudy was at L’Arpège, she’d finish her plate in a heartbeat.

_MG_5788 L'Arpege

Next, a beautiful, runny poached egg on top of a veloute graced the stage. It’s rich, it’s creamy, and it’s everything that my Korean mother would detest to (Sup, Mama Cho). But I’ve joined the dark side. And I do like my velvety veloute with heavy doses of butter. Then, I encountered a dish not so delectable. A bowl of vegetable ravioli in an amber consommé left me looking for the wonderful richness that was present in previous courses. Then, a smoky soup with black forest ham picked up the pace again. It conjured up memories of the smoky Benton’s Bacon ramen broth at Noodle Bar.

_MG_5818 L'Arpege

Afterwards, one of my favorite dishes at L’Arpège! A vol-au-vent (hollow puff pastry) with the spring season’s garlic shoots and clams (pictured at the top of the page). It was more than a consolation for missing ramps season. Then a piping hot gratin of sweet onion made its way. I was more than content.

_MG_5822 L'Arpege

Vegetables are the center of the universe at L’Arpège, but a beautiful catch of the day from the sea is also an important treat. During my lunch visit, I scored a monkfish which was served over smoked potato and cabbage. There’s also room for chicken, of course. It was grandmother’s chicken recipe and I couldn’t turn it down. However, after tasting the plate of spinach, garlic, and sausage, perhaps I should have declined the offer. Not the most pleasurable dish of the afternoon.

_MG_5854 L'Arpege

But few moments later, the pleasure was back. I scored a pungent portion of goat cheese (very delicious) and a precious plate of delicate mille feuille. It’s a true display of “treat-yo-self” at the end of the meal. The magnificent vanilla pastry and plates of petit fours including macarons, chocolates, and nougat capped off of the meal just right.

This is both one of the best & favorite meals that I’ve had in my lifetime. It not only allowed me to first-mouth experience the greatness of dining culture in Paris, but it also shattered the notion that all of the great restaurants in France are hoity toity and disdainful towards non-Parisians. I know that this is not the ase at L’Arpège.

Although I’ve gotten a taste of lunch, I’d like to one day make enough bucks to return for dinner. I can attest that going up to vegetable heaven is one hell of a ride. Perhaps its my imagination acting up again.

See the Entire Meal Here: L’Arpège

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4 responses to “When Vegetables Go to Heaven | Restaurant Review: L’Arpège

  1. your meals and photography keep getting better each time! well done, sir.

  2. Lucky you: poached egg on top of a veloute (usually a base of lobster with extra things ) is my favourite dish there. I need to go back. They do not serve that dish as oftently though

  3. After reading so many poor reviews for L’Arpege, I wanted to cancel my reservation there with my sister. My sister was inviting me to dine there for my birthday. She agreed that although there were so many poor reviews for this restaurant, we should try our luck. Well, guess what, the poor reviews were right on. The food is so expensive. The food was bland. Guy Savoy is expensive too but one is dazzled and amazed by the many flavors and textures found in just one bite. At least at Guy Savoy, one is indulging in delicate, tasteful food. L’Arpege was just one disappointment after another one. My risotto with truffles ( 124 euros) tasted like bland white rice soaked in dish water. The truffles saved the dish. Then when I ordered cheese, they carted over a wood cutting board with only 3 hard cheeses on it. I was given several shavings of my cheese of choice for 40 euros. Another thing that really hit me as being very unprofessional was the amount of help in their dining room. There were over 15 waiters, busboys…etc.all bumping into each other..with only a few of them that really knew what they were doing. So, if I am in this school like cafeteria, then why am I paying such high prices? L’Arpege is a scam. Read the reviews…Do not go there. If you want to have an excellent meal…go to Michel Troisgos in Roanne..or Guy Savoy, Gaya…or my favorite, L’Ami Jean. The only good thing about L’ Arpege was the sommelier who knew what he was pouring. I am sad that my sister was left with a hearty 780 euro bill…for such a disappointing experience. Shame on you ALain Passard. You give vegetables a bad name

    • @Tizzylish It’s a shame that we had such a different experience. Was Chef Passard in the dining room when you were there? I heard that the quality of the meal can fluctuate based on whether Chef is in the kitchen or not.

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