Dining Review: L’Arpège, Paris, France

L’Arpège is mecca for vegetarians. It’s the only 3 Michelin star restaurant that I know of where the primary focus of the food is on vegetables. Chef Alain Passard decided to showcase vegetables in 2001, several years after he had already received a vaulted third Michelin star, and it’s a testament to his craft that he retained all three stars after making the switch. L’Arpège is also reputed to have the best butter in the world, with Bordier making a butter specifically for Chef Passard.

Given all of the above, and the fact that several chefs that I adore said that L’Arpège was on their must-eat lists, I knew that I had to eat there when I visited Paris. I made reservations well in advance using the Visa Signature Concierge, but for lunch service instead of dinner service, as the lunch menu is considerably less expensive than the dinner menu. While lunch was still a very pricey 140 euro per person, the dinner menu clocked in at 420 euro, which I believe is the most expensive menu in Paris.

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Lunch menu for the day

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Compare to a 420 euro truffle menu! Granted, truffles are expensive.

Before getting into the food, I have to say that the service was impeccable. I loved the hostess in particular, who was personable in both English and French. When my dining partner had a hard time choosing between “scales” or “feathers” for his meat course, she exclaimed, “why not have both!”, and we had an extra course compliments of the house. Chef Passard also comes around during the meal service to talk to every table. While he does seem to prefer diners who speak French, he’s friendly to all, and it’s a nice gesture for him to make an effort to chat with everyone.

Now, onto the food:

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Trio of tartelettes as an amuse bouche. Bonus: they gave us two plates! Possibly because we devoured the first plate so quickly.

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Beurre Bordier. Best butter in the world? We went through two of these slices.

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Vegetable “sushi” with horseradish

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Described as the perfect egg. I think that’s a fair description. While I’ve had great imitations at other restaurants, the egg at L’Arpège is a must.

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Onion gratin with SO MUCH BLACK TRUFFLE. I’ve never had so much truffle in my life. It’s a very different flavor than what I thought truffles tasted like. See this NYTimes article for more information about truffle oil.

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This is a vegetarian ravioli soup not on the menu

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This is one of two courses which I didn’t “get”. It’s a beet. A rather large one at that. While it was subtle and pure, I wish this course would have been smaller.

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Vegetable garden with couscous

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Celeriac pasta. Better than any actual pasta that I’ve had.

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Some of the most delicious things to grace a plate

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The other course that wasn’t my favorite, but that’s largely because I’m not a cheese person.

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Sucrerie

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Dessert #1: The archetypal creme brulee

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Dessert #2: Avocado souffle

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Dessert #3: Apple tart

In spite of consuming no meat, this was the most gluttonous food experience of my life. To give you a sense of perspective, we were seated at 12:30pm, and we finished 4.5 hours later where we had to waddle out of the restaurant. Chef Passard had warned us to save room for dessert when he came to chat with us, but I didn’t expect to receive three! (For what it’s worth, it seemed like the desserts were distributed somewhat arbitrarily: some tables received a millefeuille, which I really wanted and will be sure to request next time; some received ice cream; all seemed to receive at least two different things) When the apple tart was set on our table, my dining companion and I burst out laughing because it was all too much.

L’Arpège was a superlative dining experience. I will surely return whenever I’m in Paris. Although the price tag is high, I firmly believe that it was actually quite inexpensive for what you receive. The Michelin guide describes three-star restaurants as having “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”, and I have to agree that L’Arpège is worth a special journey, especially if you have any vegetarian tendencies.

3 thoughts on “Dining Review: L’Arpège, Paris, France

  1. Tizzylish

    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

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