Tag Archives: dining review

Dining Review: L’Arpège, Paris, France (Revisited)

I had dined at L’Arpège a couple of years prior and had a wonderful experience, so I knew I wanted to return on my most recent trip to Paris. I had a bit of trouble making the reservation myself, so I got one of my credit card concierges to make the reservation for me. Once again, I decided to eat there at lunch, as it’s significantly more affordable than dinner (although the dinner menu is also available at lunch).

Exterior of L'Arpège

Exterior of L’Arpège

Place setting

Place setting

I ended up going for the lunch surprise menu, which was 145 euro. I said that I didn’t eat meat, which the person who took my order confirmed, but I later realized that not eating meat doesn’t mean quite the same thing in French as it does in English.

Up first was an egg course. Last time, I had l’oeuf parfait, or the perfect egg. This time, the egg was good–an egg yolk served with maple syrup and sherry vinegar foam–but it wasn’t as rich as other egg dishes I’ve had. The yolk itself was rich and delicious, but I felt like the accompaniments didn’t bring enough to the table. You can also see butter in the background of this picture. The bread and butter service at L’Arpège is absolutely incredible–best I’ve ever had. I think I ate two wedges of butter and eight slices of bread throughout my meal.

An egg to start (with Bordier butter in the background)

An egg to start (with Bordier butter in the background)

A tomato gazpacho with celery and mustard ice cream followed. A fun play on acidity and temperature. This course was refreshing and light.

Tomato gazpacho with celery and mustard ice cream

Tomato gazpacho with celery and mustard ice cream

Up next was beet sushi with fig. Sushi is often about the rice, but I did not think the sushi rice was very good, and I’ve had much better vegetarian sushi. There was a bit of a smoky flavor, but the plate was overall a bit too sweet with the beet, fig, and surrounding caramel sauce.

Beet sushi with fig

Beet sushi with fig

The following course was simple, but one of my favorites. Melon with buffalo mozzarella and olive oil. It was creamy, salty, sweet, with the perfect balance of flavors and textures. The olive oil was perfectly salted; the melon was perfectly sweet; the mozzarella was perfectly creamy. This dish was so, so good.

Melon with buffalo mozzarella and olive oil

Melon with buffalo mozzarella and olive oil

Next was vegetable ravioli, which is a “classic” dish as this restaurant (as is an egg dish). I wasn’t a huge fan of this dish the last time I was at L’Arpège, and I wasn’t a huge fan this time around either. The soup was very acidic, the ravioli interiors were very herbal and crunchy, and the pasta was overdone.

Vegetable ravioli

Vegetable ravioli

My first clue that my statement “I don’t eat meat” was lost in translation was when the next course came. It was described as a lunchtime surprise, as sea urchin had just come into season. Now, I love sea urchin, so I wasn’t about to send it back, but it seemed odd to serve seafood to someone who said he doesn’t eat meat (of course, in French, not eating meat means not eating land animals, rather than being vegetarian and not eating seafood either). The sea urchin was served with scallops and an apple, carrot, and cucumber emulsion.

Sea urchin with scallops

Sea urchin with scallops

The following course was a sweet onion gratin with parmesan cheese and caviar tomatoes. This was so sinfully rich and delicious. Incredible sweetness from the onions, richness and umami from the parmesan, and great acid from the tomatoes and greens. This was like the best grilled you’ve ever had, but multiply that experience ten times to get this dish.

Sweet onion gratin

Sweet onion gratin

I forgot to take a picture of the next dish, but it was a fricassee of green beans with pear and juice of sage. It was like an extremely elevated green bean casserole. Absolutely delicious, and the pear was a great addition.

The next dish certainly surprised me. It was a filet of dover solefish, potatoes, mussels, leeks, fennel, and cabbage. First, it was seafood, and second, it was an absolutely enormous portion. It’s not really realistic to serve such large portions in a tasting menu. Not all tables received this dish–for example, the table next to me got a lobster preparation that was similar instead.

Dover solefish, potatoes, mussels

Dover solefish, potatoes, mussels

An umami bomb was served next. A ball of vegetables composed of peppers, tomatoes, hazelnuts, beets, and other things, accompanied by a tomato sauce.

Vegetable ball

Vegetable ball

Beet root tartare followed, which was really good. The “tartare” was creamy and sweet, the tomatoes provided some nice acid, and the “egg” on top was actually a tomato sitting on cream. Super playful take on steak tartare (and the plate is gorgeous).

Beet root tartare

Beet root tartare

The final savory dish was a sweet potato lasagna. Hazelnuts on top, sweet onions and parmesan inside, with a super acidic foam surrounding. This was good, but super rich, and a bit challenging to eat after 11 other courses and way too much bread and butter.

Sweet potato lasagna

Sweet potato lasagna

Dessert number one was a hazelnut Paris Brest. The choux pastry was actually a bit salty, which made the dessert all the more delicious. This was such an incredible pastry.

Hazelnut Paris Brest

Hazelnut Paris Brest

At this point, I was also given a plate of mignardises. Often, I find that this is one of the weakest parts of the meal, but I greatly enjoyed most of these. The only one that I found a bit strange was that one of the cookies had cream and bell pepper in it.

Mignardises

Mignardises

The second dessert was a pear and raspberry sorbet served tableside. So soft and creamy and deliciously tart.

Pear and raspberry sorbet

Pear and raspberry sorbet

The final dessert was a chestnut and caramel napoleon. I had specifically requested the millefeuille for dessert since I had missed out the last time I dined here, so I was super happy to receive this dessert. There was a bit of tartness from apples inside, and the pastry was so ridiculously rich and flaky. So much sugar and butter.

Chestnut and caramel napoleon

Chestnut and caramel napoleon

Overall, the meal was 145 euro for the lunch menu, and 9 euro for a bottle of San Pellegrino. Was it as good as I remembered? Not quite, but I’ve also eaten quite a bit more since that first meal. I still think it’s a great value at lunch, and it’s definitely a restaurant to visit if you like vegetables (although if you’re vegetarian, you need to explicitly specify no meat and no seafood!).

Dining Review: Central Restaurant, Lima Peru

The second fancy restaurant that I ate at in Lima was Central, which has been lauded in numerous places, including San Pelligrino’s list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (Central was number 15 in 2014). I made a reservation for 8pm, which is the first seating. Sounds late to me to have 8pm be the first seating, but that seemed typical in Lima, and everyone who was seated at 8pm was English-speaking (and rather casually dressed, although the restaurant is definitely upscale).

Also, apologies in advance for the bad pictures.

I had pre-ordered the tasting menu, so no regular menu was offered. The tasting menu is conceptually based off of different elevations of Peru and the ingredients found therein. The chef Virgilio Martinez Veliz definitely tries to introduce novel ingredients that are indigenous to Peru, which means I had never eaten a lot of the foods that I sampled.

Looking down on the main floor

Looking down on the main floor

Menu for the night

Menu for the night

The first four bites were bites from the sea, coast, mountains, and jungle. First bite was squid on top of a seaweed cracker, which had a fresh sea flavor without too much brine. The native corn was a completely unfamiliar flavor to me–it tasted vaguely like chicha morada. The creaminess of the corn contrasted well with the crisp crackers.

Squid on top of seaweed cracker; sweet potato with camomile

Squid on top of seaweed cracker; native corn

Yacon root covered with a bit of pepper was next. It was a bit like eating jicama with a little bit more of a peppery kick. The final bite was sweet potato with chamomile, which tasted like a fall harvest.

Yacon root

Yacon root; sweet potato with chamomile

The bread presentation was impressive. There was a cocoa leaf bread, cacuts fruit bread, and tuber bread served with toasted butter. The butter could have used a tad more salt, but it tasted almost like caramel without the sweetness.

Bread presentation

Bread presentation

Up next was scallops served in something crunchy like quinoa and a ceviche-like sauce with passion fruit and avocado. This was a solid course, with a good contrast of the crunch of the grain against the scallops, combined with the more familiar flavors of ceviche from the sauce.

Scallops in something like quinoa with a ceviche sauce

Scallops

The next course with octopus served in a soup with purple corn, olive, and limo chili. I enjoyed the octopus as it was grilled well and had some chew, and the soup was delicate with just a hint of heat at the end from the limo chili, but I didn’t really understand the other aspects of the dish.

Octopus with soup

Octopus with soup

The next course puzzled me. It was essentially like eating raw shrimp, which can be a wonderful experience (like at a good sushi bar), and it was creamy, but it was also stringy and slightly unpleasant. The frozen herbs were interesting on their own, but I wasn’t sure how this plate tied together besides the elevations theme.

Raw shrimp

River shrimp, native herbs

This course was similarly odd. It was like eating mashed potatoes with balls in it. Granted, the potatoes were tasty, but it didn’t seem like much beyond it. I also thought the other thing on the plate was a hunk of meat, but it was just a decorative root.

Mashed potatoes with balls

Frozen potato

The following course was my least favorite of the night. It was arapaima, which is a large freshwater fish native to the Amazon, but I did not enjoy it. This was just salty and chew and confusing, so much so that I didn’t finish the plate. The sauces didn’t add to the dish, and I didn’t enjoy the presentation.

Salty chewy

Arapaima; also, when did splatters become fancy food presentations?

Up next was lamb and things it eats/produces. The lamb itself was tasty and cooked well, but it was covered in an overpowering sauce. Some of the other elements on the plate helped to counter the richness of the sauce. This plate was too salty and sticky and crunchy.

Lamb with things it eats

Lamb

The first dessert was interesting, full of things I had never eaten and probably can’t pronounce. There was citrus and nuts and fruit, and each element was individually interesting, although I wasn’t sure how well they all went together.

Dessert #1

Dessert #1

The second dessert was chirimoya with cacao, which was simple, tasty, and cute.

Cherimoya with cocoa

Chirimoya with cacao

Finally, there was a selection of bonbons and a house-brewed drink. The bonbons were generally good; the drink had a somewhat unpleasant smell but a mostly pleasant taste. Mostly.

Bonbons

Bonbons

At the end of the meal, I received a lot of stuff. I’m not sure the point of it all, but it included cards representing each of the courses I had eaten and each elevation.

Lots of stuff

Lots of souvenirs

The chef also made rounds throughout the night to talk to each of the guests. He was very gracious.

The chef

The chef

Overall, I enjoyed my meal at Maido more than this one at Central. While both used novel ingredients (to me) and had interesting concepts, I felt like the food at Maido was generally more delicious while I was mostly left feeling puzzled at Central. The price point was also similar at 325 soles for the menu plus 7.50 for a small bottle of gassy water (the current Elevations menu appears to be 388 soles per person).