Monday, September 11, 2006

Arpege

Moby is the evil antic who sits on my shoulder encouraging me to eat outrageous meals. I would never have gone to Arpege if he hadn't egged me on. I just wish that it were his jeans that were that little bit tighter today, not mine.

He had a point though. I could have been sat at my desk eating the compost that passes for salad from Neal's Yard. Instead I was eating in one of the greatest restaurants in the world. My expectations were sky high (as always) but I never let that get in the way of a good meal. OK, so the turbot in mustard sauce wasn't to my taste, but that's more because I'm bored of the inevitable white fish course (and Chef Cantu at Moto spoiled them all for me with his seabass cooked tableside) than anything wrong per se with the dish. Arpege thrilled me most when Passard was just letting the ingredients speak for themselves, each plate just a perfect expression of the ingredient.

Minimalism is very hard to do. Most chefs want to show their technique and while Passard's rejection of this inevitably leads to questions about whether or not Arpege deserves three stars, I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather eat a perfect tomato, than a foam or air made from substandard ones. Each mouthful of the salad sparkled on my tongue, each slice so different from the other. Makes you wonder if every other tomato you've eaten is just a facsimile of the real thing. I was tempted to trough the whole plate, but the beseeching looks from M won out and he got his half.

Arpege isn't all plates of perfect vegetables though. I'd had the highest hopes for the Lobster with Vin Jaune sauce, and it was as good as I'd expected it to be. A classic dish, my first taste is one of those things that will bring a smile to my face for a good while to come. The meat was sweet, perfectly balanced with the foamy, acidic sauce. Didn't really see the point of the smoked potatoes that everyone raves about though. They had the texture of tinned potatoes, but I suppose it was nice to have a reminder of food from my youth during this gastronomic treat.

Other highlights for me were the sweetbreads, which came encrusted in a sweet hazelnut sauce. Passard's background as a rotisseur was evident in this dish. The sweetbreads were perfectly cooked to my taste, combining perfectly with the hazelnuts and onion emulsion.

Deserts were the only let down for me. I won with a coffee flavoured floating island, served with a drizzle of lemongrass syrup on the perfect creme anglais. I just didn't get the confit tomato, but I am always nervous around slightly more savoury puds. The avocado souffle did nothing other than teach me that avocado and chocolate don't mix.

A final mention has to go to the dairy produce that Arpege serves. The butter, bright yellow, had been salted to within an inch of its life (just the way I like it) and the Bernard Antony Comte had the whole table silent, lifting shards of creamy, crystalline goodness to our lips. Just perfect really, and much more pleasant than a Neal's Yard salad.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Thurbo said...

Hello,

I just found your blog looking for recent info on Arpege (I'm going to be eating here when I am Paris next month...)

You make the food sound great and it's funny b/c from the menu on their site I was actually thinking of ordering the lobster, sweetbreads and turbot. Maybe now I'll have to reconsider the fish! Was the problem the mustard or was the fish just boring?

Any other dishes to recommend? Also do you have pictures of the lobster or sweetbreads?

I'd appreciate any help or advice you can give me about eating there! I like your blog so far!

4:59 PM  
Blogger Binky Silhouette said...

I have photos of all of the dishes which I'd be happy to send you. You can email me at binkysilhouette at hotmail.co.uk.

I don't think you should miss the lobster and the sweetbreads, but I don't think the point of Arpege is the protein. I am bored of white fish, and if I am really honest, it might be that often it's too subtle for my palate! M, who I ate with, was also disappointed with the dish. It had been cooked very, very slowly, so the proteins had become a little gloopy, almost. I think if you were being nice you'd describe it as melting...I just found it a bit blah. The mustard sauce is usually served with monkfish tail, and I can see how that fish would stand up better to the sauce, and probably also better to the cooking method.

9:02 AM  

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