Le Meurice (Paris, France) – Down the Middle

This was the final meal on my recent Paris trip, the day before the restaurant took off for summer vacation. Yannick Alleno went from two Michelin stars to three in a few short years. My main interest lie in trying the acidic and iodized flavors that are often mention in reports of the food, such as this Luxeat review. Seafood-based menus with an emphasis on acidity sounded like a refreshing way to end a summer trip to Paris.


Sardine w/ quinoa

The dining room is baroque and opulent, a setting where very large diamonds and pearls are meant to be flaunted as much as one’s social status. The floors are marble, the trimmings are real gold, the tables decadently spaced apart, and one would not be surprised to find Louis XVI eating dinner – there is plenty of cake here. The atmosphere warms up after an hour or two, but it is stilted and unnatural in this day and age.


Cod with clams

The service was quite good despite one major flaw. In fact, this review, suffers because a menu was promised to be emailed the next day; but it never was. This might sound petulant but, considering the atmosphere, that level of follow-up is expected. Otherwise, the servers are quite attentive without being busy.


Red Snapper with baby octopus

I focused on ordering seafood-based dishes but my meal did not reflect the experience of others; sometimes, I live in my own world. The ingredients were of very high quality, the cooking masterful, but none of the dishes had any sort of acidic focus, or elements. Most of them, while generally balanced, were on the bland side – muted, but not subtle, flavors. It would be hard to have a major complaint about the meal – until the check arrives.


Vegetable shavings accompanying red snapper

The sardine with quinoa, an exciting take on sushi, was the best bite of the night, and possibly the trip. The proportion of quinoa to sardine was perfectly balanced, the work of an Urasawa or Masa. The slight pop of the quinoa elevated the bite to masterpiece – this could be a new sushi.


Random spaghetti accompanying red snapper

The cod with clams was a pleasant dish. The fish was of superior quality, barely cooked, with a subtle cream sauce (that may have had a subtle lemon flavor, if memory serves me correctly.) But for all of its precision, it lacked much character. It’s a hard criticism to levy against it, for it does not aspire to be the big bang, but I wonder if it could have been pepped up a touch more lemon or acidity. Or is that me imposing my expectations on the meal?


Lobster with asparagus

The red snapper dish was enigmatic because it was served with a side bowl of spaghetti. The red snapper itself was cooked nicely, a pleasant surprise in France, but at 80 euros, the fish had none of the revelation I would later encounter in Japan. The baby octopus were delicious – excellent bites of taste and texture. But what was that spaghetti doing there on the side? It was not even particularly good. Strange.


Chocolate

The lobster was run of the mill, slightly over-cooked by my tastes. The asparagus were not particularly inspired, and I wonder if they were out of season, being on the tail end of summer? While there were redeeming values in the previous dishes, this dish, which was quite expensive, was a let down. I was full and there was no use complaining at this point – accept your fate.

The meal does not live up to its price which hovered somewhere around 300 Euros/person. In a city with L’Arpege or Gagnaire, where prices are just as exorbitant or more, there is more value at those places for a visitor like me. Le Meurice’s food felt like Alain Ducasse – restrained but flat with high quality ingredients. This could be a matter of personal taste but I am not sure how to frame it – the minimalism does not bother me but, perhaps, the ingredients, despite being of better quality, are still not up to the task? Expectations also played a role in my disappointment with the food – perhaps I expected more vibrancy? Regardless, unless one wanted to play French aristocracy, I would recommend the other big Parisian restaurants for most people.1

- chuck (Japan is almost here.)

1 – Unless there’s a specially-priced lunch menu – then it might be worth trying. I don’t know if this the case or not.

  • http://www.truetraveltreasures.blogspot.com Loving Annie

    Good Wednesday morning to you, Chuck.

    I confess to loving formal and elegant. In these days of loud, trendy and cutting corners, dining in quiet opulence is a treat. But then again, I am 50 :)

    My best comparison would be Daniel in New York – would love to know if you found that type of atmosphere was the same as what you experienced at Le Meurice, in terms of making making luxury and comfort synonymous.

    They SHOULD have e-mailed you the menu promptly.

    No matter how gorgeous the presentation (and your pictures alone are stunning), bland does become a big disappoinment.
    Then the price becomes a flaw rather than a fairly deserved conclusion.

    Loving Annie

  • http://www.ulteriorepicure.wordpress.com/ ulterior epicure

    Chuck,

    As always, a much appreciated report. I had already axed Le Meurice from my itinerary for an upcoming trip to Paris. Your rather breathless subject of your review all but puts the lid on that coffin.

    u.e.

  • chuckeats

    Annie – i haven’t been to Daniel but i’m almost certain this room would put it to shame. no expense has been spared. you can see a picture in Luxeat’s review:
    http://www.luxeat.com/my_weblog/2007/11/le-meurice.html

    UE – what are you thinking in terms of an itinerary? L’Arpege and Gagnaire are essentials.

  • Tom Gandey

    Annie – I have eaten at both Daniel and Le Meurice, and I assure you that Daniel does not use ingredients of that calibre and the level of cooking at LM is much higher.

    Chuck – Your meal does indeed sound somewhat reminiscent of a Ducasse meal, which is not what I experienced. Think JG done right and without the Asian influence.

    UE – I don’t think this is necessarily indicative of a regular meal there… and even if it was, it looks pretty damn good anyways.

  • paul

    I would like to know how these high end resturants in Paris can get away with charging so much money for there food because they make London restaurants look cheap by comparison IMO

  • Tom Gandey

    Paul – That is because restaurants in London aren’t operating on the same level. If you are looking for true 2-3* food with reasonable prices, go to Spain.

  • http://www.epicures.wordpress.com Michael

    Chuck,
    Next time in Paris you might try La Table du Lancaster, which specializes in acidic cuisine.
    Michael

  • chuckeats

    Been there, done that Michael :)
    http://www.chuckeats.com/2007/02/08/table-du-lancaster-paris-a-better-troisgros/

    I enjoyed the meal but, as I say in the post, there are too many other great options for a repeat there. I guess I expected Le Meurice to be a better version.

  • http://www.xanga.com/aromes S LLoyd

    As much as I am familiar with Montreal fine dining restaurants, as much Paris (stayed there for yrs) is the other city which fine dining restaurants I am familiar with and I concur with you Chuck: Ducasse and Le Meurice do simply not live up to the high $$$ they command: yes it is luxurious food (top ingredients, sumptuous decor,very very class) but they stand flat. And that is coming from someone who do like classic French fine dining as much as it’s modern derivatives! My latest visits in Paris these days turn mainly around Helene Darroze, L’Astrance and my personal favourite classic, Guy Savoy.

  • Barry

    I love this blog and look it up regularly. I do wonder why there is so much credit given to mcgradys and husk? The chef alters his trends to fit the times so the food seems forced. I had a very average and under seasoned meal at husk and an okay meal at mcgradys where I had the tasting menu, but ordered the much better bar snacks to find the gems. Overall, fish was much better in terms of great execution and taste along with atmosphere. My server at mcgradys told us how great the place was all night and then bolted early with his back pack in tow before we finished the meal to be relieved by another server. Having worked in one to three star establishments I found this to be highly unprofessional. I will say that husk and it’s bar are incredible looking and I would go back in a second, but not for a world class experience.

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