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.
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.