Paris was our mini-moon after our wedding. We got married in November of last year. It was stressful. It was expensive. It was absolutely amazing.
I had started a new job a few months before the wedding so there was no way I had accumulated enough vacation hours to go on the honeymoon we had originally planned for – the plan was a three week multi-country European tour. We decided to take a short mini-moon instead but weren’t sure where to go until we started combing through travel sites and stumbled upon the deal of a lifetime: $600 RT per person to Paris, France including airfare and hotel for 6 nights and 5 days. Granted the airline may have been one of the worst I’d ever flown on, but it was less than $800 per person after taxes, fees, and baggage. Flying to NYC is more expensive than that!
We were so excited for our Paris trip and put together a trip itinerary of all the places we wanted to visit and all the things we wanted to eat. I’ve been to Paris before but this was Chris’s first time so I let him prioritize what he wanted to do. True to typical Chris fashion, he was most opinionated about where we were going to eat. He had three requests: (1) people watching in cafés while sipping lattes and eating éclairs; (2) lunching in French bistros (or I guess they’re just called regular bistros in France, right??) for home-styled, rustic cuisine; and (3) dining at Yam’Tcha. We had watched Netflix’s Chef’s Table: France when the season came out and that specific episode featuring Chef Adeline Grattard really stuck in Chris’s mind. He said he loved her concept and eating at her restaurant was on the top of his Paris activities list. I said no problem, as long as we also ate at Chef Alain Passard’s L’Arpėge too; which coincidentally was also featured on the same season of Chef’s Table: France. And so began the planning of our one-, two-, three-star Michelin star tour of Paris.
Chef Adeline Grattard
One Michelin Star
Chinese cooking techniques with French ingredients
8 Course Dinner Tasting Menu
This was a very romantic dinner overall. Not only was the restaurant adorable, we sat near these huge windows in the back of restaurant and it started to snow. We were very happy with the meal – it was French food reinvented in a way that we wouldn’t expect. All the dishes were simple and not over-fussed. Chef Grattard only puts a few ingredients on each plate to allow everything to shine and really come through in the taste and presentation. I would definitely eat here again next time we visit Paris. My top three dishes were:
The scallops were very fresh and served raw in an intense umami-full mushroom stock. The scallops were soft and chewy. The sweetness of the scallops was accentuated by the slight bitterness of the turnips. Great dish to wake up the palate (this was the second dish served) and just so simple and elegant. I love it.
Octopus Cooked in Coconut Curry with Steamed Bao
The octopus was cooked very well – soft but didn’t lose its texture. The baos were fluffy and the perfect vessel to soak up the coconut curry. The curry was sweet, creamy and very deep in flavor; you can tell that the curry had been cooked with a lot of spices to come through with such complex flavor. The dish was topped with fried shallots to add a crunch component and another level of sweetness.
The pièce de résistance! This bao was the whole reason we came here and it did not disappoint. Again, the bao was soft and fluffy. The Stilton bleu cheese was just the right kind of funk against the blank bao canvas. But the best part was the cherry that was in the center that provided a sweet and tart to offset the saltiness of the Stilton. To explain how good this was, Chris HATES bleu cheese; if it’s mixed into his food, he’d rather not eat at all. That’s how much hate is involved. Not only did he eat his Stilton bao, he wanted another one. I could have eaten a dozen of these.
Chef Kei Kobayashi
Two Michelin Stars
Japanese-born chef influenced by French gastronomy
10 Course Lunch Tasting Menu
Kei Restaurant took us completely by surprise! The entire meal was absolutely amazing. We had chosen a one- and three-star restaurant and decided to go to a two-star one too (go big or go home, right?). Kei appealed to us because of Chef Kobayashi’s background and how he was influenced by French cuisine. Kei is very chic and glamorous; think all white everything, glass everything, and crystal chandelier. It’s nothing if not opulent and the food was the same. A lot of rich ingredients on every plate and each component well prepared.
Garden of Vegetables
This was a stunning dish when it was placed in front of me. I normally don’t like foams – not many dishes benefit from it, but the foam was where all the citrus was for this dish and it added such a depth of flavor to cut through the smokiness of the salmon. The dish had house-made smoked salmon from Scotland with lemon foam and asparagus mousse with olive and almond crumble. Definitely one of the most extravagant salads I’ve ever had.
I wanted to lick the plate. I’m a gnocchi lover so they already had an edge here. This was served with Ibérico ham, cream, pepper from Spain, and black truffle. Keeping to their styles, the dish was super decadent and rich – I think that’s why there were only a couple of gnocchi.
Hands down my favorite dessert from all three restaurants. A yuzu meringue with blood orange sorbet, basil ice cream, mandarins, kumquat, and mandarin orange and basil sauce. This dessert was fun and refreshing (in taste and in style); it allowed the chef to show off his whimsical side a bit. As mentioned, all the dishes were very rich so it was nice to have something more on the tart side to brighten up the palate again.
Chef Alain Passard
Three Michelin Stars
Legendary chef reinventing menu with vegetables as main ingredients
12 Course Dinner Tasting Menu
Chef Alain Passard has been an icon for me since I was a little girl and he was on Iron Chef (the original, not the America remake). I felt so humbled to be able to eat at L’Arpège, giddy even. We had heard that Chef Passard had moved away from meats as the focal point of the menu but we had no doubts that the meal would be spectacular regardless. I love how some dishes had no meat in them but it wasn’t missed at all. A genius cumulation of seasonal vegetables and well balanced sauces made some of the best dishes I had this trip.
Soup with Dumplings
A very simple concept but a signature dish nonetheless. Three dumplings made of beet, celery, and Jerusalem artichoke in an extremely aromatic vegetable broth. Each dumpling had a distinct taste of the vegetable it was made from. I drank all the broth.
Celery Root “Risotto” with Chestnuts and Chanterelles
Again, another dish with no meat but wasn’t missed at all. I loved this one so much because there was no carbs either (as if we were still following our wedding diet at this point in the trip)! The rice was substituted with celery root to make the risotto. The celery root took on the flavor from the cream and foam that the dish had in it. The chanterelles were beautifully cooked and gave the dish a deep earthiness. And the chestnuts were pops of sweetness to offset the heaviness of the cream.
Turbot: Fish of the Night
We had two main meat dishes and this turbot was one of them. It was a beautifully cooked fish that was served with cauliflower and potatoes and carrot skin sauce. Yes, I wrote that correctly, CARROT SKIN SAUCE. Who even dreams up of this kind of stuff??? All the flavors melded perfectly and was homey and warm. It was almost as if Chef Passard had invited us over to his home for a quick dinner. But seriously, if Chef Passard invites me to his home for dinner, I might ever leave.