Wed 27 Jun 2012
228, rue de Rivoli, in the 1st Arrondissement.
01 44 58 10 10. Mon–Fri, lunch and dinner.
Paris has 10 three-star Michelin restaurants, and I’ve eaten in exactly zero of them. It’s next to impossible to have a proper dinner at any of the top restaurants for less than 200 euros per person. If you really want to go all out and experience the tasting menu with wine pairings, that number can be closer to 400–500 euros each. Needless to say, I haven’t had the opportunity to indulge, but that all changed when my dad came for a visit. He wanted to try one of the best Paris restaurants, so off we went to Le Meurice for my first three-star experience.
Walking into Le Meurice is like walking into the most beautiful room in Versailles, but without any of the wall-to-wall camera-toting crowds. There are ornate fixtures, columns and mirrors, with accents of gold on the walls and ceiling, from which low-slung crystal chandeliers hang. Large bay windows along one wall add a dreamy lightness to the room. Our own dream began when we were greeted by five waitstaff ready to take care of our every need for the next four hours.
We started with a glass of champagne and an amuse-bouche, a bacon-wrapped crisp of Comte cheese that I could have eaten all night, but I knew we still had a long way to go. We chose the eight-course “dégustation” menu and opted for the recommended wine pairings as well.
Our first dish was a small bowl of roasted crab infused with a light touch of lemon, served with cauliflower that was cooked in its own specially designed porcelain bowl—allowing the vegetable to stew in its own juices. I will never think of cauliflower as uninteresting again. A dry Riesling let the food do the talking and didn’t overpower the delicate dishes.
Next we were presented with two perfect asparagus spears coated in an anchovy-flecked béchamel sauce. The spears came with swirls of fresh-herb jus, tiny lemon crackers and salty olives. It was a beautiful dish that fit right in with the beauty of the room.
We then moved to a duck foie gras that had been poached in Chambertin red wine. Foie gras is one of my favorite food groups—yes, I believe it should be its own food group—but this was one of my least favorite preparations of the dish. The poaching made the consistency spongy and extremely light in flavor. Foie gras really sings when it’s been seared and starts to caramelize.
Quenelles of whiting and langoustine with young vegetables.
Quenelles, or fish dumplings, came out next and were a sleeper hit with a light, buttery sauce that brought a creaminess to the dumplings and the bed of fresh peas and beans. The perfectly matched Chardonnay Clos Blanc complemented the butter in the dish while adding an extra dose of light floral notes.
The following course featured veal blanquette (veal stew) stacked with spring vegetables such as dried mushrooms, asparagus tips and white onions. Next came a crisp potato filled with cumin-scented Muenster cheese, paired with a cumin liqueur. It was a bit of cumin overkill for me, but at least I now know that I would rather eat cumin than drink it.
Our first dessert was a frozen meringue with lemon zest. The meringue was so firm it could support paper-thin strawberry slices, which were embedded within and hung off the sides of the confection. The meringue proved a refreshing palate cleanser before the chocolate finale: two spheres of dark chocolate stuffed with black currant and candied violet. The Pedro Ximenez Montilla Moriles sherry provided the perfect level of sweetness to balance the richness of the chocolate.
Chef Yannick Alléno made two appearances in the dining room during the evening, one at the beginning of the meal to welcome each table and another at the end. We talked about his new, more casual venture, Terroir Parisien, which he says he’s really enjoying. But Alléno still spends most of his time at Le Meurice, his flagship. Le Meurice is his crown jewel, and his attention to detail is what makes it a three-star experience each year.
In a nutshell: Le Meurice is dining perfection. The room is a snapshot from Versailles, with impeccable service and flawless food, but be prepared to pay for this gastronomic bliss.
Price check: Lunch menu: 105–120 euros. Dinner à la carte: 200–300 euros. “Dégustation” menu: 260 euros (440 euros with wine pairings).
If you like Le Meurice and are looking for another three-star experience, try Alain Ducasse’s Plaza Athénée.
25, ave Montaigne, in the 8th.
01 53 67 66 65.
Editor’s note: For a gourmet walking trip, check out our DIY downloadable Paris trips.