During Haute Couture Week in Paris earlier this year in July, I managed to squeeze in some time amidst the shopping and Fendi’s Haute Fourrure show to of course dine at some new restaurants. I been always wanting to try Alain Passard’s vegecentric restaurant – L’Arperge, and am glad I got to do it this time round with Y and her friends CG and AL, especially since it was summer when all the best vegetables are in full bloom!
Bright airy space with modern interiors
Alain Passard was known for having removed meat from his menu some years ago back in 2001, and then he started his own biodynamic farm a year later in the outskirts of Paris. Of course, in recent years, meat and fish has creeped back into his menu, but I heard he is very particular about the sources of the non-vege produce. Bon Appetit magazine called him the “vegetable whisperer” and said that “vegetables should write a thank you note to him”. This was enough to get my interest piqued enough to see if this meal would wow me. Presently ranked No. 12 on World’s 50 Best and holds 3 Michelin stars, would this restaurant live up to its accolades?
Beautiful place setting- love the plate with handpainted vegetables on it.
L’Arperge offers for lunch a 9-course at 130 euros or a 15-course at 360 euros. I really wanted to go for the 15 course to get the full experience, plus it seemed to feature some meat or fish as a main compared to the fully vegetarian 9-course menu, but due to a time crunch (having to run off with Y for our Fendi fur preview later), I had to opt for the 9-course menu instead with the gals.
I started the course with a tomato gazpacho with vanilla ice cream. Not a big fan of gazpacho, but I was a convert after having this. It was just full of summer freshness and perfect for this super hot summer.
The 2nd course was a dainty tomato ‘sushi’ roll with geranium oil. I loved the light but flavourful taste of the geranium oil, paired with the rice below the finely sliced tomato.
The 3rd course was a beautiful plate of summer vegetables with sweet and sour sauce made of honey lime and olive oil. This was one of the best dishes, so simple but the light sweet sour honey sauce only accentuated the natural sweetness of the root vegetables. It was also my first time I believe eating purple broccoli, which we don’t get back in Singapore.
Next served to us, was a plate of juicy red tomato carpaccio style with geranium oil. I love my tomatoes, and this was so simple and heavenly.
At this point, I have to tell you, next to our table was an American guy seated by himself, probably younger than Y and her friends, and he was pretty friendly chatting with us since he was by himself. He had earlier mentioned to CG that this was his 3rd time in a row dining at L’Arperge this trip! No wonder all the staff in the restaurant knew him and seemed to treat him almost like a VIP. I was curious if this meal would also incite the same passionate love in me for the food here, enough to do something this crazy.
Our 5th course was a vegetable soup with dill and parmesan – looked rather simple like any old vegetable soup that you might get, but we could really taste and enjoy every piece of vegetable that went into here, how fresh the produce was.
Our 6th course was a delicious gnocchi and fig – ooh la la, I love figs, so I couldn’t hide my excitement when this dish arrived. The gnocchi was really light and coupled with the thinly sliced figs, was a wonderful combination. My only complaint of this dish is I wished I had more figs!
Gnocchi and fig
Our last savoury course for lunch was cous cous, with zucchini flower, cherry, onions and a mixed ‘vegetable sausage’ with onion and thyme emulsion. The combination of the vegetables in this especially the creation of a “sausage” with vegetables, was pretty ingenious and creative. And I love the pairing of fruits and vegetables, in this case was cherry, something which Alain Passard loves to do in his dishes.
Cous cous with vegetable sausage and zucchini flower
It is finally dessert time, and their petit fours came quickly with the next 2 desserts of rhubarb sorbet and ended with millefeuille. Both with rhubard as the star, given it was in season now. The millefeuille, was really quite something, layers of crisp and airy pastry interspersed with light cream and rhubard, with a light sweet drizzle of honey all over it. From this pastry and the petit fours platter, it was obvious they take their pastry as seriously as their vegetables.
The meal here was definitely the king of vegetarian restaurants by far. As much as the quality of the produce plays an important part here, Chef Alain Passard has managed to transform these somewhat simple ingredients onto a different level altogether. What striked me the most, is the ingredients are not overly manipulated, and whatever seasoning, or sauces created only serve to enhance the natural flavours of the vegetables, and yet they are so tasty. Definitely no mean feat.
Would I come back here 3 days in a row? I don’t think so, as I like variety in my restaurant choices especially when I am on holiday, but it’s definitely my number 1 choice for now if I had to have a fine vegetarian meal fit for a Queen.
Picture perfect moment to end our meal – Petit fours