Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Arpege disappoints

On the plane from New York to Paris, a Frenchwoman claimed the window seat in my row.  Until she fell asleep, she was determinedly chatty, so we ended up discussing a variety of topics, most of them about her.  At one point, though, she brought up restaurants.  Her list of NY favorites was a perfect duo--Per Se and Le Bernardin--so I was concerned when I mentioned that one of the places I was hoping to eat in Paris was L'Arpege and she said, after a long pause, "Arpege disappointed."

How right she was.

The restaurant certainly does not lack for accolades.  Chef Alain Passard is a legend of French cooking. The place has earned three Michelin stars and is in the top twenty on the list of the top 50 restaurants of the world.  He serves organic produce from his biodynamic farm southwest of Paris, so everything is pure and fresh. 

With all of this going for Arpege, I expected a great meal.  Instead, what I ate--and paid handsomely for--was a so-so-at-best dinner, one in which the same vegetables in the same preparations repeated over and over, the portions were too large, and the supporting cast--bread (one type) and dessert (a bon-bon plate and a sad, dry but fancy little apple pie)--were mediocre at best.

The tasting menu certainly was heavy on the veggies, to the point that when the fish (turbot) arrived, I was thrilled to see a non-vegetable offerings.  By contrast, Guy Savoy's vegetable courses, of which there were several, each featured different ingredients in varied and evocative preparations. 

The service was also spotty, sometimes quite good and other times downright neglectful, to the point that I almost had to beg for the check.

I appreciate the ideas behind the food at L'Arpege, but I have to side with the Frenchwoman on the plane:  Arpege disappointed. 

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