Plaza Athénée

Posted on 2012/07/11


1971, when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were still in their first marriage, this most legendary couple  of Hollywood took 6 months residence in Paris at luxury Hotel Plaza Athénée, where they occupied several suits and threw out tons of parties. In the following years, the face of Richard Burton was frequently found in the mediocre films, suggested by rumors as the results of their extravagant expenses. Their life resembled pretty much the movie where they met each other, a romanticized story of Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. After the assassination of Caesar, the grandiose love between Mark Antony and Cleopatra got two greatest empires joined force.

The concept of empire in the culinary world brings to mind the name of Alain Ducasse, a glamorous chef is but one of his halos. From Monaco to Paris, from New york to Hong kong, the universe of Alain Ducasse has expanded to more continents than any ancient empires, with two been granted 3 stars by Michelin Guide. One of Alain Ducasse’s temples at Plaza Athénée is right in the heart of the Plaza Athénée  Hotel Plaza Athénée at historical venue of 25 Avenue Montaigne.

Nowadays, it is Christophe Saintagne who hems the kitchen. A discrete, and reverent illusionist of natural tastes of ingredients.  He rises in national service of Palace Elysee as a young talent and trained in several renewed kitchen including hotel Crillon.

The menu is quite simple and straightforward, with only the main ingredients listed for each plate. This approach is highly appreciable for releasing me of the laborious reading while conversing with my lunch par. Since there have been some occasions that I managed to choose a great plate from a dictionary-like menu while prosing out meaningless things to people besides me, or the reverse.

Three plates are categorized as Heritage: namely pourlet roti, langoustine with caviar, and pate chaud of pintade. Other items on the menu, entree, fish, meat and dessert, followed the classic french trilogy—3 plats in each.

The famous frog legs escorted by crème d’oseille, raised the curtain of the meal. I quite enjoyed the slight sourness of the creme, however would prefer a more tenderly cooked version of  frog legs. The presentation of this amuse bouche is rather amusing and playful, the legs were stuffed into a small gunny sack, ronde and lovely golden.

The fishes for the summer include john dory, as the specialty for the celebration of 25 anniversary of LouisXIV, lobster with potato stew, and turbot, fennel, lemon and caper sauce. The execution of the turbot was of great precision. The tender texture and meaty month feel indicate that it was from a very big one. Noticeable is also the idea of presenting fennels of 3 different kinds of preparation—raw, preserved and braised. A slice of lemon slice toped on the fennel strikes another dimension of acidity.

Followed is an atypical ris de veau, presented in a form of pressed block, sandwiched by bread crumbs on the top and olives beneath. The idea is rather brilliant and joyful. Side dish was breaded olive, tete de veau and braised bok choy presented in a moon-shaped plate. The jus of veau has evident acidity too, like in the other plates,  which by an retrospective regards, became a feature. The natural sourness of ingredients was sagely employed to bring out a neatly stacked flavors. I love them immensely.

When been asked about whether to have cheese course, my response was: no, cause I can wait for the desserts! Which is a truly wise decision and culminated my meal with a timely triumph. My heroes were little green chevalier of pistachio tarte in two form and a pretty almond snowman saunaed in hot cherry soup.

The service is meticulous, and considerate. They are always half step ahead before you realize your need but let you comfortably be yourself. Substantive attention is given to details and politeness is exercised with sincerity rather than fading into courtesy, which is sometimes the case in lots of gastronomic establishments. The welcome was warm and sincere, I was recognized at the reception even by the name used for reservation.

Far from another memorable meals I had a month ago, at Pierre Gagnaire, by whom both my lunch par and me got largely confused and strived hardly to remember nipples and miscellaneous placed in numerous plates. The lunch at Alain Ducasse was really simple, delightful and relaxing, like dating a lady of true witness, she let you guess, but not too long and find answer somewhere else.

Like those fashion sagas constantly practice less is more law, simplicity is the utmost sophistication.