Le Meurice, Paris

March 16, 2008

The first time I went to Paris, in 1957, we stayed for a week at the Hotel Le Meurice.  I imagine we ate there several times, but I really do not remember. (I do remember the roof rolling back at Lasserre.)  But the hotel was not young, as I was. It has been in the same location since 1835, always striving to be the best luxury hotel in Paris.

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This effort has now led it to include one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Paris, Le Meurice, under chef Annick Alléno. Among Paris hotels, only the Plaza-Athenée shares with Le Meurice the distinction of having a Michelin three star restaurant.

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Linda and I stayed in the hotel the nights of March 11 and 12, 2008, dining there the first evening. The welcome in the restaurant was warm, but  formal, as was the service throughout the evening. We skipped an apéritif as the hotel had provided a welcoming bottle of champagne in our room. One really shouldn’t be in such a restaurant if the prices are of any concern, but looking at what an à la carte meal would add up to we chose the Menu Dégustation with the wine pairings for each course.
The amuses-gueule were a little cucumber soup, warm foie gras in balls coated with little chips of potato and squid on a fennel foam: all very nice.

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The first course was
ASPERGES VERTES DU MIDI EN CHAUD FROID DE SAUMON FUMÉ
Petits blinis aux condiments et aux grains de caviar
This was pleasant, but I didn’t think that the smoked salmon flavored coating really added much. So the dish really came down to two lovely early asparagus stalks topped with some excessively dainty blinis with caviar. Pleasant, but not at the top.

The wine served with this course was: VOUVRAY SEC «  Le Mont «  2004
Domaine Huet
Wine with asparagus is always a challenge. The flinty chenin blanc from the “Pope of Vouvray” went well.

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The second course was

FAGOTTINI FOURRÉS AU CÉLERI FONDANT                          
Truffe noire, copeaux de lard fondus et jus d’herbe

This dish was superb. The little pasta purses were stuffed with a purée of celery root which went beautifully with the truffles, bacon and herbs.

The wine served with this course was:

BOURGOGNE HAUTES COTES DE NUITS
«  Clos Saint Philibert «  2005
Domaine Meo Camuzet
It was a nice characteristic chardonnay which stood up to the flavorful dish.

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The third course was

VAPEUR DE NOIX DE COQUILLES SAINT JACQUES AU CHOU
Sauce au pain brioché

This didn’t do much for me. Foie gras had been added to the scallops wrapped in cabbage and steamed, but richness doesn’t equal success. The flavors were indistinct. Linda liked it more than I did.

The wine served with this course was:

RIESLING GRAND CRU SCHLOSSBERG 2004
Domaine P. Blanck
The crispness of the Riesling worked well with the vague richness of the scallops and cabbage.

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The fourth course was

FILETS DE SOLE POELES AUX PETITS POIS NOUVEAUX    
Crème de laitue au lard

We really liked this. Somehow Alléno got more flavor out of the peas than I get when I have just picked them from my vegetable garden. (They had been carefully sliced in half, which I will try the next time.) The sole was perfectly cooked.

The wine served with this course was:

CORTON CHARLEMAGNE GRAND CRU 2001
Domaine Bonneau du Martray
That is a great wine, but I was enjoying the food so much I didn’t pay enough attention to it

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The fifth course was a choice between:

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PIGEON DU MAINE ET LOIRE À LA BROCHE
Tranche de foie gras entre de l’artichaut, cuisses désossées aux févettes beurrées

This was my choice. The slice of pigeon breast had a lovely flavor. The skin was not as crispy as I like it; that must have been a choice of the chef as I am sure he could have made it crunchier on the rotisserie without overcooking the inside. The boned meat from the legs was served separately in a heavier combination with fava beans and bacon.

or

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NOIX DE RIS DE VEAU CROUSTILLANT AU SAUTOIR
Cheveux d’ange à la crème truffée, jus tranché à l’eau de noix

This was Linda’s choice. She thought the combination of sweetbreads, truffles and walnut essence was absolutely delicious.

The wine served with this course was:

COTE ROTIE « Les Jumelles «  2004

Well, that is a great wine too, but opened ten years too soon. If I were a chef designing a tasting menu, I would have a transition to red wines halfway through. We even went back to white wine for the cheese.

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The sixth course was

MELBA AU BEAUFORT D’ALPAGE ET GENIÈVRE
Delicat gelée pimentée

For a cheese course this was quite inventive. Very thin slices of Beaufort cheese, sprinkled with finely chopped juniper berries, had been heat-welded onto very thin bread slices. They were served on top of julienned pear strips. You had the impression of having had a good cheese course without having actually eaten much: a good idea.

The wine served with this course was:

ROUSSETTE DE SAVOIE MONTERMINOD 2006
Domaine Perrier Père et Fils
This is the new tendency of white wine with cheese. In this case it went very well. It was even regionally correct as both the Beaufort cheese and the Savoy wine are from the Alps.

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There was a pre-dessert of fanciful little bonbons.

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The seventh course was

GELÉE DE CONCOMBRE AUX PERLES DE CITRON ET À LA FLEUR DE BOURRACHE
Dans une coque de chocolat blanc, sirop poivré

The point of this dessert seemed to be elegant flavors in ethereal modes.

The wine served with this course was:

RIESLING FRÉDÉRIC ÉMILIE VENDANGES TARDIVES 2001
Domaine Trimbach
The late harvest wine is luscious. This is where wine pairings really work, because if you had a second glass it would be cloying.

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The eighth course was

DOMINOS AU CHOCOLAT ET À LA NOIX DE COCO
Fines baguettes de meringue croustillantes

Fortunately, I like coconut.

The wine served with this course was:

BANYULS GALATÉO 2004
Domaine Coume Del Mas
We learned about pairing Banyuls with chocolate many years ago at the Louis XV. It is even better if the Banyuls is really old.

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The mignardises were chilled dark chocolate domes with orange marmalade underneath, a classic and excellent combination.

We thoroughly enjoyed the meal. It did not meet the theoretical test of a three star restaurant that every course was superb, but it was close.

The table next to ours had ordered à la carte. One of the diners was shown a big rectangular block of baked sugar on a silver tray, which was then taken away for opening and slicing. It was a specialty:

FOIE GRAS DE CANARD IODÉ EN PAIN DE SUCRE 
Chutney de navet aux algues vinaigrées

A duck foie gras had been wrapped in seaweed, which gave it a salty bitter twang. It was then enclosed in a sugar loaf and baked, which gave it a sweetness that neutralised the bitterness in the seaweed. It was served with a turnip and seaweed chutney. I could see three slices of the foie gras on our neighbor’s plate. I would order that another time.

At the end we went outside under the arcade of the Rue de Rivoli for a few minutes to get some fresh air. We watched the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the distance during its hourly show. Then we went to our lovely room upstairs glad that we didn’t have to take a taxi somewhere else in Paris.

www.lemeurice.com/restaurants_bars/index.html

One Response to “Le Meurice, Paris”

  1. sue Says:

    Mike and Linda —

    What a splendid meal you describe.

    I particularly like the idea of that cheese course, although most of the other dishes you describe sound close to wonderful too!

    ENVY!

    Best,
    Sue.


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