Monday, May 7, 2007

Paris: Taillevent

It is a sad day when a gal with a palate like mine has to go to Paris. Why? I don't drink wine, I can't stand strong cheeses, and I don't eat lamb and don't like to order duck. Sadly, all of which seemed to be quite prevalent everywhere we went.

Taillevent is another long-standing Parisian institution having opened in 1946. It has held a three star Michelin rating for 34 years until February 2007 when it fell to two stars. I only found out about the demotion after I came back and researched Taillevent's origins, but it confirmed my own opinions, especially after dining at Pierre Gagnaire. I would have chosen to go for dinner, but by the time I thought about it, reservations were already booked for dinner, but lunch was available for my desired date.

We arrived at Taillevent after a long day of shopping; its location is within walking distance from George V and the Champs Elysees. With reservations at 12:30 p.m. we arrived a few minutes early and were the first ones seated. The service at Taillevent is impeccable. It seemed as if we had a team of at least six different people watching over our table. When I needed to rise to use the washroom, a gentleman immediately appeared out of nowhere at my side to escort me to my destination as soon as I pushed my chair back.

Wine is a big deal at Taillevent with what many consider to be the best wine list in Paris. There were two gentlemen at a neighboring table; locals in business suits who were enjoying different wines with every course. Our gracious host promised not to tell the chef that we were enjoying our meal with water and orange juice.

We opted to select the Menu Saveurs et Decouvertes which was comprised of seven courses:

Royale d'asperges de Provence
Langoustine royale poelee
Coquilles Saint-Jacquess dorees
Canard de Challans roti
Roquefort glace au pruneau
Mille-feuille aux framboises
Craquant au chocolate et aux feves de Tonka

I of course, requested a substituion for the Roquefort glace and the Canard immediately. Everything was fine until I received my langoustine. After many years of eating live seafood in Monterey Park, CA, I know the difference between fresh/live seafood, and not-so-fresh seafood. One bite, and I froze. I told myself, this is Taillevent, perhaps it is just extraordinarily tender. But the second powdery bite confirmed my suspicions that this langoustine was not so fresh. My dining companion's langoustine was just fine, so I think I just landed a bad one. The third course of scallops redeemed my langoustine experience as they were fresh and delicious. I substituted beef for the duck which was good, but the real piece de resistance was the incredible mille-feuille with raspberries. One of my favorite desserts thus far; delicate, melt-in-your mouth layers of the finest pastry (hence the name, mille-feuille), with a few fresh raspberries in between. Absolutely heavenly.

I would still like to give Taillevent another try for dinner as I loved the staff and the warm environment. Lunch at 190 Euros per person was actually a bargain compared to Gagnaire and some other restaurants, and aside from the langoustines, it was a lovely experience.

Next: Pierre Gagnaire

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