For some people Paris means fashion: clothes, shoes, perfumes, jewelry and make-up. But me, I couldn’t care less if Louis Vuitton’s gold-encrusted store disappeared from the the planet, and along with it all the $2000 handbags and $800 belts. On the other hand, I still mourn the closing of Bistrot du Papa, a simple restaurant in the 7th arrondissement, that served the best quiche Lorraine we ever tasted. Excuse me while I wipe away some tears.
For a long time we contemplated dining at Taillevent, considered by some the best restaurant in France. Indeed, a place that held a three-star rating for 37 years must be doing things right. This dream stayed unfulfilled for many years, until our 10th wedding anniversary provided the extra push to indulge ourselves. We decided on lunch at Taillevent, rather than dinner, and it met our highest expectations!
Entering some of the upscale restaurants (Tour d’Argent comes to mind… ) is intimidating and overwhelming, almost like stepping – uninvited – into a Hollywood movie. Their exquisitely opulent surroundings transform the initial experience into a dream-like blur that’s difficult to even completely remember. In this respect the sophisticated but inviting ambiance of Taillevent was a pleasant surprise. Its beautifully organized table settings, with a modern theme, were overseen by smartly-dressed waiters who were always available, but never intrusive.
After we made our choices among the lunch menu options, the waiter brought a small lentil soup as an amuse-bouche. Calling it just a lentil soup, however, is an understatement. The texture of the lentil component was between that of a cream soup and a mousse. Served cold, it surrounded an icy cream in the central interior, and contained a small “chip” of Serrano ham floating on top. Its inspiration undoubtedly came from the classic ham and lentil soup, and we both loved the chef’s transformations of this dish! The smokiness of the ham did not overpower the lentils, and the cream component provided a contrast of both flavor and temperature. It was a few spoonfuls of perfection.
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For his first dish, my husband chose a cream of broccoli soup. The waiter served the bowl empty, except for seven small ravioli inside, and then spooned the (amazingly green) hot cream of broccoli on top. It was light but substantial: the creamy cheese within the ravioli filled the soup with satisfying flavor. I often think of toppings on cream soups, but now I’ll definitely consider hidden surprises at the bottom instead, and pouring the soup at the table made it even more interesting.
For my first dish, I took a chance and went for the fish (rouget), served with a cumin-seasoned eggplant crisp and black olive tapenade. I eat almost everything, but I’m challenged by strong-tasting fish. In this case, though, my risk paid off with what I’m tempted to say was the best dish I’ve ever had. The fish was prepared with its skin on; the meat was flaky, tender and flavorful, but without a hint of ‘fishiness.’ The eggplant crisp and the olive tapenade lent flavor, but were not so pungent as to distract from the main component, the fish. I can’t explain how the eggplant crisp was made – it was not a thin slice of eggplant, but perhaps it was a thin-spread puree that was dried and baked. Maybe Carol from Alinea at Home knows how to prepare it. The plate was embellished with saucy decorations of parsley and mustard coulis.
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My husband’s main dish was a roasted duck breast, with hydromel and minced dragees (yes, its a type of candy). The dish was served with a spinach puree, that was, unbelievably, as good as the duck. It was a main dish that blew our gastronomic minds… It’s not new to pair duck with sweets, whether it is oranges, prunes, honey or maple syrup, but the fine dust of candy and hydromel was an eye-opener. I am not sure exactly how the duck meat was prepared, it may have been seared before roasting. The spinach puree was simply outstanding. I detected some nutmeg, without a trace of bitterness in the vegetable. Again, the serving was decorated by spinach crisps, perhaps prepared in the same fashion as the eggplant crisp described above.
My main dish was a beef filet with soy glaze and caramelized root vegetables. The meat was delicious, and the veggies beneath were perhaps even better: carrots, parsnips, turnips, and a perfectly roasted chestnut.
After the main dishes came a cheese course, in this case brie studded with raisins in a creamy middle layer, served with fine slices of Honey Crisp and Granny Smith apples, and a light “angel hair” of celery and finely minced chives. A smaller portion of cheese would have satisfied me, but sometimes in life sacrifices must be made. 😉
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Dessert awaited us. My husband chose a “sable aux deux chocolats”. Dark and white chocolate mousse/cream sandwiched between a lace cookie on top and a chocolate cookie below, surrounded by touches of caramel on the plate. Decadent. Luscious. Sexy.
My dessert was a rhubarb crisp. I’d never experienced rhubarb before, and I’ve been curious about it for a long time. This was my chance, and I wouldn’t let it pass, even if my beloved twists his nose at rhubarb. Friends, I’ve eaten many desserts in my lifetime, but this rhubarb crisp enters my Desserts Hall of Fame. In the picture you’ll see some things on the plate that resemble small specks, perhaps carelessly left by the cook in charge. No, those are little pieces of a sweet ribbon, thin as a sheet of paper, that surrounded the rhubarb mousse, sort of enclosing the two crisps as a package. I wish I knew the preparation. The rhubarb mousse had lemon curd beside it, and everything was topped with a honey sorbet. I can’t master enough adjectives in any language to sufficiently praise this dish; let it suffice to say that even my husband enjoyed it, rhubarb and all… 😉
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We’ve dined in several of the great restaurants of Paris, but Taillevent immediately climbed to the top position, as my favorite.
The restaurant has been managed by the same family since its opening in 1946. Jean-Claude Vrinat was responsible for the three-star rating it obtained in 1973, and for managing it for three decades, even as its many brilliant chefs came and went. He passed away in 2008, and his daughter, Valerie Vrinat, now manages the restaurant, with Alain Soliveres as Head Chef since 2002.
Additional note: I asked for permission to take photos and blog them, and the staff was absolutely wonderful about it.
15 thoughts on “TAILLEVENT”
The presentation looked beautiful, the dishes sounded splendidly delicious! Merci.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful meal with us; what an experience it must have been! Happy Anniversary!
What a wonderful meal and the photographs, as usual, are stunning. So, are you going to grow some rhubarb? 🙂
Thanks for the peek over your shoulder! Wow!
Thanks for sharing all this with us. Everything looks so amazing, especially the roasted duck breast with spinach purée, and the two desserts! And I can’t believe that cream of broccoli cream is soooooooooooo green!
those crisps everywhere sound amazing! I wonder how they make them. Thank you for this post – great writing and pictures !!
Yes, the cream of broccoli color was shocking! Very bright, I’ve never had mine turn that color, that’s probably why I could not be hired by Taillevent 🙂
Wonderful blog, Sally. The pictures forced me to drool all over my laptop, shorting out the damned thing and giving the cat quite a start. Nevertheless, I’m adding you to my list of folks-t0-follow.
Be afraid. Be VERY afraid!
My apologies to the cat… 🙂
Glad you enjoyed the post, it was a memorable meal indeed, so happy I had the chance to experience it…
Incredible meal! Thanks for bringing us along so to speak. The colors of the broccoli soup and the spinach puree are just amazing.
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What a fascinating site you have! I would love to receive site updates…
Thanks so much, Alison…
if you want to subscribe by email, there’s a little spot on the right upper corner of the site, where you can do so. You will only receive updates when there’s a new post, and your email address is never shown or shared with anyone. So, feel free to do so, and I appreciate your comment very much!
hi I use to work in Taillevent during the time you ate there. I was responsible for the vegetables in your meat courses. First, for the duck, its not not spinach but the outer leaves of cabbage simply blanched, chopped and added w potatoes cooked in salt. seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg and finished w butter, the chips where made with the inner part of the cabbage seasoned w sugar, salt and olive oil and dehydrated and cut into triangles.
second, the vegtables for the beef where vegetables cut and shapped and simply blanched. quickly sauteed in butter and deglazed in veal stock. The beef was sous vide w soy sauce and simply seared after.
very nice blog…more power. Cheers!
Ian, thanks so much for your reply! The other day we were talking about our favorite meals, and we both agreed that lunch at Taillevent was number 1 – not even Tour d’Argent surpassed it for me. Also, a couple of friends from Los Angeles are going to Paris in August and I think they will try to eat at Taillevent, if spots are available
I loved to know how those amazing dishes were prepared, cannot thank you enough!