The last 2 days, we ate lunch at 2 of the best restaurants in Paris. Why did we decide to do lunch rather than dinner? Basically, dinner is expensive. Like, really really expensive. Both restaurants have lunch options in which you get to experience these first class restaurant for less than 1/2 the price. Each one is a classic French fine dining production. I don’t use the word “production” loosely. Not everyone appreciates what goes into these fancy shmancy meals. That’s OK. It’s not for everyone (my own sister thinks the whole thing is ridiculous). But, we both love to sit back and watch all the ritual and tradition that makes these meals so special.
Both Le Taillevent and Le Cinq are located in the Champs Élysées (a word that Justin and I have both been trying to pronounce since we got here) and just a short metro ride away from the hotel.
I’ll start with Le Taillevent: Justin said that this is the more “classic French” of the 2. We really had a fabulous meal here. When we first walked in, I noticed that it was very crowded and somewhat “bustling.” Perhaps it is a Friday hotspot for the Parisian business lunch crowd?
The lunch menu consisted of your choice of an appetizer, entree, cheese course, and dessert. You could also get 2 glasses of wine, water, and coffee for a little over 100 euros per person (about 130$). This was a super bargain as water can sometimes cost up to 15$ per bottle. So we each got the menu, including the beverages and Justin drank my wine.
Sidenote on the wine: Apparently, the traditional way to decant wine is to pour it into the decanter over a lit candle so that you can see where the sediment starts. I have never seen this but it was really neat to watch!
The amuse bouche was a shrimp roll thingy (although much fancier, of course) and it was very good. For my starter, I got Foie Gras, and Justin got oysters.
My entree was beef with carmelized onions. Justin had fish. I think it was some sort of cod, but it’s so hard to tell when the menu is all in French!
The cheese course was a Roquefort with a date purée.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to partake in my absolute favorite things……soft cheese (like blue and goat), wine, and coffee. Yes, I’m still having 1 cup of coffee per day, but I want more!!!
Anyway, I passed on this particular cheese course. For dessert, I had a coconut tart with citrus, and Justin had something very chocolatey. After one coffee, one decaf and some mignardises (little candies and chocolates), we waddled our way out the restaurant.
Everything was wonderful and the service was, of course, impeccable. They did a good job helping explain things in English. Overall, it was a great experience and Le Cinq was going to have to be outstanding to beat it.
Well, Le Cinq was outstanding! It is located in the Four Seasons hotel, and looks like you stepped into a French castle. Everything is completely opulent with lots of gold accents and ornate china. Like Le Taillivent, this was another production that was a pleasure to watch and experience.
When we first sat down, I noticed that the waiters were a little friendlier than at Le Tiallevent. Not that the other waiters were unfriendly (at all), but the staff at Le Cinq was just a bit more relaxed and made us feel more welcome and comfortable.
They handed us the giant menus and as we were browsing through them, I was asking Justin some questions about the price differences of certain options. He must have thought that I was going crazy because he said “don’t you see the prices next to everything?” Apparently, they give the gentlemen different menus than the ladies. I suppose they believe that ladies don’t need to be concerned with things like prices. I tend to agree.
Anyway, we decided to get the “3” course lunch menu. I use the number 3 loosely because there were a lot of little included extras. Plus, we shared a cheese course. After we ordered, the bread started flowing. First, they gave us a piece of sourdough bread with olive oil to dip it in. Then, they brought around the bread basket and presented 2 different butters to the table. Each covered in their individual glass domes. One was a regular butter and the other was a salted seaweed butter. The seaweed butter was delicious. And the brioche that was being passed around was addicting.
The first amuse bouche was a trio of small bites. One was a chestnut purée in an eggshell, and one was some sort of fried cheese. I can’t remember the third, but they were all very good. The second amuse bouche was a pumpkin soup with salmon. It was also very good.
For starters, I had a crab dish with fennel creme and some sort of jelly along with a couple of “crab cakes.” Justin had a foie Gras dish. They were both great, but I wish I would have gone with my instinct and gotten the foie Gras too. It was soooo good and a huge portion!
Next were our entrees. We both got the veal shank. It was so tender and flavorful! It tasted like a home-cooked meal (just a lot fancier). And it was a big piece of meat! We were starting to get full by this point, but I wasn’t passing on the cheese course this time. Especially since I had a feeling that a cheese cart was involved.
I LOVE a cheese cart. I’m sure it has shown up in this blog before, but basically it is a giant cart that they wheel around with all kinds of fabulous cheeses on it and you pick which ones you want. I was very limited as to which ones I could try. As you all know, I am an adventurous eater and will try/eat everything. Being pregnant in Paris has put a bit of a wrench in my typical dining choices, but I tried a few hard cheeses that were delicious.
Next, we got another “extra” course that they referred to as our “pre-dessert.” It was a passion fruit sorbet palate cleanser. Yummy!
Dessert has to be one of the highlights of the meal. Fancy desserts can sometimes be “hit or miss,” but this one was wonderful. It was basically ice cream with a hard caramel shell and some other delicious accents. Justin was making fun of me because I was saying yummmmmm before I started eating it. I was right. It was yummmmmmy!
We ordered a coffee and decaf, then they wheeled around the candy cart. Seriously, I felt like Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka! There was a selection of chocolates, caramels, little pastries, and homemade marshmallows. I picked out a few things, but by this point the baby and I were overstuffed (I’m talking about the one in my belly, not Justin).
What a meal!
We leave Paris tomorrow. This was a fabulous meal that will surely leave a lasting impression!
Au Revoir Paris! I know that we will meet again!