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bread at Le Meurice

A few years ago, a good friend who has sadly moved away, was kind enough to take me to Restaurant Le Meurice for dinner. The first memory of walking into the done-up dining room was the way the waiters brought her an Hermès stool for her purse, which was an Hermès Kelly bag. The second memory I have, was shortly after when we sat down and they asked if we wanted apéritifs. I’d heard about the house apéritif they were serving back then, which was famous, so I ordered one.

Restaurant Le Meurice

Out came a tall glass of bubbly, tinged with sweet rose liqueur and a giant bow made of orange peel flopping off the side of the glass. I can deal with ordering something I didn’t like, but was irked me was that I had to ask the waiter three times for it. Finally, after thirty minutes, he brought out the drink, vaguely apologizing for it, saying “It’s a very complicated drink for the bartender to make.” Being the house cocktail notwithstanding (which you would think anyone there would know how to make in their sleep), having worked in the restaurant business, I know that when you mess up, you apologize (everyone makes mistakes; acknowledge it, and move on.) Then be a sport and comp the person their drink. It costs practically nothing and builds an immeasurable amount of good will. Not doing so is cheap.

Restaurant Le Meurice (olive bread)

Unlike the fabulous company, and stool for her purse, the meal wasn’t especially memorable. I wasn’t impressed with the single raw oyster methodically sliced into several pieces, nor was I enamored of the puff pastry cart that came around when guests were done with their meal, where diners could select your choice of oversized cream-filled puff pastry slices. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want after a lengthy meal, then a cheese course, then a dessert, then chocolates, is a slab of buttery pastry filled with cream.

Restaurant Le Meurice

Fortunately the magnificent dining room has been freshened up and taken over by a new team, headed up by Christophe Saintagne who was the chef de cuisine at the Plaza Athénée, which is currently closed for renovation, and he’d sent me a note inviting me to dinner. I still haven’t been able to save up enough for an Hermès bag (or anything from there – man, those belts with the big “H” are nearly €800!) but I did bring my black Coach leather backpack, which I think looks just snazzy enough (without the “H”, or even a “C”) which they graciously provided a stool for, all the same.

Restaurant Le Meurice - bread

I’m gonna call it and say that the first course was the best thing I ate in 2013. Out came an iron pot with a lid, which was set down between us along with two long forks and little bowls of sorrel mayonnaise. When they lifted the lid, we were presented with a simple tumble of vegetables cooked over a concave demi-circle of coarse, gray salt.

Each vegetable was au nature, but each one was the most marvelously flavored vegetable I ever tasted in the last ten years. I don’t quite know what made them so tasty as they weren’t floating in rivers of butter or cooked with herbs – they were just presented as-is. They were served very hot, not scalding, but where practically glowing with an intense heat, which concentrated the essence back into each turnip, carrot, leek, and artichoke. We were both a little speechless.

Restaurant Le Meurice

Next I had a lovely little plate called Légumes et fruits, an arrangement of tiny pears, avocados, endive and bitter greens. Since it was white truffle season (and since I was going so “healthy” with two courses composed almost entirely of vegetables, I had the Volaille Albufera, a suprême of chicken (boneless breast) in a rich, creamy sauce, with a pour of port and Cognac swirled in.

Restaurant Le Meurice

It’s one of those classic French-style dishes with lots of rich sauce that make you realize that you couldn’t possibly be in any other country, but had the added bonus of white truffle from Alba shaved copiously over the top. And what a bonus!

Restaurant Le Meurice

Our other favorite dish was the Chevreuil with pepper sauce, a simple preparation of Euro-deer that we forked up. After dinner, when I went into the kitchen to speak again to the chef (who we saw on the way in), I nodded toward the large fireplace in the dining room and said that on Sundays, he should open the place as a rotisserie because he’s such a master at roasting meats, in addition to straightforward, exceptional presentations of vegetables, and it’d be fun to have an evening at tables around the fire in this grand room with him manning the flames. Considering he probably works twelve-to-fourteen hour days, I think he’s probably find taking Sunday off with his family, though. So no dice.

Restaurant Le Meurice

At a place like this, with 3-Michelin stars (which were earned by the previous chef, but I am sure he will hold onto them), the details are often just as interesting as the food on the plates. Service is exquisite and as an American, I can detect a subtle shift in the way servers in high-end restaurants talk to Americans, who expect servers to be friendly and personable, even at this level of dining, as opposed to Europeans, who are used to service being more reserved and mannered. Although not all. Romain will say anything, to anybody. So there goes that theory, I guess.

Restaurant Le Meurice

I also liked how the cheeseboard at the restaurant was “edited” – which means that instead of the usual, oversized groaning board of cheeses many starred restaurants lurch over toward you, it’s a pleasure sometimes to have a more carefully selected group set forth. I waved away the usual (but excellent) suspects (Comté, Livarot, etc) because I was interested in the cheeses they had that I’d never seen before, most likely made on a smaller scale and not widely available. If only I was a better reporter, I would have remembered their names.

Restaurant Le Meurice (puff pastry cookies)

But I can report that desserts were excellent. I dialed back in on Agrumes, a dessert that won me over at the Plaza-Athénée made with Campari sorbet, candied orange zest, and a quivering pool of cool citrus jelly at the bottom of the glass. Romain had the Vacherin exotique, which was, indeed, exotic for this dessert – often a disk of meringue with ice cream or sorbet, and whipped cream.

Restaurant Le Meurice

But this time, pastry chef Cédric Grolet, took the dessert apart and created a playful bowl of meringue shards, passion fruit pulp and seeds, curls of coconut, dried pineapple, and tropical fruit sorbet. I love when pastry chefs know exactly what guests are going to want after a dinner composed of a number of diverse courses, to refocus you, via a dessert that refreshes you -rather than leaving you with the feeling that you’ve finally had the last mouthful you’ll ever be able to eat again.

Restaurant Le Meurice

As mentioned (although it might be hard to remember, since I’ve gone off on so many tangents..), the staff is particularly astute and when my outgoing French other-half dropped some major hints about the house made rye bread, which was unbelievably good, on the way out, they brought us out un doggy bag with few slices for breakfast the next day, along with a mound of salted butter, which wasn’t just a nice petit dejeuner, but also a delicious souvenir of the meal the night before.

(Note: We were invited by the chef of the restaurant for this meal.)



    • Susan

    Now that sounds like the service a 3 star place should provide. Sounds like that they kept the best of the old but reinvented the dining experience. Change is good!

    • naomi

    Sounds fabulously satisfying. One picture is not showing, but that worked well for me. I clicked it and saw the additional photos you’d taken, which I had not done before. I’ll be sure to click to your photo stream in the future. Thanks for another of your usual enjoyable postings.

    • mlleparadis

    i think i would have been happy with just the bread and desserts for a meal. o.k., a little of that mystery cheese, too.

    • ron shapley(NYC)

    All very nice but I want to see a picture of that stool… Thanks Dave… Always a pleasure.

    • Wanda

    That second dessert with the meringue, passion fruit, and sorbet looks amazing. And I have always wanted to learn how to cook vegetables so simply yet so well.

    • Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate

    Those truffles bring tears to my eyes. So beautiful!

    • Tina

    I am such a peasant: it was the rye bread that sealed the deal for me.
    Thanks for the vicarious dining pleasure!

    • Sally Baker

    Thank you so very much for taking me to dinner with you. So nice to dine where the chefs share their vision with the guests.

    • Calgary Catering

    I so enjoyed this journey, the presentation of the food is delectable, thank you

    • Louise Fazzalari

    Hello David, thank you so much for sharing your fabulous dinner, (calorie free for the reader), I too would like to see “The Stool”.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Ron & Louise: I found a picture of the Hermès stool online (with an Hermès bag resting on it…bien sûr!)

    • Katie

    There’s a nice restaurant where I live that will bring you a little black leather cube shaped ottoman to put your handbag on :)

    • François

    Hermès stool
    c’est ça la classe, mon cher !

    • Sarahb1313

    Oh how fabulous!
    I did notice how chatty the restaurant staff was in Paris, compared to years ago.
    Even when I asked a silly question about a lamb dish, with the word “tête”- did they mean the lamb’s head?? She was so kind and pleasant explaining the culinary term, rather than chastising me…
    In 30 years I’ve never had a bad experience with Parisians being unpleasant (maybe as a New Yorker I have different expectations), but there was a whole lot more smiling going on in Paris this last visit. It was lovely.

    • Rita

    Those round snowflake puff pastry cookies are beautiful! How would you make them that shape?

    • Kevin George

    Yes, any commentary on those flaky buttery puff pastry flowers? Were they part of the puff pastry cart that you spoke of from the earlier days; or did they nix the puff pastry cart altogether?

    • Mary Askew

    Everything sounds delightful but I really, really want to know how those vegetables over salt were prepared. Were they baked over the salt?

    • Chandler in Las Vegas

    Daveed, please explain the metamorphosis of Le doggy bag. I believed it was a horror the French were loathe to embrace.

    • likelivingthere

    We’ve had similaly satisfying experiences at Taillevent, where Jean-Marie Ancher and his staff have treated us – infrequently visiting Americans – like old friends. And that’s at the relatively low-cost prix-fixe lunch. Not to mention that the meals have been excellent.

    • Phyllis Bregman

    Hi David, thank you so much for this review. I had dinner at Meurice many years ago; it was my first Michelin starred restaurant. Being from NYC and only 20 years old, I was very sophisticated (ha), but I loved the meal. Years later I returned and heard it wasn’t as good anymore so I moved on. Lovely to hear I can go again, when next in Paris. I can’t wait.

    Is it possible the vegetables were cooked sous vide?

    • ItalianGirlCooks

    It all looks so good…I’m curious about the veggies/salt and that pastry. But you got me at the cheese plate and “un doggy bag” of rye bread.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Phyllis: I have no idea. They might have been – next time I go, I’m going to ask him. They still had plenty of texture, so am not sure as I’ve not played around with sous vide. but it’s possible.

    Chandler: I haven’t seen anyone horrified about it, but it’s just not normal – you eat everything on your plate when you go out to eat. But if you have a good story (we were truly raving over the bread!) they usually comply ; )

    Kevin and Rita: They’re made by taking a few batons of puff pastry dredged in sugar, pinching them together near the middle, and twisting them together in the center. I don’t recall the name in French (or even if there is one), but they’re made similar to palmiers – twisted into a different shape.

    • Beth Bromfield

    Love your blog. I have a question not related to this. I made the recipe for your cinnamon infused creme caramel (from The Bakers Dozen) for Thanksgiving this year and found the amount of sugar overpowering. I wonder if you have revised the recipe. Beth

    • susan

    Enjoyed so much! Not to be gauche, but when a chef invites you to their restaurant, is it all, as it were, “on the house?”

    • Sherr

    So jealous of your life. Drat.

    • Matt Senger

    sounds like a wonderful meal. so, is this a place one can’t afford to go to if one needs to ask the price? sounds like it just might be.

    • Mary Gallagher

    A few years back a friend and I stayed at the George V in Paris and dined there for several meals including Sunday brunch. It was exquisite with food and service as you’ve described at the restaurant Maurice. We also had breakfast in our suite one morning with the same quality of service and food as in the dining areas.
    All my trips to Paris have been magical.

    • Allan

    What would it cost to eat a meal like without the white truffle ,which I am sure adds a lot to the bill?

    • Mary Gallagher

    Re: Cost of eating at Maurice in Paris.
    In Charleston SC, where we live, are many of the USA’s acclaimed chefs like Mike Lata of FIG which they describe as “a Charleston SC local neighborhood restaurant located in the heart of downtown, serving seasonally-inspired cuisine with a commitment to using local and …” It’s difficult to get reservations and looking at the menu on line without drinks a couple would have no trouble before tax and tip of hitting $130 for dinner. I wouldn’t call Maurice a “neighborhood” restaurant!

    • Elizabeth Minchilli

    So glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who was expensively underwhelmed when Ducasse was cooking there. When I saw that you were eating there last week, I was remembering my completely mediocre but incredibly expensive meal I’d had there about 4 years ago. I decided to take my daughter there for a extraordinary treat in a three star restaurant. I had the exact same experience with trying to get an aperitif as you did, followed by course after course of fussy, pretty tasteless food.
    So glad to hear that things have changed, and that you had an extraordinary meal!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Elizabeth: Ducasse took over the restaurant in September of 2013, so if you ate there 4 years ago, it was with the previous team. I know some people liked it before but in my opinion, it’s improved dramatically.

    Beth: I was one of the editors of that book & the recipes were culled from Bay Area pastry chefs. I don’t have the book with me, and don’t know if the publisher revised it, but I use my crème caramel recipe that’s in my book, Ready for Dessert, which has 3/4 cup of sugar for 3 cups of milk.

    Allan+Matt: I think the menus are online (at the links) to check it out. It’s certainly not cheap; the prices are commensurate with other three-star restaurants in Paris.

    • Jeff Bridges

    My father spoke to me:: “Do the right thing at all times – even when you feels no one is observing.” So I expect it of myself and I seek it in others.

    • lagatta à montréal

    This was lovely. I know I’ll never eat there, as I don’t work in that field so as to be invited (on the other hand, I have many free books, signed by authors), nor would it be on my budget unless it were my absolute priority on a trip, which it isn’t, but there are great lessons here on presentation and cookery for anyone. I’d love to reproduce that simple vegetable dish, and yes, the rye breads looked splendid.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      It’s interesting, and thinking about it now that you mentioned those 2 dishes, the things that impressed us the most were the simplest – the rye bread, the vegetables, the roasted meat, and the citrus dessert.

    • Ruth

    Oh my, David, on the spur of the moment, I am back in Paris for two weeks, and it feels so good to be here. My problem? I want to eat at every place you’ve mentioned in the past 6 months! Hah–I’ve already bought some clothes, and if I eat at all your recommendations, they won’t fit. I better just do a lot of walking and gaze into the windows. Though, the cheese-tasting fromagerie may be just too good to pass up!


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