Thursday, March 16, 2006

Breakfast and Lunch at Alain Ducasse

3.16.06 - On a Wednesday morning we went to breakfast in the Alain Ducasse restaurant just off the lobby in the Plaza Athenee on the Avenue Montaigne.

It’s a very grand room glittering with gilt and three fantastic gold and crystal chandeliers. This is obviously an early morning meeting place for businessmen and women in Paris. We had gone down to breakfast without a jacket only to see we were the only “tourists” in the elegantly appointed room.
As you might expect, the staff is as elegantly turned out as the clientele and the room. I ordered the typical (although hardly typically presented) bacon and eggs, starting with grapefruit and grapefruit juice. JH had the morning’s special — two soft boiled eggs presented in the shell mixed with a celery puree and truffle shavings. Just so happened Mr. Ducasse (pictured above) was eating breakfast at the table next to ours.
3.17.06 - We went to lunch at Alain Ducasse’s. Aside from the spectacular chandeliers surrounded by a shower of crystals, and the view from the windows of the hotel’s La Cour Jardin which is possibly the most famous courtyard in all of Paris, the Ducasse style is unlike any other I’ve experienced in fine dining. Several years ago I had dinner at Alain Ducasse in Monte Carlo. Splendid in every way. The staff provides a seamless service where nothing is left uncompleted. The waiters, which is an inadequate word for those who take your order and serve, are highly trained in a rigorous program that takes years. We began with a gesture from the chef — scallops baked on the half shell garnished with herbs.

Then for starters I had langoustines rafraichies, nage reduite, caviar oscietre — nouvelle peche. Which translated basically means Oestra caviar served precisely, impeccably on a bed of prawns. Perfect, just as it appears in the picture. Rich and delicate, and excellent; to be savored. JH started with a salad — on the menu: Legumes et fruits cuits/crus, marmelade tomato/truffle. Vegetables and fruit and truffles with a dressing (the marmelade) gently poured at table around the edges of what otherwise looked like a work of art (also see photo). Both dishes look meager in portion but they were not in the eating. The textures and flavors move in and out and the eating becomes measured so as to enjoy it fully.

For main courses we ordered the Volaille d Brfesse en fricasse aux ecrrevisses “pattes rouge” and the Sole de petit bateau, mariniere de coquillages. Sole, otherwise you got me. Report from the diner: excellent. No wines, not at lunchtime for me. We both had the same dessert: Fraises des bois en coupe glacee, sable coco. The photograph says it, kinda, sorta — so perfectly presented it looked almost too perfect as if nothing taste-wise could match the look of it. Except nothing could match the taste of it.
The compleat luncheon at Alain Ducasse in the Plaza Athénée and our waiter (above). Each table had the double sided card in French and English (rght).
The dining room was filled with mainly businessmen. I was told one of the government ministers was lunching with several men at one table. One table over from us were two businessmen who began their lunch with a pink champagne. Next to them was a young Asian couple, very simply dressed who, like us, got out their digital a got a shot of their choices. it is a very quiet restaurant despite the multiple conversations. The staff operates like a corps de ballet, as if everything from the order taking to the arrival of the trays bearing the astonishing culinary gifts has been planned in detail. You get the feeling that all of the clientele are having the same almost reverential experience with the food and the service. I can’t emphasize the service enough because it is otherworldly in its superiority.

We went into the dining room a little after 12:30 expecting to be out by two a the latest. It was ten to three when we rose from the table. The menu somehow requires the resolute and the patient, as if participating with the corps right up to the consumption. A perfect last lunch at this chic and worldly establishment.