T+L Reports: Paris When it Sizzles
Published: May 2009
It all began in 2000 with the Alain Ducasse stronghold at the Plaza Athénée (25 Ave. Montaigne; 33-1/53-67-65-00; www.alain-ducasse.com; dinner for two $452), followed by the opening last year of Joël Robuchon's L'Atelier (5 Rue de Montalembert; 33-1/42-22-56-56; dinner for two $179) at the Hôtel Pont Royal, on the Left Bank. Now Paris hotels are hitching themselves to celebrity chefs faster than the guides can deal out stars. The prize table of the moment—both for food critics and serious eaters—is Les Ambassadeurs (10 Place de la Concorde; 33-1/44-71-16-16; www.crillon.com; dinner for two $357) at the Hôtel de Crillon, where Jean-François Piège, formerly a senior chef under Ducasse, took the helm in February. Brace yourself for jaw-dropping prices (an asparagus first course costs $89) and a baroque setting (the dining room alone has more marble and gilt cherubs than many cathedrals); then marvel at Piège's whimsical creations, which taste better than they sound: spider crab topped with a coral-and-scallop froth, wild strawberries under a cloud of cotton candy. • The success at the Crillon is the second this year for the Taittinger family. Across town, its Baccarat-laden Cristal Room (11 Place des États-Unis; 33-1/40-22-11-10; dinner for two $167), housed in the former mansion of art patron Marie-Laure de Noailles—benefactor of Luis Buñuel, Man Ray, and Salvador Dalí—continues to pull in a branché crowd. Some come for the extravagant mise-en-scène designed by Philippe Starck, who has tucked in little nods to the Surrealists at every turn, and others for chef Thierry Burlot's distinctive dishes, such as oyster ravioli, and caramel soufflé dusted with fleur de sel. • Just five months into his tenure at Hôtel Meurice, chef Yannick Alléno nabbed two Michelin stars for Le Meurice (228 Rue de Rivoli; 33-1/44-58-10-55; www.meuricehotel.com; dinner for two $405) and became the talk of le tout Paris. Like the Crillon, Le Meurice pairs a palace setting (ceiling frescoes, crystal chandeliers) with a modern approach to gastronomy. Menu highlights include Alléno's sea urchin stuffed with bouillabaisse gelée, a perfectly roasted suckling pig, and a fillet of sea bass with a sweet red-pepper purée, topped with a sardine-infused cream sauce. With its $71 prix fixe menu, the restaurant has become a new favorite for business lunches. • In another much-talked-about change, the smallerHôtel Lancaster has opened its once restricted dining room, La Table du Lancaster (7 Rue de Berri; 33-1/40-76-40-18; www.hotel-lancaster.fr; dinner for two $214), to non-guests, and in March brought in Michel Troisgros as a consultant to chef de cuisine Fabrice Salvador. The menu is arranged by theme: "witty" includes tomatoes with either chilled spaghetti or curried snails; "sharp" incorporates wine with a creamy leek-potato-mussel soup and hazelnut-and-rosemary-crusted fillet of whiting. The inventive pairings have won over even the toughest French critics.
—Sarah Raper Larenaudie