T+L Reports: Paris When it Sizzles
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
In 2011, the cuisine of head chef Christopher Hache earned a Michelin star for Les Ambassadeurs. This gourmet French restaurant, located in the Hotel de Crillon near the Champs-Élysées and the Jardin des Tuileries, offers seasonal menus with dishes like turbot meunière (sautéed fish) and roasted hen breast. The Louis XV-style dining room has tall white-framed windows with opaque draperies, crystal chandeliers suspended from a high, frescoed ceiling, and marble of different colors and patterns on the floor and walls.
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Paris
Owned by renowned French chef and restauranteur Joël Robuchon, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon showcases the chef’s award-winning haute French cuisine. The restaurant, which opened in 2003, was designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon and is decked in Robuchon’s signature red and black. The focal point of the dining room is the open kitchen, and the restaurant’s 40 chairs are carefully arranged around it, allowing diners to observe the preparation of their dishes. Menus include full-size entrées and smaller a la carte dishes, such as foie gras with asparagus, as well as decadent desserts.
La Table du Lancaster
Located inside Paris’s esteemed Hôtel Hospes Lancaster, La Table du Lancaster serves as a creative vehicle for chef Michel Troisgros, recipient of a Michelin star. The menu is thematically organized around ingredients personally selected by Troisgros, and dishes fall into such categories as “Zesty” and “Green.” Troisgros crafts dishes, like sea bass with fresh rhubarb and dill or celery cannelloni with caviar and smoked eel, to highlight the ingredients’ distinct flavor profiles. The dining room décor reflects the restaurant’s contemporary sensibility with a mix of red banquettes and round tables, heavy curtains, and modern artwork.
Cristal Room Baccarat
Designer Philippe Starck restored the 18th century elegance of Maison Baccarat in the Cristal Room Baccarat restaurant, located between Etoile and Trocadéro. Exposed brick set in wood paneling, gilded mirrors, and Baccarat crystal candles, chandeliers, and place settings recall the decadent dinner parties of Marie-Laure de Noailles, heiress of the Marquis de Sade. Chef Guy Martin creates dishes such as the trout fillet topped with oxalis served with tofu and the roasted Correzian veal chop with small sweet peppers and gnocchi. For dessert, the crispy chocolate puff pastry with cherries and kirsch ice cream is popular.
Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris Restaurant
Alain Ducasse at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, owned by chef Alain Ducasse, blends the finest French cuisine and impeccable interior design, providing the perfect atmosphere for romantic Parisian meals. The dining room is adorned with sparkling crystal chandeliers, lending an air of added sophistication, and diners sit at chic orange and white chairs. The menu reflects Ducasse’s commitment to using the freshest ingredients and creating simple preparations, allowing true flavors to shine through. Diners enjoy such specialties as the steamed langoustines amuse-bouche and the lobster with sea potatoes.