Tuesdays are typically dedicated to recipes…but this was just too good to pass up. Thanks so much to Stacy for this amazing restaurant review. Enjoy!
I was in Paris recently for my sister’s wedding, where I ate my weight in freshly baked French bread, macarons, and cheese. Was the highlight of my trip getting to celebrate with my wonderful family and spend a momentous and joyous 5 days in the glorious City of Light? No. It was the FOOOOOD! And in particular, our 3-hour, multiple course meal at La Tour d’Argent – one of the city’s best and nicest restaurants. And even though it has gone from 3 Michelin stars in 1996 to just one today, it’s still perhaps one of the best known restaurants in all of France, maybe even in the world. I mean, it did inspire scenes from Pixar’s Ratatouille and goshdarnit, Michelin stars are hard to come by! So even if your restaurant only manages to get one, that’s quite an accomplishment, and nothing to get all suicidal about.
I was beyond excited to eat here. I wore my pretty “day-time lunching in Paris” dress, which, I later found out isn’t very practical for public outings, SINCE IT’S SEE-THROUGH. But whatever. You know what cures all insecurities about your outfit? Booze. Let’s peruse the wine list, shall we?
Yes, my friends. That is not the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that’s La Tour d’Argent’s wine list! And needless to say, we didn’t even bother looking. Rather, we told our waiter what we wanted and he picked. Much easier. I mean, seriously. What is that thing? A booster seat?
Pretty soon came our first amuse-bouche, a silver platter with a variety of treats – tuna in little glass serving bowls, small phyllo dough pastries stuffed with fromage (cheese), and some kind of brioche-like bread stuffed with…well, I can’t remember. But look how pretty! And I should mention that whoever shines the silver at this place has his work cut out for him.
Next came another amuse-bouche of oxtails in a pea puree. I’m always impressed when oxtail meat cuts like tenderloin. And these two delicately placed pieces of oxtail were so tender, they melted in your mouth like buttah.
And now, the actual appetizer – a bowl of Pike dumplings or “Quenelles De Brochet” which are served on a bed of mushrooms duxelle and covered in Mornay sauce. Some of my other dining companions weren’t big fans of the texture of these dumplings, but I thought they were perfect. Very light and fluffy but extremely rich with that creamy, cheesy Mornay sauce. And those mushrooms? In the words of Elaine Benes, GET OUT!
After this delicious appetizer, I was more than a little full. But alas, it was time to consume the entree – a plate of La Tour d’Argent’s famous pressed duck, their signature menu item. Vegetarians and animal rights activists, beware. The following is not a pretty story, or a pretty sight. But foodies, prepare for the ultimate in culinary history and decadence.
First, the duck is lightly roasted, its breast meat carved off, and the carcass crushed in a sterling silver press to extract the blood and juices which are reserved to make the sauce. Oh, and this is all done at a bar in the center of the restaurant for all the patrons to enjoy. It’s actually quite an interesting and unique process – something that the restaurant has been doing since the 1800’s and one that is hard to come by. At La Tour d’Argent, this dish is so traditional and so esteemed (considered by many to be the ultimate in fine dining), that each duck is given a serial number and diners are presented with a keepsake card that has their duck’s serial number printed on it. How thoughtful! There’s nothing I want more than to remember the time I barbarically enjoyed consuming an animal that’s then drowned in a sauce made from its own guts and blood.
With that said, damn if it isn’t delicious! And La Tour d’Argent serves their duck two ways – you get 2 pieces of breast meat and a pâté of the dark meat. A little square of potato topped with apricot and almond finishes off the plate. And that sauce, which they bring around in a silver gravy boat (that’s right, more silver), is unbelievable. They thicken it with butter and cognac, season it with some salt and pepper, and BAM! Blood never tasted so good. And don’t even try to remove the skin on this duck meat – it’s meant to be eaten. And it adds a nice, crispy crust to the tender and juicy meat that’s beneath.
I felt just like King Henry IV (who’s rumored to have frequented this restaurant back in the day), only not as rich or revered. But you’d never know that since the service at La Tour d’Argent is impeccable and even little girls in see-through dresses from Texas get treated like royalty. At this point, even though I was beyond stuffed, there’s always room for dessert! Right? But before the actual dessert came, they brought out yet another silver platter with a variety of sweets for us to sample.
Cream puffs, blueberry macarons, and some kind of strawberry jam/pudding/mousse concoction. Whatever it was, it was delicious. And those blueberry macarons? Surprisingly good. I’m not a big macaron fan (and yes, I did try the oh-so-famous ones at Ladurée while I was there), but these were more thick and cookie-like and the flavor of blueberries was so predominant, I quite enjoyed them.
For our real dessert, out came a chocolate mousse cake with raspberries and gold leaf. After that, coffee and/or espresso, and after THAT, they brought around a selection of gourmet chocolates for us to choose from. And after THAT, they came around with finger bowls for us to rinse our delicate pinkies off in. And after THAT, they came around, burped us, and wiped our asses. Talk about luxury!
To be serious though, this was quite the dining experience and one that I’ll never forget. It costs a pretty penny but should you find yourself in Paris (or Tokyo where they have a second location), a trip here is well worth it. Go for the experience, stay for the duck!