Paul Bocuse Restaurant is located a few miles out of town in colorful and well lit building on top of a small hill. Doormen in red hats and coats (who also come in with the happy birthday cart where they grind out your tune) greet you as you look around a large patio painted with murals of other famous chefs (photos at end) and a large window into part of the huge kitchen. It has 3 Michelin Stars, which they have had since 1965, but on our visit neither the service or food would merit that rating. Mostly the staff seemed to be ‘cranking’ it out as fast as possible with little personalization. It had more the feel of a business rather than an elegant dining experience. The food is made with good ingredients and has lovely presentations but doesn’t sing at all and the place felt sterile. The place is divided into several rooms that have wall paper, mirrors and lots of art on the walls. One had a beautiful terrazzo floor another had marble (floors had to be smooth since their cheese/dessert carts don’t have wheels). The ceilings are hung with chandeliers and with the additional lighting on the walls the place is well lit. Well padded chairs and purse stools are set for you but no music is in the background. The large widely spaced tables are covered with long white clothes and set with huge napkins in a paper ring covered with “PAUL BOCUSE”. In fact, everything is well labeled with the ‘Paul Bocuse’ name – you won’t forget where you are. The menu offers a la carte options and 3 different tasting menus. We chose the Paul Bocuse menu that offered some of his best known dishes. Pacing was good and portion control on the large side.
An amuse bouche was pumpkin soup with crispy toast. It was a very good with a nice consistency. The toast was blistered to a light crisp texture. A very fine start.
Bread service was individual baguettes and butter. The baguette had a good dense interior that was perfectly fresh with a crispy crust. Perfect French rendition.
The tasting started with lobster in an iced Pouilly-Fuissé court-bouillon with Osetra caviar and cauliflower cream. There were flavors of ginger in the gel and the caviar was perched on the cauliflower cream which had too much salt to be topped with caviar. Some of the lobster, from the south of France, was on the tough side and they served the foamy sections from the claws. It was good but it should have been better.
The truffle soup V.G.E. was created in 1975 and named for the former President (1974-1981) of France Valéry Georges Giscard d’Estaing who was also known as VGE. It is in a soup cup topped with a crust of puff pastry. Inside was a rich stock filled with truffle slices, mushrooms and foie gras. The buttery flakey pastry is perfect with the deeply flavored soup. Ours was with beef stock but I believe the original version was with chicken. However ours had bits of beef and foie gras that floated to the top while the truffles mostly sank. There was a slight hit of truffle essence when you first broke through the crust but the flavor was otherwise mild. Even so, this was a winner and well deserves to be named for a ruler of a country.
Red mullet dressed in crusty potato scales was a beautiful plate of food. The superbly toasted rounds of potato were placed in perfect “scale” pattern and the sauce surrounding it was formed into swirls that complimented the fish. The creamy sauce had flavors of rosemary and orange in it. The crisp potatoes had a wonderful buttery essence. The fish was cooked flawlessly and not strongly flavored but still quite moist. It went great with the sauce and potatoes. Another outstanding dish.
Beaujolais winemaker’s sherbet was made with black currants and beaujolais wine. In the spirit of the wine it was presented in a sommelier’s tasting cup. It had excellent flavor.
The Bresse chicken cooked in a bladder ‘á la Mére Richard’ was quite a tableside show. The puffed up bladder is presented and then opened at the table to remove the truffle stuffed chicken. The problem with the method of preparation is that the chicken is not at all browned and so the rubbery skin has to be covered with some kind of sauce. After they sliced the white meat off the bone they covered it with a cream sauce with morels and plated it with a vegetable medley and rice mixture. Both the sides were really out of an old school textbook, especially as some of the vegetables were out of season. All were cooked nicely as was the rice mixture, but they were both really dull. The meat was fairly moist but the truffle taste did not come through at all, however the sauce had great flavor and really enhanced the chicken. The dark meat was presented in a second table show and this time plated with a nicely dressed salad. It had no sauce and amazingly they were able to dry out the dark portion of the chicken. I really wish they’d left the sauce on the table.
Selection of fresh and matured cheeses from ‘La Mere Richard’ involved picking three choices from 2 different tables of cheese. The selection was nice but no bread or other accompaniment was offered.
Dessert was called ‘Delicacies and Temptation Fantasies and Chocolates’ which were your selections from several tables of desserts (note I say tables not carts as they were not wheeled just pushed around). We tried the almond and vanilla cream cake, lemon custard, apple tartine, baba and Paris brest. None were outstanding although they looked quite nice. The lemon was intensely flavored, the brest was thick and sweet, and the baba was served with ice cream instead of sweet cream. All of it was sweet and probably the best part was the ice cream although some of it was icy.
Final treats were a chocolate bon bon, a puff pastry with passion fruit and a chocolate praline with orange. They were okay.
One of the serving assistants took us a tour of the kitchen following dinner.