It’s been 3 years since we visited Alain Passard’s Arpège and while the interior hasn’t changed the prices have continued to creep up and the surprise tasting lunch now contains no major meat course, that is to be ordered separately off the a la carte menu. It’s still cheaper than dinner but it’s definitely more expensive. They also have more expensive tastings and the a la carte menu if you so chose. We took the surprise tasting and added the roast guinea fowl (lunch took about 4 hours). I was surprised to find so many dishes that were similar to our past visits. Another change was when we arrived they tried to seat us downstairs. Mind you it’s a nice room downstairs and it is on the same level as the bathroom but it feels a little like you’ve been banished to the non-French room. We asked to sit upstairs and they had to deliberate a bit which considering that no one was seated there seemed off-putting. Chef Passard was in the house and worked the room and was most gracious when he visited with us, but I felt for those others who meekly took the table they were guided to. Another change was that vegetables no longer adorn the tables as decorations and instead new plates add color to the table.
We started with a glass of the their rosé champagne. It was a small pour for about 30 euros a glass.
Our tasting started with vegetable pies. The very thin crusts held celery root and basil (creamy), sweet potato and onion (good) and coriander (thicker). They were all good.
Vegetable ravioli had a really thin pasta layer and were in a really aromatic broth. They contained various vegetable fillings in a broth of Jerulsalem artichoke.
The hot and cold egg was made with maple sherry vinegar. It was good but not as great as it has been in the past. It is a nice contrast of hot and cold, sweet and sour.
Beetroot sushi was made with horseradish rice. It almost tasted a bit of coconut. It had excellent flavor.
Scallop slices were checkerboarded with radish and all topped with lemon, parmesan cheese and bay oil. The radish adds color and crunch to the mild scallop pieces.
A butternut squash soup was served warm and topped with cool ham cream. The wonderful soup went well with the contrasting temperature and little salty cream. It was a perfect blending with the thick soup. It was really good.
An onion gratin was topped with nuts and sardines. The onion still had lots of texture and the nuts gave it even more. It was really flavor-filled and the sardines were a perfect blend with the mixture.
A chard leaf was stuffed with vegetables – onions, celery, mushroom, parsnip – and then surrounded by an apple broth consomé with cinnamon. It was well seasoned and very aromatic.
Beetroot tartare was served with pickled onion mouseline and topped with a carrot and hot mustard. This seemed to be a faux dish of ‘beef tartare topped with an egg’ and it was a good immitation. It was a lot of beets.
A leek was served with grilled pear and accented with tomato caramel. It was excellent.
A South Korean dumpling contained sweetbread, chicken liver and fennel. The broth they were served in had a ton of flavor and the filling had lots of textures. Not sure what all was in it but it was good.
They presented our Grand Rotisserie d’heritage Louise Passard guninea fowl before taking it away to carve and plate. It was served with a brioche with celery root. It was tart but interesting. The bird was moist and good and served with a Kalamata olive sauce.
The first dessert was a medley of things – nougat, thin crisps, chocolate bon bons, caramel and crispy chocolate.
A macaron was stuffed with hazelnuts and topped with chocolate.
Last was the apple tartine. The soft delicious fruity sweet apples combined with the buttery warm pastry is always a classic. What’s not to like here – it’s totally yummy and beautiful presentation.