Paris’s luxury hotels are known for their beauty and service and for the quality of the restaurants. How about their casual-dining venues? I tried three.
La Bauhinia (Shangri-La): This restaurant, named after a flower, mixes Asian and French cuisine, with a seasonal menu. It’s a dramatic space, reminiscent of a theater-in-the-round under a glass cupola designed by architect Maurice Gras. Diners are seated on red-velvet divans around the room.
A starter of Som Tam (26 euros/$32), Thai green-papaya salad, was crunchy and light. Pan-seared foie gras with a Lillet wine emulsion melted in the mouth and the sweet and sour were perfectly balanced.
A main course of poussin (38 euros), served with a pastilla and black-pepper poultry jus, was almost buttery. A stuffing including cucumber, red chili pepper, ginger and lime brought a burst of freshness to the pan-seared Berlada sole. If it were possible to eat perfume and enjoy it, that would be the rice, cooked in coconut milk and served in a banana leaf.
The only disappointment was dessert: a Napoleon with flavorless wild strawberries.
Rating: *** Cost: About 70 euros a person, plus wine. There’s a 48 euro, two-course lunch. Information: http://bit.ly/MwsEVc
Fouquet’s (Hotel Fouquet’s Barriere) This establishment is just how an elegant brasserie should be: bustling and lively without being frenetic. With its hardwood floors, red-cushioned chairs and golden chandeliers, the place is cozy and inviting.
This is a place to try cocktails. Barman Stephane Ginouves won a Meilleur Ouvrier de France award last year. His Ice Coco is a refreshing mix of whiskey, pineapple juice, white cocoa cream and coconut liqueur. The wine list carries 2,000 selections, with bottles from 69 euros to more than 3,000 euros.
Chef Jean-Yves Leuranguer’s king-crab salad includes crunchy sucrine lettuce and quinoa, shreds of yellow and orange carrots and citrus slices, which didn’t overpower the delicate flavor of generous chunks of crab. Lobster ravioli was a delightful surprise, covered with a foamy emulsion of lobster broth instead of the more common bisque.
The grilled filet mignon with a bearnaise sauce (49 euros) was tender and juicy, and a grilled tomato with buttery bread crumbs avoided the trap of sogginess.
A gianduja hazelnut cake was moist. The rum baba came with a glass of rum on the side.
Rating: *** Cost: The three-course “discovery” menu is 85 euros. Information: http://bit.ly/rXFCYZ
L’Obe (Hotel de Crillon): This place looks like a brasserie, with its bar and walls paneled in wood and mirrors. It would be more authentic if livelier. Still, there is a good selection of wines by the carafe.
The highlight of the meal was a starter salad with scallops and Parmesan (26 euros): Four big juicy scallops, served warm with golden pine nuts on a bed of cool, fresh salad greens. Canadian lobster salad with avocado and grapefruit (32 euros) looked better than it tasted.
While the pan-seared prawns with sesame seeds had a great nutty flavor and firm texture, the risotto was overpowered by Parmesan. Lamb chops in a mustard crust offered an enjoyable mix of textures.
A carafe of Pomerol 2007, Chateau Bellegrave (70 euros) was generous and at the right temperature, unlike a cheese plate and the signature dessert, vanilla Napoleon, (15 euros) which were served a bit warmer than room temperature.
Rating: ** Cost: About 70 euros. There’s a 39 euro, 2-course menu with coffee and mini desserts. Information: http://www.crillon.com/#flavours/obe
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor.
(Adria Cimino writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)
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