A few months before we went to Paris, my Dad asked that I make a reservation at a restaurant that he’d read about in a NYTimes article. A French chef had closed down his three star restaurant in order to open a more casual restaurant that wasn’t trapped within the demands of three star fine dining. Nonetheless, the new restaurant, Senderens, received two Michelin stars. So, I thought that was a cool story, and I made the reservation without another thought or research.
But once I got to this entrance on a prime spot at the Place de la Madeleine, I realized just how special this meal might be…
I hadn’t known that Alain Senderens is one of the superstar chefs of Paris, and I hadn’t considered the ramifications of his running Lucas Carton with three stars for 28 years at this location. The transformation to Senderens is discussed in this article and this article, and lots of others. It seems that the average tab per person without wine is only $130 now (75% less than what it was before)… and there are only 2 sommeliers instead of 8… and as I noticed, desserts are only $25… so it’s that kind of casual.
Anyway, after the initial shock, we settled into a fantastic meal — it’s quite a feat for a restaurant to thrill seven people over multiple courses, and that didn’t happen often during our trip. The food is not fussily elaborate, but it’s creative enough for me, and even more importantly, the flavors were great because of perfect preparation. And the setting was elegant and lowkey, and the service was very polite and helpful.
What I especially liked, too, was that each dish was paired with a wine on the regular menu, and there was a full description of that wine under the description of dish. This saves so much arbitrary judgment on the part of the guest, and it makes sense for a restaurant to recommend a wine that will contribute to the success of a given dish… as was the case with my dessert. Why can’t more restaurants do that?
The menu was a little difficult to navigate because of terms that I hadn’t encountered before, so I’m including the French and my less poetic interpretation in English.
Amuse Bouche. Avocado Puree and Crab.
Bread and Basket.
Trois Legumes dans un Ravioli Ouvert, Beurre Mousseux au Thym Citron, Tapenade du Moulin du Calanquet.
Three Vegetables in an Open Ravioli, Lemon-Thyme Foamy Butter, Moulin du Calanquet Tapenade.
Foie Gras de Canard Roti, Tubes de Navet Caramelises au Poivre Maniguette et Noisettes Torrefiees.
Roasted Foie Gras, Tubes of Caramelized Turnips with Grains of Paradise and Roasted Hazelnuts.
Dos de Saumon d’Ecosse Mi-Fumee a la Maison, Servi Tiede, Rubans de Concombre Glaces aux Epices Thai.
House Semi-Smoked Back of Scottish Salmon, Served Warms, Ribbons of Cold Cucumbers with Thai Spices.
Two people shared one serving of this, and the restaurant was nice enough to give each of the two their own plates. And then they fell in love with that salmon.
Tartare de Veau et Langoustine, Vermicelle de Riz, Parmigiano Reggiano.
Veal and Langoustine Tartare, Rice Noodles, Parmigiano Reggiano.
Agneau Biberon des Charentes au Sautoir, Cocettes de Legumes du Moment au Jus.
Sauteed Young Charentes Lamb, Seasonal Vegetable Stew with Jus.
Framboises Tiedes en Coulis, Pistaches Caramelisees, Sorbet au Caille de Brebis.
Warm Raspberries in Coulis, Caramelized Pistachios, Sheep’s Cheese Sorbet.
I ordered this for two reasons: to have the sorbet and to have the raspberries with this sparkling dessert wine…
Moscato d’Asti 2005 - La Spinetta.
I loved the rhyming of the sensations of raspberry pips and sparkling wine bubbles on my tongue. Raspberries might often be too strong for champagne, but since they were warm and sweetened with add’l coulis, they were mellow and soft enough to further blend perfectly with the sweet wine.
And the sorbet was fantastic, too.
Mille-Feuille a la Vanille de Tahiti.
Tahitian Vanilla Mille-Feuille.
This is their signature dessert, and was just what a mille-feuille should be, with an amazing vanilla note to boot. I especially liked how the puff pasty is rather thin, and flaky and caramelized.
Superposition de Rhubarbe et Pamplemousse, Sable aux Amandes, Caramel au Beurre Demi-Sel.
Superposition of Rhubarb and Grapefruit, Almond Shortbread, Half-Salt Butter Caramel.
I was so stunningly happy by the demi-sel factor; most of the other salted caramel foods we had in Prais were way too salty for us… and I love salt.
Sorbets et Glaces: Vanille, Cacao, Gingembre, Lait d’Amande, Mara des Bois.
Sorbets and Ice Creams: Vanilla, Cacao, GInger, Almond Milk, Mara des Bois Strawberry.
Mignardises: Macarons, Palmiers, Chocolate Truffle Cookie.
And then we left the nice little room that we had all to ourselves for the meal. Senderens mentioned that he saves money by not having tablecloths. If I had tables like that, I wouldn’t have tablecloths, either. I liked the trompe d’oeil lazy susan effect of the oval in the middle.