L’Arpege in Paris

With three Michelin stars and a #12 ranking on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, L’Arpège is clearly a force to be reckoned with. Alain Passard’s beautiful, seasonally-driven vegetable creations have taken the world’s breath away, and any chef who has trained in his kitchen has leveraged that stamp of approval to run successful restaurants of his or her own. It’s rare to find these sorts of accolades bestowed upon a vegetarian restaurant in the fine dining world, so we were very much looking forward to our lunch reservation, as we figured the food here must be exceptional in order to warrant that attention and such high prices.

at restaurant arpege
at restaurant arpege
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amuse bouche of garlic and sugar snap peas in a pastry
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fresh tabbouleh with cheese and garden vegetables
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egg yolk with cream and maple syrup

Truth be told, I felt like I was watching the Emperor wear his new clothes as our tasting lunch unfolded. Can serving a large white asparagus on a plate count as a novel preparation? Did that even require that much skill, other than picking it out of the ground? Or what about a cucumber maki roll? Isn’t that something that I could get as takeout at Beyond Sushi, at a quarter of the price and made with much better sushi rice? The king’s looking mighty naked right now.

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cucumber maki with asparagus and sorrel pesto. not impressed.
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asparagus on a plate. literally.

To be fair, there were moments when L’Arpège really stepped it up, got properly dressed, and gave it its all, as demonstrated by the dreamy risotto and the zucchini and garlic soup. The vegetables in the risotto were so expressive, conveying a rich variety of texture and flavor that truly created a cohesive experience. And there was no arguing that the luscious, smoky and creamy puree of the zucchini and garlic was flawless.

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vegetable risotto
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zucchini and garlic soup with whipped cream and speck

There were other moments where I did observe a dexterous treatment of vegetables that teased out interesting and unexpected contrasts. The trio of vegetable tarts that arrived as an amuse bouche was such an example. These beautiful tarts yielded a wide range of unexpected flavors, sweet, earthy, bitter and floral, that belied their sweet facade. It embraced the natural flavors of the vegetable and pushed you to rethink what it meant to be a sweet tart.

And then there was the cucumber and onion broth, in which the kitchen managed to tease out a flavor that resembled steeped tea, which was unusual and impressive. But then that was offset by strange moments like the vegetable sausage with harissa and cumin, which felt more like a vegan experiment than a fully thought out gourmet effort.

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vegetable tarts with red onion, black currant, chamomile and carrots
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vegetable ravioli in a cucumber and onion broth
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vegetable sausage flavored with harissa and cumin, served in cous cous
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an assortment of desserts, including turnip raspberry tart, apple tart and caramel
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raspberry rhubarb mille feuille
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hay ice cream profiteroles

Is it obvious that I was a tad disappointed by the end of my meal? I went to go see a performance only to sit down to a bizarre strip tease. And the small cup of coffee that cost 13 euros added insult to injury. On a positive note, I suppose, was that I no longer had to see the Emperor naked. Time to see a chef wearing his chef’s whites for real.


L’Arpège
84 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, France
Invalides
33 1 47 05 09 06

24 Hours in Paris

Has it really been two weeks since I was in Paris? Why does it feel so much longer? That healthy and carefree vacation glow seems to have faded way too quickly. Maybe it’ll come back if I post pictures of some of my favorite Paris memories??

Wake up and eat some croissants. No trip to France is complete without eating some fresh croissants. We dropped by the highly regarded Au Levain du Marais bakery to grab a couple of pastries to go before heading on out to the Eiffel Tower.

croissant from au levain du marais
croissant from au levain du marais
chocolate croissant
chocolate croissant

Go see the Eiffel Tower. Seeing the Eiffel Tower is a moment that never gets old. It’s even better viewing it safely from afar at the metro stop Trocadero, where you don’t have to pay any money or fight off fellow tourists for a great view. Most importantly, you must eat a croissant at the steps–it doesn’t get any more French than this!

the iconic eiffel tower
the iconic eiffel tower

Visit Collette. This trendy concept store is totally awesome. It sells more than just clothes and accessories, it sells a highly desirable lifestyle that is extremely cool and edgy. If you want to be that chic girl with the prettiest outfit riding the flashiest bike wearing the most interesting sunglasses reading the latest talked about book, then this is the store for you. There’s also a great restaurant (le water bar) downstairs that sells stylish, healthy renditions of French classics like croque madame so that the discerning customer can carefully curate all aspects of her life, even her meals.

le water bar at collette
le water bar at collette
croque madame at le water bar
croque madame at le water bar
melon and jambon at le water bar
melon and jambon

The closest thing we have in New York is Dover Street Market, but it’s not as intimidating and the styles aren’t as “out there”, and it has a livelier vibe. I remember seeing the Stuart Vevers collection from Coach on the 2nd floor, which was totally unexpected and totally exciting, even though the shearling coat and workwear were not very flattering on me.

the stuart vevers coach collection at collette
the stuart vevers coach collection at collette
these coach looks are tres chic
these coach looks are tres chic

Macarons at Ladurée. I know there’s a Ladurée in New York, but really, nothing can compare to having a macaron in the original store. The bakery is beautiful and teeming with gorgeous macaron and pastry displays. They also sell many things outside of macarons, all of which are delicious, especially this buttery and decadent palmier cookie that we bought on our visit.

laduree
the beautiful ladurée storefront
laduree store front
such enticing visual displays
laduree - palmiers
these palmiers were insanely good

Visit The Broken Arm. This is another cutting edge concept store that sells a carefully curated selection of interesting brands so that you can maintain your persona as the most stylish person ever. The inventory on hand is smaller than at Collette, and I would say the brands are not as mainstream.

The best thing about this cafe, however, is the adjoining coffee shop. It is super twee and cute, and it serves the most amazing loaf cakes. The banana and chocolate chip loaf that we had was incredible. The crowd is very stylish and good-looking, with a lot of expats from the States and Japan.

HiP-Paris-Blog-Diane-Yoon-Broken-Arm-261
courtesy of hipparis.com
paris - broken arms cafe
a fabulous cup of coffee and a slice of delicious banana chocolate loaf

Eat dinner at Frenchie. On my past trips to France, I went to all these really old school restaurants that were stuffy and served generic versions of French classics like escargots. Frenchie is the complete opposite of that. It’s casual and fun, and the food is seasonal and interesting, drawing from a variety of cultures for inspiration. It was like eating New American farm-to-table food in France, which I didn’t mind, because the food was so fresh and so good.

frenchie wine bar, courtesy of gallivant.com
frenchie wine bar, courtesy of gallivant.com

Eat a falafel at L’As Du Fallafel. This place is such a zoo, with tourists and cameramen lining up to get their hands on the famous falafels, which are very delicious. It’s also interesting getting a piece of the old world Jewish culture in the heart of the super trendy Marais area. If you do venture out, the wait for a table inside is not that bad, and in my experience, that line moved faster than the take-out line. Order some Maccabee beer with your falafel, and you will be full for hours!

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l’as du fallafel

Visit Maison Kitsune. If you want high-quality French classics and prepwear, then Maison Kitsune is the place for you. The prices tend to be expensive, but if you go during the soldes season, you can score some incredible 50% off deals on clothes that you’d actually wear for a long time. I was extremely excited by the good fortune of stumbling upon a lovely, versatile black dress.

maison kitsune, courtesy of sadaomix.com
maison kitsune, courtesy of sadaomix.com

Buying La Roche-Posay. Ever since a friend with good skin told me that she uses La Roche-Posay, I’ve been obsessed with the brand. This brand is ridiculously marked up at American drug stores, so I can never justify buying it. But of course, in Paris, the prices are quite reasonable, so at the very first pharmacy I stepped into, I bought a bottle of the BB cream to bring back home. This BB cream is incredibly light while providing great moisture and coverage. I’ve tried more expensive brands like Lancome and Christian Dior, but La Roche-Posay just feels the best.

la roche-posay, courtesy of ponikuta.com
la roche-posay, courtesy of ponikuta.com

Hmm, wonder if that vacation glow is coming back. Not really. Solution–take another trip, this time to Japan!!