With all apologies to Monsieur Passard, L'Arpege is decorated like a dentist's office (credit to his website for this photo). Warm and not too stuffy, but unlike the lovely squash you see here, we saw paintings and Mr. Passard's book translated into Japanese.
We sat at the table you see here and I'm regretful that I did not bring my camera - the dining room included a teenager wearing jeans, several large 35mm cameras and a couple that couldn't get enough of the sommelier (another picture taken) - and I was worried about what we wore and what we carried!
But I digress from the meal.
Liam and I both had the menu. Pas de viande! the waitress informed us, but she had just explained that one of the first courses included a foam of lardon, so perhaps this was 'without meat' the French way?
There was foam on everything, and this made me happy.
I fell first for a foamy oeuf flavored with sherry vinegar and maple syrup and tasted as amazing as it sounds terrible. A dish that followed that seemed to be buttery foam on potatoes was like the essence of dauphin - but this may be the fume of a good hunk of ham.
A slice of celeriac was covered in crispy chestnuts and black truffle - Liam did not like it - I thought it was a bit too salty. A final plate of roasted root vegetables - everything from slices of rutabaga to salsify to several colors of carrots all covered in, yes, saffron foam. There was an earlier beet dish which was one of the least sweet beets I have ever had.
Our main course was by far the best - a slice of abalone covered in another white foam, accompanied by onions caramelized in vanilla bean and an onion gratin that came to the table a few seconds later. I was nearly full at this point, but wiped every bit of foam off of that plate.
And while I was surely smitten with Liam for bringing me here for my 32nd birthday, I made a several-glasses-of-wine-later suggestion that if I am ever to leave him, it might be for the incredible wheel of salers that arrived on an oak bench with a 4 year aged comte, served only in L'Arpege (no where else in the city), and, I quote (this was in English so I know what I'm saying here) "raised as you would raise a child."
Needless to say, it was some of the best cheese I have ever had.
Dessert: a honeyed souffle with a 'heart of chocolate' was so light and deliciously honeyed without being too sweet and a plate of petits fours that ranged from fun (celeriac and beet macarons!) to classic (chocolate puff pastry).
Despite rain that started off the morning, there was sun streaming into our faces while we ate - some of the best ambiance you can hope for during a late-winter Paris lunch.