Saturday, June 9, 2012

Paris: L'Astrance

So my visit to Paris this time round was very food centric, which works well when you're in one of the food capitals of the world. In my books, only NYC compares though Paris would probably win out in my heart, if only because of Pierre Herme. Actually my whole trip was quite the food adventure but Paris particularly because I was enjoying the week as a blissful relaxation week. Of course that meant visiting some of the many 3 michelin star restaurants including L'Astrance.

It is notoriously difficult to get a reservation at L'Astrance - they close randomly for long stretches of time and only serve a handful of tables each day. My reservation attempts were made all the more difficult due to my lack of French beyond fashion terms and popular tourist words. At the time I was calling, they were on one of their hiatuses and had a lengthy, quickly spoken answering machine message so I called in my friend who is fortunately fluent in French who easily managed to get me a table. As I would discover throughout my trip, travelling early in peak season definitely has its perks!

The restaurant is quaint but modern, without that overly pretentious feeling that is common with other fine dining restaurants despite a spot on the coveted San Pellegrino Best Restaurants list (ranked #18 this year, down from #13 in 2011).

I loved the tableware they used too - I feel its modern elegance matched the food story that chef Pascal Barbot (one of the most innovative chefs in France) presented for us.

Anyway, enough rabble, onto the food! You'll have to forgive me for being a bit forgetful and brief with my descriptions. After visiting so many countries and dining at so many amazing places, you start to forget exactly all the elements on the plate. I tried to write down as much as possible, but of course you want to enjoy and savour the food and the experience. Actually when I was there, the lady at the next table was madly writing down all the elements of the dishes presented to her and the waiters wanted to take her notebook away from her! The waiters were also careful to let each guest taste and experience the flavours of the dishes before revealing what marvels we were tasting.

This was a little bread + spread kind of concoction pre-menu reading.

We decided to go for the smallest menu - 5 courses - simply because we are small eaters. It of course was still hugely decadent with plate after plate arriving at our table resulting in us practically rolling out of the restaurant after some 3+ hours of eating! At 70 euros per person all inclusive, it was also an extremely affordable menu when you consider the culinary status L'Astrance has gained over the years.

First an amuse bouche of asparagus veloute. Delicious, fresh and served cold, if I remember correctly.

Next came sea scallops with a yuzu dressing and bone marrow. We started a conversation with an American couple dining next to us and we decided the black bean type paste (see left) was an interesting salty addition to the otherwise quite purely seafood flavoured dish. I have written down in my notes that there was something oyster related in this as well but I can't for the life of me remember! I remember the flavours of this dish being quite light, however the yuzu of course gave it a bit of zing.

The next dish was again seafood - John Dory with yuzu miso butter. The French-Japanese asian fusion has for the past few years gained a lot of appreciation and I noticed the strong asian inspiration in many of the fine dining restaurants I visited in Paris. It makes sense that the world is waking up to Asian cooking, especially Japanese, after all Japan has the most michelin starred restaurants after France! Again this was a well balanced dish without any overriding flavours, allowing the perfectly cooked fish to be the hero of the dish.

This was a cute side-dish that came with the Dory - I believe these are razor clams.

Onto the 'main' course I suppose you call it - a quintessentially French style hearty dish of duck with liver and black cherry. I remember being so full by this stage that I could barely eat anymore but I powered through the duck because despite its appearance it wasn't at all heavy or overdone. I'm not a huge fan of liver, but the beauty of this dish was that you could eat a carefully measured spoonful of everything and no one aspect would overwhelm the others. You would expect the strong flavour of liver to override but more than anything it was the texture you would notice first.

In between there was of course a palate cleanser - an amazingly zingy chilli spice sorbet which perfectly prepared our tastebuds for the dessert smorgasbord to come!  Now this, this is what I call dessert! Excuse the hand in the way :)

Being the dessert fanatic that I am, I of course have photos of each of the individual aspects. First up, a lychee sorbet with pistachios and other edible decorations. I loved the domed glassware presentation too :) Tasty and fruity would be how I remember this, exactly the kind of dessert I like!

Then the mille feuille - how French! Between the layers of tuile there were flavours of passionfruit and ginger, with the base being a much needed boost of chocolate flavour to balance out the potent cream fillings.

Then another almond tuile, this time with a pineapple foam with a surprise at the bottom of the bowl! I don't remember liking this too much (I remember there being a flavour I distinctly don't like but it was a creative, well concocted dish).

And just as we thought we were done, out came fruit, chocolate and a creamy drinkable creation which I unfortunately can't remember anything about.

I have to say, this was a truly amazing meal perhaps mostly because of the desserts. Those who have followed my blog would remember I often mention my love for desserts and my belief that it truly makes or breaks a meal. Service was impeccable without being over the top, and friendly in a homely local restaurant kind of way. I would definitely recommend a visit here if you are lucky enough to score a reservation, especially given it is decent value when compared to other Parisian restaurants and even other three michelin star-ers across the world.


  1. hi I've been trying to book this restaurant as well but i keep getting the answering machine. do you know what the answering machine says (i don't speak french) or exactly what time i should call?



    1. From memory the answering machine says to call a month in advance between 3-5pm from Tuesday onwards but I booked at quite a few places so can't quite remember if I've got the right restaurant here! The answering machine message is also really long and (this is definitely right) it mentioned that the restaurant was closed for holidays for a period of time. That might not be the case now though. Good luck!

  2. “I often mention my love for desserts and my belief that it truly makes or breaks a meal.” This statement is true, indeed. It does make a meal special, and therefore, completes it.

    Danny Riddell