Posted in Gastronomy

Restaurant reviews: part 1, La Tour d’Argent (Paris)

I will do a series of restaurant reviews from now on, pretending to be a good-tempered food critic. If it’s helpful to some of you who were looking for catering choices, all the better. Rating and the price of my meal will be given at the end of each post (rating is by 5 muffins maximum):

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Part 1: La Tour d’Argent, Paris

I’m in no position to judge La Tour d’Argent, because the only dish I ordered from its menu was the pressed duck (Caneton Frederic Delair). Yet to their credit, they served me a full course with a highest quality. I feel like there were lots of misunderstandings about the Tour, so I should write about it.

For me, a meal is essentially about the taste and the fragrance. The Tour delivered it. I have tried many restaurants, some of them of 3-Michelin stars, but none of them achieved the well-rounded flavor of the Tour. They might have a better service, or better wine pairings, but there was always a side dish, a sauce, a spice that went wrong in their full course (according to my very me-oriented opinion, of course). For the Tour, none of the foods went south. The price is 230 euros/a duck for 2 persons, so 115 euros/person, a very good quality/price value.

As you might have known, I meet a Fodor friend there. I was silly enough to ask for a first meeting outdoor of the restaurant, in the freezing cold of February. But the door staff kindly insisted that I waited for my companion inside, and they would inform my companion when he/she arrived. So I hung around in the beautiful waiting room.

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Then I observed their bathroom. It’s the decisive criterion of comfort for any establishment. If your living room demonstrate Picasso paintings but your bathroom isn’t shining, then, my friend you’re not a winner. I would even suspect that your Picasso is fake.

For that matter, the Tour’s bathroom is old. Not the kind of antique, imperial old, but real creaky old. Some other restaurants, though nowhere as near luxury, have much more convenient bathroom. Don’t worry, the Tour’s one was still very clean, and more pretty than my house’s one, but I try to think like a picky inspector: perhaps one star was lifted in the past due to this sheer shortcoming.

My companion arrived, the staff then took us in the lift to the dining room. Everything around was old-fashion and elegant. There was a gorgeous view of Notre Dame and the Seine river, but our table was far from the window (you can probably asked to have it near, though).

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We ordered a pressed duck and plain water (they billed the water, I think they don’t serve tap water in such a place). But it wouldn’t be just a duck. First, amuse-bouches arrived in two services, at least 5 different pieces for each customer. There was some kind of peach soufflé, some vegetable mix served with a cream soup. Then bread and butter. All in all, delicious and delicate.

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I didn’t took as many pictures as I should have been, because I was too busy admiring the meal and talking with the fodorite. They presented our duck on a wood wheeled table, with flowers stuck out of its neck. Cool. Boy, it looked enormous. I wondered how the two of us could finish it. They wheeled it away to prepare it in details, and the sauce master was working his silver pressing machine in front of us.

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The machine costs 9000 euros if you want to buy it on spot! If I was Gordon Ramsay, why not. The breast was served rare, with its sauce, fruit jelly, berry tart and potato soufflé which might be my favorite of all kind potatoes.  I also think that the Tour is specialized in soufflé.

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The duck, ah! could it get tender than that? The bone & marrow sauce added much to its virtue: meaty yet mild, brown and condensed yet light. The name “blood sauce” that someone used, might be misleading: it sound bloody and heavy, and even scary. The reality is nothing like that. Their lunch menu is cheaper and can serve to one person, but I doubt the “caneton” listed there is the same dish. It may be without this special sauce.

The reconstructed dug leg came in the second service. Another kind of sauce (red wine sauce?), but tasty nonetheless:

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A feast of palate cleansers, caramel candies, pepper icecream and a nut chocolate cake to take home:

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The service was formal but that is expected. They’re correct, and not cold. At some moment they even suggested to take a photo for me.

Only now we had time to look at the photos on the wall properly. Blimney, plenty of celebrities had been there…

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… even Ava Gardner!

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Their cute duck collection:

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Bye, little duckies, I’ll see you again when I have anything to celebrate.

I can’t for the life of me explain why the second star was lifted from the Tour. Likely because of undeserved wine pairings? We didn’t order wine so we couldn’t guess. We all know that Michelin inspectors look at all kinds of standards: whether the waiter rushes to you quick enough when you drop a spoon, or if the waiter himself drop it etc. Of all the high-end restaurants that I’ve attended, the waiter always drop something: spoon, menu, even bread. They are human being. Sometimes their hands tremble. I don’t see no need for ordinary customers to dissect them.

Overall, we had a very satisfying meal. Now I simply discard the articles which, after the Tour’s “downfall” back in 2006, jumped on the wagon and wrote that the Tour was rather a national monument than a gourmet treasure, that people came to the Tour not by reasons of hungry (I’m looking at you, NYT).  It’s not a perfect institute, but it’s the best I could find out there.

Rating: 4.5/5 muffin_4_5

Price: 122 euros/person, included a full course and water

Disclaimer: none of my reviews are sponsored or for commercial purposes.

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My stock websites for photos: https://www.picfair.com/eressea

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