17, rue du Beaujolais (1)
One does not have to experience a Michelin 3-star restaurant to understand French cuisine, what it was or what it is today. In most ways, the handful of Paris 3-stars are costly anachronisms, characterized by a range of ingredients and flavors, impossible to consume largesse and choreographed service hardly equaled in refinement and repeated excellence of execution in other aspects of modern life. But neither does one need a private plane to experience travel. A 3-star experience is equally special, a onetime indulgence which is more or less affordable – at lunch at least.
The modest Introduction to this Diary says “no 3-stars” (except Astrance – see 16th Arr.). That is being put aside to avail ourselves of 3-star lunchtime specials (if you can call $150/person with wine a “special”).
Technically, Le Grand Vefour is now – perhaps momentarily – a Michelin 2-star. It changes nothing. The décor is original 18th Century, in a part of the Palace Royale. The setting is exquisite and unrivaled. The greeting is friendly, considering how august the history and the meal (and bill) to follow.
Like all 3-star food, it is conceived, executed and designed to perfection. I might prefer one establishment’s style over another’s (traditional vs. modern, etc.), but what unites them is perfection.
The 96€ lunch offers three entrée choices (foie gras, marinated bass), three main courses (boned baby duckling, cod, lotte), cheese and one dessert. Every plate is designed, every execution exacting. The meal offered on the menu represents about 2/3 of the food and 1⁄2 of the courses. Complimentary beginnings, pre and post desserts, chocolates, bite sized pastry assortments, etc., abound.
Very formal. Very choreographed. Very proper. Surprisingly friendly and, of course, bilingual. It doesn’t happen by chance.
96€ lunch, plus drinks. No food supplements. Wines from a suitably broad, deep and costly list are part of the draw. (There are also some less expensive wines on the list. There should be no embarrassment in asking. That is what sommeliers do, and at Le Grand Vefour they do it well and without condescension. Of course, “less expensive” means under 100€.)
Count on 300€ for two, plus.