"The evolving Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Restaurant Review -- LaDamedePic a Paris

Front window of restaurant prominently featuring the Chefs

Address:  20 Rue de Louvre
Tel: 01 42 60 40 40
Open:  Monday - Saturday (closed Sundays)
Metro: Line 1 (Louvre-Rivoli
Website:  www.ladamedepic.fr 

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  3 - Star................................................................................................................................2 - Bell

This restaurant has been much awaited. Afterall, the Chef, Sophie Pic comes from a long line of 3-star Michelin pedigrees, starting with her grandfather André Pic, and father Jacques Pic at restaurant “Maison Pic”.  And, on September 24, 2007, Chef Sophie was elected "head of the year" by the eight thousand heads listed in the Michelin guide. This is the first woman to receive this award, established in 1987. She was also named best woman Chef in the world by Veuve Clicquot. In addition, she has a 2-star Michelin restaurant in Lausanne Switzerland, Restaurant Anne-Sophie Pic.

So, there has been much hype and fanfare about the opening of her new restaurant, La Dame de Pic.  Right away as you walk by the restaurant, the chefs are prominently featured through the window. I loved the décor of the restaurant with it’s white on white (wall paintings are actually white paper cuttings) and simplicity. For Paris it has a large number of tables.

What caught my eye as soon as we sat at the table was the water goblets. They were baccarat crystal. And, being as nosey as I am I checked the silverware and the knives were made special by "C&B Lefevre" with Madame Pic's monogram and, for the first set of silverware, were stamped, which lead me to believe they were sterling.

This is not an inexpensive restaurant. You had 4-choices for lunch. The prix fixe menus were 49€ (menu déjeuner), 79€, 100€ and 120€ respectively. Two of us opted for the 49€, which included an entrée, plat, and dessert, while one person opted for the 100€ special, which included 2 entrées in addition to the plat and dessert. The wine selection was extremely expensive. We got 2-bottles of the “Domaine des roches neuve” which was the most affordable at 27€ each.

Firstly, we were given 3-strips of fragrances. At first I thought it was scratch and sniff: The strips composed of vanille ambrée, iode et fleur, and sous bois épice, which were the names of the 3 expensive pre-fix menus. We were told to sniff these as sort of a start of the meal. They seemingly had no correlation  whatsoever with the meals we were having. I thought it was bizarre and way too gimmicky. And, we actually thought they smelled awful, oh well.

Secondly, we got an amuse bouche of two types of buttered manufactured by Madame Pic, with various types of bread.  As all butters in France, they were good, but really nothing out of the ordinary.

We’ll start with the 49€ menu. For the entrée we had the “Le veloute de potiron” (orange, café, cardamone verte), I actually like this dish a lot. It was a pumpkin soup with finely ground coffee lightly sprinkled on top. And, then you had a nice surprise, because as you dug into the soup you got a panna cotta like custard which gave the dish a dual texture. It gave it a little more complexity and sophistication.

For our plat we had the “Les Supions, gnocchis aux épices douces, grenobloise fève tonka”  a squid, and gnocchi dish. The dish was good, but it was way, way too tart for me. It was bathed in a vinagarette of lemon and olive oil with capers. Do not order this dish unless you like tart! The squid was very tender and nicely poached, and the gnocchis were firm, cooked well without it being “mushy.”

For our dessert we had the “Les myrtilles au thé matcha.” Blueberries with a green tea cake. The presentation was absolutely beautiful. I thought the green tea cake was delicious. The little purple egg like pouch hid some confiture of blueberries. Once I broke into the pouch and tasted it, it was way, way too sweet for me. It was basically sweet on sweet.

Now for the 100€ menu. For the entrée our friend had the “L'huitre speciale gillardeau, chou-fleur, jasmine” which were oysters, cauliflower, jasmine.  The oysters were surrounded in a cauliflower sauce or thick soup. We all thought it was kind of bland, and the oysters were good, but nothing out of the ordinary.

For the second entrée, he had the “La Sardine de mediterranee poireaux, thé matcha”, sardines with leeks and a green tea. The dish was served warm. We all liked the sardines, because they tasted like sardines should taste, strong and bold.  The poireaux (leeks) were really good (actually he said orgasmic). And, the accompanying green tea sauce was very subtle and good. But nothing really out of the ordinary or outstanding other than the 'orgasmic' leeks.

For his plat, he had “La poularde fermiere, couteaux, épinards, fleurs d’oranger”, which is free ranged chicken, with spinach orange blossom. Although it was cooked nicely and moist, for the French it might have been perfect, but for us, we found the dish really dull and uninspiring. Almost like cooking chicken breast without any seasoning.  And the spinach was nothing out of the ordinary.

For the dessert, he had the “La poire William, reglisse, violette”, a pear with licorice and violets. The pear was a bit over-poached. It almost felt as if the pear could’ve come from a can. The soft almost set ice cream was very non-descript. He also had the pouch, but it was filled with a sort of lemony simple syrup. And, as for the licorice flavor, it didn’t exist. 
In addition, we were also also served little cookies

Summary: The restaurant is beautiful in its simplicity. What I found odd was they had these beautiful baccarat water glasses and some sterling silverware and some cutlery especially made for Madame Pic with her monogram, but they served wine in cheap restaurant glasses, strange in its inconsistency. This is definitely an upscale restaurant. Madame Pic’s name brings caché. The service was impeccable. We must’ve had 5 different people serving us, but it wasn’t at all intrusive. The maitre’d would occasionally stop by and ask us how our food was. And, before each meal, the wait-person explained each dish. Now for the overall experience, we thought it was very pretentious and even gimmicky. Some of the dishes were really good and extraordinary while others lacked any depth or the “wow” factor expected from a Michelin star Chef. The 100€ pre-fix was absolutely not worth the money. Some might even argue the 49€, which is the lowest priced lunch menu is a better deal. So, if you love “pomp and circumstance” you will love this restaurant. But I personally prefer a more “down-to-earth” eating experience. Total bill for 3 with wine came to 267€.  My 3 star overall rating reflects the extremely poor 'price to value' ratio and was actually buoyed by the non-food experiences- superior welcome, service, and decor.

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