"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, October 4, 2018

L'Arcane -- Restaurant Review

39, rue Lamarck 75018
Metro: line 12 Lamarck Caulaincourt
Note: lunches vary on days of the week, so check website for operating hours
Website: http://www.restaurantlarcane.com/

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 (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

4.9 - Star......................................................€€ (for lunch) ........................................................2 - Bell

At the recommendation of our good friend J, we went to his wife's favorite restaurant in the 18eme, close to our old haunting grounds. J and his wife have been there several times and have always raved about it, so I wanted to definitely check it out and do a little research beforehand. The Chef, Laurent Magnin, just recently garnered his first Michelin star in 2018. For me Michelin stars mean it's a great indicator, but not be-all-end-all. So, as they say, "The proof is in the pudding."

It's a modest unpretentious building in a unpretentious neighborhood. In fact, it's in a very typical Parisian neighborhood where one would go to for a neighborhood meal. But it's anything but that when you taste the food. The interior was small, but quite comfortable. Maybe 20-seats at the most.

We perused the menu. They have a tasting menu, or as maitre'd said "Surprise Menu". So basically the menu changes often depending what's fresh and what's in season. Today all 4 of us got the Menu Dejeuner (3-course tasting menu), since we're not big eaters. The maitresse'd, who also happens to the Chef's wife Sophie was our main server. She did ask if anyone of us were either allergic to something or didn't like something, and Jack said he's allergic to saffron, and I said I don't normally eat sugar, but not allergic to it, it's just a choice.

Amuse bouche:

Salade niçoise.  I have to say, this is one of the fanciest most well thought out deconstructed "salade niçoise" I have ever seen, much less tasted. He used a little quail egg, and radishes. The combination of the various sauces and flavors were just amazing. It was so fresh, because he used a fresh raw tuna, you didn't have the tin taste of "regular tuna" of a salade niçoise.  What a great start. If this is any indication, then I can't wait to try the rest of the meal.


Scallops. Personally, I don't like scallops. But the chef made me a new believer. Interesting combination. The seared scallops sat atop a champagne cream sauce. Atop the scallops sat some greens of dill and along side were what they called "tartare noix" or chopped nuts. So, the entrée had a sweet component (the sauce), the savory component (the scallops), the fresh component (the greens) and the sour component (the nuts). The nuts were mixed with citrus, which brought the dish to a whole new level. I'm always saying to people I teach cooking to, add a little sour element to a seafood dish, or add sugar to savory, and salt to sweet to bring out the flavors of the dish,  I loved this dish because every taste bud was tickled. And, I am now a scallop lover.


Blanquette de veau. Maybe it's me, but I always find the traditional french blanquette de veau extremely heavy and creamy/eggy with little flavor. In other words a heavy cream stew of veal. For most Asians like myself, it's not an appealing dish. But this was presented so differently and flavor components were different, but it still kept its characteristics of being a blanquette de veau. First major difference is that the veal was cooked separately and was served pink, as it should, and sat atop the cream sauce.  Normally, the veau is incorporated in the heavy creamy egg sauce.

I once remembered at a different restaurant when my nephew came to visit, he asked what he should order that's typically French from the menu; I told him blanquette de veau. Jack had ordered the tripe stew cooked stewed in calvados. My nephew disliked the veau and ate Jack's meal instead. I asked him why, and he said the veau was plain, flavorless and too heavy on the cream.

This interpretation by Chef Laurent, was a much lighter version. The creamy egg sauce was very light, which put the emphasis of the star on the plate, the veal. You definitely tasted different components. Don't get me wrong, I like stews, but not necessarily cream stews. It was accompanied with some potatoes cooked 2-ways, mashed and rolled up, but crisped on one side. I have to say I really loved this dish.

Dessert entrée

Pistachio panne cotta I've never had a dessert-entrée before, but this was a prelude to the upcoming main dessert. From what I was told, it was actually quite lovely. Surrounding the panne cotta were delicious morsels of mirabelle, a small sweet plumb like fruit. The greens of parsley was unusual, but gave the dessert some freshness. So, it was a hit.  Jack wanted to lick the plate clean.


Brie. I asked them since I don't eat sugar if they could make me a small plate of cheese. They accommodated me and gave me wonderful slices of brie with some grapes.

Framboise (raspberry) ice cream. Now the main dessert. This was an interesting flavor combination. It was ice cream encased in a hard sweet shell, I'm going to assume flavored (raspberry) hardened white chocolate, to make a ball. Now this was the interesting part, it was accompanied with a gruyere cheese cream. So as you crack the exterior to get to the ice-cream, confiture of sweet raspberries were in the middle of the ice cream. Well that's a nice little surprise. Surprisingly the gruyere cream sauce, with embedded pieces of fresh fruits, underneath the ice cream ball worked well with the dessert. I even tried a little bit of it and all I can say it was a simple dessert made quite elegantly with great flavor combinations. Loved it.

Mignardise. And, if we weren't full enough we got some tiny mignardise (parting gift) of sweets of jelly candy, sweet biscuit and a bon-bon. Equally good.


1. Le blanc du manège 2016.  This was an interesting wine. It had a tart taste behind the throat for me, but I liked it. According to experts, it's a wine that has a nice fruity taste of peach and citrus, and also has a slight floral note. And, a nice balance.

2.  Les Darons vielles vignes de Grenache. A wine consisting of 70% Grenache, 20% Carignan, 10% Syrah. Tasting notes of aromatics and a hint of floral character, as well as red berries and plum. The palate is juicy and bright with nicely poised ripe meaty red fruits.

Chef Laurent Magnin
I usually mistrust skinny chefs, but he's definitely the exception
Put on a few pounds,
"Eat some of your food, it's delicious" 


All I can say is WOW. I was wow'd. I was not expecting such a small restaurant in a neighborhood area to produce such beautifully refined delicious dishes. And, for a Michelin starred restaurant the prices are EXTREMELY reasonable. Especially for lunch. The maitresse'd Sophie who is also the Chef's wife was very warm and inviting. She can speak English or French, whichever you prefer. The dining experience from start to finish was incredible. The chef came out to greet us, and I was surprised how thin he was. I was almost tempted to ask if he ate his own food or not. Comfortable small restaurant with memorable delicious dishes. This was a near perfect restaurant for me. Would I go back. ABSOLUTELY. This is one of the best restaurants I've been to for 2018. Chapeau to the chef and staff for getting a Michelin star this year. Well deserved.

For 4-surprise menu @49€ each, 2-bottles of wine, 3-coffees, 1-tea our bill came to 250€ or 62.50€ each. Note: it's pricier in the evening, but well worth it.

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