This week, Pete Wells traveled to Paris to sample chef Alain Passard’s vegetable tasting menu at L’Arpège, and wax philosophical on the rise of farm-to-table dining.
The restaurant opened in 1986, specializing in slow-cooked meats but in 2001, it underwent a major transformation, with Passard switching his focus to vegetables. Currently, L’Arpège’s menu is “beyond organic,” with food sourced from Passard’s three French farms.
Wells was hugely impressed by the hugely priced ($375 for his dinner alone), dozen-course tasting meal that “started with a plate of leafy radishes followed by a small cabbage turnover, and ended with a garlic crème brûlée whose burned-sugar shell had been liberally spritzed with lemon confit.”
Of his nearly meatless dinner, Wells wrote “Mr. Passard’s cooking pulled me in like a conversation with a smart, literate, funny friend,” adding, “If vegetables can have feelings, these did. They tasted happy.”
Wells also took time to comment on France’s place in the culinary word, writing, “You’ve probably read that France stopped mattering after nouvelle cuisine flared down,” adding “I’m sorry to say this, but that narrative is a lie dreamed up by people who want to put France in its place… The most dramatic example of a restaurant that won’t fit into that story is L’Arpège.”
Wells finished the review with more praise: “For its lightness, brightness, beauty, and elegance, my single meal at L’Arpège was in an eye-opening class by itself.”
You can find Wells' full review here.