Benoit: Authentic French Cuisine with Panache

A review of Alain Ducasse’s Michelin-starred Paris restaurant

A chocolatey dessert at Benoit in Paris.

Parisian gastronomy is evolving into an international scene with cuisine from around the world. While locals can now enjoy a curry or taco just as easily as coq au vin, traditionalists and tourists still desire authentic French cooking. Alain Ducasse’s Michelin-starred Benoit delivers dishes with panache that bring old world recipes into the twenty-first century.

The décor sets the tone for a delightful French encounter with flair. Brass railings and lanterns with etched glass backdrops and poster art on the mustard-colored faux-painted marble walls pays homage to the 103-year-old restaurant without being cliché. Crisp white linens on the table and flowery bone china plates with a “B” monogram add an upscale touch.

Chef Fabienne Eymard is charged with carrying on the spirit and passion of the families Matray and Petti, original chef owners since 1912. Eager to try a variety of dishes, I let chef Eymard choose the courses and the knowledgeable sommelier Olivier Gresselin pair wines accordingly. The results were outstanding.

First came mouthwatering warm cheese puffs with just the right amount of pepper. Next was a smooth foie gras pâté on homemade crostini.

Known for the asparagus dishes and since it was the right season (March), it was a treat to taste a warm version with truffle mousseline sauce that appeared heavy yet was amazingly light. It was served with a wonderful wine from Provence, Le Pigeonnier White Vision 2012, that was quite dry but sweet with apple and pear notes.

The most incredible course came next; the Léopold de Rothschild crayfish soufflé was cooked evenly throughout, dreamily airy and moist. The crayfish were tasty and tender and the sauce was amazing – not too salty and buttery smooth. Artfully plated with champions and asparagus, it was a beautiful dish. Adding to the enjoyment was the perfect wine pairing. The Domaine Chandon de Briailles Corton Blanc Grand Cru from the Cote de Beaune region was buttery without being too heavy.

A hearty dish normally reserved for two people to share, the Henri IV “Poule Au Pot” bowl of chicken with beef broth, carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, and leeks was home cooking at its finest. The dish made me feel like I was sitting down to a family meal. A robust red Domaine Antonin Guyon Corton Grand Cru complimented the subtle flavors of the chicken well.

I’m not usually a fan of mingling fruit and chocolate, but I found the generous slice of Pear Charlotte with divine chocolate sauce to be the most incredible dessert combination. I said I would never finish it, but I could not make myself put the fork down until I devoured every last morsel.

From start to finish, it was a meal to remember. The fantastic food, expert service, and superb sommelier choices make Benoit a restaurant I will frequent for years to come.