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Alain Ducasse - Plaza Athénée

Hotel Plaza Athénée, 25 Avenue Montaigne, 8th. Metro Alma-Marceau.
Open : Mon-Wed 8-10h30pm. Closed last two weeks in Dec, mid-July to mid-Aug.. Average :  220 Euros. Credit : Amex, DC, MC, V.

Perhaps the best measure of an haute cuisine meal is the claim it makes on your attention span. In the case of a dinner at Alain Ducasse, two or three of the dishes we sampled were still on our minds a week later. We also came away in reverent admiration of the service; which is probably the most professional, engaging and precise of any restaurant in Paris.  The decor by Patrick Jouin, however, is starting to seem a little gimmicky a few years on. This quibble aside, we had a spectacular meal, greedily devouring amuse-bouches of perfectly poached langoustines topped with caviar, and spider crab served in its orange shell beneath a bubbly foam of coral. Next, two brilliant first courses : French asparagus from Pertuis in Provence, poached and served under fine leaves of melted comté cheese with an exquisite sauce of black truffles and vin jaune of the Jura, and plumb langoustines  on a bed of first-of-season ceps - both sauteed and raw - red onion, and herbs. Sauteed Breton lobster with asparagus tips and morels in a light sauce of its own cooking juice with  morels was perfectly executed but clearly aimed at more timid palates. Chef Jean-François Piege's real art is often almost undetectable, since the consistent goal is to enhance the natural flavours of the best french seasonal produce. After a superb plate of cheese from Bernard Anthony, the famous Alsatian fromager, and parisian Marie-Anne Cantin, desserts concluded the meal on a note of operatic triumph. Strawberries from Plougastel in Brittany were cut into matchsticks, carefully arranged on a pastry cream on a rectangle of puff pastry and topped with a caramelised stalk of poached rhubarb : brilliant.

1st Arrondissement : Le Grand Vefour
1st Arrondissement : Le Carré des Feuillants
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2nd Arrondissement : Le Vaudeville
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8th Arrondissement : Alain Ducasse Plaza Athénée
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