We took the advice of one of our guidebooks, which states that no matter where you eat in Paris, you must allow yourself a single “break the bank” meal at one of the finer haute cuisine restaurants in the city. After doing a little research, we had decided that this meal was to be at Taillevent in the 8th arrondisement.
Taillevent is widely regarded as a “temple of gastronomy” and is ranked by most sources as either the best restaurant in Paris, or tied for best restaurant with a handful of others. We anticipated this meal to be the culinary high point of our Paris trip. Good or bad, outstanding or not, it will have been an accomplishment to eat there.
First, though, we needed reservations. Understanding that the owner prefers to retain a population of 60% French each evening, and not wanting to stumble our way through the reservation process in our broken language, we asked the owner of the apartment that we were renting, Eric, to make the reservation for us, as he was fluent in French. Without hesitation, he soon emailed us and said that we had reservations at Taillevent for 8pm on Friday, October 22.
This evening, after a taxi ride at breakneck speeds through Paris to the 8th arrondisement, we arrived, more than a little late, at the door to Taillevent. Immediately, the establishment’s reputation for service was apparent. We were greeted at the door, and I noticed that one of the gentlemen had a small sheet in his hand, upon which was written the reservations for that evening. They had been waiting for us.
We were shown to our table and given our menus. Immediately, the owner, Monsieur Vrinat, came over, and recognizing us as Americans, offered to translate the entire menu for us and to answer any questions we may have had. He was extremely patient, going through each item and offering to begin again at the top of the menu. As we often do when we want to try a variety of the kitchen’s offerings, we decided to have the tasting menu. We ordered a bottle of wine, which was decanted at our tableside by candle.
The courses:- Crème de tourteau rafraichie a la coriander -
- Epeautre du pays de Sault en risotto -
- Rouget barbet poele -
- Agneau roti au piment d’Espelette -
- Chevre frais -
- Saint Honore a l’ananas, glace citronnelle -
- Croquant au chocolat et noisettes grilles -
I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I no longer have recollection of each individual dish that was served, other than to say that they were all outstanding. From a food perspective, however, I can honestly say that, while the food at Taillevent was excellent, it is likely matched elsewhere in the city of Paris and for less euro. That being said, I would also submit that Taillevent is unlikely to be surpassed in terms of service and attention to detail.
One would think that, being one of the most highly regarded, historically significant culinary institutions in Paris, the staff at Taillevent would be, to some degree, snobby, stuffy, or overly formal (and arguably, rightfully so). We were very pleased to see that this was not the case at all. From the moment we crossed the threshold into the foyer, our well-being was completely in capable hands. The sommelier, when I had specified how much we had wanted to spend on a bottle of wine, was gracious and accommodating in his suggestion even though our budget precluded the majority of the cellar’s selections. Our bread plates never remained empty for longer than thirty seconds, our napkins were carefully refolded each time one of us would leave the table, and the waitstaff who served us were all personable and appeared to genuinely love what they did.
At the end of the evening, M. Vrinat attended to us and asked us how everything was. We told him that it was one of the best meals we had ever had, and we requested a copy of the menu as a keepsake. Imagine our surprise when M. Vrinat presented my wife not with a copy, but with an actual service menu, which he had personally autographed.
In summary, while there are other places in Paris where you could find food of equal caliber, as far as service is concerned, Taillevent is flawless and definitely recommended for a special occasion (such as being in Paris).