For a first-timer in Paris, the Sister had not done badly.
Sure, we hadn’t managed to get into L’Ami Jean or Hidden Kitchen, but the basics had been covered: Berthillon ice-cream, Laduree macarons, cervelas at Brasserie Lipp, a cocktail at the Hemingway Bar.
What was left on the list? Much too much.
Nonetheless, we decided, end with a bang we must. And so we found ourselves packing into a tiny elevator and rocketing into the gray Parisian sky.
The lunch to end our lunches (for now) in Paris would be at a classic — Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower, which, at more than 400 feet above ground level, offered a sweet spot to sip some bubbly and look out onto the city beneath.
A cool darkness enveloped us the moment we stepped off the elevator.
In the blackness, there was a burst of light, offering a glimpse into the heart of the restaurant.
We took our seats by a window, peering out at Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, little nubs in the ceaseless drizzle.
There was much to celebrate — a friend’s passport had been stolen, then replaced just that morning. We’d also eaten our way through a respectable chunk of Paris in a short amount of time.
We were content.
Our meal at Jules Verne, which Alain Ducasse relaunched in December 2008, began with an amuse bouche of foie gras mousse, topped with slivers of candied orange peel and the tiniest cubes of apples and toasted gingerbread.
A lovely balance of sweet and savory, it made us instantly hungry for more.
We fanned out in our ordering so all the offerings on the three-course, 85-Euro prix fixe menu could be sampled.
For starters, there was the marinated salmon and caviar with a sorrel sauce …
… the Parmentier-style potato soup, a creamy moat around an island of summer vegetables …
… and my favorite of the three: two thin layers of duck and poultry foie gras, mashed together to form a slender, savory Napoleon-like rectangle, and paired with a crunchy salad.
While we were still recovering, the entrees arrived: chicken from the bucolic Bresse province with peas, carrots and asparagus, steeped in the chicken’s rich cooking juices …
… pan-sauteed meagre, a white fish popular in the Mediterranean and South Africa, with crayfish and mushrooms “a la Riche” — i.e. in a heavy cream sauce …
… and thinly sliced duck breast with a slab of tender turnip and a host of other vegetables in a classic bigarade sauce, which traditionally combines beef stock and duck drippings with orange or lemon juice.
The desserts, they were aplenty.
There were the ones we’d actually ordered: savarin with our choice of armagnac (a brandy from the Armagnac region), one younger and one older, topped with sweet crème Chantilly. (We chose the older armagnac, which was lovely, oaky and deep.) …
… a grapefruit, lychee and wild strawberry “palet” (puck), which was a delicious yet light little sponge cake coated with rose ice-cream and topped with fresh fruit …
… and a stylish-looking little treat — roasted pineapple, circled in a wafer and topped with rum/grape light cream and a crisp sliver of pineapple that conjured thoughts of a warrior-princess’s headdress.
There was also the phalanx of extras that Jules Verne sends out to cap any meal: tart lemon cookies and panna cotta cups toppe
d with a film of pureed mango …
… and light nibbly bits that were a little unusual: grapefruit-infused marshmallows
As our forks grew sluggish, having borne the weight of perhaps just three too many bites, we gazed out at the city, eating up every last gray bit as the lunch hour waned.
We had arrived content, or so we thought.
But this, this was a good lunch.
~~ Fin ~~