Food, from the highbrow to the lowbrow, will always be a reason to travel, but my meal at L’Arpège made me think a little bit harder about the risks and opportunity costs of destination dining—or at least the ridiculous subcategory of that sport that espouses jetting around Planet Earth to collect big-game trophy meals. Our June 22nd dinner at l'Arpege began at least nine… So I was stuck with the choice of either a twelve-course vegetable tasting at €320 (the price has since been raised to €340), or a €380 (now €390) option featuring fish and fowl. As is well known, Alain is an early proponent of ‘farm to table’ (and back to farm as compost) and has been the torchbearer for cuisine of vegetables since 2001. When he reopened the restaurant he announced that he would cook only vegetables. It was instead about cooking vegetables. The dining room is not very big and arrival is cramped by the door which opens into the front desk and nearly falls down an adjacent staircase. The convenient location of L'Arpège makes it easy to reach even in rush hours. This was not vegetarian cooking. The atmosphere is calm repose with a background susurrating clatter of waiters carrying plates and bottles of wine between serving stations and diners. L'Arpege 84 Rue de Varenne 75007 Paris, France 01 45 51 47 33 www.alain-passard.com I will always be grateful to Alain Passard. This isn’t to say that rustic fare doesn’t belong at high-end restaurants. The beetroot tartare was followed by a beetroot steak, because, well, the beetroots were ready for harvesting that week. Was the experience worth possibly hundreds of rescued books (my currency)? First came half a lobster, devoid of its signature maritime flavor and overpowered by smoked potatoes. Phone (0011 33 1) 4705 0906, email arpege@alain-passard.com What I ate at L’Arpège wasn’t unadulterated, bounty-of-the-earth bliss. I had not realised before that beetroot was so rich. L'Arpege is the 38th three michelin start restaurant that I have visited and faced with a Euro 480 meat and vegetable set menu, had a lot to live up to. And then smiled again when he realised it was not beef, but a trompe l’oeil of chopped and mayonnaised beetroot topped with a circle of horseradish cream and a coin of carrot to look like a poached egg. We ordered the Gardeners’ Menu, which, at €145, was the bargain prix fixe option; in the evening a 12-course tasting menu costs almost €400. He was burnt out, but worse, he was tired of what he was cooking. And he has been known to sew together opposite halves of a chicken and a duck, like a culinary Dr. Moreau, before cooking the franken-poultry in hay. L'Arpege is the 38th three michelin start restaurant that I have visited and faced with a Euro 480 meat and vegetable set menu, had a lot to live up to. Should prospective guests really commit to a thirty-course meal before they know whether they’ll be jetlagged or homesick—or before they happen to stumble across a little cave à manger they like better? Arpege was created by Paul Vacher and Andre Fraysse. Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl, a cute daytime café in Los Angeles, developed a rabid bicoastal following thanks to, among other things, rice flavored with sorrel. And Alain Ducasse recently rebooted his Plaza Athenée to focus on produce and cereals inspired by the meat-free dishes of Japanese shojin-ryori cuisine. He owns three kitchen gardens in different regions of western France, Sarthe, Eure and Manche, each with their own terroir. L’Arpège, where dinner for two can easily surpass €800—before wine—is the only Parisian establishment to crack the top twenty of this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Does the promise of a yet another generic, tweezer-plated tasting menu justify sacrificing an entire evening in a country the diner might never visit again? It was dressed in a honey vinaigrette and black pepper and tasted as fresh as a daisy. It was a perfect choice. Simply and carefully to reveal clear and delicate. Was it worth it? L’Arpège – Paris. Passard risked his reputation, his clientele; everything. I’m not sure. Instead, he would focus on the bounty of the biodynamic farms he’d come to oversee in the regions of Sarthe, Eure, and Manche. It is my boyfriend’s favourite dish and he smiled. On 4-8-1956 Alain Passard (nickname: Alain ) was born in La Guerche-de-Bretagne, France. Top notes are Aldehydes, Lily-of-the-Valley, Peach, Honeysuckle, Neroli and Bergamot; middle notes are Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang, iris, Lily-of-the-Valley, Coriander, Rose, Lily, Geranium and Camellia; base notes are Sandalwood, Amber, Vetiver, Musk, … He greets his daily shipment of produce with a level of ceremony befitting a foreign dignitary. The most recent season of Chef’s Table, a Netflix show catering to viewers who enjoy listening to bombastic classical music while gazing at food that resembles Christmas tree ornaments, turns its attention to France. But, as one of the talking heads in the episode proclaims, once you try one of L’Arpège’s exquisite vegetable dishes, "you can never see cuisine in the same way." Instead, Passard cooks fish, shellfish, poultry, game and (of course) lots of vegetables. As it enters its fourth decade of operation, L’Arpège is surely trending, again, because vegetables are trending, again. 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