Haute cuisine is not exclusively about what’s on the plate. Elaborately choreographed service, the spectacular number of dishes, the depth of a wine cellar and sumptuous surroundings – these are arguably the elements that separate restaurants with two and three Michelin stars from their starless competitors.
If we look exclusively at the food, however, ignoring the chandelier that twinkles overhead and the plush pedestal propping up our handbags, there is still much to celebrate in haute cuisine.
In total, during our anonymous visits to sixteen restaurants that specialize in haute cuisine (more background about how & why we did this here), I tasted more than 200 dishes. Here I’ve selected my favorite bites, including 2 amuses-bouche, 5 first courses, 5 main courses, 5 desserts, and 3 mignardises.
The 20 Best Bites of Haute Cuisine in Paris
Opening Acts (amuses-bouche)
Le Cinq: foie gras, spice bread, mango jelly
L’Arpège: assorted vegetable cups
Pierre Gagnaire: carpaccio of line caught sea bass with chestnuts and celery
L’Arpège: onion gratin with diced apple and Parmigiano Reggiano
Le Cinq: contemporary onion gratin – gel buttons that ooze liquified sweet onion
L’Ambroisie: Egg two ways with celery and golden caviar
Ledoyen: butternut squash with bread mousse
Le Cinq: marinated sea scallop with sea urchin, coral crumbles, and reductions of algae & litchee
Pierre Gagnaire: caillette from Brittany with a “cake” of sea scallops in a broth of Jerusalem artichoke with tapioca
L’Ambroisie: Sea bass with artichokes swimming in golden caviar
Ledoyen: Challans duck, foie gras poached in Rivesaltes, crispy pear
Pierre Gagnaire: poularde roasted with caraway, tamarind jus, green lentils, turnips & cabbage
Le Cinq: iced milk with yeast (it’s better in French – givré laitier au gout de levure)
Le Meurice: chocolate from their own Manufacture
Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenée: Bitter citrus from Michel Bachès with Campari granita
Pierre Gagnaire: Bûche de Noël
Le Cinq: kouign amman
L’Arpège: assorted mignardises