notes + observations + star addresses
ON THE MENU: ROMANCE AND 3 MICHELIN STARS
Last fall, my husband and I dined at Guy Savoy's eponymous restaurant in Paris. We were celebrating our anniversary (plus a major achievement on my better half's part), and so had chosen this celebrated address to underscore our evening as extra special.
Before dinner, we strolled the narrow streets of the beautiful sixth arrondissement and enjoyed a cozy moment of jazz at Café Laurent. We also downed a gulp of contemporary art, as Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan's show Not Afraid of Love was in the same building as the restaurant.
At 63, Chef Savoy is at the top of his game with several stars under his toque. He is also one of the original celebrity chefs - who is really a chef. A purveyor of Nouvelle Cuisine, the maestro cut his culinary teeth with the reknowned Troisgros brothers in Roanne, I believe, at their famous restaurant across the train station.
He is also one of the original celebrity chefs - who is really a chef.
His own restaurant's location (having moved in May 2015 after 28 years in the 17th arrondissement near the Arc de Triomphe) is on the top floor of the Monnaie de Paris ("Paris Mint"), a handsome Neoclassical mammoth constructed under Louis XV. Guests enjoy a postcard view of the Seine River, the Pont Neuf and the Rive Droit twinkling on the horizon.
The dining room is spread over a string of six salons, of which all the walls are painted black or "hot slate grey". Architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte's intention was to create individual "cocoons" where the focus was on the city view and on the white-clothed tables.
I, however, could not take my eyes off the intergalactic Stilnovo chandelier (topmost image) that seemed to orbit the space thanks to a double-mirror, ad infinitum reflection. To my right, a bronze Mona Lisa bust - sporting a moustache - looked down at our table. I later found out that all the art in the restaurant is on loan from tycoon and collector extraordinaire Mr. François Pinault, and that our friend La Jaconde was the centrepiece, the name of our room being Belles Bacchantes ("Beautiful Whiskers"). Savoy, it is apparent, has a sense of humour - and friends in very high places.
About our meal, it was everything I expected it to be: nuanced in exciting flavours, a showcase of top ingredients, balanced in texture, presented with artistry and served with flair. I'll let my photos brag for themselves. Regarding the wine, the sommelier was attentive at the onset, and thereafter elegantly discreet - just as I like it. The glassware was luxuriously paper thin with stems so delicate I'm amazed they didn't snap. There were also theatrical table-service details (albeit very classy) that made our evening an entertaining feast: synchronised unveiling, ice sculptures, the works. Our "Produits" tasting menu unraveled as follows (do note that I haven't included images of all the services, just my favourite ones):
Le Coquillage : Huîtres
Le poisson : Bar
Le crustacé : Homard
La viande : Boeuf
Le fromage : Vieux Comté
Les fleurs : Miel
Les dessert : Votre Choix
After dinner, we did our best to prolong the night by walking along the quays and into Île de la Cité. As we strolled the narrow streets taking note of historical plaques (the island is strangely ghost-like at night), we talked about our meal, like one might discuss a play: the decor (dining room), the momentum (service) and the director (chef). There may have been tiny missteps that we noticed throughout the evening, like the fish plate that got a meh-rating from both of us, or the maître d' who had a strange sense of humour, but, truly, none of that mattered. The overall experience was one of luxury, pampering and first class fine dining.
As if our triple-star outing weren't special already, yesterday I read that La Liste (a popular listing of "1,000 outstanding restaurants") awarded Restaurant Guy Savoy their highest ranking worldwide with a score of 99.75%. That's almost perfect! While I admit I'm weary of websites that rank restaurants by popularity (TripAdvisor, I'm looking at you) and suspicious of mysterious critics that rate chefs by stars (who are these Michelin experts?), I cannot deny that I read and refer to their "results" with curiosity and interest. And I must admit that La Liste's multi-faceted algorithm of sources, reviews and guides is actually quite impressive.
If you are still reading and still wondering, But is Guy Savoy really the cat's meow? Is it really the best restaurant in the world? It's hard to say. Food is so personal. And with my limited global experience (so many restaurants still to discover!), who am I to compare? Having been to quite a few fine-dining establishments in Paris, however, I can discuss my own local experience, to which I would say Restaurant Guy Savoy is definitely la crème de la crème of Paris's top tables. To attach a number to it, however, is just begging for controversy - and conversation, a perfect marketing ploy.
But is Guy Savoy really the cat's meow? Is it really the best restaurant in the world?
Last spring I was fortunate to eat at Jiro, an underground sushi counter in Tokyo to which Michelin also awarded three stars. There was so much hype, what with the foodie cult movie "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" and President Obama as a special guest. I, personally, was not too impressed. Actually, I was offended, but that's another story. If you look at The World's 50 Best Restaurants (the 2016 listing is the most up-to-date), Chef Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, is currently no. 1 - and Restaurant Guy Savoy is nowhere amongst the 50 top spots, or even the top 100.
So, humour me if I get a kick out of saying: "I dined at the world's best restaurant." (Hence, the title of this post.) The accolade certainly caught my attention. Didn't it catch yours?
Guy Savoy Restaurant
11, quai de Conti