Of amour, Macron and gay Paris
A few days after the election of Emmanuel Macron, I chanced upon the one and only Dr. Vicky Belo while waiting our turn at the lounge for French visa applicants.
Over fascinating small talk, I mentioned the incoming First Lady of France, whose love story with the president-elect, reminiscent of The Graduate because of their age gap (she was his teacher), has been headlined and gone viral the past three weeks.
“You see?” Belo joked, without missing a beat, “I’m not the only one!” she laughed.
Apparently, it had also been headlined that she was marrying Hayden Kho, her longtime boyfriend and father of Belo’s daughter Scarlet Snow, in Paris no less, this September.
No wonder the beauty doctor of the stars and hopeless romantic looks more youthful than ever, with glowing skin and a remarkable, energetic presence.
All this talk of Paris made me recall all the great restaurants the city has to offer.
Here are a few places I have had the pleasure of dining at that you might like to try, too, in case you are in the City of Lights sometime soon …
Le Jules Verne
For lunch or dinner in the iconic Eiffel Tower itself, do a splurge meal at Le Jules Verne.
The Alain Ducasse restaurant rests on the second level of the tower (a very high second level) and offers a spectacular view of the City of Lights, so make sure to get a spot by the window.
The food is classic Ducasse: The best local produce and prime ingredients cooked by chefs with a mastery of French cooking techniques. These dishes are similar to those served in other Ducasse restaurants, with a tribute to French culinary history. But come here not just for the food but especially for the view. It will take your breath away.
Le Cour Jardin
Another romantic Ducasse restaurant, with a more accessibly priced prix fixe lunch menu, is Le Cour Jardin in the dreamy hotel Plaza Athenee. It is closed today but will reopen this (French) summer.
You will enjoy Ducasse-inspired-and-approved dishes at the hotel’s terrace, surrounded by vine-covered walls, as if you had your own little nook in The Secret Garden.
If you don’t mind another splurge, you might as well make a reservation at the fine dining Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee, the legend’s 3 Michelin starred restaurant, where you will be served as if you were royalty. But don’t hesitate to hold off on being royalty for a day, because the experience at the Le Cour Jardin terrace is in itself already worth writing home about.
Le Chateaubriand is a neo-bistro in the 11th arrondissement. I ate here when I visited Paris alone a few years ago for a few reasons: 1. It was on the World’s 50 Best list; 2. It was near my hotel. 3. It was super affordable. 4. The chef was making waves for his new style of a no-choice tasting menu featuring whatever he found at the market that morning (or maybe whatever was left in the fridge the night before, who really knows, haha).
No less than Alain Ducasse has proclaimed praise for the restaurant’s self-taught Basque Chef Iñaki Aizpitarte: “Going to a restaurant should be more than just good food; it should be an experience, and Iñaki delivers an experience. He is the creator of the ‘neo-bistro’—the contemporary restaurant of Paris.”
I liked it because of its uber cool vibe. For Gen Xers, remember Cirkulo before it dropped the El, back in the ’90s? That’s the vibe that Le Chateaubriand emits. It’s where the cool set eats.
Space is tight, though, and you are practically sharing your own table with those seated at the table next to yours. But the staff are hip and friendly, service was accommodating and attentive, and the food, while certainly not fine dining, is full of character as well.
I could hang out here every day.
La Creperie des Canettes
Two of my favorite shops in Paris I literally stumbled upon.
One is La Creperie des Canettes. The restaurant that I was targeting in St. Germain was closed because it was summer, so my friends and I ducked instead into one of the few open restos that evening and they happened to serve crepes.
Aside from my first taste of hot spiced wine (it was winter on this visit), the experience here was memorable because of —obviously— the crepes.
Many wax poetic about Laduree. But believe it or not, Laduree has nothing on Lenotre.
I had never even heard about this dessert boutique. I just emerged from the metro on a day of sight-seeing and ducked into what appeared to be an attractive store selling desserts. I purchased an eclair and it was love at first bite! It was unlike anything I had ever tasted in my life: Cool yet creamy, not too delicate and not too sweet. It was just exceptional.
(Later I learned that Filipino cooking guru Nora Daza was a friend of the legendary pastry chef Gaston Lenotre!)
For an experience of authentic French hot chocolate, drop by Angelina on Rue de Rivoli before walking by the Tuileries to the Louvre. The hot chocolate at Laduree is pretty good, too. My friend The Virgin Mare recommends Le Doux Magots. Though another friend, the Paris-based Chef Mommy, prefers Cafe de Flore.
While we can eat at a Robuchon nearer us—Singapore and Hong Kong, for example— there is nothing like experiencing the Robuchon atelier in France. Since it is part of the philosophy of Ducasse to use local ingredients, prepare to be knocked out by the menu. Service has the same impressive standards … but the vibe somehow just seems more, well, French! I ate at the one in Saint Germain and loved every minute, absorbing all the Parisienne vibes, even if I ate alone.
Thierry & Bernard
When in France, though, there is nothing like eating a home-cooked meal. I was fortunate enough to experience this at the home of Thierry Soenen, brother of French master Chef Cyrille Soenen.
Thierry went all out with a cheese spread, ice cream spread, and food that could last a lifetime. His long dining table was beautifully set up, complete with clear vase centerpieces with goldfish swimming inside. (Only the French!)
Cooking was by French Master Chef Cyrille Soenen, who was in his element at home. This experience bested all other restos and prospective restos in the area, hands down.
The only problem here is that Thierry lives in Mussidan, closer to Bordeaux than Paris.
Meanwhile, if you are back in Manila and have no real travel plans yet, here are a few French faves at the moment:
Impressions with Chef Cyrille Soenen still offers the best French cooking in the country; Wlliam Mahi’s new 210 Degrees at BGC shows the French Basque chef enjoying his new digs; and the very young Nicoles Gretin is now serving a superb Provencal weekend brunch at Mireio.
Congratulations to the French president-elect!
Here’s to Paris!
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