For two decades, L’Arpège has been the eatery centerpiece of the cultural capital of the world. Located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, this triple Michelin-starred restaurant is renowned for its la cuisine végétale – a vegetable-heavy menu that prides itself on a seasonal selection that focuses on the unity of unexpected flavor combinations. Not that the French capital requires any excuse to visit, with its endless amount of culture and famous landmarks, but if you ever needed such a reason, it would be L’Arpège.
While Paris is known for the high standard of its cuisine, nowhere does food quite like L’Arpège. Since 1986, the owner and head chef, Alain Passard, has been perfecting some of the most exquisite dishes found anywhere in the city. Consistently ranked as one of the best restaurants in the world, L’Arpège blends traditional recipes with modern twists and is a unique dining experience that you won’t want to miss out on.
Guaranteed to be memorable, this restaurant deserves the top spot on any foodie’s bucket list. And BUCKiTDREAM has all the information you’ll need to start on those plans today.
The man behind the curtain at L’Arpège, Alain Passard, began his culinary career when he was just 14 years old, working at the Le Lion d’Or restaurant in Liffré. Starting his path to kitchen excellence, his foremost mentor for four years was the Michelin-starred chef, Michel Kéréver. It was here where Passard was first introduced to the fundamentals of classic cuisine, whilst musing over the idea of modern infusions.
Upon leaving Le Lion d’Or, Passard positioned his talents under the triple Michelin-starred classicist, Gaston Boyer. Moving between several different restaurants, he honed his skills and received two Michelin stars himself at the age of a mere 26 – an honor that he would then repeat just a few short years later. Passard’s talent was noticed by celebrated chef Alain Senderens, who at the time owned a restaurant by the name of L’Archestrate. After several years working in a small kitchen led by Senderens, Passard purchased the restaurant from his mentor and proceeded to rename it L’Arpège.
Often cited as one of the most inspirational chefs in the business, Passard is considered with indisputable high regard; with Chef David Kinch of the Manresa restaurant in California stating that, “He is the only chef I’ve ever met that I can unequivocally call a true artist.”
Fun fact: As well as being an accomplished chef, Passard is also a keen skydiver, having done more than 1,000 solo jumps.
L’Arpège’s history begins with its acquisition by Passard in 1986 from his former mentor, Alain Senderens. After renaming the restaurant from L’Archestrate to L’Arpège due to his deep love for music, Passard wasted no time in taking fine dining to new heights.
In its first year, L’Arpège received its first Michelin star. Fast forward to 1996, and the now-famous restaurant earns three Michelin stars, which it has maintained ever since. Up until the late 90s, Passard populated his menu with delicious, yet relatively expected fares. That all changed in 2001 when he made the ambitious decision to remove meat from his menu. As he puts it: “The most beautiful cookery book was written by nature itself.”
Since 2001, Passard has focused on marrying his love of cooking with his love of nature, transforming his restaurant into la cuisine végétale. Complementing this philosophy, the vegetables used for all of L’Arpège’s many mouthwatering dishes come from one of the three gardens owned by Passard himself, which have been gradually expanded upon over the past decade. Not only does L’Arpège pride itself on offering food suitable for both vegetarians and vegans, but their gardens are also wildlife friendly, with watering holes for batrachians, as well as no use of pesticides or chemical fertilizer whatsoever.
Food & Experience
Upon entering the restaurant, it instantly becomes clear that the care and attention put into the dining area itself resemble that of the award-winning food. The minimalist art deco design puts a commanding emphasis on the pear tree wood that lines the walls. Smooth, unassuming leather chairs compliment the experience, sitting across from lalique crystal that sits effortlessly on each table. And one of Passard’s own artistic collages, created in his arrière-cuisine, inspired a stain glass window centerpiece that reigns over the room.
While the menu itself may not sound overly lavish at first, the expertly crafting dishes are enough to make even the most die-hard meat lover grunt with blissful taste buds. As all of the vegetables used are from Passard’s own gardens, he is able to receive the freshest of goods delivered to L’Arpège each and every day. And because of this, all the vegetables within each one of the meticulously perfected dishes is able to boast never seeing the inside of a refrigerator.
From multi-colored vegetable ravioli and monarch celeriac tagliatelle to vegetable purple tartare and leek with oysters, L’Arpège’s specialties are as varied as they are exquisite. This culinary mastery does not come cheap, though. For the entry level vegetable tasting for dinner, expect it to set you back close to $400 per head, with the lunch menu being around half that.
As indeed Passard’s veg-centric courses are transcendental at L’Arpège, it may come as a bit of a surprise to learn about one of his most revered concoctions: L’Arpège Egg. Originally called Chaud-Froid Oeuf (or ‘hot-cold egg’) due to the contrast between the warm, poached yoke, against the sherry vinegar-infused whipped cream, the dish now goes by the name Coquetier “Maison de Cuisine”.
Made from only high-quality eggs farmed from the Loire Valley in France, the fresh eggs are cautiously handled, decapitated and drained of their white yolk, leaving behind only the unbroken yellow yolk. It is then simmered in water until just before setting, then sprinkled with chives and crème fraîche whipped with aged Sherry vinegar, and a touch of maple syrup to conclude his chef-d’oeuvre.
Unique and magical. Hot and cold. Sweet and savory. Tasting L’Arpège’s signature dish is an experience all unto itself.
Getting There & Accommodations
For anyone considering a cultural retreat to one of the greatest cities in the world, Paris is fortunately very visitor-friendly. Getting around is a cinch, with prevalent public transport in the form of buses, taxis, and Paris’ Metro. The latter is by far the easiest way to get around the city; allowing you to travel anywhere and everywhere via rail and on foot, including L’Arpège. After flying into Paris, a brief 30-minute train ride will transport you into the heart of the city. Getting a metro pass is advised to save money on an extended stay.
World-famous landmarks and monuments are never more than a 5-10 minute walk away from the nearest metro, the Invalides monument being just around the corner from Passard’s dining finesse. This being Europe, Paris also offers a wide range of accommodation options for any kind of traveler. A plethora of hostels starting at a mere $15 a night are available for those not particular about a luxurious stay. Or on the other end of the scale, you could always splash out at somewhere like the Hotel Plaza Athenee, a five-star establishment that could quite easily set you back over $1000 a night.
We hope that you strongly consider L’Arpège for your dream list. Highly regarded as a foodie’s mecca, this is a destination you won’t want to miss. Add it to your own BUCKiTDREAM planner today, and don’t forget to share your adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.