Great lunch in restaurant Arpègemercredi, 21 février 2018

Alexander is Dutch and lives in London. He attended two of my dinners. He tells me he’s coming to Paris and would like me to meet one of his friends. When I ask him which restaurant he would like to eat at, he says Arpege restaurant, which is not the worst place. Immediately I reserve at the restaurant asking that they warn Alain Passard of my coming. It is necessary that the wines are at the height of the place. Alexander announces Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 1982 and Amir his friend announces Montrose 1964. I had planned to bring a great 1971 grand cru chablis, but as Alexander works in the group Pernod Ricard which owns Perrier-Jouët, I decide at the last moment to bring a Perrier-Jouët Brut 1959 because I’m pretty sure he never drank it. I had several days ago recovered the wines of Alexander and Amir at the hotel where Alexander also lodges. Early in the morning, that is to say at 11 am, I am in the restaurant to open the wines.

The charming person at the reception looks in her files and sees no reservation in my name or on behalf of my friends and she has the good reflex: of authority, she decides to award me a table for three, whatever the consequences. Congratulations! At 11 o’clock I only have one wine to open, the Montrose 1964. And now I find myself facing the worst possible case of opening a wine. It should be said that the bottle with the original cap has a level at the base of the neck, which is exceptional for a wine of 53 years. I sting my corkscrew and it appears that the cap is stuck to the neck and that the cap, incredibly weak and porous, shreds as soon as I pull up. So I start curettage since nothing of the cap wants to go up. After long minutes of tampering to extract crumbs I am resolved to use a bimetallic strip. I try to plant it but, oh horror, the cork drops two centimetres. What I need now is to prevent it from falling into the wine. I take my long wick which erupts but does not rise. I must then resume curettage and after contortions that lasted twenty minutes, all the crumbs are out except those that still stick to the glass and that I cannot scratch, otherwise they would fall into the wine. Everything is finished, the wine smells good. I have to wait. As the small dining room is like an anthill that works in all directions, I’ll have a beer at the nearest bistro.

At the appointed time we meet Alexander, a little late, Amir and me. A waiter suggests we let us be guided, avoiding allergies and it gives a psychedelic menu that Adeline was kind enough to write for me to testify: tartlets: celery, lemon, thyme / carrot, rutabaga, garlic / beetroot, sauge onion. Then: sushi: flower beet petal with fig flower oil and Kalamata black olive tapenade / Erquy scallop carpaccio, curry and olive oil / hot-cold egg, boiled egg to remove the white to deposit an aerial mousse with sherry vinegar and four spices, all washed down with maple syrup / ravioli of three colors and their steaming consommé composed of celery, Jerusalem artichoke, turnip and mint / scallop quenelle and Jerusalem artichoke, yellow wine emulsion and cream of red cabbage / falafelle: beetroot, onion, turnip and hazelnut on its bed of orange compote, carrot and smoked onion / bouillabaisse: sole, langoustine, squid, lobster, scallops, golden vegetable shoots and yellow wine emulsion, langoustine bisque with carrot and saffron / duck pithiviers, black truffle, foamed chicken liver emulsion / Kalamata olive and grilled sauge / pigeon celery cream, Rooibos / mint tea red sauce, verbena tile, puff pastry, royal icing and kasha fat, vanilla celery macaroon, honey caramel from our hives, pear, hazelnut, fig, raisin and chocolate nougat , button of rose with apples / paris-brest and its praline of nuts / pasteïs del nata: Jerusalem artichoke, vanilla and lemon bergamot / millefeuille chocolate Peruvian and oil of argan on its caramel of orange.

In writing this account, I am living proof that it is possible to survive this maelstrom of generosity (15 different services). The dishes are so plentiful that we believe at every moment that there will be nothing after, but the cuisine is so light and exquisite that we push each dish the limits of the possible.

Champagne Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 1982 has a light color quite amazing. On the palate the wine is young, very young even. It lacks a bit of width but is still cold, and its structure is very elegant.

I suggested that we taste the two champagnes together and we are served Champagne Perrier-Jouët Brut 1959 which is amber, but not too much, with few bubbles but a sparkling well marked. This champagne has all the charm of old champagnes with a complexity much higher than that of 1982. What strikes Alexander is that the two champagnes have a certain cousinage and he recalls that we drank together in London a Moët 1911 and a Moët 1971 whose DNAs were spectacularly identical. It is the same for this 1959 and 1982. As the dishes are served, the 1982 expands, flourishes and the 1959 shows its liveliness and impressive depth.

The dish that excites me the most is the ravioli of three colors and their smoking consommé composed of celery, Jerusalem artichoke, turnip and mint. This dish is unheard of and makes me want to taste Château Montrose 1964. This Bordeaux is spectacular, with an incredible velvet and a truffled depth that I did not expect. It is able to accompany many dishes without ever changing level, keeping an incredible balance. What a great wine!

It was necessary to order a Champagne Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 2008 as the endless dishes followed each other. It is a very solid champagne, straight, square, expressive, but which, because of its young age, cannot fight with its older elders. The cuisine of Alain Passard, who was not present, is an inspired cuisine, with tastes of remarkable subtlety. The service was attentive and pleasant. When I said that the greatest wine of the meal is the absolutely perfect Montrose 1964, Alexander said to Amir: « Take advantage of this compliment because frequently the winner for François is one of his wines ». Here is a friend who knows me well!

It was a great lunch with brilliant wines in a talented restaurant.

(the pictures are below, in the French article on this lunch)