Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ledoyen, A Paris Meal to Remember

See more photos at the end of the post.

To celebrate my birthday and the end of our stay in Paris, JR and I booked a table for lunch at Ledoyen, one of world's great restaurants. As far as I'm concerned, there's no better way to soften the passage of time and the nostalgia of leaving Paris for another year. 

Founded in 1792, Ledoyen has been in its current location in the gardens of the Champs-Élysées since 1860. The chef, Christian Le Squer, is a soft-spoken Breton with a magic touch when it comes to food. Le Squer describes his fare as cuisine du marché with pure and simple flavors.  It's what he does with the fresh market fare, however, that makes a meal at LeDoyen something you will never forget. Ledoyen is one of only 25 restaurants in France with three stars in the Michelin Guide, France's oldest and best-known French hotel and restaurant guide. 

We've been going to Michelin starred restaurants since we first came to France more than 30 years ago. Back then, it was an extravagance for us, but food is, after all, one of France's great treasures. Also, many of the great restaurants offer set-price menus. At Ledoyen, there is a lunch menu for 94 euros (see below for a photo of our menu).  

It took years to work our way up to three stars, the highest rank the guide gives to a restaurant with such exceptional cuisine that it is worth a special journey. We've taken planes, trains, taxis and the metro. On a journey in Burgundy, we even arrived on bicycles. Another time at the end of a blazing hot day of tourism in Provence, we washed in a river, donned our fancy clothes and drove to the restaurant in our old, battered French car.  

Our journey to Ledoyen was a leisurely 30-minute walk. It took us across Paris, past the Louvre Museum, through the Tuileries Gardens and up the Champs-Élysées to Ledoyen's daffodil-yellow, neoclassic pavillion that is classified as an historic monument. The doors were opened for us, just as they were in years past for Monet, Degas, Manet, Cézanne, Zola and Flaubert, all of whom often dined at the restaurant. Our coats were taken and we were conducted up the carpeted staircase to the light-filled, elegant Second Empire dining room. The spacious room seats 45 people at tables that are placed a discreet distance from one another, ensuring that conversations - business, government or otherwise - remain private.

As soon as we were seated, the director of the restaurant, Patrick Simiand, came over to say hello. During the years we've been coming to Ledoyen, we've talked with him about food, of course, but also about politics, our children, summer vacations, music, language, and customs. He's warm and friendly and very good at his job. When he found out my birthday was upcoming, he sent over champagne. "No candles on your dessert," he said. In France, celebrating your birthday ahead of time can bring bad luck, but I was willing to take the risk since this year my birthday fell on a Sunday, a day when Ledoyen is closed.

The next three hours were a birthday girl's dream: a romantic setting with my favorite dinner companion; champagne; gleaming crystal and silver; exotic flowers; an attentive staff in the dining room; and, of course, all that incredible food prepared behind the scenes under the direction of one of the world's best chefs.  (To see a short video of the kitchen, click here.)

By the time we finished our coffee, all the other diners had left - presumably off to the important business of the world. Nonetheless, Mr. Simiand offered us a second coffee, which we accepted with pleasure. We had the whole dining room to ourselves and felt not at all rushed. Finally, we said our goodbyes, but not before one of our smiling servers took a photo of us on the grand staircase.

I took (discreetly, I hope) some photos, which you will find below, of our meal and our menu (to see more photos presented by the restaurant, click here). The menu does not list the sumptuous mise en bouche - a transparent "bubble" that bursts in your mouth, releasing the flavor of ginger and campari; a puff pastry of comté cheese and ceps (my favorite); a tart with truffle butter; and a crispy, creamy ball topped with black truffle. There were also paper-thin squid ink wafers, a fabulous selection of breads, a pre-appetizer of langoustine cru and after the official desserts, kouign-amann, a pastry that is a nod to the chef's Breton roots. Chocolates, caramels and mignardises accompanied the espresso. For the main course, JR and I both chose the pigeon, accompanied by wine, a Moulin à Vent 2008 from Domaine Dubost, selected by the sommelier Vincent Javaux,. For the wine connoisseurs among you, click here to get a tour of Ledoyen's wine cellar.

Pavillon Ledoyen
1 Avenue Dutuit
75008 Paris
Telephone: 01 53 05 10 01

Click to enlarge

Langoustine cru, sauce verte

Bulots façon Duglére à la mayonnaise chaude                 Velouté d'oignons des Cévennes au chorizo

Pigeon/Dattes/Citron aux senteurs Orientales

Glacé de Caramel, lait fumé

Ananas en soufflé Passion

A bientôt,

Photos by Geraldine Calisti Kaylor


  1. Happy belated birthday, Geraldine! That description sounded fabulous. It really does sound like it was a very memorable meal. Lovely that you got photos, too!

  2. Che invidia! Chissà com'erano buone le cose che avete mangiato.......e anche belle da vedere a giudicare dalle foto. R.P. Pisa

  3. Happy birthday! What an amazing way to celebrate.

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