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Jan 21, 2009 03:43 PM

Ledoyen: A Sad Experience

On my profile, I used to list Le Doyen as one of my two favorite restaurants in the world. Unfortunately, I just had such a mediocre experience there that I have changed my priorities.

The difficulties of the evening began with the bread. I chose a square black bun. When I tried to tear off a piece, it was really tough. The bread sort of shattered rather than tore. Chewing it was a chore and the taste was characterless.

Because we’d had such a good experience with turning ourselves over to the sommelier the night before at George V, we decided to try it with Le Doyen.

We told him something of our likes and dislikes and asked for advice. He suggested a wine from Provence, of which there were only a few listed in the dictionary-sized wine list. We said okay. It was too dry and tart for us, not unlike some of the really puckery New Zealand sauvignon blancs.

We reiterated that we’d like something smooth, maybe with a little oak or butter. We tried another wine and it, too, was exceedingly tart. We settled on the third, a disappointing Condrieu (“Les Chaillees De L’enfer, Georges Vernay 2005) simply because we couldn’t go on rejecting bottle after bottle. It was definitely not worth the 180 Euro cost.

Our waiter had touted the two black truffle starters, so we went with his suggestions (also the most expensive at 120 and 105 Euros respectively). I am a great fan of truffles and was excitedly looking forward to the first course. Unlike past experiences at Le Doyen, however, the waiter didn’t bring out the truffles for us to smell in advance. That should have been a warning to us.

My starter was a plate of three round slices of black truffle interleaved with slices of Jerusalem artichoke, all sprinkled lightly with salt. I tried cutting into the first truffle round and it shattered into tens of pieces. The shards had the texture of wood, but with no earthy smell—no scent at all, in fact. I thought the second round might be better, but it wasn’t. In all, there were probably 9 bites’ worth of truffle on the plate, of which I ate 3. It simply wasn’t worth consuming.

I felt trepidation about the main course, but needn’t have. It was Bresse chicken, poached and served in a white truffle sauce. It was wonderful, but I wished there had been some accompanying vegetable or taste counterpoints. The presentation was uninspired. The price was a hefty 193 Euros.

Our dining experience at Le Doyen cost 790 Euros total. I will go back to try it again someday, but that is based on my experiences prior to this night. Were this the only meal by which I could judge Le Doyen, I would certainly never go back.

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  1. I assume your are talking about Ledoyen, in Avenue Dutuit, in the 8th? I have not come across Le Doyen before.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PhilD

      You are right. Sorry for my mistake.

    2. One more question. Did you pay for the first two bottles of wine you didn't like?

      It is right and proper to send back wine that is faulty (i.e. corked, or otherwise tainted) but if you have simply chosen the wrong wine then it is your responsibility. After all tasting wine isn't about whether you like it or not, it is to see if it is in good condition. The sommelier simply recommends, you make the decision. Sending back two bottles of wine that is not faulty would tax any restaurants patience.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PhilD

        I took the sommelier at his word. He told me in advance that if I did not like the wine, regardless of whether it was a "bad" one, he would offer me another. Otherwise, I would have gone with a wine that I was familiar with.

      2. Wow. Very different from our experience last May - best lunch we have ever had hands down.

        Perfect service - attentive, but not overbearing.

        Started wtih a wonderfully balanced foie gras and fruit appetizer, followed by soup, pheasant and more. All tasted as wonderful as it looked. Had no problem with the wine list as we narrowed it down to several choices then asked for input. Meal was nicely paced as well.

        The most expensive lunch we have ever had and worth every penney. Definitely will return.

        Only problem was the ugly Americans at the next table - he spent most of the meal (that they hurried through due to a flight) on his blackberry. Needless to say, the did not get the service that we did. Hounds know better.

        4 Replies
        1. re: wallygirl

          Yes, Ugly Americans are a problem. :D

          I would like to put in another vote in favour of Ledoyen. In my experience, they're probably the most serious fine dining restaurant in Paris right now, with a chef who is always there, ingredients that are truly exceptional, and a cooking that is extremely skilled.

          I would also like to say that the lunch menu is truly exceptional and the way to go. Last week it featured an extraordinary sweetbread with asparagus the size of my wife's arms and their wonderful eel dish. And it cost 88€. Because I strongly resented being charged 58€ for water last time, I specifically drank tap and kept the money for an extra dish inside -- the truly great spaghetti dish (I did not break even though as this is the most expensive pasta dish on earth at 92€].

          I will have pictures from that meal as soon as they're scanned... Meanwhile, I posted on my former meal, which was pretty wonderful too, there:

          1. re: souphie

            Agreed on the Uglies.

            How many bottles of water came to 58EU?
            Have you ever asked for tap in other high end eateries in Paris or do you always get bottled? Yes, this type of info interests me.

            The noodle castle did look quite right.

            1. re: dietndesire

              It was eight half bottles of water -- which, granted, does not divide by eight so maybe my memory is slightly wrong. What happened is that we asked for one glass of sparkling water to start the meal and then there was unprompted automatic refill. I'm fine with automatic refills, but not with being charged for something I did not order. More classy places like Le Cinq or Savoy charge you for only ONE outrageously expensive bottle of water and refill you for ever and ever at no additional cost, which I find normal. Less classy places opt for asking you everytime (would have been seven in that case) if you'd like another bottle.

              That said, no one grinned when I ordered tap water (and explained why), that's what I got, and service was as great as the time I went with a regular, ate ALC and drank fancy wines.

              I don't usually ask for tap in high end restaurants because I'm as sucker for bubbly water (I'm spoiled by having lived in Germany). i'm with bubbly water like many are with wine -- it's hard for me to imagine a good meal without it.

              In France, it's a legal requirement to serve tap water if you ask for it. Some particularly vicious restaurants serve you a disgusting one, all dusty and whatsnot.

              1. re: souphie

                Memory lapse or not, I am sure it was close.

                I am in strong agreement on most of your points.
                I am surprised you explained it to them.

                My biggest objection was a bottle of water in Manhattan that was the most expensive I had seen, anywhere, and this place was neither a 3 star, 2 star, uber high end or even just one of those places that is insanely priced with mediocre food in a neighborhood that is the place to be in the culinary wasteland of the Upper East Side.
                And it had only been open a short time.

                I hope to sample Ledoyen, soon enough, and also avoid spending 50+ on water. Though for what it is that makes a 400pp dinner seem reasonable by comparison.

        2. Sorry to hear about your bad experience. We had an absolutely spectacular lunch at Ledoyen less than a month after your disaster. It was the only 3 star in Paris that we had not eaten in and we were absolutely delighted. The service, both for the food and wine were wonderful and everything they but before us was a delight to eat .It was so good that we might return on our annual Valentines week in Paris next year.

          2 Replies
          1. re: barmike

            Sorry to say this, but the wines are your fault. If you like over oaked buttery fat wines, you should have said that to the sommelier. personally I hate this New World style with a passion.

          2. "Our dining experience at Le Doyen cost 790 Euros total." For how many dozen people? Cuz I'm a vieux schnock aka alter kocker I'm allowed to play the memory card. There was a day when Ghislane and Jean Paul Arabian ran Ledoyen when it was fabulous and affordable. Then, the deluge for all three: anyone been to Le Caméléon lately, no buzz there, anyone go to Les Petites Sorcières anymore, and Ledoyen. Ah, it's all too sad. Let me go make another Ricard.

            3 Replies
            1. re: John Talbott

              We went to Les Petites Sorcières last spring and everything was very oversalted so made for a very disappointing lunch. I was really looking forward to Ms. Arabian's cooking, too, but ended up being very turned off.

              1. re: parislovernyc

                Our experience at LPS was disappointing too but partly because Ms A spent all her time flirting intellectually with a better known food writer than my pal and I. It was made very clear that she was feeding one person that day, to hell with the rest of us. After all that I never saw his review.

                1. re: John Talbott

                  I haven't found any other mentions of Les Petites Sorcieres on Chowhound but would like to mention that we had the 20 e formule yesterday and were pleased with everything. One can choose anything on the menu with no extra charges. A tart not creamy watercress soup and a good slice of black pudding with roast apple slice and melon slivers to start. Then veal kidney with a juniper berry sauce, boiled potatoes and a waterzoie with terragon (nicely al dente slivered veg). We added an OK chocolate mousse with mint ice cream a succesful combination. Good brown bread. Other people's dishes looked generous and tempting too. Room entirely full (all French except for one German couple)f or a weekday a bit noisy.
                  It is near market street Daguerre and the Catacombes.