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Jul 24, 2010 11:33 PM


When booking, do I need to tell the restaurant that I am intending to get the 88 euro lunch menu?

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    1. re: souphie

      Thanks, it was probably a silly question but it saves me from calling them back and bumbling away in my terrible French. My wife thinks it is hilarious that I say "umm" with an affected French accent.

      1. re: panaroma

        It's not a silly question. There are restaurants where you need to warn in advance if you want the first price menu, such as le Pont de Brent.

        1. re: souphie

          Ledoyen was a pretty bad dining experience for a number of reasons, mostly regarding the service, some of which were mere annoyances but others of which were more serious:

          (1) We asked for a copy of the menu at the beginning and the host assured us it would not be a problem. However, by the time they had come to clear the bill, they had clearly forgotten about it and had to scramble for one of the standard menus.

          (2) Service was surprisingly inattentive for a restaurant of this caliber. For instance, they set down the mignardises without any explanation, and for each of the courses they just mentioned the main ingredient (e.g. sweetbreads) without describing the other key ingredients or preparation for the dish.

          (3) We specifically asked for tap water but were served bottled water instead. This is a minor issue but at the same time it is something that has never come up at any other restaurants before.

          (4) The pacing was off as some of the dishes came right after we finished the previous ones, but others took a very long time to arrive.

          (5) The food itself was decent but not mindblowing. We ordered the three signature dishes and thought the turbot was well made but the langoustines were too tepid and the sweetbreads were extremely salty.

          In contrast, our dining experiences at Le Bristol and L'Arpege were extremely pleasant, marked by food that was better and service that was friendly and more attentive. For instance, our hostess at Le Bristol not only remembered to furnish us with a copy of the menu, but she also made sure it was signed by the chef and enclosed in a pretty bag. At L'Arpege, the hostess was so attentive that she noticed one of our friends particularly liked bread crusts and made it a point to bring us more.

          1. re: hong_kong_foodie

            OK, that is a pretty discouraging review. When were you there and are there others with similar criticisms?

            1. re: panaroma


              At Souphie's suggestion we had the 88 Euro lunch menu (as you are contemplating) in February of this year, and our experience -- both service and food -- was quite excellent. PS: We did not expect to have each dish described to us in great detail. (And off point, but for some reason I suddenly remember: I was amused by the extremely pointy shoes of the younger staff.) -- Jake

              1. re: panaroma

                Service wise, my experience is similar: Ledoyen is unimpressive, especially compared with its competition -- be it l'Arpège, Ledoyen or Le Cinq.

                Foodwise, I think HK foodie's case is classical: I often compare the best restaurants to opera, concert or theatre: they just do not deliver every time, and they're expensive every time (which is why I recommend hedging your bets by eating lunch menus until you know the restaurant). That's just the way it is.

                Indeed I've had food that was not mind blowing at Ledoyen. Some dishes, eg the Turbot, I don't even understand. Real fine dining is about very fine tuning. At Ledoyen, like it used to be at l'Ambroisie, you have the best chances of eating some truly exceptional foods. But there's no warranty. There never is.

                Part of it is also the very subtle expectation game and the state of mind we're in.

                So, while I'm sure that HKF had a better meal and experience at l'Arpège and Le Bristol, I still think that Ledoyen is a much better restaurant than those two food wise, because its ingredients are way better, and so is its technique.

                In a word, I think Ledoyen is the new Ambroisie -- where the best food can be had, in a spectacular but not very fun setting, the human experience being highly variable.

                1. re: souphie

                  Absolutely agreed. I think part of the issue was that we had HUGE expectations going in, and when they weren't met - especially after we had ordered all three of his signature dishes - we were very disappointed. And unlike other top places where our disappointment is always softened by the cushion of world-class service, we just found ourselves more disappointed when taking that other dimension into account.

                  1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                    You are from HK, which is the most customer-oriented society in this galaxy and the next galaxy. Your expectations - esp re service - must be considerable. :-)

                    1. re: Parigi

                      This is exactly why this board is so useful. Personally, I can trade off some warmth for a chance at brilliance but my friends are likely to want something a bit more fun. So, assuming that I lose the debate, I think we might choose between the lunch deals at Rostang and Le Cinq. From the comments here, it seems to be a choice between warmth/tradition and reliable grandeur. Any comments on the choice?

                      1. re: panaroma

                        Le Cinq is very, very warm and fun. It's more of a choice between the extreme luxury of a leading palace, and the cosy, club-like feeling of Rostang. Both offer huge amounts of food, Rostang is less challenging, more familiar, for those who grew up in the French tradition of cooking. Both are very accessible, excellent value, lovely staff. Le CInq has the potential for best food ever (again, does not happen every time), Rostang hasn't.

                      2. re: Parigi

                        But just to confirm, since I am really curious now, is tap water available at Ledoyen? I'm pretty sure the waiter heard my request, but for some reason they still brought out bottled water, so maybe tap water just isn't available at this restaurant?

                        1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                          Tap water is certainly available. I got it. You should have refused the mineral water. I ate a la carte so maybe they paid more attention to my request. Foodwise Ledoyen is not impressive. I would not return.

                          1. re: amrx

                            Glad to know that tap water is available, but disappointed of course that they disregarded our request and served us bottled water instead.

                            We did order a la carte - all three signature dishes, in fact - so I guess it doesn't matter in that regard.

                    2. re: souphie

                      In years past, most of my starred dining experiences were business related, and invariably, one of our party was recognized by the wait staff. Service was always attentive and friendly. But now, as mere touristas, service and ambiance has become an issue. Our "do not return" list is growing; both Ledoyen and L'Ambroisie are on it, for different reasons. For those readers who don't want to deal with these issues, the restaurants in the Luxe hotels seem to take better care of visitors, IMHO.

                      1. re: Oakglen

                        Never, I repeat never refer to yourself as a "tourista" in French. It's slang for "diarrhea".

                        I love the fact that I've just written that word on a thread about Ledoyen.

                        1. re: vielleanglaise

                          Thanks, you have made my day! I have always used "tourista" as a derogatory word, but I never guessed it was that bad. Now where is my Lomotil.....

                        2. re: Oakglen

                          Yes, that is another way Ledoyen is the new Ambroisie: regulars have a stellar experience almost every time, strangers only if they're lucky.

                          1. re: souphie

                            Hi Souphie!

                            Hmmmm, so I have made a reservation as a solo diner at Ledoyen on September 3 for lunch and I am there, obviously, for the first time. Should I then consider another place? Like Gagnaire or Le Cinq or L'Arpege? Or shall I go with you or another regular? :D

                            1. re: j.jessica.lee

                              Well, I think food is almost always better when shared. As for chosing Ledoyen over the others you mention, it really is a matter of your personal taste and food experience. How much do you value exceptional ingredients prepared with high skills, in big portions, as opposed to a meal that is funnier both with regard to food and service? Gagnaire is a very crazy, exciting experience, sometimes delicious, always memorable. Le Cinq is hyper-welcoming and luxurious, with food that can be dazzling. L'Arpège is a one-man show centered on vegetables in which the main character (Passard) is not always present or inspired. All are truly exceptional restaurants, but in differerent ways.

                              As a solo diner, I would probably chose Ledoyen and force them to take great care of me, making clear that I know what I'm talking about, showing appreciation for what's good and sending back what's not.

                            2. re: souphie

                              I wonder if the issue of strangers vs. regulars is a chicken-or-egg question; normally a person becomes a regular only at restaurants that please him the first time! (Of course this reasoning doesn't hold if the person is accompanied by a regular on his first visits.)

                              And Oakglen, I'm curious about the reasons for your do-not-returns, if you care to elaborate.

                              1. re: fanoffrance

                                Happy to oblige Fanoffrance, my "do not return" list has very little to do with food and a lot to do with service and ambiance. I don't like being put at the American table (Vin sur Vin) or American section (Les Bouquinistes). My better half, M.E., was unnerved at L'Ambroisie by the intensive attention and solemnity of our waiter. She said it was like sitting in the first pew at High Mass.

                                What doesn't bother me is portion size or price/value. We should be expected to pay up for great food. I haven't become a total curmudgeon, yet.

                                1. re: Oakglen

                                  Last night walking home to the 9th after dinner in the 5th, I did not hear any French spoken until I was crossing rue St Honoré. Am I going to boycott half of Paris?

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    I personally don't care if I'm being put in a certain section as long as the food is still as good and the service is still as attentive. Again, I don't seem to understand why this board in particular has such an aversion to tourists/Americans when 90% are the same.

                                  2. re: Oakglen

                                    Oakglen: No wonder I like L'Ambroisie--I'm a church organist! I think I know which waiter you mean; he's actually very likeable, even recognizes my voice on the telephone before I identify myself.

                                    1. re: Oakglen

                                      Unfortunately they tend to stick Americans together in this type of restaurant because some don't know how to behave. First time at Ledoyen 4 yrs ago, the American "gentleman" at the next table announced as he was being seated that he had a flight to catch and wanted all courses served at once. He then proceeded to enjoy his speed meal while ignoring his companion while fixated on his Blackberry. This time, when we had stellar service and thoroughly enjoyed the food and wine, we were near a loud, self absorbed American woman who required a staff person at her table most of the meal so that she could impress him, and 1/2 the dining room, with her knowledge of food and wine. Please people - fine dining is about ambiance, service, food, wine and quiet conversation!

                                      1. re: wallygirly

                                        These are exactly the people who don't read this board and if they did still wouldn't think that the "rules" apply to them. Some folks just can't be saved. :-)

                                        1. re: DaTulip

                                          Ah, yes. No cure for stupid.

                                          Many years ago I got my first taste of the French only section at Lucas Carton. Problem there was everyone smoked!

                                          1. re: law_doc89

                                            I know: the no smoking law has made it so much more difficult to avoid the "tourist" sections. Asking fora smoking table was so much simpler.

                            3. re: panaroma

                              i was unimpressed with ledoyen on my paris trip last summer where i tried dinners at ledoyen, arpege, and gagnaire.

                              i had crab as an appetizer, and lobster as an entree, and both were prepared in exactly the same way: foamy and heavy in their shells. i left convinced that i simply didn't really like french food. i should have started with the lunch menu instead. arpege is an all-time favorite -- will probably just eat there a few times on my next paris trip, though i'm worried if passard isn't always there and inspired, as souphie has warned. gagnaire was too crazy for my tastes.

                    3. Went back for dinner a couple of days ago. One of my best meals in years, probably in part thanks to the fact that I'm starting to know the dishes and the style of the restaurant and how to order. I didn't take pictures this time but I figured there are enough already on my Ledoyen gallery at

                      First, their butter is one of the best I ever had. Truly spectacular. Reminded me of that alpine wonder Rabaey in Brent had. Cheeses from Anthony are pretty good too, though not what they used to be.

                      Noodle castle, eel toasts, sweetbread and grapefruit desserts were as good as ever, according to my co-dinners (all have gluten so I can't taste them anymore. But I remember how masterful they were and could see it again on the face of my friends).

                      Ingredients wise, it's nice to see how Le Squer takes care of his vegetables this time of year. No green peas this time, but turnip was the star of a seabass tartare dish, with radishes and a fishy, lemony, turnip gelée. Also quite exciting was the authentic cauliflower, served with seaurchins -- even the tiny raw dices are exciting. Awesome turnips also with the perfect grilled pigeon.

                      The foie gras with passion fruit and coffee is a wonderful "less is more" dish. The way tastes go together and yet happen as a sequence in your mouth are awesome, but one bite of it is enough, and the effect diminishes after a few. Brilliant appetizer, shouldn't be an actual ALC dish, imo.

                      The yeast icecream has been considerably perfected. Instead of being rolled in coconut and served on top of a thick square of meringue, it's now buried under thin sheets of meringue. It was always very interesting and surprising. It's now very close to excellent.

                      A carrot dessert was also very light and unidimensional, but quite subtle and exciting.

                      Choice of wines by the glass is pretty remarkable, from Champagne to Riesling vendanges tardives and Banyuls cave de l'étoile 1982 though excellent Meursault. Serious drinkers should also appreciate the serious wine list.

                      While the room looks worn in the daytime, it still has significant magic at night.

                      Service hasn't changed: lovely but slow and not very efficient. And they still charge you every single half bottle of water at the price of oil, renewing them without asking. Pretty annoying. I need to remember to insist that I want tap water.

                      But overall, for ingredients, seasoning, cooking and composition of the dishes: Ledoyen really is one of the top players in town. Can't think of anyone better at it. Can think of restaurants that used to be as good, but not of any that are right now.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: souphie

                        Just ate lunch there a few days ago and found the service and food excellent. They were unobtrusive, but utensils changed by invisible hands, and the staff was quite attentive. The Maitre d was very attentive, and made a point of making recommendations. When one of the waiters didn't understand my request for a specific cheese, the Maitre D was there immediately,

                        I find the technique there remarkable. We started lunch with amuse that included a clear bubble of liquid made with Campari and ginger that is indescribably elusive. The lobster tartare was wonderfully presented and served in one of the most memorable aspics I have ever eaten. The first course was a wonderful presentation of whelk that were simply perfect, and the duck course indescribable. Poached fish with spinach and currents and pomegranate seeds also perfect. The foir gras as described above also came with a crystal clear hard caramel laced with flower petals. I almost hated to eat it. I spent a moment looking at it and telling my partner that I hated to eat it. (Immediately the Maitre D was there having heard me say "Hate to eat it." Again, that is why I am puzzled by some comments above about service. Perhaps because I spoke in English and didn't pretend to speak French?)

                        Desert was a strawberry charlotte that consisted of foams, not creams, and it floated. One amuse consisted of a licorace macaron that dissolved before I could chew it, then exploded with flavor, all after taste, quite a brilliant trick.

                        My partner and I both had the 88 Euro lunch, but specifically took different choices and shared. This definitely the way to do it.

                      2. Another awesome lunch.

                        It started with wondeful amuses, especially the fritter of old comté and cèpes and the toast of whiting mousse. Wait, the poached quail egg was scromptuous too.

                        Then there was a pristine carpaccio of scallops, with a seaweed mousse.

                        Then a wonderful royale de foie gras, with crayfish on top (many, delicious), a layer of "virtual bread" that dissolves in the cèpes broth the pour on it, table side.

                        The main was a letdown, slightly overccoked seabass with a gratinée oyster on top, a celeri-based brandade and a tasteless watercress sauce. Could have been wonderful.

                        Cheese, half of them from Anthony, were some other superlative, esp. the Saint-Nectaire, the Reblochon and the Roquefort.

                        A lychee dessert was insanely fresh and light, based on some soft meringue and rose water jelly. Sounds bland, tasted like the holy spirit.

                        And yes, the Kouign-Amann was there, looking different from last time but apparently still satisfying.

                        And that was just the 88€ menu.

                        ETA : service still slow, not particularly efficient, but relaxed. Don't go if you're in a hurry, be ready to wait some between dishes, beware of the bread and butter (man, the butter...)

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: souphie

                          Real nice, you wait until l am away, hummph.

                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            Soup, sounds like a great meal to have before heading our way into the black hole of fine dining that is CT. Boy do I wish we could lunch together somewhere like Ledoyen but I think we'll have to settle for Ken's until we come to Paris in May!

                          2. re: souphie

                            Do they update/change their lunch menu dishes more often than the dinner items?
                            Any new dishes for the dinner or simply the familiar seasonal stuffs?

                            1. re: Bu Pun Su

                              Actually, I think there is a fair amount of renewal of the menu, including the regular menu items. The classics are always there, but I almost never had the same things at lunch twice, and I see the big menu has new items fairly often.