Paris trip report: Le Severo (lunch), Septime (dinner), Spring (lunch), la Table d'Aki (dinner), l'Arpège (lunch)
As usual, the France board was helpful for whetting our appetites for the meals my husband and I had at these restaurants shortly before Christmas. We would love to have any of them in New York where we live. All seemed good value. I won't report at length but we found Le Severo and la Table d'Aki offered more personal and therefore more appealing cooking and ambiance than Spring or Septime, however good and attractive the latter two were. Le Severo and la Table d'Aki also concentrated on beef and fish respectively, cooking simply (even at la Table d'Aki, perhaps illusorily) but producing perfect, deeply satisfying renditions of their ingredients. I also guess that tasting menu orientated restaurants appeal to us less after feeling fatigue and disappointment during long meals of tiny courses at places like Manresa or Atera in the U.S. -- although Spring and Septime's tightly-focused and fun approaches are much more palatable. For us, l'Arpège continues to be the exception with regard to tasting menus. Our winter lunch there was unbelievable, as good as a summer honeymoon lunch a year and a half ago, and could have gone on forever.
Le Severo -- faux-filet and Overnoy poulsard, as well as great boudin noir.
Septime -- the best raw scallop dish of our trip (competing with Spring and l'Arpège) incorporating raw clams and carrot juice.
Spring -- very well-executed, crisp-skinned quail main with a jerusalem artichoke puree, excellently sauced (worthy of a much more expensive restaurant)
la Table d'Aki -- sea bass with celeriac puree (the cooking and quality of the sea bass as good as that served at l'Ambroisie); sole with a curry sauce.
l'Arpège -- salt-baked beetroot (a special long, skinny varietal) with quince curd and bay leaf oil; salt-baked salmon (from a huge beast they showed off to the dining room in its crust) with vin jaune sauce, leeks and jerusalem artichoke; "l'oeuf parfait" with lobster coral sauce and scallions; pigeon with hibiscus glaze; exploding Barthélemy Mont d'Or with smoked blue potatoes.
Typically, we would have visited Jacques Genin -- but we couldn't manage to eat anything else on our 2-day trip!
In case my report gives a false impression, I just wanted to add that my husband and I really enjoyed our meals at Spring and Septime. I don't feel at all critical of them and they are lovely places. We were just more excited by our experiences at the other restaurants we went to, and I tried to express how we felt by comparison.
It was a squeeze! We now usually go to Paris once a year-- together with San Francisco, it's our favorite city to dine in so we really made the most of it. The wine and steak at lunch our first day was a bit much, though! Followed by another bottle at Septime that night, I had a terrible hangover the next morning and we almost cancelled what turned out to be a reviving lunch at Spring. Their delicious bread rolls are even more excellent on a sensitive stomach; and they kindly and cleverly adjusted the menu for me to make it more soothing--I had sole substituted for my husband's quail and by that time was feeling well enough to envy him. But the sole was very good, too...