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Arpège or not?

We have our Paris dining itinerary done for December 2013 17th-31st, and I am in the process in making the reservations. Before making the reservation for Arpège we went back to Chowhound to see their opinions once again. There are numerous conflicting reports debating it as one of the best 3* Michelins in the city and one of the worst. So tell me, is it worth visiting?

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  1. Whether Arpège is worth it or not is a question only you can answer after you have eaten there. Eating at this level of haute-cuisine, the differences between this or that resto are a matter of mood, whimsy, prejudice, chance, and the epicurean version of Gulliver's Big Endians vs Little Endians. I know you want some sort of validation for your choice but, sorry, there is no objective standard. Even if there were, the cooking is done by human beings and not robots and there can be no guarantee that the concept, elaboration, and execution will be up to that standard on the day of your visit. If Arpège tickles your fancy, go for it.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Parnassien

      Not sure I agree. L'Arpège is not a safe play, it's a hit-and-miss which does not have the regularity or safety of Ledoyen, Le Cinq or even Gagnaire.

      True, fine dining is art, and therefore the experience depends on all the whimsy, moody things you mentioned. But there are objective factors such as: how reliable is the food? How important is the food in the overall experience (a bad night at Le Cing or Savoy food wise is still immensely enjoyable)? How sensitive if the food served to the quality of the execution?

      So my response to the OP is nope. No Arpège unless you feel you need to go and know the place. It can deliver the best food on the planet, but if you're not ready to take chances and think this is a lot of money and don't want to miss, don't go.

      1. re: souphie

        There is no restaurant that gets unanimous votes of approval. Every review, every individual's experience is just a snapshot of a specific time and place and although it can represent the quality, it can never define it. If all of us dined daily at each and every 3-star resto in rotation over a long period of time, maybe we could approach a standard of consistency and quality... but so far, none of us have.

        Perso, I'm not keen on the temples of gastronomy but am obliged to eat at them for business. For me, the stratospheric prices of such places cannot be justified on any level. This perhaps warps my judgment but I don't think that the food quality of any of the joints seems more or less consistent than others of similar calibre. Re L'Arpège in particular, I'll just repeat what I said elsewhere on this thread... if you like veggies, go but if you don't like veggies, go elsewhere... c'est simple.

        1. re: Parnassien

          I think you ignored my point.

          But I don't want to ignore yours: I ate more than a few times at Arpège and all the restaurants I discuss here. In the case of l'Arpège and a few others, I also worked in the kitchen. So when I say there is a consistency issue, I don't mean it based on various reviews from random travellers.

          Then there is the question of whether you like the style,as you mention. But regardless, off cooking, seasoning and even ingredients happen more often in some places than others.

          Even if the OP loves veggies, I don't recommend her trying l'Arpège because this would be a case of putting all her eggs in a fragile basket, even if there is a one in three (maybe two) chance that she'll have the meal of her life.

          1. re: souphie

            Sorry to 'resurrect" this thread, but I think it is important we get varied opinions about this subject
            1) I do not know about being known at L'Arpège or not, but I can confirm that if you want to remain 'unrecognized', you will: In Sept 2013, I went there for the 5th time in 15 years (almost once every 3 years) and I was treated like anybody else they would have met for the very first time. This is admittedly my choice since I want to experience things the way a normal diner would. I know this is lots of money and it's tempting to get the most out of our hard earned money, but on the other hand I am not excited by blurred reality. I want to experience the real normal stuff. My point here is that being a regular or not, I am pretty sure they treat everyone the same way and give their 100% no matter who you are unless you really s*c* up (for eg, pretending that you are a food journalist, famous food blogger, etc) which I find disgusting (manipulated reality...).
            2)Inconsistencies - Listen, if you want something safe all the way, there's obviously no shortage of such in Paris. Chose something 100% classic: Lasserre, Taillevent, Le Cinq, Le Relais Louis XIII. In my view, you can't ask for creativity --which L'Arpège is all about --, therefore risks to be taken, then turn around and complain about the meal being not safe / consistent enough. This just can't fit.
            (3)Inconsistencies? ...this time with a question mark. My 5th meal at L'Arpège was actually a ...hit and miss? Yep, notice the question mark. There's a reason I am using question marks here. On that meal, there were items I did not like at all....but NOT because they were bad...NOPE..to the contrary they were incredibly well executed and thought out (ravioles potagères, arlequin de légumes, tartelettes de legumes) BUT were simply packed with flavors that challenged my palate, which means flavors I was not used to. That is not inconsistency in my book. In that same room, next to my table, other patrons were enjoying them. Inconsistency for me is when something is really bad (for eg, I ask you medium rare for my meat and you burn it! or you serve me something completely uninspired, bland, off-putting) . I can see what you mean by 'inconsistency' as I could have described my meal as such if I wanted, but again, this is a cuisine that takes risks, it does it well and on 5 visits within 15 years, the items I did not like had to do with a matter of personal pref/taste rather than inconsistency.
            (4)L'Arpège is obviously a bit different from the conventional /traditional/classic Parisian grand tables (though it does also deliver classic cooking really well, too) in that they follow Passard's personal interpretation of French cooking. So it's logic that one informs him/herself about what makes L'Arpège unique and deliberates on whether that is what she/he looking for. As such, I'd personally never ask if someone else would recommend L'Arpège to me (mind you, I do not even do this for safe / classic restaurants..).
            (5) Last but not least, my meal was exactly what it should have been: items that challenged me, which happens on long meals , but what mattered is that its 'higher highs'" blew most of their peers away because they have what plenty of kitchen brigades do not: a palate! And when you have that...well, your best items can be life shattering.

            1. re: MichelinStarDinners

              "....if you want something safe all the way, there's obviously no shortage of such in Paris. Chose something 100% classic: Lasserre, Taillevent, Le Cinq, Le Relais Louis XIII. In my view, you can't ask for creativity --which L'Arpège is all about --, therefore risks to be taken, then turn around and complain about the meal being not safe / consistent enough. This just can't fit."

              So true: it's so frustrating when a punter who likes safe, predictable food, and doesn't enjoy a sense of adventure goes to a creative restaurant then pans the food because it doesn't all work (for them). It's fair to be critical of clashing flavours but as you say it's not fair to say this it's faulty cooking.

        2. re: souphie

          I share your opinion on Paris fine dining. Most of the restaurants offer something unique: the style of cooking, the ambience of the dining room, the type of service. As for the question L'Arpege or not, if one has to ask the question or wavering, my initial response is 'no'. It is not that the food is not sublime (often but not always) or that the menu is vegetable centric. It is the Passard's cooking style that sets it apart. It is not what many of us label 'modern' in the sense of Gagnaire, Ledoyen or L'Astrance. The best description is probably minimalist. A primary ingredient, ie asparagus, peas, a beet, an onion, langoustine, monkfish, tomato, cooked very slowly, basted with plenty of butter, presented simply with a complimentary ingredient. There is no flourish or anything extraneous. The dining room (skip the downstair) is small, somewhat claustrophobic and simply decorated with only Lalique glass panels and a floral arrangement to lessen the austerity. The service is not as smooth/well choreographed (le Cinq) or generous and accommodating (Savoy) as many others. It is the most understated of all the Parisian fine dining restaurant. When I first read about Passard and his style of cooking in the mid 90's, I knew I had to eat there. Personally, I love the food but if someone else's opinion is 'meh', it is totally understandable.

      2. I had the same dilemma. What made me not to make a reservation at L arpege was the numerous bad reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor. If you search in chronological order, the reviews in the past were amazing, but in the recent months , maybe the last whole year they are from great to disaster, with many bad examples. I m not sure thought If I should try to do a reservation now.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Giannis

          Hate to tell you but reviews on popular websites are not trustworthy... too many are PR plants on behalf of the resto/ hotel/etc or its competitors. With a rarified place like Arpège, these plants are especially distorting because of the relatively low number of reviews.

          Some of the poor real reviews do, I suppose, reflect the less than opulent decor rather than the cuisine.

        2. @Pernassien Thank you for your words of wisdom. It does "tickle my fancy" but I want it to be a wonderful experience if I am spending that much

          @Giannis I saw the reviews too, but the best reviews were around Christmas I noticed so maybe (since that is when we are visiting) it will be better then?

          3 Replies
          1. re: lhenry

            I have no doubt that I would want to go to L arpege. My hesitation is, should I book at for example Ledoyen or L epicure instead? If there is a lot of time and days, or if you are not between the one and the other, then I would say go for it.

            Also I only considered the lunch menu as it seems to me to be the best value.

            1. re: Giannis

              I think it's relatively simple..if you like your veggies elevated to something magical, L'Arpège is the place... if you are less veggie-centric, someplace else.

          2. One more data point to consider, from Andy Hayler, who has dined at every Michelin 3* in the world and posted reviews and rankings of them ... http://www.andyhayler.com/restaurant/...

            I suggest you check Andy's list for restaurants that you have personally dined at and then see if his tastes run parallel to yours. When I tried this, for example, there were two restaurants (out of 13) that I thought he was too tough on, and one that I thought he was too high on, but in general I felt comfortable that we were looking for the same things. So I tend to trust his reviews. But some people feel he's too easy on the French and too hard on 'modern' or molecular cooking.

            Also, note the dates of his reviews ... the Arpège review is from March 2012 so relatively fresh, but some are up to 10 years old.

            If I were looking at this review with an eye towards dining here I'd note that the score is 20/20, meaning definitely a 3* to him (he rates about half the three stars as not deserving the full three stars, so this is a good sign). I'd also note the high price (though in line for many Paris 3*s).

            To put a 20/20 score in perspective, he only ranks one of the seven three star restaurants in Spain 20/20 (Azurmendi), no restaurants in England get 20/20 (Fat Duck is tops at 19/20, which is still three stars) and only one in the USA (Alinea).

            Anyway, another data point to ponder.

            32 Replies
            1. re: willyum

              I do too look at Andy Hayler's website for help. I have even sent him email to ask for some helpfull advice and he answered me shortly.

              I trust his reviews, as i think we too look at the same things.

              I have to agree thought that he is hard about molecular restaurants, and he has stated this type of cuisine is not his preferred.

              1. re: Giannis

                Giannis, as you point out Andy himself has expressed his preference for more traditional food, sometimes at the expense of molecular.

                So of course I can't argue with what he himself says, but I think in general he is only harsh on molecular restaurants that he feels are just doing card tricks and not using molecular techniques to enhance the taste of the dishes. A good example is his scathing review of Mugaritz, which usually places in the top 5 of the Pellegrino ratings but which he rated not worthy of a single Michelin star.

                But I think if he feels the chef is using molecular techniques to support otherwise excellent cooking then Andy really enjoys it.

                As evidence of this, you can set up his site to sort the restaurants by ratings, and in three countries, totaling 20 Michelin 3* restaurants he actually ranks a molecular (or molecular-ish) restaurant as the best overall restaurant in each country.

                These would be the USA, where Alinea is the only restaurant he rates 20/20 and is clearly the most molecular restaurant on the Michelin list. I've dined there four times and for sure it's pretty modernist.

                Also England, where I think there are four Michelin 3*s and he rates Fat Duck as the best (and the only one he actually considers worthy of Michelin 3*). I haven't dined there but I think Fat Duck is probably the most molecular of the English Michelin 3*s.

                And finally Spain, where his top rated restaurant is Azurmendi (his only 20/20 in Spain). I'm not sure if Azurmendi is the most molecular of the Spanish 3*s (I've only dined there and at Sant Pau, missing places like El Celler), but the meal we had there last month had several modernist dishes.

                So I guess my point is that Hayler appears to be OK with molecular so long as it is done 'right' and doesn't distract from the actual food. Which is fine with me :)

                1. re: willyum

                  I agree with everything you said.

                  Generaly that should be the point of molecular gastronomy, I mean fancy tricks and presentation should not be everything, but tha main reason of using these technics should be enhancing the taste and flavor.

                  I have only dined in one molecular restaurant with one michelin star in Athens. I had some of the most memorable dishes of my life. http://gastrotrips.blogspot.gr/2013/0...

                  Do you think michelin is hard on molecular or generally very modern restaurants? I have some in my mind like Noma for which is harder to get a 3 star rating than a classical cuisine restaurant. On the other hand Gault Millau is more into modern cooking, for example in Paris the 5 toques go to Gagnaire, Pacau, Passard, Labbe and Savoy.

                  1. re: Giannis

                    The real point of "molecular gastronomy" is simply to cut costs. A few boxes of various gels and powders cost much less than carefully sourced meat, fish, butter and even fruit and vegetables.

                    That is indeed one of the very first principles that are taught in "molecular" classes geared to professionals (not to laypersons just wishing to master spherification or other tricks).

                    I have yet to see any superior, albeit decent, products used in a "molecular" restaurant. Most of the time the pyrotechnics are performed on poor-quality products, and even sometimes on no products at all.

                    I have more often seen "molecular" chefs using their amazing technoemotional tricks to conceal the mediocre quality of average products than to reveal or enhance the taste of good products. Who needs good products when you're 'modernistic'? They certainly are not the point.

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      Not really my experience at all. Obviously, molecular techniques come from industrial chemistry that is used by the food industry to bulk up foods, enhance flavour, change textures, etc etc. so it is true to say this is what maybe taught in colleges.

                      These techniques are transported into the restaurant kitchen in many ways and I find are used to refine dishes and extract more out of ingredients. A recent dish of foie gras with a shaved frozen foie gras coating was superb, and I doubt it would have been possible without the food science behind the Pacojet. El Bulli's amazing spherical olives wouldn't have been so good without the best olives as the base for the dish. And The Fat Ducks scrambled egg ice cream would not be so good without fantastic quality eggs because there is nothing else in the dish.

                      Certainly, like all cooking techniques molecular can be misused but so can traditional techniques. And aren't many traditional techniques just as much geared to making the best from less than prime ingredients? You could equally argue that the whole back to traditional cooking movements like Henderson's "Nose to Tail" is about making more from less, and I am certain the same could be said for many modern French bistros. After all aren't terrines, slow braises of cuts like beef cheeks, stuffed trotters all about adding lots of value to "poor quality" ingredients.

                      I am off to stew some tough old beef for dinner tonight and I hope all that that molecular chemistry makes it a great dish. I will brown the meat to get flavour from the Maillard reaction, caramelise the vegetables onions to add depth of flavour, and then slowly cook in red wine and stock taking lots of time to allow this liquid to hydrolyse the collagen in order to to denature it and transform it into gelatine to deliver tender succulent meat and a rich thick sauce. Of course I could add a spoon of MSG to enhance the umami flavours but I will stick to mushrooms, high in naturally occurring glutamates.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        "After all aren't terrines, slow braises of cuts like beef cheeks, stuffed trotters all about adding lots of value to "poor quality" ingredients."

                        Quite the contrary.

                        1. re: PhilD

                          "El Bulli's amazing spherical olives wouldn't have been so good without the best olives as the base for the dish."

                          It could well be, but I doubt it, for it is not usually how molecular cooking functions and there is a difference between using the best possible olives and using chemical tricks to highlight and exalt the taste of olive.
                          I don't know how these (enjoyable) spherical olives were done, I am only recalling a basic rule of molecular cooking.

                          I am still a fan of Adria, not of his followers, for most molecular chefs are a disaster when it comes to taste and nourishment. What I salute in him is the way he enlarged the perception of taste and its connections to the mind and to other senses. What I do not salute so much is his encouragement to use chemical additives and the way he influenced so many people in narrowing the gap between cooking and agrochemistry. Just have a meal at Thierry Marx's and eat your heart out.

                        2. re: Ptipois

                          I dont think a 2,3 star place would dare to use anything than the best to cut costs.

                          Now other places, which are less expensive would have to cut costs in any way.

                          So, same story with the classic restaurants. Some are good some are the best and some are bad, in cooking, technics or ingredients.

                          1. re: Giannis

                            "I dont think a 2,3 star place would dare to use anything than the best to cut costs."

                            One would expect that indeed. However — not a strict rule but a regrettably frequent case —, taking a look into their kitchens and walk-ins would show you a different picture. And this is particularly true for the "techno-emotional" or "molecular" category.

                            "Now other places, which are less expensive would have to cut costs in any way."

                            Again, not true, and strangely enough, quite the contrary. Look for chefs who really care for products and invest in them, and you'll find them in the lower categories, the "haute bistro" or bistronomie, one-star, some provincial two-stars, a few three-stars who still haven't tried to be "modern" to suit the media and guides... From there to the simple country auberges, that is where the "product" is.

                            "So, same story with the classic restaurants. Some are good some are the best and some are bad, in cooking, technics or ingredients."

                            Absolutely, but somewhat of a truism, and not exactly the point.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              Its a pretty true truism. Some MG places may not be great, and may not use the best ingredients. But many are good and do use fantastic ingredients.

                              Equally a number of haute bistro, or bistronomie chefs won't source the best of the best and instead be more economical in their sourcing. And, these haute bistros and bistronomies are usually far from cheap, in-fact many are charging as much if not more than their mainstream cousins.

                              I really don't like such gross oversimplifications i.e. "The real point of "molecular gastronomy" is simply to cut costs". Why categorise one food philosophy as good and another as poor. I enjoy them all and see strengths and weaknesses in both I am quite glad I do as I have superb meals across all styles of cooking.

                              I would also add that most of the meals MG I have eaten have both MG and traditional preparations (with superb ingredients) as part of their menus. El Bulli had some pretty solid catalan cooking at the heart of its menu, and at a recent meal at Azurmendi they served amazing squid, wonderful olive oil, superb unadulterated vegetables amongst many many amazing dishes so definitely not cutting costs (unless growing their own vegetables can be called cutting costs)

                              1. re: PhilD

                                In case you hadn't noticed in one of my previous posts, the "cutting costs" argument is the first one given to students in "molecular cooking" classes (I am giving up the term "gastronomy" for that) geared to professional chefs. Not my invention but the result of journalistic investigation.

                                That modernist cooking is of course a mixed bag, with various approaches (including growing vegetables) and various levels of interest, skills and expertise, is a no-brainer.

                                And that Azurmendi can be called "modernist" or "molecular", I am not sure at all, especially since the new avatar of modernist cooking is currently shifting from magic powders and chemical additives to plain gross-out concoctions (recently, up North, an all-LIDL "gastronomic" dinner, and one famous "best restaurant in the world" serving fish heads with locust paste. Really makes you wonder what's next.)

                                That ElBulli served some "pretty solid Catalan cooking at the heart of its menu" is something I don't seem to have ever acknowledged in any of the three meals I had there.
                                Not that it makes me reconsider my admiration for ElBulli (but I've hinted at that before).
                                And none of all that changes anything to the aforementioned facts of 'molecular cooking'.

                                1. re: Ptipois

                                  Can you give more details of these teachings ( I didn't miss the comment). What precisely are the techniques used, what is the result? Do you have a link to the journalistic article - context and frame of reference being important to assess the perspective of the journalist i.e. if writing for Vegetarian Weekly they won't be praising aged beef.

                                  The fish heads and locusts does seem extreme - I won't defend poor food, or warped concepts. Obviously I have been fortunate enough to avoid too many questionable extremes although "Serge et le Phoque" (Christophe Pele) in my opinion was heading that way.....!

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    Sorry, I do not respond to interrogatories and the material is unpublished as yet. I never betray my sources in these conditions. You'll have to take my word for what it's worth.
                                    But you can do as my investigation journalist friend did, enroll into one of these professional-geared classes and be a good student.

                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                      Not an interrogation simply a question. What techniques are used in which dishes. I am simply trying to understand as your friends comments don't correlate with my experience. That said I have eaten little molecular food in France and I am intrigued to know what French chefs are doing.

                          2. re: Ptipois

                            I have to say I agree with PhilD... I'm sure there are "molecular cooking classes" where the point is to cut costs, but it has not been my personal experience at all in the few chef driven restaurants I have eaten... Some of the dishes I had in modernist restaurants seemed so complicated I hardly think the goal was to make it cheaper.

                            I won't go into all of PhilD's arguments, because I share his views.
                            I'm just wondering if the problem is not simply that these new techniques are poorly represented in France. I trust that you have eaten in many restaurants around the world, but Thierry Marx does seem to be a poor representation of modernist cooking (although I have to admit, I never ate his food).

                            I ate at a Jose Andres restaurant and it was truly remarkable. Actually you could even take out all the whimsical and fireworks dishes and it would still rank as one of the best meals in my life... same goes for Takazawa in Tokyo... or Gagnaire who is often not considered "molecular" but that's a poor understanding of what "molecular" really is.
                            Molecular doesn't mean additives, gels and foams... this is just a byproduct of all the possible explorations that happened with this style of cooking.

                            And to close my comment, I will simply add this : why is it better to use sodium bicarbonate in your traditional homemade cake than sodium alginate in your spherification or xantham gum in your velvety sauce ?
                            Of those three ingredients, sodium bicarbonate is actually the less "natural"...

                            1. re: Rio Yeti

                              Glad you picked these two products: alginates developed from a chemical modification of inedible seaweeds, and xanthan developed in the 1950s by the US dept of agriculture from the fermentation of Xanthomonas campestris, a toxic bacteria that causes plant diseases. Give me old sodium bicarbonate any time.

                              The point is: should the customer (who pays the check) have a right to know what's in his plate? Or not?

                              Now he has more rights to know the contents of a pack of chewing gum (it's all printed on the package) than when he spends 200€ and more for a tasting menu.
                              My turn to ask a question: is that normal?

                              Why are "molecular" chefs all over the world so happy to mention that a dish includes a few slices of Alba truffle or 3 grams of caviar but refuse to mention what chemical additives go into their cooking?

                              1. re: Ptipois

                                "alginates developed from a chemical modification of inedible seaweeds"

                                Sodium alginate is "extracted" from brown algae. There is no "modification" to my knowledge, just an extraction (which has to be chemical, the same way salt dissolving in water is a chemical reaction). Brown algae is a big family, consisting of inedible seaweeds as well as edible ones. Giant kelp (edible) is primarily used for alginates.
                                I personally see no harm however if an extract of something inedible is used in edible food... as long as the extract in question is, of course, edible. (same goes for agar-agar, which comes from a variety of red algae, and which I think you sometimes use in your own recipes...)

                                Old sodium bicarbonate is made from salt (edible) and chalk (inedible)... again, I don't see that much of a difference.

                                As for Xanthan gum, you are absolutely right. But I feel like this kind of talk is "demagogic" (I'm sorry...). It's like people finding out what mushrooms actually are, or that cheese has live bacteria living on it... I'm pretty sure that the bacteria in some cheeses, although not harmful to humans, is very harmful to some plants or other animals... (like chocolate is harmful to dogs...) So the real question is not if it disgusts us to know where these things come from but only to know if they are safe at the quantities in which they are used for cooking... and for now (and that may change of course, as science is an ever-evolving field) there is no reason to believe they can be harmful at the ridiculously small amounts they are used.

                                Which brings us to your questions :

                                "should the customer (who pays the check) have a right to know what's in his plate? Or not?"
                                - I believe that he absolutely should.

                                "Now he has more rights to know the contents of a pack of chewing gum (it's all printed on the package) than when he spends 200€ and more for a tasting menu.
                                My turn to ask a question: is that normal?"
                                - Probably not... although I'm sure some people would argue that they wish they knew that some desserts contain gelatin, or that this fried squid was frozen (or that a vegetable soup contains "oyster jus" inside, which happened to me and made me question "what if I had been allergic to oysters...?"). But I'm all for transparency, so I do think the customer should know.

                                "Why are "molecular" chefs all over the world so happy to mention that a dish includes a few slices of Alba truffle or 3 grams of caviar but refuse to mention what chemical additives go into their cooking?"
                                - This is your opinion, but not what I have experienced personally. Again at "é" by Jose Andres, the chef was happy to explain to me all that went into his dishes (sodium alginate included), and I have watched all of the youtube videos uploaded by Harvard called "Science and cooking", and all the chefs (including Adria, Achatz, Chang, Roca...) talked very openly about what they use, how they use it, and seem happy to share their knowledge (including Wiley Dufresne and his "meat glue" which is also something that sounds so scary if you don't know what it actually is or does)...

                                I'm not a mad scientist, and I love to cook a good ol' poule au pot, but I think that we should embrace what science and technology has to offer. Of course, as PhilD already mentioned, the idea being to create flavors, textures and dishes with a more complex and rich experience... where it is used to "cut costs"... well I guess that's the sort of thing we should be cautious about.

                                1. re: Rio Yeti

                                  "Jose Andres," "Wylie Dufrene"
                                  I have no dog in this fight but would add that both these guys can cook real stuff too (at the late lamented Cafe Atlantico [soon to reopen in Tyson's Corner alas] and Zaytinya and Alder respectively) so I cut them some slack. When Andres was about to open a new place in DC, he flew about 10 folks over and they slaved (according to my friend-source) in real, genuine, no fooling Paris bistros dawn to midnight. Remember, Mondrian, Dali and Picasso did pretty good studio-art before becoming Mondrian, Dali and Picasso. Just saying....

                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                    Well, wouldn't it be just le bouquet if they couldn't cook real food.

                                    I've experienced transglutaminase (meat glue) on several occasions, one of them at Jean-François Piège (turbot glued together). It was perfectly disgusting.

                                    I got some pretty entertaining info on alginates and meat glue, but I'm getting really tired of this, and we're very very off topic. Oh well, one last quotation for the road:

                                    "By gluing scrap cuts (that would normally be tossed) of meat or fish together for properly portioned pieces, Dufresne also minimizes waste." (Boston Magazine).
                                    How very gastronomic!

                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                      1 - Most cuts cooked by poor people in poor countries (such as offal in France, or Vietnam, or ... well... everywhere) is considered "scrap cuts".
                                      2 - From an ecological point, I do prefer a restaurant who manages to use the whole fish using meat glue than a restaurant gastronomique (en français dans le texte) who wastes so much just because the nobles and princes wouldn't like to eat "scrap cuts"...
                                      3 - If you have time, please watch the video called "Meat glue mania lecture 10" by Harvard University on youtube... you can skip the scientific part at the beginning if you don't care for it, and focus on the presentation by Dufresne. Either you're a conspiracy theorist and truly believe he is trying to manipulate us, or you will simply see an honest man trying to think forward...

                                      Yes we are getting very off topic, I'm sorry for the OP, but still think this is an interesting conversation...

                                      1. re: Rio Yeti

                                        "Yes we are getting very off topic, I'm sorry for the OP, but still think this is an interesting conversation..."
                                        On the other hand, this is what makes CH and the internet great.
                                        Pace.

                                        1. re: Rio Yeti

                                          "Either you're a conspiracy theorist and truly believe he is trying to manipulate us, or you will simply see an honest man trying to think forward..."

                                          What if it's neither this nor that?
                                          And in what way could gluing a lobster to a chicken be "thinking forward"?
                                          These were "scrap cuts that would normally be tossed." That does not sound like minimizing waste (who would want that from a haute cuisine restaurant?), rather like minimizing cost. How much does he charge for a meal?

                                          From meatpaper.com http://meatpaper.com/articles/2011/mp...
                                          "“Lobster to a chicken? No problem,” he said. “Go for it, man ­— whatever you want to glue, glue!”

                                          Last time I checked, gluing was not cooking.
                                          One (expensive) meal I had at Thierry Marx's Sur Mesure was nothing but glue.

                                          Now for the conspiracy theorists:

                                          “It’s dangerous to think about meat glue as a way to save money, cobbling together extra pieces to make something else,” said Dave Arnold, who teaches food science at the French Culinary Institute in New York and runs the food technology blog “Cooking Issues.” The trial lawyer Bill Marler, who has represented food-borne illness victims since the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in 1993, said that gluing pieces of meat together could increase the chances for adulterants to find their way into food.

                                          Some 48 million people are sickened and more than 3,000 die each year from food-borne illnesses in the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, the United States Department of Agriculture has yet to place any restrictions on the glue and considers it “generally recognized as safe.”

                                          1. re: Ptipois

                                            I'm affraid this could go on forever... but again, you choose to quote something about Meat Glue and then going on to E. Coli outbreak that has nothing to do with it, and food-borne illnesses that have nothing to do with it... It's all speculation "gluing pieces of meat together could increase the chances"... "could".

                                            And if you can't see that "“Lobster to a chicken? No problem,” he said. “Go for it, man ­— whatever you want to glue, glue!” is tong in cheek...

                                            As for Dave Arnold, I'm very familiar with this work, and quite surprised by his quote, because when I search his website, the first thing I find is this quote :
                                            "Transglutaminase (TG) –aka meat glue, the stuff that allows you to bond proteins together –has been taking a pounding in the blogosphere recently and, as a proponent of the enzyme, so have I. At the risk of preaching to the converted (sorry, loyal readers) I’m setting the record straight. TG is a great tool used by conscientious cooks to achieve fabulous and fantastic culinary results. It is also natural. Don’t know about meat glue? Read my primer."

                                            You can read the rest here : http://www.cookingissues.com/2011/05/...

                                            Pretty interesting stuff.

                                            1. re: Rio Yeti

                                              "“Go for it, man ­— whatever you want to glue, glue!” is tong in cheek..."

                                              Tong(ue) in cheek or not, he said it, and he is a chef. This is not the kind of talk I expect from a chef. Even less from anyone who cooks. That's non-culinary talk. Again, gluing does not add anything to the art of cooking.

                                              It is only a convenient way of serving stuff that would normally be unfit to serve in a restaurant that charges a lot of money for a meal, while still raising oohs and aahs from fanboys. Quite a feat. Form over substance. If you want to serve chicken with lobster, you do not need to glue them together.

                                              1. re: Ptipois

                                                Haha, I like "tong" in cheek...

                                                Ok, well I guess we don't agree about this. I hope this will not prevent us from sharing a glass of wine some day.

                                                You can choose the place ;)

                                                1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                  Anywhere but Le Verre Volé floats my boat, so you can choose too! See ya!

                                            2. re: Ptipois

                                              "These were "scrap cuts that would normally be tossed." That does not sound like minimizing waste (who would want that from a haute cuisine restaurant?), rather like minimizing cost. How much does he charge for a meal?"

                                              Do top restaurants toss scraps in the bin...? I thought one of the tenants of classic cooking was not to waste - fish scraps for example always headed for the stock pot. Many top chefs I have seen interviewed talk of how they were taught to minimise waste in the top kitchens.

                                              The other conundrum in this discussion is the cost of labour. Most MG restaurants seem to have kitchen brigades with the number of chefs that equal the number of diners, I know some of them are staging, but the labour economics of MG really don't make it a cheap money saving option (after all El Bulli was rumoured to lose money on every meal). Think of the time it takes to reassemble all those fish scraps and glue them together to make a nice fillet...!

                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                "Do top restaurants toss scraps in the bin...? I thought one of the tenants of classic cooking was not to waste - fish scraps for example always headed for the stock pot. Many top chefs I have seen interviewed talk of how they were taught to minimise waste in the top kitchens."

                                                There are indeed thousands of excellent ways of minimizing waste in top kitchens — and in kitchens in general. That includes making delicious vegetable broths from peelings (Manresa), using scraps in the stock pot (every classic restaurant). That does not include serving the scraps pasted together to the paying customers.

                                                "The other conundrum in this discussion is the cost of labour. Most MG restaurants seem to have kitchen brigades with the number of chefs that equal the number of diners, I know some of them are staging, but the labour economics of MG really don't make it a cheap money saving option (after all El Bulli was rumoured to lose money on every meal). Think of the time it takes to reassemble all those fish scraps and glue them together to make a nice fillet...!"

                                                Easy, just put the stagiaires on the job — and besides you've saved enough by using second or third-rate products and gluing the scraps together to have a sizeable kitchen staff on your payroll, aside from the many interns. The first time I went to ElBulli, I was clearly told that the elaborate complexity of that cooking (which, at the time, was not yet saturated with too many chemicals) was made possible by the cheapness of labor in Spain. Illustrated by the much larger number of staff cars in the upper parking lot than of customers' cars in the lower parking lot.

                                                1. re: Ptipois

                                                  So saving and using food economically in classic cooking is good, but saving and using food in MG is bad. Odd.

                                                  And do MG really glue food scraps together to produce prime cuts? In my experience they bond prime cuts together to make creative dishes. So hardly done for economic principles.

                                                  Meat glue (or transglutaminase) is is a lot in mass produced foods to make crab sticks, fish balls or bind MRM (mechanically recovered meat) into nice chunks for pies - but this is a million miles away from what happens in top kitchens.

                                                  I love the car park example - but correlation is not causation. There will be more staff cars because, a) the restaurant is isolated, b) there are more staff than diners, c) staff will probably have a car each, d) diners often get taxis, and, e) diners share as they go as parties. I also can't reconcile low wages (cheap labor) with high car ownership, that seems to indicate quite the opposite?

                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                    >>> So saving and using food economically in classic cooking is good, but saving and using food in MG is bad. Odd.

                                                    It appears like you didn't read my second paragraph and particularly the last sentence.

                                                    Or if you did, then be honest: putting scrap cuts in a stock pot to produce a fond and pasting them together with protein glue to produce a "fine dining" dish are two very different things.

                                                    >>> And do MG really glue food scraps together to produce prime cuts? In my experience they bond prime cuts together to make creative dishes.

                                                    Have you ever had a piece of fish or meat assembled with transglutaminase in a high-end restaurant? I have, several times. It's positively disgusting. If that's "creative dishes", give me uncreative dishes anytime.

                                                    >>> Meat glue (or transglutaminase) is is a lot in mass produced foods to make crab sticks, fish balls or bind MRM (mechanically recovered meat) into nice chunks for pies - but this is a million miles away from what happens in top kitchens.

                                                    What exactly makes it a million miles away? The fact that the former is for the poor and the latter is for the rich? I strongly doubt there's a material difference. In fact, I think the results are regrettably close, with the unpleasant flavor and texture of processed protein a common feature. The only difference with fish balls or crab sticks is that the components are printed on the package.

                                                    >>> I love the car park example - but correlation is not causation. There will be more staff cars because, a) the restaurant is isolated, b) there are more staff than diners, c) staff will probably have a car each, d) diners often get taxis, and, e) diners share as they go as parties. I also can't reconcile low wages (cheap labor) with high car ownership, that seems to indicate quite the opposite?

                                                    When you stop splitting hairs, things are much clearer. The car park is an illustration, not an explanation. The explanation is also given but you choose not to comment it.

                                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                                      Maybe a real example would help.

                                                      So I will agree MG can save money in the kitchen - but is it a really big issue? A good example would be beef fillet, the thick end can be cut into steaks and sold at a premium, the thin end has less value on the table but the same cost. So take two fillets, place them top to tail and glue them together using the natural enzyme transglutaminase. You should end up with a piece of meat of even thickness and so all of it can be sold at a premium.

                                                      This isn't some frankenstein reincarnation, recreating a beast by glueing lots of little bits together. Instead its a very pragmatic way of achieving cost efficiency in the kitchen. So is it a surprise this is taught to French chefs at cookery schools?

                        3. re: willyum

                          The problem with Andy is, he is known, and at l'Arpège, it makes a difference, because it means Passard always takes personal care of him whether he knows it or not. And it that case, sure l'Arpège is everything it is famed to be. (Passard is there almost everyday, doesn't mean he'll take care of your meal)

                          That is not a problem for restaurants that do not have a hit-and-miss track record. It is for a first time at l'Arpège.

                        4. You guys have persuaded me to try it, and I would like to thank you guys for such thoughtful and thorough responses especially willyum.

                          Thanks

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: lhenry

                            Glad to help.

                            Can you post a review if you do end up dining here? We'll be in Paris next spring and this is one of five high end restaurants we are considering dining at, so the more recent reviews the better.

                            1. re: willyum

                              Sure, I plan on doing a trip report when I come back