Sometimes when Joanne and I are in Paris, we just don’t want to be culinarily challenged. By the 5th or 6th day of seeking out very special restaurants that somehow could have a culinary relationship with our PARASOLE restaurants, we simply want a DAY OFF…a time to just chill.
But Paris being Paris, even the places you expect to be predictable have the capacity to surprise. Consider PAVILLON ÉLYSÉES LENÔTRE…..or simply LENÔTRE, a little gem of a restaurant southeast of the Arc de Triomphe toward Place de Concorde, right on the Champs. You’ll see it nestled perfectly in a park across the street from the Palais Royale amongst the trees.
This place is the soul of consistency. It consistently earns solid rankings for its food, and its service and décor don’t disappoint either. It’s a “safe” choice – that’s what we like about it – but damned if I don’t come away from every meal with an idea or two.
More often than not, I come away with a kitchen gadget or two as well, because the space is made up of three components – the restaurant, a cooking school, and a very well-curated culinary boutique with appliances, books, dishware and the like, as well as an assortment of small electronics and appliances for the kitchen.
By the way, if it’s a nice day, YOU MUST sit outside.
Regardless of where you sit, be prepared for some adventure, because amidst the comfort food and familiar pastries are dishes featuring smart, attractive and sometimes witty plating. You won’t be overwhelmed; you’ll simply be delighted as you kick back with a bottle of wine (or perhaps two).
Our appetizers have included smoked salmon with blini and horseradish cream and a crunchy salad, foie gras encased in cranberry “fruit leather”, and a quail breast with pumpkin in Jerusalem artichoke foam. But this is also the place for a simple, deliciously creamy quiche Lorraine. And our granddaughter was in hog heaven with her spaghetti tossed in butter and sprinkled with a little Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Steak Frites? Of course, and they’re just as you’d expect, except on occasion they add a few snails. But what about a special of Beef Cheeks with Chorizo? Expecting that? I don’t think so. I’ve enjoyed countless hanger steaks, but never a VEAL hanger steak as I’ve had here. It’s as though they try to sneak it by you. Same with the Shepherd’s Pie – also made with veal. By the way, they call this dish Veal Parmentier, but it’s really just a Shepherd’s Pie. And a delicious one at that.
Twice Joanne has had the Monkfish “Bouillabaisse” with white beans. She could easily be a slave to that dish (just like me and Bao Buns). And speaking of Asian treats, Lenôtre isn’t bashful about going there. Witness the grilled shrimp alongside spring rolls with sweet and sour dipping sauce and a bowl of Thai fried rice. Finally, my favorite: Hazelnut Crusted Cod on a bed of Chanterelle Mushrooms.
Over one of our frequent lunches here, we concluded that Lenôtre (and a bevy of other Parisian spots) were too good to waste on us. We needed to bring over the PARASOLE CULINARY TEAM. So we did.
After that decision, Joanne and I dove into the pastries – tarts, cakes, Baba Rhums and Charlottes. Check ‘em out.
The Parasole Culinary Team arrived not long afterward, and here they are at the Eiffel Tower and, of course, Lenôtre.
GO THERE. You’re gonna like this place – as much for how engaging it is as how relaxed you’ll be as you wile away an afternoon on the Champs-Élysées.