Though set in a dreamlike, gorgeous interior décor style that mirrors Ducasse's incredible Monaco restaurant, several dishes were serious misses, and like other Parisian 3-stars this place is among the worst-priced experiences out there. Seemingly lost in its own opulence, the restaurant presents a boring and rudely short menu for a comical price. I cannot recommend.
Inside the gorgeous Plaza Athénée restaurant in a ritzy neighborhood in Paris sits one of Alain Ducasse's many 3-stars, Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athénée (ADPA). Near the hotel's interior atrium and ringed with long, marbled hallways, the restaurant and dining rooms themselves are works of architectural art.
Run by Romain Meder, one of Ducasse's younger lieutenants at only 36 years old, there is a professed focus on unique ingredients compared to most luxury French restaurants; grains, vegetables, and seafoods instead of buttercreams and heavy beef. Romain has spent time at restaurants in the Caribbean, Mauritius, and Dubai, honing his appreciation for global flavor profiles and spices that he incorporates into his menu.
PRICE PAID: $590PP (INCL. WATER, TAX, AND 3 GLASSES OF WINE)
FINAL SCORE: 4.5/10
We arrived early and were seated in the aforementioned marbled hall. A handful of families and couples relaxed and enjoyed drinks, and more than a few 1%'rs appeared to be waiting out a sedative hangover. We were offered a glass of champagne.
Ten minutes later, a dude arrived, perfunctorily folded some napkins that resisted his efforts, and left. So, no champs just yet. Another ten minutes rolled by, and finally a lady arrived with a massive silver tray full of olives, nuts, and Alain Ducasse's house-brand champagne. A pretty delicious glass with strong, sweet, apple flavors; almost like a toasted apple pie.
After being allowed to cool our heels for another twenty minutes, we are woodenly and expressionlessly asked if we'd like to have lunch now. We, in fact, did. In what is absolutely the high point of this particular restaurant, a cloudy, dreamlike dining room is presented in dramatic fashion. Graceful high chandelier, organic, soft shapes and surfaces, a modest natural color palette... I'm inspired by how gorgeous the many suspended crystals are that dance and reflect the light. Alain certainly loves his celestial interiors.
As a greeting snack, a drink of seaweed and watermelon are theatrically poured over spheres of ice. To the side, some cookies made of grains and cereals accompany. The cookies do an exact imitation of an expired grocery store bar in both texture and flavor; dry and flavorless, they wilt and fall apart on first touch. For an added stylistic bonus, they tend to explode with spare grains and make it look like this is your first time at a restaurant. A mildly high point here is the watermelon-seaweed drink, which is dominated by the salty seaweed flavors but makes for an interesting sweet-savory mix. 5/10.
This, unfortunately, would turn out to be the high point of the meal. Toast with Parisian honey sourced "from the roof of a church," we are told, as though this explains it. A deep honey sweetness paired with an almost leathery texture in the toasty bread. Feels like the kind of snack you'd make your kids if you were the world's best parent. 9/10.
Next, a slathering of pumpkin and cottage cheese in bowls, served with nuts roasted to a black crisp. The textures mix quite nicely, and the flavors actually pair well—the burnt flavors in the nuts don't fit at all, though. 5/10.
Upon a set of rocks meant to evoke the sea, some monkfish with peanut cake. The flavors of the monkfish liver remind me of Japan, but once again the cracker supporting it is quite dry and falls apart quickly. 6/10.
In what will wind up being one of several examples where not-fresh product is used in ADPA's dishes, the avocado at the center of this dish is really, really firm. Like, just unloaded at the receiving dock of a Kroger's supermarket, needs a few more days before it's even put on the shelf firm. Maybe a purposeful choice to make it easier to roast? I doubt it, because while the roasted flavors work and the Sea urchin is fresh and earthy, it's off-puttingly difficult to chew this dish. 5/10.
Next, some build-your-own microtacos with lentils, caviar, and eel jelly. Reflecting the chef's perhaps misguided belief that plain grains can be incredibly flavorful, we are invited to bear-paw a bunch of ingredients into a small potato pancake and douse it with rich sauce. The experience is both messy and not very tasty, but at least everything in this course is fresh. 5/10.
So, this course was kind of a disaster. An enormous loaf of bread loaded to the gunwales with cauliflower is accompanied by a ton of black truffle, some Coquille de St. Jacques, and aged Comté cheese. Heavy, and in no way different from being offered a hunk of bread with dry, starchy vegetables inside, I could only make my way through about a third of the baked cauliflower before I had to give up. The cheese barely made an appearance, and the black truffles were actually quite flaky and dry. 3/10.
Next, some blue lobster from the Cotentin peninsula near Jersey. Meder makes the sauce for this dish in a unique way; rather than make the sauce from marinating the lobster carcass itself in red wine, they instead use cabbage that they roast and marinate in red wine. The result is a very vegetable-driven sauce with a powerful flavor, which is definitely a unique dish but it's unclear why go to such efforts. The flavor is different, for sure, but not really better than your standard French Palace cooking. 7/10.
Though it hardly seems possible that a menu with a base price of 390 Euros could already be winding to a close, a variety of hard cheeses arrived next. What was odd was that they were presented as a pre-cheese plate to the real cheese plate, which came after. Odd to only have three courses of mains followed by two courses of cheese. Anyways.
A cow's cheese, at top of frame, is incredibly rich and tastes like a farm; sweet hay, barnyards, the whole thing. In the middle, a sheep's cheese is thinly sliced and both light and creamy. Front and center is almost like a cheddar cheese with tiny knots of salt and intense flavor. 7/10.
Up wheeled the modern-looking cheese cart with a smaller-than-average selection of soft cheeses like Roquefort, Goat's, and Cow's milk cheeses.
I chose the Camembert and the Corsican, which is a mixed sheep's and cow's cheese. As was presented in the Monaco restaurant, I'm offered a "salad a l'instant," a small collection of greens to accompany the cheeses for reasons that elude me. This "Salad of the moment" with oxalis and young greens tastes vaguely fishy, and I mostly left it alone. 7/10 overall.
As happens in about 2/3rds of the three stars, I am brought a new napkin, which I find a bit overdone but classy.
The first dessert is a sweet rose hips ice cream with a variety of sliced fruits. The flavors are all harmonious and sugary, and I love the colors. 7/10.
Next, a slightly heavier plate of chocolate with coffee bits, ice cream, and a pool of chocolate sauce. This traditional presentation from the pastry chef is extremely well balanced and sweet; if a bit much. 8/10.
Next, a "Rhum baba," with heavy cream and sweet alcoholic rum flavor.
Next, an ornate plate arrived with two kiwis, sliced nicely. They are, thankfully, perfectly fresh and delicious. But, I mean, come oh... They're just kiwis. 8/10.
Finally, some chocolates from Alain Ducasse's factory in Paris. We are offered a knife to break them apart; they're slightly brittle and firm but still delicious. 7/10.
Lastly, a sip of delicious coffee. 8/10.
We are offered a very short kitchen tour as service wraps up; a gorgeous and functional space that was obviously recently renovated.