Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Le Grand Vefour

Oh my. Oh my. Ohmyohmyohmyohmy. I've fallen in love with a French Guy whom I've never even met. It's been well over a month and I'm still spellbound. Thanks to his deft artistic talents, I spent a magical evening swooning, in total rapture. Mm-moaning in exquisite bliss. I can honestly pronounce that this was a life-altering experience.

Who is this fellow who had me seeing stars? The new Guy of my dreams is is none other than Guy Martin, the chef of Le Grand Véfour.

All this because a kind and deep-pocketed American pal visiting Paris last month snagged a coveted table for two at the centuries-old landmark restaurant. What can I say? The entire evening was sublime. Unforgettable. Pardon me for a moment while I gush like a smitten schoolgirl.

Let me admit right off that, although in another life I might have enjoyed being a true epicure, normal budget constraints unfortunately prevent me from being much of a connoisseur of the finer Paris restaurants. (You know the scenario: champagne taste, beer budget.) Usually when I dine out, I dine well in local spots with great French food. I do appreciate good cuisine. But I haven't spent much time poring over my trusty Michelin Guide researching multi-starred restaurants to pick should I win the Loto. So -- an invitation for dinner, coupled with a last-minute cancellation at Le Grand Véfour, happened upon me as if Glinda-the-Good-Witch-of-the-North had waved her magic wand.

I was mostly unprepared for what awaited me. Of course, I had passed by the elegant restaurant many times before as I wandered through the Palais Royal, itself one of the most enchanting spots in Paris. Usually I peeked timidly in the windows of Le Grand Véfour to gape at the splendid decor. So quintessentially Parisian! Then a few months ago, one bold day I poked my head in the door, naive Paris neophyte that I am, and asked about reservations. The very diplomatic maitre d' had chuckled benignly and told me to anticipate about two or three months for an advance reservation. Right-o. Got that.

So last month when we got word that we were IN for dinner, I still knew little about the place, but expected that it would merely be a more upscale version of those well-preserved classic French bistros that I've heard much about. It wasn't at all stuffy-seeming, just infinitely classic in appearance, so I had No Idea. No Idea!

Well, let me tell you. From the moment I sat down I was speechless. (You may realize that "speechless" is not a normal trait for me.) From the first bite of caviar accompanied by Taittinger champagne to the palombe à la bécasse with a bottle of Lynch-Bages, to the chocolate mousse encased in a thin chocolate shell, I was transported to an unnamed planet. I have had many good meals in my life, French or otherwise. But never, never have I had a gastronomical awakening like this. Each bite was an explosion of stars, an ineffable bite of nirvana. This was heaven. Words fail me. Guy Martin, whose name seems as commonplace as "John Smith", is no commonplace chef.

The flurry of tuxedoed waiters didn't even concern me. This was not a haughty place. It was simply the best food ever to pass my lips. If I were a food critic or an excellent cook I might have better descriptors to use. All I can say is: trust me. If you have a big wad of dough to spend on a dinner in Paris and you want to go some place infinitely special, please do yourself a favor. Go to Le Grand Véfour. No fuss. No pretension. Two hundred years of history. And mind-blowing French cuisine the way you expect it to be.

Just thinking about it, I may never eat again. It was too perfect. All I could do was purchase a dish made from a mold of George Sand's hands as a memento of an unforgettable evening.

Supposed big news is that Le Grand Véfour has just been downgraded to two stars from three. Harrumph. As far as I'm concerned, the magic is there: I'm still seeing lots of stars.
Glinda, come back! Wave that magic wand, just once more. For me.


Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Oh have made me green with envy!

materfamilias said...

sounds wonderful. We've debated, over numerous visits to Paris, whether or not to splurge on a meal like this, but so far we've resisted in favour of being able to afford eating once we get back home. You're tipping the scales in a continuing debate.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

This was not an exaggeration. I have dined at a couple of other expensive restaurants in Paris, but this was the first time I had a real culinary awakening. Finally, proof that all cuisine is not created equal!

Not cheap. But so worth savoring. To fit it into a budget, it may be worth trying at lunch, when it's somewhat more approachable in terms of price... and lucnh might last until 5 pm!

Shelli said...

You're not alone in your praise:

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