After two days we had learned that dining at 7: 30 in the
evening probably wasn’t the best choice if we wanted to
really embrace local culture and life, so at 8: 30 we arrived at
Pinxo, an open-style, clean and minimalistic tapas restaurant. Pig’s trotters with gremolata, crab delicately encased
in lettuce speared with nut brittle, and a deconstructed
paella with prawns resting precariously on a rice construction with rich tomato broth were the orders of the day. There
was a festive feel to the whole occasion, and we agreed dining later was definitely the better choice.
Our “last supper” was reserved for the t wo-Michelin-star
restaurant L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Saint-Germain, as
it provided a chance to observe the precision of service, and
execution of meals that garner two stars. An arresting black
facade greeted us and we were led into the restaurant — a huge
open kitchen with wraparound seating for those who wanted to
watch the kitchen magic; glossy black tables with woven mats
and red water glasses; modern artwork, and long glass walls, all
creating a sense of sleek elegance with a fluent symmetry.
The dishes were an acrobatic feat, artistically assembled
on plates that were themselves works of art. Lobster with
shards of crisp apple sat on a triangular gold leaf design;
venison tartare was wrapped in paper-thin venison carpaccio nursing a quenelle of caviar; veal pot stickers swam in
a red poppy broth in a white oblique angular bowl. As Joël
Robuchon was really the first Michelin-starred French chef
to embrace Asian flavors, it came as no surprise that his
dishes had such clean lines and unique flavor profiles.
Neither of us was eager to get to bed on our last night in
Paris, so we located a cafe-bar a friend had recommended.
The Lockwood was, upstairs, a cafe with unusually amazing
coffee, and downstairs, an underground cave of a bar with
dim lighting, loud music, locks displayed on uneven wooden
walls and a decidedly San Francisco feel. A perfect place to
sip late-night cocktails and people-watch.
Old Meets New in Lyon
Lyon seems a contrast of worlds, illustrating in an exceptional way the progress and evolution of architectural
design and town planning over many centuries, with the
Rhône dividing ancient from modern. I was most enticed
by the city’s ancient history from when the Romans settled,
evoked by the Gothic structures and churches (I’m a church
architecture junkie) on narrow cobblestone streets.
Thankfully, our hotel, the Cour des Loges, was in the
historical section of the city. It consisted of four wonderfully restored Renaissance buildings, each with an internal
courtyard. Highlights were the ornate glass dome, balco-nies reinforced with stone arched loggias and an absinthe
dispenser in the hotel bar.
Here was where Ethan and I had our first official
“stage,” in the kitchen of Restaurant Les Loges, with chef
Anthony Bonnet. The restaurant was reminiscent of a
Florentine courtyard with a marble floor and a spectacular
contemporary glass-and-steel ceiling.
In contrast to the work schedule at Murray Circle, at
Cour des Loges the kitchen team arrives at 9 a.m. and does
preparation work until 2 p.m., then goes home until 6 p.m.,
when they return to the restaurant for the dinner service
until the late-night closing.
We were both comfortable stepping into our roles on the
line. The kitchen flow, dishes and techniques were familiar
yet with small differences: ingredients such as wasabi seeds
and creative use of smoke and essential oils. One dish was
particularly fascinating. Chef would intricately remove the
flesh from an orange, nestling foie gras into the hollowed-out rind. Roasted slowly to incorporate the flavors, the piece
was then served ceremoniously tableside. The server lifted
the lid off the fruit, allowing a puff of steam to escape, and
sprayed the succulent contents with a short burst of orange
essential oil, before carefully upturning the contents on the
This page, left to right:
the food at Bistrot Paul
Bert; hotel Cour des
Loges; market goodies.