Camélia: Futuristic Restaurant by Thierry Marx at Mandarin Oriental in Paris

Thierry Marx, one of France’s most celebrated chefs, has invented an unusual although for a modern and hectic lifestyle suitable concept. The chef created simple dishes in an ethos of ‘45 minutes – 45 euros’ . This means either that you spent only 45 minutes at his restaurant dining (or rather just briskly eating) gourmet food or that time is money in the world of now, so you should not spent hours at a Michelin awarded establishment. I agree with his point of reducing the lengthy restaurant outings as it sometimes may really seem as a waste of time (one could have used the extra hour or two to do something more substantial such as catch up with emails, walk a dog or read the informative daily news). On the other hand, when you have to pay quite a lot of money for meals at these high-dining restaurants, then having a relaxing lunch or dinner without worrying about the next meeting or other duties, should be worth the time. The word stress became the new cancer of the past decade so why not to start reliving it while performing one of our most basic needs – eating.
Pea variations
Food: The names on the menu sound sometimes a bit scary and matter-of-fact, thus not tempting you to expect something delicious.
Our first meal was called Structured & deconstructed green peas, so you can judge for yourself how tasty it sounds. Luckily, the dish was amazing and turned out to be my favorite from the six-course menu. Depicted above on the spoon lays a delicate pea bun, something resembling a pea cream financier and a pea truffle. All were savoury, not sweet, these are just my creative musings about the possible descriptions I missed on the menu.
We continued our journey through the concise list of ingredients with Cuttlefish / asparagus with squid ink / spicy oil. The dish looked like a modern painting on the plate, but tasted bland.

Leeks/snails/fresh herbs
The leeks / snails / fresh herbs look like a rendezvous of Martians’ flying saucers as the snails are enveloped in green jelly-like ravioli. Tušit taste is disappointing though. I found the snails very boring and wish to eat the simple Burgundy snails diving in melted herb butter.
Turbot / popcorn was another quite nice plate. The white fish was thinly sliced like a carpaccio and tasted marvellously. A high quality fish melted on my tongue like a thin layer of ice. The popcorn was a bit dry and boring so I would leave it out and put herbs or something else if the chef wants to be so original.
A tiny Soy and oysters risotto / black truffle was a delightful bowl of soy and oysters covered by a white foam sprinkled by an ash of black truffles. It fulfilled the chef’s quest for originality, yet it did not sacrifice the pleasure from eating it.
Lobster with white miso
Continuing with the line-up of expensive ingredients we were served Lobster / white miso. A great idea to pair Western and Japanese cuisine turned to work magic, just the lobster was far from the succulent and flavour-bursting one from Maine in the US. From the European waters sometimes the Lobsters from Brittany can get close to the Main’s king of lobsters, yet it is mostly left on the chef’s skills to create a delicacy.

Much better produce of the sea was a piece of John Dory. The Pan-fried John Dory / asparagus gnocchi / Parmesan foam satisfied our demanding palates fully. A playful and light dish, which was interesting as well as very tasty.
Looking across the table at the bloody Charred beef / liquorice / green pees / lardo di Colonnata of my partner I had to try some. Again it looked like from a dining magazine cover, yet it was a bit too rare and for someone who ate peas in half of the dishes already it was a bit too much of the same. The liquified is a good idea, yet combined with the other ingredients it was far from a harmonious meal for me. My meat-craving parter liked it a lot though.

Drinks: We asked the sommelier for suggestion of a red elegant Burgundy suitable to our meal selection. He recommended Morrey St. Dennis, 1996 from Hubert Lignier so we went for it. However nice the wine was though, we were very disappointed as it was not the style we asked for – the wine was more rich, concentrated and intense, but we wanted something more elegant. We would have done better without the sommelier’s advice. Moreover, the wine list is not full of bargains either so one has to be very selective to find something enjoyable fir a good price.

Atmosphere: White, plastic and without life. It was the decoration which made us to feel like in a box or inside a spaceship. The tables were comfortable, people we talking in a moderate level, but we could not wait to be somewhere else. At least at some place where one feels some life. Too cold and dull atmosphere for me.

Cuisine: Modern French, gastronomic, molecular cuisine
Opening hours: daily for lunch & dinner: 12pm–11pm
Telephone: + 33 (0) 1 70 98 74 00
Address: Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 251 rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris


Orient Extreme: the peer of Nobu in Paris

Tthe dining climate in “The city of lights” (“La Ville-Lumière”) has shifted immensely. The locals and visitors alike are open to a more cosmopolitan food and seek a lighter alternative to the usually heavy lunch and dinner at a French restaurant. The Asian cuisine is currently thriving in Paris with Japanese catching up with the already popular Thai food. Orient Extreme is one of the leaders of the contemporary Japanese restaurants in Paris. With its chef once leading the local Nobu, the Orient Extreme has got also the Nobu’s feel as well as the nikkei blend of Peruvian and Japanese ingredients.


Toyofumi Ozuru as a young chef trained in Tokyo and then moved to Paris, where he headed a number of Japanese restaurants including the globally famous Nobu. His style is fresh and contemporary, in the fashion of the Nobu restaurants (excluding the Matsuhisa chain, where Nobu himself is most involved).
The atmosphere is a very Nobu style – classy, simple, yet furnished with high-quality materials, comfortable chairs and wooden tables. The room is humming with glamorous people.
You can also sit outside, but I do not like it as much as you sit just across from the RTL broadcaster’s office building so it spoils a bit the atmosphere. For the inside dress accordingly – anything stylish including cool jeans and a nice shirt is allowed.
Food: New style sashimi of sea bream is one of the most popular dishes of the contemporary Japanese cuisine. It is a raw fish carpaccio served with green chilli and cilantro. At the Orient Extreme they prepare it very well. Using the freshest fish is crucial and getting the balance of seasonings right guarantees the utmost pleasure from this dish.


Many Japanese chefs including Nobu Matsuhisa spent some time in Peru and were inspired by the local cuisine. Later, they spread this South American cuisine with its nourishing ingredients across the world. The Peruvian Ceviche with lobster on the Orient Extreme’s menu is one of such Peruvian musings. Zesty and crisp dish with lots of onion and lime, it is ideal to mix with seafood such as lobster. It is a tricky pairing with wine, but I would go for an oaky Chardonnay with a less dominant acidity to balance the mouth-squeezing sauce. It is one of my favourite Peruvian dishes I enjoy anywhere if the fish or seafood is fresh.


Tataki is another hit of current Japanese cooking. It is a half-cooked (gently seared) slice of fish with oil-based sauce. The salmon tataki we had was perfectly balanced. Cooked lightly just as it should be and it melted in my mouth easily leaving a long and intense aftertaste.
After all that fish, one desires something like a salad. We have ordered two of the seaweed salads to compare them. I preferred the first one – Sunomono KYURI WAKAME. It is a Japanese seaweed salad with cucumber and Japanese Vinaigrette. Refreshing salad ideal between the uncooked and cooked dishes.
The KAISEN SALAD was a bit too complex – Japanese seaweed salad with lemon and sashimi moriawase – a mix of various fish and seafood. The shrimps were delicate and juicy, the salmon was rich and melted slowly on the tongue and the salmon eggs burst softly leaving their juice to enliven your palate. The weakness of this dish was the white fish as it tasted a bit too fishy and had a bit too chewy texture. Underlined and summed up it was not the kind of salad I would want as it was more about the sashimi and not about the vegetables.


The Spicy tuna sushi on a crispy rice might not be on the menu, but if a Japanese food connoisseur orders it, he should get it as it became a staple on most of the contemporary Japanese menus. At the Orient Express, it is magnificent so after ordering the first pair we had to get another one. The chopped fish with chilly sauce covering the fried bun of rice is a rich-tasting, mouth-filling, and highly addictive sushi invention. My mind crossed a comparison to Monaco’s Buddha Bar take on this dish, which my partner always orders without thinking sometimes twice (although there they serve five pieces as one order, so he ends up eating a lot of them). This dish requires a richer, fuller wine so do not hesitate to move to red if you started with a crisp white.
Moving to the world of pasta (but the Italian type, although described as such) we ordered Gyoza – toasted ravioli with various fillings. We chose gyoza filled with chicken and vegetables. Authentic and  tasty warm meal ideal for sharing.
Looking into other people’s plates is found to be improper in most of cultures, including in my native Czech Republic, yet I must confess this is the only etiquette rule I keep breaking regularly. It is just too tempting to peak on the neighbors’ table in search for an inspiration. This time, I saw one of my favorite baked Japanese dishes and I had to order it as it looked so seductively. The NASU Dengaku is an eggplant gratin with sweet miso paste. It is so rich and its texture is so delicate and savory that if I had to have only one cooked dish from the menu, I would go for this one.
Drinks: Sake or wine? Both are great with Japanese food, although with wine one has to be quite selective. French Burgundy and white wines from Alsace are a great match to this food. We got a bottle of Chassagne Montrachet, 2006 from Michel Picard and were more that satisfied. This Chardonnay worked nicely with most of the dishes.
Mon-Sat: 12noon-3pm; Dinner: 8pm-11pm
+33 (0)1 47 20 91 58
21 rue Bayard, 75008, Paris


Angelina tea room: forever desirable sweet temptation in Paris

Angelina Jolie may not be the sweetest bearer of this heavenly name. Right by the Louvre, Angelina tea room at Rue du Rivoli is reputed for serving the best hot chocolate in Paris. The pastry shop and café also bakes in-house sublime desserts attracting daily long lines of fans. For an outsider the scene looks like movie fans waiting for an autograph from their idol. Well, this is better than some brief encounter and a signature, as the hot chocolate really is the best in Paris.
Angelina tea room in Paris
Since 1903 this conveniently located Salon de thé has been attracting local connoisseurs as well as pleasure-seeking tourists coming to Paris. It a special treat for thousands of sweets lovers. Founded by an Austrian confectioner, Angelina tea room might once had been influenced by the top grand cafès of Vienna with its lofty chandeliers, robust mirrors and elegantly curved chairs in the main dining room. Yet, being designed by a great Belle Époque architect Edouard-Jean Niermans it ultimately received a truly Parisian touch.
Pastries selection at Angelina tea room
In charge is the Head Pastry Chef Sébastien Bauer from Alsace, North-East France. His task is very challenging since he has to showcase Angelina’s heritage, while incorporating contemporary dining trends into his recipes. His perfection-seeking creations are the pride of the famous salon.
An elegant, pompous and haute atmosphere in sync with its glorious past customers. Trend setters such as the fashion designer Coco Chanel, aristocrats or creative writers such as Marcel Proust, all frequented Angelina tea room. Today though, be prepared for hordes of tourists visiting from China to Brazil. Dress code is consequentially very relaxed. The rule basically is wear anything you had on you during your visit of the Louvre or a stroll in the nearby park.
Pan-seared fish with crispy polenta
The busiest are the afternoons when a cup of hot chocolate and one of the Angelina’s deserts are usually mass savoured. Breakfast and lunch time are served as well and can be reserved in advance skipping the unpleasant waiting. Still, if you want to avoid the long queues then come early.
From a simpler snack menu consisting mostly of luxurious sandwiches, through large lunch salads to proper main courses, one surely finds what the taste buds desire. I have not resisted the daily offer of an eclectic pan-seared fish with crispy polenta on a bed of asian vegetables accompanied by a sweet and savoury sauce with sweet potato tempura. East meets West in this refreshing yet rich meal. The fish was perfectly cooked, not too oily, just the right balance. The wheel of crispy polenta was tremendous and the veggies have lightened up the other fried companions on the plate.
There are so many indulgently looking deserts lined like jewels in the front counter making it hard to choose only one.  If you are there for the first time I would recommend the Angelina’s signature pastry Mont Blanc, a meringue with whipped cream and thick chestnut purèe vermicelli snailing like a portion of spaghetti all over the top. It looks a bit funny, but its taste is unique. A cup of tea is ideal with it. Having a hot chocolate with this already rich and creamy treat would be perhaps too much at once.
Millefeuille and a cup of espresso at Angelina tea room in Paris
The Millefeuille à la Vanilla Bourbon seduced my sister. The delicate thin layers of caramelised puff pastry filled with Bourbon vanilla cream are perfect with a cup of espresso.
For the first timers trying the Hot chocolate L’African is a must. This rich, thick, warm delicacy is served with a side-pot of whipped cream to mellow its potency how much you like. The wine list is also above satisfactory, although one might not feel like drinking alcohol at this magnificent tea room.
Cuisine: International with an emphasis on deserts.
 Come for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon tea as Angelina is closed for dinner.
Mon-Fri from 7:30am-7:00pm; Weekends from 8:30am-7:00pm. There are many new locations, one inside the Versailles, so choose the most convenient one for you.
 +33 1 4260 8850


Eating truffles in Paris at Maison de la Truffe

Since 1932 Maison de la Truffe has been a luxurious hideaway for the most distinguished gourmet palates in Paris. People can buy, taste and savor truffles in all possible ways. A shop and restaurant in one this is THE PLACE to dine for anyone who loves this intensely aromatic mushroom and purchase truffle infused oil, salt, foie gras, pates, pastas, risottos and many other products such as cheese (the truffle brie is mind-blowing) of outstanding quality made with truffles. I recommend everyone to get their truffle salt and white truffle oil as you can become a master chef at home by simply adding these condiments to rice, pasta or meat and vegetables.
Maison de la Truffe at Place de la Madaleine
 
Cuisine: Truffle based French and Italian
Visit: April 2012
Price: very high and depending on what kind of truffle if any you want on your dish. White truffles from Alba and Black Melanosporum truffles are the priciest.
Atmosphere: Fresh, simple, it can feel a bit businessy over the lunch and classic for the dinner. There are beautiful photographs of truffles all over the walls. The restaurant is entered through the tiny shop so you can sample some delicacies before you decide to get a table. I rarely see very young diners there, perhaps truffles attract more mature food connoisseurs, yet from time to time even a family finds its way here. Many people come here from work so they are dressed in smart casual clothes. No heels, ties and hats needed. It is Paris, so if you are a tourist striding the streets in your snickers they will probably let you in, perhaps just with a small frown on their forehead. After all, you are in the capital of fashion.
Maison de la Truffe at Place de la Madaleine in Paris
Food: You can start off your day late and in a big style with scrambled eggs sprinkled generously with truffles, if you are not hesitant to pay over 70 Euro for a breakfast (the White truffle option). There is also selection of foie gras and cheeses, but I would recommend to buy these at the shop for later home consumption as it is cheaper and one does not to eat it all at once, but save it for later. The choice of truffles varies according to the season as these aromatic mushrooms have to be eaten fresh to taste them in their full strength. The chef does a very good job implementing truffles into each dish so I would strongly recommend to indulge at least in one of the restaurant’s appetizers. In the french tradition the Chestnut Cream Soup is excellent. Creamy, delicate and lets the aromas of your choice of truffles stand out. On the example of this soup you can see well how the price rises with your choice. Without truffles it is 13 Euro, with cheaper seasonal truffle it rises to 20 and with the black truffle it is almost tripple as you pay 36 Euro. I would do the middle version if you do not want to over-splurge on a soup. Another take on a traditional dish, in this case from Italy is their Burrata – creamy mozzarella with tomatoes (14 Euro), is twice as good with truffles, so in this case the price (21Euro) is a good deal. As the burrata melts in your mouth the truffle aromas harmoniously play with this dish.
Beef Tartare Maison de la Truffe
From the main courses the Beef Tartare “Maison de la Truffe” with French Fries and Salad is perfect if you do not want anything warm. The meat is of excellent quality which is important in this raw meat-based delicacy, there are no capers in the maison de la Truffe version for a simple reason as they are too aromatic and would fight with the intense flavor of truffles. The only drawback of this meal were the French Fries as they were not crispy as I like them, but a bit mushy.
Raviolis with Summer Truffles
From one of the house classics I have tried the Risotto, which was excellent – slightly creamy, simple yet outstanding. Last time I was there with my sister and she had the Raviolis with Summer Truffles and Truffled cream and as much as she enjoyed the truffles, she missed more filling inside the raviolis and found it too rich and creamy. With truffles the dish should be rather delicate so one is not overwhelmed by the weight of the meal so he can relish the exceptional gourmet experience from eating truffles.
If you decide for a desert, do it, they all look great, yet, I move to the shop, get a slice of Foie Gras or Truffled Brie and take it to the park. Tuileries gardens by Louvre are just five minutes away!
Drinks: I had a glass of red Bordeaux made exclusively for maison de la Truffe. Red wine is the best drink with black truffles, which I had sprinkled all over my steak tartare. For white truffles champagne is widely recommended. Although many people from Piedmont, the kingdom of white truffles in Italy, told me that a local juicy red Barbera, Barbaresco or even a heavier Barolo are their favorite drinks with their local culinary gem.
Opening hours & contact: Restaurant Maison de la Truffe at Place de la Madaleine: Mon-Saturday: 12-22:30; Store 10am-22:00pm; Reserve a table on their website here.


La Tour d'Argent Paris

400, 000 bottles in a cellar in the middle of the French capital, that is really something! You can find not only a stunning collection of wines from all parts of France, but also can be pampered by gourmet food in the restaurant La Tour d’Argent nesting right on the bank of the Seine river.
The bible of wine lists
The view is breathtaking. The lights of boats passing by and spectacular Notre Dame remind you that you are in one the most romantic places in the world – in Paris.

The cellar

Many diners visit the restaurant just for its wine list. What is impressive is the way in which the wines are kept. The cellar has the best temperature regulation in the whole of Paris. Stéphane Trapier, a second assistant head sommelier said: “We keep the wines under a very low temperature so they age slower than is usual. Therefore, the vintages you get here have a unique taste.”

Misleading reviews

La Tour D’Argent suffered from negative food reviews in the past couple of years, often rated simply as quite boring. Nevertheless, its proprietors – the family Terrail, spotted it just on time leading to a massive improvement in the menu. 
Delicious scallops with truffles

The signature dish

You can spoil your taste butts on their famous Duck which has been served here to kings, queens, state leaders as well as to Holywood stars since its foundation in 1582! It is definitely one of the oldest restaurants in Europe, perhaps in the world! If you are not a big fan of a duck you can enjoy the mouth watering scallops with truffles or a foie gras melting in your mouth like a chocolate.
Salvador Dalí eating the famous duck at La Tour d'Argent

Famous diners

While having your aperitif downstairs at the cosy bar with a fireplace your eyes will be glued up to the walls full of the pictures and autographs from such honorable diners as Salvador Dali, J. F. Kennedy or king and queen of Japan.
A drawing from S. Dali for La Tour d'Argent

Historical bottles

Grande Fine Champagne La Tour d'Argent 1800
Though what is jaw-dropping are the bottles “enveloped” in dust whose labels only those with hieroglyphic skills can in some cases puzzle out. Chateu d’Yquiem 1880 or Grande Fine Champagne Tour d’Argent 1800 sit behind the glass enclosed cabinets.
Today, the cellar can be visited if you contact some of the sommeliers or the owners, but it wasn’t so always. During the Second World War, the treasures of the cellar were saved from devastation from Germans only thanks to Claude Terrail who walled off part of the cellars. His heroic effort protected one of the biggest cellars in France for further generations so you can still today, if you are patient enough, get on the long wait list and admire the bible sized wine list presented before your dinner.

The bible of wine lists

Once the wine list was in front of my eyes I couldn’t get my hands off of it. Nervous sommeliers must have been thinking that I found a new religion as I turned page by page of this massive book and studied all of its contents. It is strong on Burgundies. Treasures like Chambertin 1865 and Romanée 1874 may be well pass their peak, but they have an enormous value if you imagine that these vintages could have been drunk by Alexander II, Czar of All the Russias, or by F. D. Roosevelt, who both wined and dined here. The choice of Bordeaux doesn’t stand behind as you can find the strongest vintages such as 1982 or 1990 in most of the best Chateaux found there. 

It is not just about wines

Bubbly aficionados will be more than pleased. Top vintage champagnes are nesting in the first part of the wine list. Besides, you can ask for a list of strong cognacs, brandies, French Armagnacs and Madeiras all of discernible vintages. Their higher concentration of alcohol extends their age worthiness when compared to wine.
Madeira from 1910
I have tasted Madeira 1910, the oldest liquid ever in my mouth, and I can now confirm the dust on the bottle doesn’t mean that its content has the same life span as human beings. Contrary to this, this brownish sweet Madeira resembled leather, walnuts and dark wood on the palate. I had a sip of Malvasia Vintage Madeira 1934 as well as I was curious to find this grape variety typical for Sicily in a desert wine from Madeira. It was much sweater and gentler than the classical Madeira. I would say it was more of a female drink as it was more subtle on the palate.
I wasn’t lucky enough this time to visit the cellar as it was undergoing a reconstruction. Nevertheless, I was promised to see it on my next visit to Paris so keep reading my blog and soon you can see the secrets of one of the most interesting places not only for wine lovers right here on WINEBEING.
A quiz question at the end: I have had a bottle of wine there which I personally desired for a long time. I give you a hint – I love art and as most of us I find the year of my birth exceptional ( even though in the case of wine it is the right temperature, amount of sun and rain which makes the wine outstanding ). So which wine we were drinking at La Tour d’Argent?


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