Lunch at l’Arpège…
I guess you could say it was a little like the first time you have sex with someone you really like: the hopes are high, the performance acceptable but the result unmemorable. Thankfully, I am consoled that the first time is usually the worst. We didn’t know each other very well. We weren’t completely comfortable. The timing wasn’t right. The weather wasn’t perfect. I was tired. He wasn’t all there.
At l’Arpège, there is a stool for your bag. There are over eight people on the floor. There is beautiful silverware, spotless white tablecloths, Riedel glasses, Bernardaud plates… the works. The wines are well paired. The vegetables are absolutely exquisite and carefully prepared although mint seems to be over-flourishing in Passard‘s garden these days…
But hey! at least, I know now… Sometimes the stars don’t insure that the experience will be mind-blowing every single time.
And somehow, that comes as a relief: they are human.
This experience got me thinking about the frenzy star-excitement that swept over Paris when the Michelin released its annual red guide last month. Countless articles were written. Many opinions were voiced. In the industry, it was on everyone’s lips. Mine included. Who got a star? Did they deserve it? How could they take a star away from them and give one to them?! And on this went…
Indeed, I was definitely part of the problem at l’Arpège: I expected SO much. I was bound to be disappointed. This is what the star system perpetuates: it creates (perhaps unknowingly) unreachable expectations for its readers.
Think of your best meal ever… If you can’t top that in a three star restaurant, then you ask yourself: “Why is it three starred?” And then you think: ‘Well, Michelin doesn’t know what they’re talking about and I can’t trust that I will enjoy the restaurants they have put forward.”
Now I must state, I believe in the three-time rule and it applies when tasting wines and going to restaurants.
Of course, I am not nearly rich enough to go thrice to every restaurant so I really hope the first time will be a winner.
But when it comes to l’Arpège, I can’t wait to give it another test-drive. And this time, I’m tucking all those expectations, along with that red guide, away.