We have recently returned from a visit at Alain Ducasse’s Michelin-starred Benoit. The master himself said about this beautiful gem, that celebrated its 100th anniversary a few years ago: “There’s no other place as typically Parisian as Benoit. I have a very special affection for this beautiful house, with its own history and generosity. Benoit is a friendly place, full of memories and shared pleasure. It reflects a certain way of life and tradition that we want to preserve.”
The restaurant has a lovely, perhaps slightly stuffy vibe about it. Service was very attentive and friendly throughout.
We both opted for the three-course set menu deal for €39. As starters we chose cauliflower veloute, croutons, as well as a warm potato salad with smoked haddock. For mains we picked trout ‘a la meuniere’ with spinach, and lamb navarin with seasonal vegetables. As desserts we went for Armagnac savarin with lightly whipped cream, and an apple tart.
Shortly after we ordered, the delicious bread with butter and four fabulous cheese puffs arrived. The starters followed soon after. The veloute was a clear winner. The haddock had a slightly strange texture and taste, we didn’t fully buy into, thready but at the same time too undefined and soft.
The lamb casserole was pleasant, but rather rustic, without any twists, and it also contained too many chewy bits that we left behind (they could have easily been cut off and left out). I’ve had better ones at no-name working-class corner restaurants. The trout turned out to be a rainbow trout (which would have been interesting to know, as the two fish have different texture, taste, and even colour, one is pink, one is white; I realise that a rainbow trout is a type of trout, by the way, but you don’t expect a rainbow trout when you order trout, you expect a pure freshwater fish), but never mind. The taste was, again, quite agreeable, but lacked any attempt to justify a Michelin-star, both in terms of presentation and use of ingredients.
The desserts were very good. The amount of Armagnac that they used on our sponge cake (I doubt that this was a savarin, I could not detect any yeast) could have knocked a cow out and we left some on our plate, but the flavours were just right. We were also huge fans of the apple tart.
Overall, I would say that for Paris, which isn’t exactly cheap, this was a decent meal for a fair price, but does it deserve a Michelin star? Hell, no. Not in a million years.
Ducasse, who runs one of only three London three-starred restaurants, is clearly a genius and one of the best chefs on planet earth. We have not been to any of his best-rated restaurants yet, but for some reason the restaurants of his we do visit, tend to leave us slightly underwhelmed, which is such a pity. We are starting to think that the great man probably puts 100% of his focus on his top-ranking eateries and loses a bit touch with everything else that belongs to his business empire.