Or, my first Michelin starred restaurant experience.
I had a long debate with myself about whether it would be worthwhile to eat at a Michelin starred restaurant. For me, it was always going to be about the food and nothing else, as long as the “else” wasn’t so atrocious as to be a distraction (think of the decor or service at the average authentic Chinese restaurant run by average authentic Chinese people). In the end I let it boil down to a simple test which you can try at home. Blindfolded, can you tell what color gummy bear you’re eating? If not, the experience probably won’t be worthwhile for you because your palate can’t tell anyway. If you’d be just as happy at KFC, why bother paying extra?
Here are some pictures from my experience at La Maison des Cariatides. It’s housed in what looks to be a centuries old building with statues at the second floor and carved bust detailing in the window arches.
This appetizer was not on the menu. Deep fried cheese with a sweet and sour sauce.
The 4 unopened eggs were not for eating. N asked. This one tasted like a creamy bacon mousse.
The sauce on this scallop was made from roasted hay. It enhanced the flavor of the scallop without overpowering.
Neither of us knew beforehand what “Ris de veau” was. The texture reminded me of brain, but it turns out to be glands. I don’t think I’ve had glands before. It seems the grilled part extends deeper than just the surface, and of course, the grilled part is my favorite part.
This might not look like much, and it might not be fancy, but these are the best creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes I have had in my life. They’re probably 50% butter by volume.
See this nice waitress offering us a cheese course? I had some of every cheese. If you do that in France they consider you a glutton. Whatever. Worth it.
The first time I recall enjoying anise flavor. The dust is an anise powder on a white chocolate wafer. Which the grapefruit sorbet wore like a little hat. The refreshing fantasy of every summertime beachgoer.
The presentation on second dessert seemed haphazard to me, but I was just so pleased no one was trying to get me to eat flowers or foam that I didn’t mind so much. The cigar looking bit had this smoked flavor.
This wasn’t on the menu either: a bonus 3rd dessert of Paris-Brest.
Overall, an amazing first experience at a Michelin starred restaurant. I thought it would be more formal and stuffy than it was. I didn’t notice anyone wearing anything dressy. The atmosphere was upscale but comfortable. Perhaps because this was in France, not the U.S. — but other patrons seemed to be there just as a regular meal: not a special celebration or event. I’m told that it’s not nearly as common for the average French person to indulge in a sit-down restaurant meal as it is here: that if they do, it’s going to be seriously about the food and not about getting full fast. So in that vein, that probably means there are not as many “mid-range” restaurants between quick kabob type places and places like this.
I loved that there was serious care and consideration put into every dish, but no push to challenge or over-decorate. The dishes were whimsical, but no one expected me to eat ants from a skull.
Would I do it again? Sure, in a heartbeat. This experience has also inspired me to avoid mediocre dining experiences, if only to save up for places like this instead.