Jul 2012

L’Astrance – Paris

L'Astrance - Paris

The Astronomer turned 28 years young while in Paris, so we celebrated in high style at L’Astrance. Pascal Barbot and Christophe Rohat opened the restaurant in 2000 after leaving their posts as sous chef and front-of-the-house manager, respectively, at Alain Passard’s l’Arpège. L’Astrance earned its first Michelin star within five months of opening; the second star was awarded a year later and the third in 2007.

Three-star establishments are something of a mixed bag for me. While the food is generally memorable, service can be stiff to the point of unpleasantness. Fortunately, our experience at L’Astrance was not marred by suited gents too serious for their own good. Our amiable British waiter had a way about him that put us at ease and allowed us to focus squarely on the food. After all, that’s what we in came for.

L'Astrance - Paris

Traditional menus do not exist at L’Astrance. Instead, diners choose the number of courses desired, and Chef whips up whimsical dishes using the season’s best. The three-course menu déjeuner is priced at €70, the five-course menu été is priced at €120, and the seven-course menu Astrance is €210. We chose the five-course option. By the way, only the seven-course menu Astrance is available during the dinner seating.

L'Astrance - Paris

Champagne was in order since we were celebrating The Astronomer’s birthday and our first truly fancy Parisian feast.

L'Astrance - Paris

To start we were served two amuses. The first was a rosemary butter-topped brioche, while the second was a thin slice of apple sandwiched between paper-thin almond pralines.

L'Astrance - Paris

The bread, which is outsourced from boulanger extraordinaire Jean-Luc Poujauran, had a crunchy, lightly charred crust with wonderfully fluffy innards. The raw milk butter served alongside was made to be slathered on generously. I cannot emphasize enough how incredible the bread and butter are in France.

L'Astrance - Paris

The first official course was Chef’s signature dish, a foie gras and French mushroom galette. Here, thin slices of mushrooms and green apple were layered neatly with cuts of raw foie gras. In its natural state, the liver had a rich mouthfeel not unlike butter. On the side was a bit of hazelnut oil and preserved lemon curd. Dishes in which foie gras are featured front and center can rarely be described as light, fresh, and bouncy, but this one truly was.

Interestingly, Los Angeles chef Ludo Lefebvre served a riff of this dish back in 2009 for LudoBites 2.0. I wish I had known at the time that Chef Barbot and L’Astrance were his sources of inspiration.

L'Astrance - Paris

We were served two small bites in between the first and second courses. The first, which was served in a shot glass, was comprised of three distinct layers. On the bottom was ginger yogurt, center was pea soup, and on top saffron and cardamom foam. I tried to include a little of each color with every spoonful. While the three layers muddled into one in my mouth, the individual flavors shined through miraculously.

L'Astrance - Paris

The second small bite was a “spring roll” served on a bed of crushed peanuts. Inside the roll was a sticky satay sauce with a lingering spice. I loved how the wrapper shattered in my mouth.

L'Astrance - Paris

Chef Barbot’s cooking is often inflected with Asian elements, as seen in this langoustine preparation. The snappy tail was served in a beautiful, well-balanced broth made of soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Along for the ride were edible flowers, cabbage, snap peas, and daikon. This one was a delight.

L'Astrance - Paris

It’s rare that my mom, The Astronomer, and I can unanimously agree on a favorite dish, but the turbot had us nodding our heads in unison. It was the absolute highlight of the meal. From the supple flesh to the crispy skin to the accompanying miso butter and pear compote, every element was perfect and had its proper place on the plate. I still think about that miso butter to this day…

L'Astrance - Paris

The difficult task of following everyone’s favorite course was handled with aplomb by the pork belly confit, which was served with chanterelles, raw almonds, and apricots. While the meat was moist as can be, we all yearned for some textural contrast from either crispy skin or streaky fat. The most interesting component on the plate was the raw almonds, which tasted like amaretto-laced water chestnuts.

L'Astrance - Paris

The final savory course had us once again nodding our heads in unison. Impossibly juicy hunks of lamb were garnished with dazzling prune- and nut-stuffed cherries. Rather than tossing the cherries’ pits into the bin, the kitchen coated them in thyme, giving diners something extra to nibble on. Goodness gracious this course rocked.

L'Astrance - Paris

In addition to the foie gras and mushroom galette, Chef is known for his ginger, chili pepper, and lemongrass sorbet. We were all impressed by the sorbet’s legitimate spiciness.

L'Astrance - Paris

The dessert course was actually three courses in one…

L'Astrance - Paris

First was a strawberry shortcake with a candied crust and foamy topping.

L'Astrance - Paris

A smooth and refreshing raspberry sorbet with shortbread came second.

L'Astrance - Paris

And third were macerated rhubarb and white strawberries with sorrel and ginger, underneath a checked shroud of white chocolate. This celebration of summertime berries could not have been any more perfect for my berrying-loving Astronomer. What a serendipitous birthday gift.

L'Astrance - Paris

A trio of mignardise followed the extensive dessert course.

L'Astrance - Paris

Served inside hollowed-out egg shells were shots of jasmine-infused eggnog. Slightly chilled and tasting so very floral, the eggnog was downright spectacular. A small candle was placed in one of the shells to wish The Astronomer a happy birthday.

L'Astrance - Paris

The warm madeleines were lovely as well, but we were too stuffed to really enjoy them.

L'Astrance - Paris

And finally, a plate of ripe cherries and raspberries. There’s always room for a fruity finish.

Our party of three had a splendid time at L’Astrance. Even though we didn’t have any say as to what was served, every course possessed flavors and ingredients that excited our palates. Perhaps we were fortunate enough to dine on a day when the menu suited us just right. Or maybe Chef Barbot is an amazing talent who can turn something as unremarkable as a cherry pit into an event. I have a feeling it’s the latter.

4 Rue Beethoven
75016 Paris, France
Phone: 01 40 50 84 40

One year ago: 53rd and 6th Halal Cart – New York City
Two years ago: Great Balls on Tires – Los Angeles
Three years ago: Goat Cheese and Olive Bread
Four years ago: Urvashi & Love Noodle House – Ho Chi Minh City
Five years ago: Cháo Chả – Porridge with Braised Pork Sausage

Previous Post
Next Post

17 thoughts on “L’Astrance – Paris

  1. I was looking forward to this post since I couldn’t get a reservation. Glad you had a good meal. Hopefully I can try it next time I go to Paris.

  2. I was wondering when the 3 star Michelin visit was coming. How would you rank it? Compared to other places on your trip, or other trips, or in the US? Did it meet your expectations?

    Just my opinion, but I think your pics of the bistros look better than this place. Seems like most regions of the world can do upscale French food nowadays. Not sure if 3 star Paris is over-rated. My girlfriend went to L’Arpege and Ledoyen last year and wasn’t blown away, especially for the cost. Curious about your impression?

  3. I have tried a few of the 3-stars in New York City, and am anxious to try some in Paris. Based on your post and photos, I think I’ll put L’Astrance on my list!

    I have a question: How much French is required in order to navigate the menu? The last French course I took was nearly three years ago so I’ll definitely need to do some serious studying before my visit, but I’m curious if the waitstaff speak fluent (or any) English?

    The spring roll, turbot, and jasmine-infused eggnog all look incredible. Great photos!

  4. Kirbie – It’s a shame that you guys couldn’t get a reservation here, but I’m sure you ate very well elsewhere. Can’t wait to read more about your honeymoon!

    Waleed – Tough questions, my friend. We enjoyed our meal at L’Astrance very much. It started a little slow in terms of wowing us, but by the end of lunch we were thoroughly happy with the experience. The 3-star meals we enjoyed in Spain were more exciting and theatrical, but the ones in Paris were no slouch. Not all 3-stars are created equal, so it’s important to read up and choose one that fits what you’re looking for. For example, even though L’Arpege is super-famous and well regarded, I couldn’t bite the bullet because paying $40 for a plate of potatoes sounded crazy to me.

    While researching and planning our eating itinerary for this trip, I made sure to include a survey of Paris’ very best. From casual bistros to classic restaurants to fine dining, each genre of restaurants was charming in its own way.

    The Michelin guide was heaven sent while traveling outside Paris. While in the city, and in the U.S., I think it’s only mildly useful. The fact that a restaurant has 3-stars doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the greatest meal ever. In my experience, it just means that the service is slick, the silverware gets replaced after each course, the food is interesting, and the room looks nice.

    Nicole – No one in our party spoke any French. Every restaurant that we ate in, both in Paris and in the countryside, had at least one English speaker on staff. It’s always nice to be able to communicate with locals, but it’s not necessary for a great experience in France.

  5. I need to figure out a way to get myself to Paris and have dinner at L’Astrance immediately. Everything not only sounds incredible, but is so beautifully presented. Amazing.

  6. never tire reading experiences of l’astrance. i hope to visit one day!

    and since i’m already being aspirational, let’s toss in l’ambrosie and l’arpege in the bag too haha

  7. Lovely shots of the food.
    Did you use a point and shoot?
    If so, you did a great job.
    Lastly, they didn’t give you a hard time photographing the dishes?

  8. I am planning on eating here in September. Your report is mouth watering. Myself working in the wine business, I have two questions regarding the wine at l’Astrance: 1. do they work with fixed wines? 2. How is the wine list?

  9. Do they have a website with menus on etc I can obly find a location page and booking page i must be being stupid

  10. We managed to get a reservation (over the phone) for the last week of may. We got the 7 course dinner and the pairing wine (which was a great pick) since their combination with “unconventional” wines was spectacular…. Riesling versus a Sauternes, Jura versus a Chardonnay etc….but it was just GREAT. The food superb. It was the highlight of our trip. It is very expensive (at 700 euros for 2) but it was worth it. We visited at the same trip Taillevent and Joel Robuchon but l’Astrance is better. We will do it again next time. Their wine list is good and reasonably priced.

  11. Chef Barbot is extremely talented, but more importantly, you went there with the right expectations: people sometimes expect Barbot to offer a cooking performance of the likes of, say, the Fat Duck. But it can’t be: Pascal has a tiny kitchen and offers a market-driven menu that has nothing to do with what the big houses do offer. And yet, what he is doing is extraordinary. Well deserved 3 stars!

  12. Pingback: soin naturel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *