Each stone has witnessed events or decisive steps in the progress of civilization.
We love Paris and make every effort to include the City of Light in our culinary adventures.
We recently witnessed culinary magnificence at l’Atelier de Jöel Robuchon, St. Germain; 1 of 2 locations in Paris. The design is open kitchen with a wrap-around, 2-level counter and 40 seats allowing us to watch as the kitchen brigade worked its culinary brilliance. The kitchen is divided to create separate prep and cooking areas as in most professional kitchens, but we were fascinated by the choreographed movements of the chefs working in perfect harmony almost like a ballet performance. The menu selections are:
Plates en Portions Degustation – Plates a la Carte – Menu Decouverte – Petites Portions – Entrees Froid et Chaud – Desserts
We made selections from the different offerings to create our menu according to our appetite. Also the portion sizes were perfect; not so small that you barely have enough to savor. The Dover Sole was pure magnificence; so delicate it seemed to melt upon contact. The entrees that day were all were served with a side of velvety pommes puree. The carte des vins was extensive however we were able to enjoy our selections by the glass, which was great! Open since 2003 l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon presents its guests the tastes of each season; it’s exceptional cuisine in a friendly atmosphere, quite unusual for Paris! It’s pricey and with only 2 seatings for lunch and one dinner service, reservations are essential.
A little history ~~ There were no restaurants in Paris until the 18th century. (Several did existed in London almost 100 years earlier) The 1st founded in 1782 by Antoine Beauvilliers, was called la Grande Taverne de Londres; modeled after, yes, a London tavern. It became famous for its roast beef and boiled vegetables. There were however, many Parisian establishments where food was cooked, but it had to be consumed off premises – a rule enforced by the powerful food guilds Les Rotisseurs & Traiteurs that were in place since the 14th century.
- les rotisseurs (roasters) – never hesitated to resort to arms to maintain this monopoly
- les traiteurs (Fr. to treat) were places where whole joints, fowl, etc. were cooked however, unless they were also a wine-seller food could not be eaten on the premises.
In 1770 Brillat-Savarin wrote that many left the great city of Paris without ever experiencing the delights of Parisian cuisine! 1765, a soup-seller named Boulanger gave the name “restaurant” to the world. Above the door of his soup kitchen he hung a sign that read: “Boulanger debite des restaurants divins” (Boulanger sells divine restoratives). He later wanted to expand his menu by adding ragouts and sauces but could not as he was not a member of the powerful food guilds. He did, however, dare to serve pig’s trotters in white wine sauce and was immediately sued by the Traiteurs.
The French Revolution saw the demise of the food guilds and the establishment of many restaurants; most headed by chefs from exiled noble families. In the style of Table d’Hote, forerunner to the restaurant, everyone dined at the same table; late arrivers were seated at the bottom of the table faired very badly. Carving was done at the table with the best parts going to those at the head – the origin of being given “the cold shoulder”, perhaps?
It was not until the late 18th century that Service a la Russe – presenting diners with food already carved at a separate table – was introduced.