Would the Phantom of the Opera Come Out to Dine Here?
Three times a charm.
Someone had said that they had been there and found the décor to be outstanding, the food very acceptable and the price reasonable, considering. I had made reservations three times – all online, all in a very efficient way, all with a very pleasant response, only to have to cancel the first two for my guest’s personal change in plans. Finally the day came to fulfill the third reservation and I must admit, we went with no expectations.
(Aside note of sage advice: never allow yourself to have any expectations — only hopes for what you want, and you’ll find you will never be disappointed. ABL)
Off to the Opera we went at 1 p.m. No, we had no tickets to a ballet nor a concert, nor tour to see the interior of the Palais Garnier. Instead, we were there for a performance by Michelin star chef Christopher Aribert and chef Yann Tanneau at the new “L’Opéra Restaurant” to present a two-course “formule” meal for as little as 36€ with a bottle of mineral water, served 12 noon to 3 p.m. daily. (Of course, the “A La Carte” prices for lunch and dinner are a bit higher, but not so high as to have to hock your first born: Entrées 12€ to 26€, Plats 26€ to 44€, Desserts 11€ to 12€.)
According to owners Jean-Philippe and Pierre-François Blanc, who invested about six million euros in the project(!), it was in the spirit of the history of the Palais Garnier and its architect, Charles Garnier, who mentioned in his final draft in 1875 that he dreamed of creating a restaurant in the “Rotonde du Glacier.” Finally, the Rotonde is NOT where the Blanc brothers situated their restaurant, but in the spot where theater-goers ascended into their carriages on the right entrance of the building at Place Jacques Rouché.
You can’t miss it. There is a wide and long red carpet leading to the restaurant designed by architect Odile Decq, who used cloud-like pillars to create an “undulating interior” that does not touch existing structures – the walls, columns or roof of the original building. Much like the Pyramid of Le Louvre, the contemporary structure juxtaposes in perfect harmony with its 19th-century opulent architecture.
In an architectural blog (Design Boom), it is described in great detail: “seating 90 guests at one time, the large floor plate is suspended with concealed steel plates. A glass wall encompasses the interior isolating the space from the existing shell. The billowing white structure touches down to the lower level producing integrated organic supports. The striking red chairs, benches, and floors produce a theatrical character reminiscent of the phantom of the opera which was once performed within the auditorium.”
So, what was it really like? You must be wondering about now. Well, it might not make the Adrian Leeds® Top 100 Cheap Insider Paris Restaurants (Adrian Leeds® Top 100 Cheap Insider Paris Restaurants ), but it does make the grade!
Yes, the décor is sensational. One can feel as if he is both in and out at the same moment, with so much glass to provide light and a view of what surrounds the Palais Garnier, while being protected under the ‘cloud’ and uplifted by the bright red chairs. The acoustics in the space are perfect – intimate enough so that you barely hear the voices of those around you…so yes, you could all it romantic. Diners were not overdressed, nor was the wait-staff stuffy in any way. In fact, most were young women wearing black with a soft and kind demeanor. Service was perfectly timed and not intrusive. The trip to the ladies’ room (or men’s) is a bit of a surprise. Upstairs with the women’s toilets opposite the men’s, all black and contemporary, is a long molded-glass multi-purpose sink and mirror, operating not all that dissimilarly from those you find on the TGV! First, an eye sees your hands to give you a dollop of soap and when another eye sees your hands and warm water fountains up over the sink…then on the corner, another eye sees your hands to dry them. It took a while to understand the system, but it was certainly impressive…and not where you would have expected it!
And the bottom line? How was the food, you ask?
Well, let’s just say that when the hot chocolate melted the dome of chocolate to expose the poached pear of the Poire Belle Hélène hiding underneath, I felt a sense of gooey delight. And that dessert topped off an absolutely divine entrée of leeks with poached egg and a main course of roasted veal. Presentation was superb and taste divine. We left nothing on our plates, starting with a small pot of a creamy concoction before even ordering our meal to being served three courses of simple, but elegant fare. The menu has changed since the one posted on their Web site (L’Opéra Restaurant), on which the chefs remark “seeks the right balance between classicism and modernism.”
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
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