It is not news that Paris of has some of the world’s finest restaurants. However, in an effort to obtain the culinary pulse in the City of Light, travelers seeking gastronomic pleasures often overlook some of Paris’ best dining establishments situated in hotels both large and small, in favor of stand alone restaurants. That is a mistake. Huge.
During summer’s kickoff week in this resplendent city where I once lived and still know well, I engaged my inner glutton and sampled a number of marvelous restaurants inside several Parisian hotels. Here is the shortlist of my favorites, all superb choices, whether it is following a day of business meetings or enjoying all that Paris offers visitors.
Hotel Thoumieux’s Restaurant Gastronomique Sylvestre Wahid
In the heart of the left bank’s Uber-chic 7th arrondisement is the Hotel Thoumieux, a boutique hotel that houses two Michelin-starred Restaurant Gastronomique Sylvestre Wahid. To state that this is an extraordinary dining extravaganza is akin to saying Imelda Marcos had a few pairs of shoes. This will be a meal so pleasurable and so remarkable that afterwards you will dream of it often and in vividly delicious detail.
The elegantly stylish, thoughtfully framed interior has mainly semi-circle tables and are well spaced, allowing privacy from other patrons, yet with no sense of isolation. There are three, six-course tasting menus – ‘land,’ ‘sea, ocean and river,’ or a ‘seasonal’ selection. And for those like me who simply cannot decide when faced with such delectable choices, items from all three can be chosen and then paired with splendid wines selected by the restaurant’s knowledgeable sommelier, Samuel Vouilloux.
My meal commenced with an amuse bouche trio of delicate rhubarb mousse, caviar sprinkled steak tartar, and mini squid with citrus laced caviar. Following, flavorful grilled white asparagus accompanied by creamy and divine hazelnut butter. Next, braised cauliflower casserole served with Goji berries, horseradish and Japanese black garlic that made me fall deeply and completely in love. The celery root topped sole with goat cheese and Kalamata olive purée likewise tested my affections.
I was then presented with a selection of knives with handles created from Corsican ram horns with which to enjoy the pièce de résistance: perfectly prepared grilled duckling with fennel, citrus lacquer, peaches and Sansho pepper. It must be added here that it takes heroic willpower to not devour the warm bread served with two kinds of butter, one from Brittany, known as one of the top five in France, and the second, house made with finely chopped watercress. And for more choices, four types of salt were set in delicately beautiful porcelain vessels: Persian blue, Hawaiian black, Himalayan pink and Camargue white, each salt with its distinct enhancing flavors.
Cheese of course has elevated importance in French cuisine. And here, cheeses from renowned cheese maker Bernard Mure-Ravaud have an alter-like elevated corner table both for near religious admiration and selection. Choosing a trifecta of sheep, goat, and the third, a blessed and flavorful marriage of the two, I silently gave gratitude to the marvelous mammalian makers for their divine contributions to my savory satisfaction.
The palate cleanse of vodka-infused granita paved the way for a smooth lemon ice cream served in a crispy shell with dill that was simultaneously tart, tangy and nearly too lovely to eat. Ending with a creamy chocolate soufflé with a touch of Bailey’s, I was already plotting my return visit.
Adding to the experience of inventive, gastronomic excellence under the watchful eye of the supremely talented Chef Sylvestre Wahid, expert service by truly professional waiters will make the experience utterly unforgettable. Chef Wahid is without doubt, in the very business of artistic, delightful deliciousness. 79 rue Saint-Dominque, 75007. www.thoumieux.fr
Shangri-La Hotel Paris’ Shang Palace Restaurant
The backdrop of the Shangri-La Hotel Paris is the iconic Eiffel Tower, appearing even more stunning at night with its sparkling lights. However, entering the Shangri-La Hotel returns guests and visitors to a bygone era of glamor and panache that includes a massive marble lobby staircase, museum quality art and intimate public spaces.
The Shangri-La Hotel Paris was once the private residence of Napoleon’s grandnephew Roland and his family. Built in the 1890s, it is a blend of Empire, Directoire and Louie IVth styles, and is so stately, it is no small wonder that in 1906 it was here Princess Marie announced her engagement to Prince George of Greece and Denmark. The property was acquired by Shangri-La in 2006 and named a historical monument in 2009.
On the hotel’s third floor is Shang Palace, conceivably the most elegant Chinese-inspired dining room in all of France, boasting luxurious oriental carpeting, delicately painted screens and unique chandeliers containing hundreds of teardrop-shaped bulbs. Opened in 2011, Shang Palace had acquired one Michelin star in 2012 and three well-deserved Toques – chef’s hats – from Gault & Millau.
Lulled into a relaxed state with the delicate sounds of live Guzheng background music and a glass of sparking rosé, the nine course-tasting menu with paired wines showed off the skills of Executive Chef Samuel Lee.
Highlights were the beautifully presented red-rice flour crepes with crispy shrimp, tender squid with pomelo and shredded lemon peel, roasted Cantonese-style duck and mouthwatering honey-glazed Iberian barbecued pork. The meal ended perfectly with sweet rice flour dumplings stuffed with fresh mango and, paying homage to ‘La belle France,’ a small dollop of crème montée – thick, whipped creme.
With the usual impeccable Shangri-La service and the union of perfectly prepared Chinese delicacies amid royally inspired European splendor, dining at Shang Palace will be a pleasure. 10, avenue d’Iéna, 75116. www.shangri-la.com
InterContinental Paris’ Le Grand Hotel’s Café de la Paix
On the right bank, just a stone’s throw from the magnificent Opera Garnier, the InterContinental Hotel’s Café de la Paix is world-renowned. However, Chef Laurent André and his team are not resting on their laurels. If one is seeking a lavishly decorated dining room with attentive, but not overbearing service, providing classic French fare fit for Marie Antoinette and her ilk, then this is the right place. Indeed, its Napoléon III Empire style will have you feeling downright majestic.
The amuse bouche of salmon on blini and crème fraîche next to a sliver of foie gras with fig jam was so delicious, I had little choice but to request foie gras also as my appetizer. Another signature Café de la Paix dish, its French onion soup will not disappoint. As it was tomato season, there were several dishes made with the sweet red fare, including an outstanding tomato marmalade with fresh basil, Parmesan and flax seeds served with delicate olive oil ice cream.
The Atlantic black Cod, miso-marinated for 24-hours with a lemon ginger sauce was flavorful beyond measure, and the grilled Black Angus beef chuck with Béarnaise sauce so tender, it barely required a knife.
Ending the meal with Café de le Paix signature dessert, its Napoléon mille-feuille with vanilla cream was royally delightful and had me wanting to belt out ‘Vive la France.’ 2 rue Scribe, 75009. www.ihg.com
Parister Hotel’s Les Passerelles
If seeking seasonal signature cocktails (or French whiskies or wine) and a light meal, Hotel Parister’s Les Passerelles in the 9th arrondisement’s is a good choice. On a quiet side street in this busy area, Hotel Parister’s Les Passerelles has a small bar, a comfortable lounge and a quiet, internal terrace seemingly far away from the city, where small plates are served.
Cocktails possess names like ‘Sultan of Swing,’ made with Kalamata olive infused gin, Japanese Mirin, orange flower water, lemon and cane sugar, and ‘Marina Cay,’ with vanilla-infused Tongan rum mixed with passion fruit, lime, cane sugar and ginger.
If in need of a nosh, there’s crudités with tasty Tzatziki, guacamole, fresh salads with sweet tomatoes, as well as charcuterie plates and naturally, cheese plates with impossibly fresh breads. All of which make for a pleasant evening especially in the summer when there is daylight to enjoy until nearly 10pm. 19, rue Saulnier, 75009 www.HotelParister.com
While fantastic restaurants abound in every corner of the French capital, do not miss one or more of these great hotel dining options the next time in Paris. Although pants may be tighter on departure, it will most certainly be worth every single, delectable calorie. Mais oui.
Julie L. Kessler is an attorney, legal columnist and travel journalist and the author of the award-winning book “Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com