Upending the status quo and revolutionizing opulent dining
Claim to fame: THE household name in haute cuisine
Reason to go: Futuristic and sustainable extreme luxury
Look out for: The Valmont of vegetables, all produce is sourced from a secret Versailles garden
What is luxury? If you ask Alain Ducasse he’s got some radical, new ideas about the concept, and they’re not what you’d expect from a supernova chef who’s amassed more Michelin stars than anyone else, ever. Environmental issues and health concerns, as well as ethics, esthetics and shifting culinary trends are all contributing to this new world order of luxury dining that Ducasse is charting. He’s on a mission to teach us a thing or two. He’s passionate, he’s influential and he’s outspoken about defending exceptional artisans and ingredients. His restaurants are also famous for being uncompromisingly consistent, Ducasse diners expect perfection after all, and that requires rules, recipes and keeping promises.
The acclaimed culinary artiste delivers on all counts at his newly refurbished Plaza Athénée restaurant where guests are now also fed a little lesson about sustainability and wellbeing. In a very chic et choc move Ducasse has done away with all red meat, fatty poultry and other beloved artery-cloggers, cooking only with fish, seafood, grains and vegetables. Of exceptional quality, naturellement. But still, it’s an eyebrow-raising maneuver that’s never before been seen in haute French gastronomy.
Although tasting menus are offered, the food is decidedly Ducassian which means large portions of the good stuff; for the best experience, do as the connoisseurs and order à la carte. Expect dark but delicate buckwheat blinis with your golden caviar, and intense, crunchy black rice with an array of clams and mussels, or a pan-fried fillet of sardine, with the deep-fried head and spine served as a crowning exclamation. And how’s this for humble-noble: the vegetables are sourced in Versailles, they come from secluded gardens where they are grown exclusively for Ducasse.
Desserts come with unexpected flourishes, a rather classic Menton lemon sorbet is dressed up with sharply contrasting confit kombu and tarragon, it’s a Mediterranean microcosm of perfectly balanced textures and aromas, the Riviera citrus caressed by a salty sea breeze.
This new leap forward is also elegantly illustrated by the decor, with its tones of bright white and shining silver it signals fresh air, health and rejuvenation. Naturalité is the keyword in his new style and points to efforts in sustainable farming and responsible fishing. Ducasse, the trailblazer who, back in the 80s, served an all-vegetarian menu at Monaco’s Le Louis XV, is finally vocalizing what he’s been quietly thinking for the past 25 years.