Imagine two solid hours slowly cruising the Seine on a comfortable, understated boat, all the while dining on fine seasonal fare. While I expected the ride to be spectacular, I wasn’t sure the food would provide a true gastronomic experience. I was wrong. Alain Ducasse is right. As are chef Francis Fauvel (direct from another Ducasse establishment, Le Meurice d’Alain Ducasse) and the outgoing, efficient, director Jean-Jacques Michel, direct from the now-closed Eiffel Tower restaurant, Le Jules Verne.
The 100€ lunch menu – three starters, three mains, three desserts – is an abbreviated version of the more extensive dinner menu. When asked, Monsieur Michel advises lunch, where you can fully appreciate the exquisite beauty of Paris. The electric-powered boat – which glides smoothly and seamlessly along the Seine, starting at Port Debilly just below the steps at the Pont d’Iena – cruises past the best of Paris, from the Musée d’Orsay to Notre Dame, the Louvre to Hotel de Ville. On a blue-skied day we sipped Marc Colin’s outstanding Burgundy, a perfectly balanced, finely acidic Saint-Aubin as we watched runners, bikers, and picnickers along the quais, all the while admiring the beauty of the many bridges that sheltered us along the way.
A starter of a royale de champignons de Paris was outstanding. This classic, almost gelatinous amuse bouche had the intensity of a forest of mushrooms and the heavenly texture only an angel could create. The colorful butternut squash velouté won us over with its creamy, rich texture, augmented by the crunch of autumnal chestnuts.
The lieu jaune or pollock– a fish I usually find a bit underwhelming – was smooth and almost sweet, made ever more endearing by a brightly flavored shellfish sauce, and the tiniest of seasonal white beans, the famed cocos de Paimpol from Brittany.
I loved the idea of the guinea hen and foie gras terrine but found it a bit underseasoned, and not as forward-flavored as some of the other dishes. The same went for the dorade (sea bream) gravlax with beets, which was much too acidic for my palette.
Vegetable lovers will adore the soothing bowl of autumnal root vegetables, while meat eaters will enjoy the veal, simply seared, served with the cooking juices and a compliment of potatoes and spinach.
An éclair-sized chocolate dessert filled with crispy praline made me smile, and the caramelized apple paired with tonka beans and vanilla offered a soothing ending to the meal.
The restaurant seats about 100 diners, while above deck there is a small dining room that can be privatized for about 15 guests.
DUCASSE SUR SEINE | Port Debilly (enter at the right bank steps from the Pont d’Iena, across from the Eiffel Tower)) | Paris 16 | Tel: +33 1 58 00 22 08 | Métro: Trocadéro | Open daily | Modern French / vegetarian Friendly | firstname.lastname@example.org | Lunch menu: 100€; Dinner: 100-500€ | Reservations: Essential | Smart Casual (no t-shirts or shorts)
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