Once my parents and I finished our jam packed Eastern Europe trip, we went straight to Paris for a few days. This fall, I’ll be attending a one-year MBA program in International Luxury Brand Management at ESSEC. I’m so glad that I was able to visit the campus, meet current students and sit in on a class. In all honesty, I was also anxiously anticipating all the amazing food that the City of Light has to offer!
Before heading to Paris, I had planned all my dinners and made reservations weeks beforehand. I cross referenced the May issue of Bon Appetit and David Lebovitz’s blog to try classic French food at its finest. I was excited to try Benoit, which is celebrating is 100 year anniversary this year. Benoit was bought by the famous Alain Ducasse in 2005 and is the only bistro is Paris with a Michelin star. Alain Ducasse collects Michelin stars like a woman collects purses. The man has 19 Michelin stars.
Fair warning: Benoit’s menu is completely in French with no English translations. Even with my basic knowledge of French, I struggled with the menu (because it was so specific with its culinary terms), but the waiters can speak English and are willing to explain everything to you.
We started the meal with escargots and pate en croute. The butter and garlic aroma from the escargots practically filled the entire restaurant. It was incredibly fragrant and they did not disappoint. The escargots were cooked perfectly with a slightly chewy (but not slimy) texture that was still tender. Yes, you’re eating snails, but when you slather that much garlic and butter on anything, how could it not taste good? Mind over matter, people. My pate en croute was beautiful and so colorful. Although it was served cold, the pastry crust was still flaky and slightly crispy. I seriously don’t know how they prevent that buttery crust from getting soggy.
For our main dishes, we ordered the poularde (a fatty, young chicken), cassoulet and veal sweetbreads with foie gras. I feel like the poularde was the only dish that was EXTREMELY overpriced for the portion size. While the chicken was juicy and tender and the sauce was out-of-this-world, the dish was tiny and totally not worth 46 Euros. Cassoulet is a classic country-style dish made of slow-cooked meats and white haricot beans. The cassoulet came in a giant cast-iron pot and I felt like it could have fed an army. I seriously could barely eat a quarter of it. You can split this dish with another person (or seven). The meats were so tender and incredibly flavorful. While I’m normally not the biggest fan of beans, I actually really liked the cassoulet, but it’s definitely a heavier meal. The veal sweetbread dish was really interesting and cooked with bacon and truffle sauce. By the time you added the seared foie gras, the dish was so rich, but oh so good! While it looks like small portion, it’s incredibly filling.
Our waiter recommended the millefeuille for dessert and I had an out-of-body dessert experience. In the past, I’ve only had pre-made millefeuille. Naturally, the layers of pastry would get soggy on top of custard all day. So millefeuille has never done much for me. At Benoit, they make the millefeuille right before serving it and the “thousand layers” of puff pastry were SO flaky. If I could have drank that custard, I would have. With flecks of vanilla bean, the custard was smooth, creamy and not too sweet. It was perfection. I have never had a better millefeuille and I probably never will.
While Benoit was delicious, the prices were steep. Be prepared to pay an arm and a leg. I think it’s definitely a restaurant to go to for a special occasion or if you’re willing to spend a lot of money on a meal because you’re on vacation. On the somewhat bright side, gratuity is included in prices so you don’t have to factor that at the end of the bill. Plus, they give you madeleines at the end of your meal!