Back to Paris here for this post with one of the most beautiful “back in the 18th century” experience. There are rare places on earth where you can feel yourself transported radically to a different point in time and La Grande Cascade is one of them. This amazing “pavilion” built under the governance of Napoleon III by his well-known genius architect Georges Eugène Haussmann…has been transformed into a Restaurant for the Paris Universal exhibition in 1900. The restaurant been directed by many chefs (inc. Alain Ducasse 1995-1997) and was conducted by Fabrice Giraud back in the days I went.
First of all, when you arrive at the Grande Cascade (and especially in the evening) you feel the impression of serenity and chic. When the car drops you by the left side of the pavilion, after passing alongside the long terrace, you feel like arriving in a chic villa in on the French Riviera. No places in Paris can be similar, and this is certainly the force of the Grande Cascade. But the most impressive is when you open the door of the taxi and you see this massive marquee in a typical Gustave Eiffel style, made of shield screen and steel (fr = auvent) above you, then the really Empire style interior of the main lobby. When you get into the main entrance, you feel like entering into a palace or any other sumptuous castle.
Inside all is “luxe, calme et volupté¹”, …marble walls from Florence, high amazing and highly Napoleon III style decorated ceiling, the golden pelmet on the top of the windows, and the oversized hanging chandeliers made of millions of crystal prisms are reinforcing the feeling of luxury to a paroxysm.
The hosts are welcoming you and showing you to the table.Then you get into the famous and incredible main dining room.
At this moment you have this impression of turning back the clock to the 18th century, and you feel even a little bit disappointed of not having changed your clothes for a more appropriate outfit. You would feel like those “dandy” wearing a frill shirt and a pocket watch, and at some point you’re wondering how you can fit in this place. However, we’re not here for the atmosphere, even if it counts as well, and certainly more at La Grande Cascade than anywhere else.
For the little history, when Fabrice took the head chef position, the Grande Cascade was in a transition period. Nevertheless, the Grande Cascasde – like any other restaurant of this level – usually manage to provide the best creation at any time and even more, to serve always the specialties of the house. I perfectly remember that night. We were only three on the table and we had one of the best relaxing time ever. I’ve to say, this “lost in translation” feeling helped a lot to contribute to the full experience, as you can just watch the view by the window and appreciate the silence and the decoration around.
Coming back to the speciality I perfectly remember recipes here. They were technically very simple I’ve to confess, but the choice of the product hence their quality was just unbelievable. (They’re still served even nowadays “a la carte”)
The first speciality is the “cannelloni farci de truffes noires, foie gras et céleri, réduction de vieux porto” (eng : truffle stuffed cannelloni, foie gras and celery, old port reduction).
OH MY GOSH….I think I honestly in my all life never had that much truffle on a plate at the same time. I perfectly remember very thin but long cannelloni coated with a simple emulsion of porto reduced. Sometime you think that the portion serve is not enough, too small. Here I can tell you it was simply the opposite. Each time I was cutting a small portion of pasta, then a flow of black mushroom crush was falling into my plate, surrounded by the foie gras which obviously was melting as well. The celery was just a “note” of bitter added to the overall main perfume of the port reduction. I’ve to say, this is not a very difficult recipe. But on this one you’re just please by the whole combination first and obviously by the amount of truffle. Worth it.
My second choise was very simple. My friend and I we love fish and especially good fish (of course!!). The second speciality of La Grande Cascade is among any other the whole Turbot for two.
At this point you must be wondering if I’m joking or not. You know the Turbot is a very big and we usually cook in restaurants what we call a Turbotin (i.e. a small Turbot). When the waiter arrived with a massive serving plate, it was almost like a bombshell. In the middle of a massive mist glass plate was dressed a huge light white green dome of salt with some dark green spots. From just turning around the table with the plate we could all feel the perfume of the ocean. The Grande Cascade special his actually to cook the whole Turbot for two within a coat of salt and seaweed. You would not believe it how the perfume of the seaweed was strong and still preserved even after cooking. As simple as it is, the waiter simply started to prepare to cut the “filet”, which basically turn into being not filet but literally two half of the fish. When the waiter started to open the salt coat it was like a treasure. I do remember all of us, suddenly attentive to the cutting. The fish was very simply served to fully preserve the flavor and to fully appreciate the product quality. This course is simply accompanied with fresh green asparagus and a ricotta “mille feuille”. And the dressing is a perfect Beurre Nantais made with some Riesling. And at this stage what can I say? nothing, I just stayed speechless and I was savouring the quality of the product and the perfect match of this very high quality Turbot. But above all, the most impressive is certainly the perfume of the seaweed. This is adding an outstanding flavor of iodine on the whole fish. You’re suddenly transported to the sea, I do remember just by smelling the steam from the plate when the waiter serve it in front of me, I just smell the vapor of the seaweed, but very strong, like one of those bath soap product. A freshness of ocean. Stunning and very clever. This course is the speciality of the Grande Cascade for decades now. I would recommend is seriously if you go there.
La Grande Cascade is overall a very good address. I would say that it’s maybe a little bit overpriced compare to some other restaurant in Paris, nevertheless, this restaurant is more than food in a way. This is as well the atmosphere and charm of being transported to another moment in time. To some extend, you feel at the Grande Cascade like at the “Belle Epoque” time and you just don’t want to leave this place at all. The restaurant is the reflect of this period, when the modern french cuisine didn’t existed yet, hence the usage of really simple and quality product. No artifact, no high technical approach and technicism in cooking, but just the high standard selection of products, unlighted by some really good and wise flavor combination.
I’ll try to back there one day. I really enjoyed this moment. This is somehow one of the most romantic restaurant I did so far. ANd I would recommend it to any couple for Valentine’s day. ….. ;o)
My ratings :
Decoration/Ambiance = 9/10
Service = 8/10
Allée de Longchamp
01 45 27 33 51
¹L’invitation au voyage Charles BAUDELAIRE (1821-1867) Poem here in french