taste: Paris museum restaurants
Art is on the plate at five top spots where
the views are as fine as the food, and you can
keep the security guards up late.
Poised like a giant wood-and-metal tortoise on the roof of Paris' newest museum, Les Ombres, is about as related to an old-fashioned museum cafeteria as the International Space Station is to a split-level ranch. Architect Jean Nouvel named it for the shadows cast by the Eiffel Tower, which looms extravagantly close. And although the usual vehement Parisian arguments have broken out over the museum's radical architecture and approach to exhibitions, the new restaurant is a sensational success.
Chef Arno Busquet spent more than a decade with Joël Robuchon before opening Les Ombres. His ingenious cuisine samples Oceania, Asia and the Americas, but "fusion" seems a banal way to describe such felicitous encounters as Angus beef roasted with Chinese truffles, a lemongrass-infused mullet served with steamed seaweed, or apricots and wild thyme roasted in honey. Lunch will cost you less, but a late dinner is spectacle time: starting at 10 p.m., the Eiffel Tower twinkles for the first 10 minutes of every hour apparently just for you.
There is no more sumptuous Belle Époque dining room in all of Paris than the Restaurant of the Musée d'Orsay, overlooking the Seine and the Right Bank. The frescoed ceiling alone is worth the visit. You can imagine Marcel Proust and his friends sitting here, gossiping of the rebels not yet known as the Impressionists, whose work now hangs in the museum. The recently renovated kitchen specializes in subtly simplified versions of traditional cuisine grilled sea bream fillet or duck-and-peach supreme served with gratin dauphinois. The two-course prix fixe lunch is a bargain at only $20.