Dining at Paris's Hotel de Crillon
Hotels, today, are rarely famous for their food, but there are some interesting exceptions. There is London's Connaught, for example, where dinner in the mahogany paneled dining room or the smaller grill reminds you of a wonderful meal in a very expensive Edwardian hunting lodge.
There's the Dolder Grand in Zurich where the Swiss and their foreign friends and all the art dealers eat wonderful Indian cuisine just as they might at Cairo's Mena House.
Paris has a large number of grand and fine hotels. But there is also a larger concentration of great restaurants than in any place on this earth or, presumably anywhere else. Most of the hotels have restaurants that are competent and capable. The Plaza Athenee or the Ritz have restaurants that are famous as gathering places, places to see and be seen.
Nonetheless, for me there is one Paris hotel that shouldn't be missed, the Hotel de Crillon. Even if you don't or can't afford to stay in this venerable historic house that overlooks the Place de la Concorde, you should plan one meal there.
This comes under the direction of the affable Philippe Roche, a man clearly in love with his hotel. There's plenty of soap and terry robes and room service that's as quick as any ''modern'' hotel, but which produces far more delectable goodies, whether a bowl of freshly made potato chips or a late night Salade Nicoise.
The executive chef is an inventive sort of genius and will produce a menu de degustation, or a tasting menu, if you are interested in a sampling of several dishes.
My meal started with vol au vent, little flaky pastry cases crammed with mushrooms in a fine, rich cream, and went on to an ambrosial oyster bisque in tiny cups.
Next there was a sampling of two kinds of foie gras, duck and goose, served with a sprinkling of pine nuts. The contrast of the velvety liver and the crunchy nuts was irresistible.
Then came a sorbet, a water ice to clear the palate, followed by an assiette de chasses, or, a hunting platter, with a selection of game including venison and pheasant with morels.
There was also a dish of very fresh, raw scallops in a fine broth with a julienne of carrots.
Finally, we were served various creamy goat cheeses, a trio of sorbets and ices, creams with kiwi, and a platter of tiny eclairs, macaroons, and langues de chats.