Paris is famous for fine restaurants, but often they’re way out of my price range.
But my friend Donna Morris of Best Friend in Paris took Barbara Wendell and me to Bar Le Passage on place Madeleine, where we could taste the food of highly-decorated chef Alain Senderens.
Senderens famously decided several years ago to forego his three Michelin stars in order to offer less formal and expensive meals. Even so, his eponymous restaurant Alain Senderens is still too expensive for us – with main courses running from €39 – 54.
Here’s where Bar Le Passage comes in. Owned by Chef Senderens, it offers a fixed price €36 meal at lunch or dinner. At lunch, you choose from a set menu of starter, main dish and dessert. At dinner, there are four courses: a starter, two mains and dessert – but the chef prepares for you what he desires. The waiter inquires about any food allergies, and then it’s up to the chef to send out your meal.
On a recent Sunday night, our dinner consisted of an amuse bouche of crème foie gras sesame (a creamy soup of fois gras with a sesame cracker); salmon miso (raw sushi-grade salmon in an oyster consommé with seaweed, tiny baby corn and root vegetable chips); brandade de Morue (puréed salt cod whipped with potatoes and garnished with baby lettuces),
cochon du lait (stuffed suckling pig with Brussels sprouts and carrots), and, for dessert, tarte a la passion (passion fruit tart with apricot foam and lemon ice cream). It was all delicious, and in small enough portions that we didn’t feel stuffed ourselves.
Even the waiter didn’t know what our food would be until it came out of the kitchen. “How do we order wine,” we asked, “when we don’t know what we’re going to eat?”
“You just choose what you like,” he replied. So with dinner we drank a bottle of Bourgogne Haute Cotes de Beaune 2009.
We noticed that the couple sitting next to us had a completely different meal; it appeared that one of them had a number of allergies.
The bar actually consists of several rooms. We sat near a window, which was filled with a view of the columns of the Madeleine church over Barbara’s shoulder.
While the restaurant Alain Senderens is located right on Place de Madeleine, the door to the bar is inside a covered passageway to the left. You must buzz for them to let you in, and advance reservations are definitely recommended.