Blessed with absolute gorgeous weather, we made our way to Tour Eiffel after a leisurely late morning stroll around Tuillieres and the Louvre. Immediately upon arrival, we noticed the crowds of people queuing to go up the Tour Eiffel. Luckily for us, Le Jules Verne has its own dedicated entrance and private elevator access at the south pillar so saves us the wait. We were greeted by a cheerful hostess upon entrance, who checked our name against the reservations and guided us to the lift lobby.
Along with six other diners, we rode up the Tour Eiffel slowly, granting us our first glimpse of the fantastic bird's eye view of Paris in the elevator, which has glass panels and a glass peep through ceiling. Initially we were moving along a 45 degrees angle as we climed up the lower leg of the tower, before a more normal ascent up to the restaurant on the second etage.
Must admit that I had some reservations upon entering the main dining area - which was done up in a sixties/seventies-esque feel - greyish leather upholstered chairs and black floodlamps on the tables...
Our attention was however quickly distracted by the gorgeous backdrop of the Paris city, as we were sitting right by the window.
Having skipped breakfast, we both quickly digged eagerly in to the bread basket. The pistachio breadsticks were extremely tasty and crunchy, while the bread rolls were more average.
The amuse-bouche was a salmon mousse on top of diced beetroot, served in a chilled frosted
glass container, allowing a peep at the colorful layers at the bottom of the container. Normally not a fan or either salmon mousse or beetroot, we enjoyed the creamy texture and rich flavor of this dish very much. The heaviness of the mousse was surprisingly well-balanced by the refreshing sweetness of the beetroot.
Since we were visiting another gourmet restaurant for dinner, we resisted the temptation to order the degustation menu, and instead, decided to shared an appetizer and have a mains each. The maitre'd was not very helpful with his recommendations, as he kept proclaiming every dish was good! Guess that shows his high conviction of the quality of the food here.
On paper, our appetizer order of degustation of warm poppy seed breads, one with crabmeat the other with lobster, cream of shrimps (EUR46) didn't sound much, and we chose it because this was one of the starred item. When it arrived, we found that the restaurant had considerately separated the appetizer into two portions for us to save us the trouble from sharing. We were given each a stuffed poppy seed bread, and a small serve glass of the cream mousse. We admired the simple and elegant layout of the dish.
Pleasantly surprised when cutting the bread roll up to discover we were given different ones, one was the crabmeat, the other the lobster. Both were exquisite in taste, rich and full of flavor. One reason why I adore classical french cuisine so much is for its concentrated and powerful sauces. And this particular one did not disappoint, the slightly creamy rich sauce complemented the dish well. I personally prefer the lighter delicate crabmeat version over the lobster one, but both were delicious. We savoured each biteful of the bread, which was soaked up with the sauce. When we moved onto the cream mousse, we realised why the charge was so exorbitant - fine quality caviar was liberally spreaded on top of the shrimp cream. This was heavenly good - so rich and creamy blending with the exquisite taste of caviar, with each spoonful melting in our mouth. If I am forced to criticise this dish, it'd be the portions. No not too small but too big. T couldn't even finish her portion, which was already half the normal size!
After such a satisfying appetizer, we waited eagerly for our mains to arrive. I ordered the Bresse chicken with Chanterelle mushrooms, with the preserved leg (EUR48), while T chose the Thick line fished John Dory lightly grilled, braised flavoured with sweet garlic, tagliatelles with artichokes (EUR56), after much deliberation with the maitre'd.
I normally shy away from chicken dishes at restaurant, as I find the breastmeat that they serve is normally quite coarse after cooking and bland in taste. Was tempted at Le Jules Verne because it mentioned Bresse chicken, which is the only type of chicken with an appellation d'origine controlee (AOC, like Champagne). It is reared according to strict rules, or even pampered some would even say. The result is the most flavorful chicken one would ever taste. I was not disappointed with the dish in the tiniest bit. The chicken was divine- lean without being dry, meaty and full of flavor, with a paperthin skin that was almost translucent in the light. The concentrated reduced sauce contrasted well with the rich, complex flavour of the chanterelles. I enjoyed this dish tremendously.
In addition to the mains served above, there was also a side dish of "preserved leg", wrapping the thigh meat in a cabbage leaf, served with some white sauce. Compared to the main attraction, this while still tasted good, had not much of an awe factor.
The John Dory was also extremely well executed, served with a subtle creamy cappuccion-style sauce. We were particularly impressed by the delicious tagliatelle with artichoke that was served as a side to this mains. We nearly finished the whole dish before realising that we forgot to take pics! Have rarely seen pasta being served in a classical french setting, apart from a rare ravioli, hence am appreciative of the chef's thoughtfulness in trying to step outside of the rigid classicla french framework.
By now, we were sitting back contentedly with our bulging bellies… so when the maitre’d approached us with the dessert menu, we were almost ready to wave him away – but the will is weak and we surrendered and ordered a simple banana soufflé to share.
This again arrived in a huge plate with an impressive setting - and am not exaggerating in saying that this was one of the best souffle that I have even had. Even though it took me some time to take the picture, the souffle stayed fluffy and did not collapsing. When we dived in, the texture was light and moist, and banana's natural sweetness worked perfectly in this dish, without it being overly sugary sweet. Two thumbs up! The orange mousse was rich in appearance but light in taste, with some compote hidden at the botton of the container.
I gave up on the inviting petit fours, while T managed to nibble on some bits and pieces while we waited for the bill to arrive. She pronounced the pastries - unsurprisingly - delightful.
Deeply satisfying a meal, we thoroughly enjoyed all the dishes and the entire experience. The breathtaking bird's eye view of Paris as a backdrop was a bonus rather than the main attraction. Was originally sceptical when I discovered quite of my fellow diners were tourists like us and that this was more a sightseeing attraction. As it turns out, many local diners frequent this place too, it's just that they don't normally dine as early as we did, with the stream popping in from one onwards.
Perhaps some would fuss over the large portions (not typical haute cuisine) and the rare show of creativity in some of the dishes, and granted, I think it might take some change in his cuisine before Alain Reix could be bumped up to three ***. I loved it for exactly those reasons though. Highly recommended for your next trip to Paris ~ remember to request for a window table because some of the tables are hidden in the back and are less than ideal. Can imagine this place being a perfect setting for a proposal ~ let your loved ones be awed by the magnificent view and the spectacular cooking!
Le Jules Verne Reservations (by fax or telephone only):
Tel: 33 (0)1 45 55 61 44
Fax: 33 (0)1 47 05 29 41