At La Durée, Stick with les Choses Sucrées
La Durée is synonymous with macarons, those trendy meringue sandwiches that have graced the pages of style, photo, travel, and food blogs ad nauseam lately. Though I’m not usually one to follow trends (I stoically rejected the Spice Girls craze in 5th grade and the Backstreet Boys in 6th), these colorful little rounds have appealed to my newfound sweet tooth and inner fat kid. If done right, they are positively delightful to look at, eat, and photograph. My flavor of the moment is vanilla, which is slightly less exciting to look at but taste-wise, it’s like sticking a spoonful of vanilla bean ice cream in your mouth. It is so faithfully vanilla it’s astonishing. The fact is, I’m never disappointed with La Durée macarons. I find myself marveling at them, wondering “how did they get all that flavor and charm into a two-bite pastry”. Needless to say, I’ve been completely seduced.
Monday though I let this giddy, puppy love for macarons run away with me. I figured if these people can perfect the macaron, surely they can manage a three course Valentine’s Day lunch in their famous tea salon? Of course they could, assuming those three courses are all platefuls of macarons.
Now that is a little bit of an exaggeration. In fact the starters were both redeeming. The winter truffle cupcake had generous amounts of the fancy fungus while the scallop and mango tartare had a lovely presentation and a refreshing combination of flavors, if not a little bland.
The mains however were very, very disappointing. My veal was so tough that I had to ask for a sharper knife, which the waiter could not bring me because apparently La Durée is only equipped with dinky butter knives. As for my date’s main, the Iberic pork loin, it was fine, good even, but could have easily been prepared at home. As for the spinach stuffed pasta shells however, that was another matter. What a boring concept! Steam some spinach until it has completely withered then squish it into plain pasta shells and awkwardly arrange them around some mediocre meat. There was absolutely no cohesion in this dish and I’m pretty sure most of it was cooked the day before.
Just when I had lost all hope of saving this meal, the dessert arrived: the Ispahan, or more precisely, rose flavored soft macaron with rose petal cream, fresh raspberries and lychees. I’m still dreaming about it, how when I cut my fork into the soft crispy macaron shell, raspberries and lychees would tumble out, and how when I took a bite the bursting flavors of fresh fruit were tempered ever so delicately with the rose petal sweet cream. This is why people travel from all over the world to eat macarons at La Durée.
So if you want my unsolicited advice, don’t order beef or pork in a pastry shop! It’s really just good common sense, a common sense I momentarily ignored in my quest for a full bodied La Durée experience. We would have been better served with afternoon tea and pastries, (granted, the starters were somewhat enjoyable). The lesson here, go to La Durée for macarons. If you insist on having lunch, make sure your savory courses are baked or they somehow incorporate plenty of fruit. And don’t even think about ordering meat!