Lucas Carton in Paris: a creative gastronomic experience to start the year!

What better way to start the year than in a gourmet restaurant? So I decided that my first restaurant of 2023 would be Lucas Carton, a restaurant that has always attracted me and that I had put off visiting for so long!

The concept

I could tell you that Lucas Carton is a restaurant that offers gastronomic cuisine (1 Michelin star), French, creative and sometimes sufficiently intuitive to be surprising, but that would not be a tribute to this monument to French cuisine.

So let’s say a little more.

Lucas Carton is one of the oldest gastronomic restaurants in France. Before existing under this name since 1924, it had been known by various names including the “Taverne de France” (very famous under Napoleon III) since its opening in 1839. In 1933 it was one of the first 3-stars properties in Paris.

From 1985 to 2013 it was the famous chef Alain Senderens who was in charge. After obtaining the famous 3 stars he decided to give them back in 2005, wishing to turn his back on the competition, the endless race for sophistication and return to simple, inventive and no-frills but affordable gastronomic cuisine. The restaurant changes its name to simply Senderens.

After the chef’s retirement, the restaurant took back his name and was awarded a star in 2016.

Since 2019 the young chef Hugo Bourny has taken over the menu. He worked with Anne-Sophie Pic and Hélène Darroze. In his constant search for balanced and surprising combinations, he claims, in his words, a “cuisine of emotion, a cuisine of intuition“.

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The setting

Since 1880 the restaurant is known for its Art Nouveau decoration specially commissioned from Majorelle.

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The tables are large (regardless of the number of guests) and widely spaced.

The overall impression is that of a venue with an assertive but not stuffy personality, you feel good there.

The menu

There is both an a la carte menu and tasting menus in 4, 5 or 7 courses. The dishes on the menu are of course taken from the a la carte menu, but you don’t know what will be served when you order (although you will be asked about any dietary restrictions).

For my part I will choose the 7-courses tasting menu.

Dishes and service

As soon as I arrived I was greeted with a smile, my coat was taken to the cloakroom and I was seated at my table.

You could see that the tables were very large and when you are alone or with two people you really feel at ease, especially as they are very widely spaced. However, I would make one small criticism: although very comfortable, the benches are deep and an average-sized person will have to choose between having his back against the backrest or being close to the table.

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I am immediately asked if I want an aperitif or water, I will take both. The aperitif will be a Pommery Blanc de Blancs. This is the only brand of champagne offered, as the restaurant belongs to the Vranken-Pommery Monopole group.

I will be given a taste and have the choice of having it served to me in a wine or champagne glass.

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It will be accompanied by appetizers.

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Without being able to remember exactly what it was, one was candied fruit with mezcal, the other included mackerel and quinoa, and the last included mushrooms, buckwheat and lemon.

Overall good, a little surprising, and perhaps already a foretaste of the creativity and balance that the chef boasts. Very fresh.

My order is taken. I will therefore take the 7-course menu and explain my aversion to wine pairing. The sommelier will make me an adhoc selection in 3 or 4 glasses which will turn out to be excellent.

An appetizer arrives. Butternut squash saffron.

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It is very good and even though there are no almonds, it reminds me (a little) of the glue pots of our childhood.

And the show begins.

Ikejime red tuna served raw, fermented beetroot and shiso, yoghurt with Voatsiperifery pepper.

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The tuna is excellent and fresh, the beetroot like sorbet is fresh and occupies the palate well.

The whole is fresh and punchy, very good.

Sea urchin variation with sea urchin ice cream

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I didn’t see that one coming because it wasn’t on the menu. It was actually a new creation that the chef was testing.

Very iodized and fresh with the sea urchin but balanced by the tea and fermented rice. The whole is fresh and punchy, very good.

The third course arrives.

Marie Bercegeay’s monkfish and rau-ram marinated, then smoked and matured, market garden carrot and kombucha.

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The carrot is meltingly light and the fish, perfectly cooked, is perhaps a little too salty. But when you mix the two with the sauce you get a very fine and slightly smoky result.

Intrigued by the carrot I will try to find out more: in fact the kombucha is surrounded by a carrot puree.

As a coriander lover, I appreciate the presence of rau-ram.

Scallops – split – Mexican lemon, cabbage oil with Putumayo pepper.

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The scallops are cooked to perfection and the sauce is surprisingly indescribable. The combination of the two is perfect and I will finish the sauce on its own just for the sake of it.

Root vegetables and Reynaldo’s “mole” with verjuice sabayon and smoked butter, home-made charcuterie.

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The sabayon alone is a killer. A bit like a thick, smoky hollandaise sauce.

The vegetables are really melting and you can feel the taste of the venison behind them, the whole thing is a bit spicy but not too much.

My favourite dish so far, but perhaps because it is the most surprising: I would never have imagined so much finesse and power in a root dish!

Stéphanie Leveau’s Perche poultry with Jerusalem artichoke, hazelnut and mushroom emulsion

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You will notice the two concentric circles showing that there are two sauces: Jerusalem artichoke and hazelnut and cooking juice.

The poultry is contised, which means that a stuffing has been inserted between the meat and the skin. It is melting and the vegetables are half crunchy and half melting.

The combination of the two sauces is excellent.

Between the poultry, the skin and the stuffing in the middle, it is a dish that should be eaten in layers: one after the other and then all three together. Outstanding.

I let myself be tempted by some cheese, the cart arrives.

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I will be reasonable and content myself with a Coulommiers, one of its distant cousins and a tomme with pepper.

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Very good.

A pre-dessert arrives: pear, ginger sorbet, jelly and pear brunoise

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Fresh and peppery, excellent transition between dishes and dessert.

Then to finish, the Corsican clementine in a variety of textures, light chestnut mousse, iced hojicha tea with clementine juice.

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Very fresh and the acidity of the clementine is balanced by the chestnut and tea.

I thought I would finish with a cognac but seeing the menu I will be tempted by a mirabelle plum liquor, accompanied by a mint tea. The whole thing will be accompanied by some mignardises.

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The mirabelle plum will be served very generously.

And that concludes this excellent dinner.

I’ll come back to this later, but almost all the dishes managed to surprise me with improbable combinations and a subtle balance between finesse and power.

Promise kept!

The service

The service was as I like it: very professional without being stuffy.

Let’s go into a little more detail.

I had two waiters who alternated at my table. Both very professional. But the first one is more expansive, sharing his passion for food, the second one is initially colder and more reserved before becoming a little more human towards the end.

The sommelier always arrived at the right moment and her suggestions were judicious.

And finally, the icing on the cake, Chef Hugo Bourny himself was very present in the dining room, accompanying the service, chatting with the customers, asking for their impressions.

I had the pleasure of discussing with him the surprise of the sea urchin dish (by the way, if one day you see it in a wine pairing with an iodized/peaty whisky, I might have something to do with it), my general impression and it was a pleasure. Many are curious about their customers’ feelings, but from what I have seen few express it in this way.

The atmosphere

Very discreet jazzy music in the background, muffled but not sad atmosphere, you feel good.

Bottom line

An excellent dinner with a restaurant that more than delivers on its promise. If I had one regret it would be that there are so many interesting dishes on the menu that, of necessity, choices have to be made and there is a logical frustration of having left things out.

But it’s a “good” problem and it only makes you want to return even more.

The final bill is €350 but that’s the price you pay in this kind of property.

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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