Best of the Best 2012: Dining: L’Abeille

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At L’Abeille (33.1.53.67.19.90, www.shangri-la.com), his plush new restaurant in the Shangri-La Hotel, Paris, chef Philippe Labbé proves that formal French fine dining can still be deliciously relevant. The setting would not be out of place in a Balzac novel: Servers glide silently across the elegant dining room to tables laden with damask and silver, delivering Champagne carts and plates topped with domed covers to diners who all appear to be celebrating something. But this is no still life. Labbé’s cooking is vivid, whether shaking up the dusky flavor of beets with the salty punch of mackerel or imbuing a tranche of superbly cooked river salmon with the delicate flavor of almonds. And some dishes—like a remarkable asparagus with tarragon-infused yogurt and dabs of caramel sauce—are so delicious they induce thoughts of some very ungenteel plate licking. It is no wonder that L’Abeille earned two Michelin stars in its first year: This is the kind of place that reminds you why French cuisine was once considered the most glorious in the world.

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