To mark the 10th anniversary of his three-Michelin-star restaurant at the Plaza Athénée hotel in Paris, Alain Ducasse decided it was time for a change. With a desire to get back to basics, Ducasse implemented his new Essentiel concept, which eschews flamboyance and fussiness in favor of purity, quality, and authenticity. Ingredients are carefully sourced from Ducasse’s handpicked suppliers and served at the peak of seasonal freshness. For example, scallops from Normandy, where water conditions are prime for the shellfish, are gathered in the morning and served that very evening. Technique takes a backseat so the supreme ingredients can shine, unsullied by superfluous flavorings and fancy treatments. The less-is-more statement also translates to the table decor, which has been pared down from the typical extravagant array of flatware and dishes. Complementing the enormous glittering chandeliers and shimmering new decorative screens handmade by Paris’ haute-couture masters, tables are minimally set with sculpted, modern, porcelain plates specially designed to hold the menus. In another insouciant move, an appetizer of tender crevettes is served in the sauté pan with a long, delicate fork. Such casual touches may seem out of place in a dining room of such stature, but at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée the reverence is reserved for the food.
Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée is open for lunch Thursday and Friday and for dinner Monday through Friday. Average price à la carte is about $345, not including beverages. (www.plaza-athenee-paris.com)