By Joe Alexander
The breathtaking view from over 400 feet in the air that you get when you sit in Le Jules Verne restaurant in the iconic Eiffel Tower is unlike any culinary experience in the world. From masterfully prepared dishes to sweeping Parisian views, all of your senses are heightened as you embark on this gastronomic excursion. Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux, Katie Holmes, Mariah Carey and Tom Cruise are among the VIP's who have made the pilgrimage to Alain Ducasse's Michelin-starred culinary mecca. There's a palatable air of anticipation from the moment we step into the glass elevator to make the 40-story ascent to this legendary restaurant, which floats on top of this iconic symbol of France. Upon arrival, we are greeted by a friendly staff dressed in uniforms by Lanvin, who speak more than a dozen languages.
Here, over a magical lunch or dinner you will find unforgettable views of Paris. After chef Ducasse took over this national treasure seven years ago, he and designer Patrick Jouin transformed the restaurant's decor with a chic chocolate color palette with black accents and amber lighting. This sleek minimal ambience puts the focus on Ducasse's and Executive Chef Pascal Féraud exceptional cuisine. The dramatic glass windows lining the restaurant do not reflect light so that the 360 degree views are uninterrupted at all times of the day and night. Once seated, you see why Paris is called the City of Lights as a twinkling panorama of urban expanse is revealed from very seat. "The Eiffel Tower is a landmark of France, and my aim is that our cuisine also incarnates this beautiful land. To this aim, we only use local and seasonal produce," Head Chef Pascal Féraud reveals. "We strive to blend regional traditions with contemporary culinary art. Our beef, rossini style, perfectly illustrates this idea as it is a traditional recipe arranged with a modern touch."
I detect a tiny bit of envy from other diners, as we are lead to a prime window table. Through a honeycomb wall you can catch glimpses of the chefs in their white hats creating wondrous delicacies in the kitchen. Look up at the fibre-optic network of lights on the ceiling, which recalls the interlacing streets of Paris. Consider chatting with the guests at the table next to you; everyone's happy to be here and eager to share the moment and make recommendations on the dishes they have just savored.
The blue lobster amuse bouche is heavenly, the simmered langoustine mouthwatering and the foie gras arrived looking like a Miró painting. Try the sweet breads with slivers of carrots or the sea bass that was so savory it melted on your tongue. Desserts at Jules Verne are in a world of their own. The decadent l'ecrou au chocolat tower bolt, a signature dish, is as sinfully delicious as it sounds. I had the pear soufflé and I've never tasted a more delicate confection anywhere in Europe. Share the dark chocolate praline with hazelnut ice cream, a grand finale to dining amidst the stars. Ask the sommelier to pair every course with the perfect wines or keep it simple and just sip vintage champagne from start to finish. No clunky silver ice buckets here. Bottles are kept in insulated compartments at optimum temperatures inside consoles integrated into the dining room. Tres elegant.
There are two seatings at lunch but in the evening, the table is yours for the night. There are only 120 places available and there is always a waiting list, so make your reservation way in advance so that you don't miss this blissful moment in the sky. "I have to adapt my cuisine to satisfy the different cultural tastes of my international clients. For example the Americans prefer their meat medium rare, the Russians love foie gras, the Asians expect their fish done to a turn," Féraud explains. "However all these nationalities have one thing in common: they all come to the Jules Verne to discover our French culinary heritage."
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