Aux Lyonnais | Paris

Alain Ducasse. Check!
Our stay in Paris couldn’t have had a better start as we were treated on our first night to a memorable meal at Aux Lyonnais, one of restaurants in the Ducasse empire. I’d first heard of Alain Ducasse as early as the 90s while I was in the States and more so when I planned my first trip ever to France in 2000. Back then I could only dream of being able to afford the experience. Luckily, I didn’t have to whip out my wallet for this occasion and was able to just sit back and relax while a parade of amazing Lyonnaise dishes landed in front of me one by one.

The restaurant was straight out of a movie scene. It could have been lifted from any number of stereotypical, early 20th century French films that formed my impressions about France and French culture. Where in some cases finally meeting someone in person usually betrayed their flaws, it wasn’t the case here. The atmosphere was what I imagined it would be, and the service was refreshingly cordial. Though I imagine any Ducasse restaurant would have to have lofty minimum standards, I think I’ve been damaged too much by Dutch service that any form of kindness from waitstaff feels out of place. It took a while to get used to it again.
An early surprise in the meal occurred when I started munching on an appetizer that looked like crackling. Similar to the Anton Ego character after his first bite of ratatouille, I was suddenly brought back to my early life in the Philippines – turns out the crackling was the same chicharon bulaklak I had way back when, the same one found in my grandparents’ house in Pampanga, the same one sold by street hawkers, and the same one found in any number of restaurants in Metro Manila. That familiarity in the most unusual of settings put a big, nostalgic smile on my face.
And it was delicious, by the way.
The homey-ness, if that were really a word, mixed with the elegant simplicity in presentation was an attractive, head-spinning combination. After a swig of cassis, and then champagne, and after finishing off the foie gras, I had to step back to savor the moment, to take in this signature French experience in all it’s indulgence. Everything, and I do mean everything, was delicious.

Enchanté et merci, Alain Ducasse! After all these years it was nice to finally make your acquaintance.

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