Sun King Meets "A Thousand and one Nights"
At Les Perles De Vendome
At Number One Place Vendome,
in the heart of the region where -- word has it -- the most magnificent
jewelry in the world is showcased, Les Perles de Vendome has its own
special luster. Housed in the Hotel de Vendome, the four-star boutique
hotel that had once been the home of a secretary to Louis XIV, this
aptly named restaurant is a place of pearl-like splendor. A
free-standing bar of black Carrera marble dominates a room resplendent
with mirror and gold-leaf lined walls, ornate moldings, and a stunning
ceiling of stained-glass Art Nouveau panels. Floors are covered with
luxuriant red carpeting, tables with opulent gold damask over cloths of
Most dramatic of all,
however, is a grotto-like recess behind marble pillars at the far end of
the room. With its elaborate mosaic floors, garden mural, and a mirrored
wall upon which a working fountain and sunburst have been superimposed,
it appropriately evokes the sun king but, at the same time, something
out of “A Thousand and One Nights” as well.
Which is only fitting since at Les Perles de
Vendome, one dines on authentic Lebanese food prepared by a
Lebanese chef, and presented by Issam Abi-Rached, a young Maronite
(Christian Lebanese) who has been maitre d’ of this
establishment since its opening some three years ago. The night of
our visit, he was assisted by his brother Elie Abi-Rached, and
between the two engaging young men we were treated to a dinner of
many exotic and delectable delights.
Issam Abi-Rached, maitre d’ (left) and his brother Elie Abi-Rached
|We decided to forgo the beef, lamb, and chicken en brochette and
make a meal of “les mezzes,” the hot and cold hors d’oeuvres,
which we had so relished in Istanbul. Lebanese cuisine shares some
similarities with that of Turkey and Greece, but in many respects it
is in a class all its own.
Putting ourselves into the capable and caring hands of the Rached
brothers, we were treated to a parade of platters, pearly (what else?)
white china trimmed with a green branch-like design, each containing
an array of smaller dishes.
||There were strips of red pepper, green and black olives, garlicy
humus, little triangles of pita bread. There were crisp and
slightly sweet slices of turnip that had been marinated with beets
until they turned a lovely shade of watermelon pink. There was a
refreshing and fragrant tabouli made with chopped tomatoes, onions
and an abundance of flat parsley and creamy eggplant caviar that
sat atop a pile of sliced tomatoes and wedges of lemons.
falafel is made with fava beans and seasoned with coriander and sesame
cream - by far the best falafel we had ever tasted, exotically spiced and
with a grainy texture. Certainly not the kind you’d get from a vendor on
a city street. The dumplings are filled with pine nuts, onions, and
spinach. Some had beef added to the mixture, others lamb. Half way
through, we swore we could not eat another one. But by the time the
platter was removed, every last one had been consumed.
us that Lebanon has a rich wine culture and selected a deep and aromatic
red for us with a lovely finish. It was one of the few remaining of the
1994 vintage, a year when only 100 bottles of wine were produced. A pity,
we thought, for judging from this wine, it was a very good year.
But things in
Lebanon have not been good for many a year, and the Rached brothers whose
parents and siblings remain in Lebanon, carry about them the sadness of
separation. How solvable the world’s problems seem when one focuses on
the pleasures of dining amidst the beautiful surroundings of Les Perles de
dining visit was an interesting change of pace from what we had enjoyed
for a week in Paris indulging in the manifold delights of French foods. In
a city that prides itself on its cuisine, Les Perles de Vendome provides
an alternate and welcome experience for all senses, for all seasons.
Les Perles de
Hôtel de Vendôme
1 Place Vendome
75001 Paris 1er, France
# # #
About the Authors: Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband
team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional
scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories
It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in
America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in
Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.
They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining
as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United
States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
about these authors.
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This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer. All rights