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The 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 royal blue.

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.

click to enlarge

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 - click to enlarge
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. 

click to enlarge 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.

The Lebanese 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.

Issam informed 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 Vendome. 

Our entire 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 Vendôme
Hôtel de Vendôme

1 Place Vendome
75001 Paris 1er, France

Phone: 01-55-04-55-62.
Web: http://www.hoteldevendome.com 

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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. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Web: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~frommer/travel.htm.

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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