Paris 2013 - Lunch at Arola
We had arranged another special lunch in Paris - but this was at Arola - a restaurant by 2-Michelin starred Spanish Chef Sergei Arola. Sergei was a protege of Ferran Adria - like many of his Spanish contemporaries today. His main restaurants are in Madrid and Barcelona, and when he started his outpost in Paris many people wondered whether it would service. For a non-French chef to open a high-end restaurant in the World capital of food takes lots of guts !
Arola is in W Hotel. Like all Ws, the W Paris is slick and beautiful. The dining room of Arola is quite large and beautifully appointed.
The beautiful Arola dining room on the first floor.
We had ordered the multi-course tasting menu and once we were seated the dishes started to arrive. First was bread with tomato and olive oil - Pa amb Tomàquet - one of the classic Spanish staples. You rub the tomato on the bread, drizzle some olive oil, put a few flakes of sea salt - it was so simple yet delicious.
Next came the Crab "Salad". It was more like a crab terrine - which you spread on the the bread. The crab was really fresh and sweet, and the combination of succulent chunks of crab meat with the crispy bread worked wonders on the taste buds.
The next course was a very French dish - Steak Tartar. It was chopped Black Angus beef with crunchy onions and soy sauce infusion. The beef was really tender and the colour and texture reminded me of tuna, but the taste was unmistakably beefy. Mixed with the crunchy onions and quail yolk, it was rich and full of umami.
Next was a lightly marinated Bacalao (cod) with tomatoes, spring onions and black Nicoise olives. The cod slices were really luscious in the mouth, and perfectly complimented by the contrasting flavours of tomatoes and olives.
The next course was Las Bravas de Arola - fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and aoili. Patatas Bravas is like the national dish of Spain. Arola's version is more refined in terms of presentation - the potatoes have been cut into little cylindrical containers filled with the sauce inside. I am not a great potato lover so this dish was just OK for me.
Next was Tiger Prawns "al ajillo" - the prawns were sauteed with garlic, pimenton and dry sherry wine. This was full of flavours and the closest to Spanish flavours in the dishes so far.
The dessert was Pa Amb Chololata - chocolate ganache with bread toast, fleur de sel and extra virgin olive oil. The olive oil was sealed in a tiny sugar shell. You crack the shell to allow the oil to infuse into the chocolate ganache. It was really rich and decadent. On the right of the plate is Crema Catalana - an emulsion of mandarin sorbet and Maria biscuits. It had no chance to shine next to the chocolate.
The food at Arola is a fusion of Spanish and French flavours and techniques. The service at Arola is impeccable and well paced. It was a very enjoyable meal.