Museums Are for Eating

Dining at the Musee D'Orsay's restaurant with friends from the Left Bank Writers Retreat

The Musée D’Orsay–housed in a former railway station–is known for its magnificent art collection, but I like to visit the museum’s restaurant.

Originally the dining room for the Hôtel d’Orsay, the new construction by the architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte sets off the dazzling chandeliers and the painted and gilded ceilings of this dining room, listed as a Historic Monument. The room–all gold, white, and light–is breathaking. And then there is the food; I had lunch with a group of friends, and we voted it the best lunch on our trip.  My sea bass was grilled to perfection and served in its skin.  Sitting next to me was poet and chef Travis Cebula, who showed me how to catch the skin under my fork and roll it back like a sardine can—voila—leaving a morsel of the most delicious sea bass I’ve ever eaten.  One person in our group didn’t utter a word the entire lunch, so absorbed was she in her salade.  The chef Yann Landureau offers traditional French cuisine, interspersed with original dishes that are linked to the museum’s current events.  And the service was the professional service that we’ve found throughout Paris–with the exception of only one rude maître d’ experience.

This experience occurred at another museum restaurant, Café Marly at the Louvre.  Highly rated, this restaurant looks at the pyramid and frequently lands on the “best of” Paris restaurants list.  When my friends and I approached the maître d’ for a table, he actually laughed.  “Non!” he said. “Absolutement. Non!”  Apparently the problem was that they were no longer seating for lunch but rather than explaining that to us, he laughed an arrogant laugh that implied we were “fous.”

“Pas de grave,” as they say in Paris–not a big deal–we headed across the street from the Louvre, and enjoyed a fabulous meal at the Café Ruc.  I had shrimp risotto with creamy risotto and grilled shrimp served with a tiny taste of lemon. Magnifique!

Another favorite restaurant experience is the garden café at the Musée Rodin.  This little café serves fresh delicious salads and entrees in a shady garden.  It’s always crowded and you must guard you food from the brazen birds that raid tables.  A line can be found at the glacé stand, where I had one of the best caramel glacés served in a cone.  Caramel is my new favorite flavor.

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