The Paris restaurant with the most spectacular decor is, of course, Le Train Bleu, but its culinary credentials have gone up and down (mostly down) over the years as the restaurant sailed along, relying on its Belle Époque beauty and its location in the Gare de Lyon to attract customers. Now, however, the house of Michel Rostang has taken over the kitchen and elevated the cuisine to a level befitting the restaurant’s status.
Part of the fun of going to the Train Bleu, aside from admiring the paintings on the ceilings and walls depicting points south served by the train lines leaving from the station, is watching the hustle and bustle of cheery aproned waiters and travelers with suitcases rushing back and forth in the enormous restaurant. Now we can also enjoy eating there – for a price.
By the way, if you happen to hear someone shouting in the middle of the restaurant, don’t be alarmed – it’s not a madman or a terrorist; it’s a uniformed doorman shouting out a quotation – from Molière, for example – or some facts and figures about the restaurant. This new bit of fun seemed superfluous to me, but the customers seemed to like it; they applauded him every time.
We only tried one starter that day: the game and foie gras pâté en croûte. It was very tasty, but not quite as good as the game terrine I had had the week before at Au Bascou. It would have been better if it hadn’t been too cold, which prevented the flavors from developing. It came with a cigar-shaped fig paste with hazelnuts.
I followed that up with a dish appropriate for the Gare de Lyon: quenelles (dumplings made with creamed fish), a specialty of the city of Lyon that I have a special liking for. Served in Newburg sauce, they were delicious, bubbling hot from the oven in their cast-iron casserole. They were accompanied by a perfect Basmati-rice pilaf, buttery and full of crunchy grains.
The biggest hit of this meal was the gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb), which comes with the lunchtime-only “Voyageur” menu (€49, including dessert). The lamb travels around the room on a trolley so the waiter can carve and serve it at the table (the beef tartare is also prepared in front of the customer).
The serving was extremely generous, and the fabulous lamb was succulent and flavorful. It came with an equally generous serving of luscious “Maison Rostang” gratin Dauphinois.
The Voyageur menu dessert (no choice) was a poached pear and grapefruit sections with cream, walnuts and a crispy cookie. It tasted fine but was not very exciting
The food is overpriced at the Train Bleu, but now that it’s good again, it seems more acceptable to pay extra for the incredible setting and the lively experience. It’s a trip, even if you’re not leaving town.