At first glance, nothing much appears to have changed in the elegant restaurant of Paris' Hôtel Le Bristol . The oval-shaped "winter" room is still oak-paneled and regal, the "summer" salon ever marble-trimmed and flower-decked. But open the menu and the transformation is apparent. A document that used to read rather like a staid homage to classical French cuisine now sings with all the verve and energy of the restaurant's new chef, Eric Frechon. Last year, chef Frechon was lured away from his intimate Paris bistro, La Verrière d'Eric Frechon, to oversee the Bristol's expansive kitchen. There, he continues to surprise and enthrall diners with his innovative cuisine.
His is a light touch—a deft, spice-and-fresh-herb-accented version of French haute cuisine that manages to be at once powerful and subtle. For example, tender cinnamon-stick-speared sweetbreads gain intensity as the flavors collect on the palate, each bite building on the last but never overwhelming the taste buds. Crisp langoustine spring rolls are gently balanced with a delicately perfumed lemongrass broth. Seared halibut fillets are juxtaposed with a surprising garnish of soft, fresh almonds and figs. Those looking for a more familiar pleasure will enjoy Frechon's signature appetizer: an ethereal potato waffle topped with a decadent, pearly mound of sevruga caviar. Best of all, if you're a guest of the hotel, you can order the menu through room service. $160. 112 Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré, 75008 Paris, France; 33-1-53-43-43-00; fax 33-1-53-43-43-01. www.lhw.com/dd/hotel.asp?id-28
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