Tuesday, April 16, 2024

La Tour D’argent: The Continuous Legacy of a Parisian Classic

“La Tour D’argent: The Continuous Legacy of a Parisian Classic” is the story of the popular French restaurant, presented exclusively to you by VOICE OF ASIA. As seen in Passions, Volume 45, owned by IBR Asia Group.

By any standard, the loss of a coveted star from the Michelin Guide is enough to send the owners of the unfortunate restaurant, spiralling into depression. To lose

two stars is a cause for public mourning. It takes something special then to be able to withstand such a blow, and still keep one’s place as a veritable temple of fine dining. La Tour D’argent is that sort of restaurant. Although it saw its three-star grade (which it received in 1951) drop to two stars in 1996 and then to just one a decade later, its dining room is still as packed as ever. But then again, we are talking about a restaurant that has a history dating back more than four centuries – far longer than the Guide has been in existence – and one which has become more than just a venue to wine and dine.

Known fondly to locals as La Tour, meaning The Tower, the renaissance-style structure where the restaurant is located was originally an inn built in 1582. Situated next to the quay, the building quickly became a favourite meeting place among the French upper class to enjoy the splendid view of the River Seine and Notre Dame cathedral. Apparently, it was also frequented by King Henry III and his successor Henry IV, and was where forks were first used in France. La Tour D’argent also served as the inspiration behind the 2007 Pixar animated movie, Ratatouille that tells the story of a Paris sewer rat who takes up residence in a once-great restaurant and attempts to transform it back to greatness.

Over a Million Ducks and Counting

La Tour’ signature dish is its pressed duck, the Caneton Tour d’Argent. Introduced by Frédéric Delair who owned the restaurant in the 1890s until the Terrail family bought it in 1912, the ducks used for this dish are raised free-range on a farm managed by the Burgaud family in Challans in the Vendée region of France. As part of a custom thought up by Delair, which is nothing more than a novelty marketing gimmick, each bird is numbered and the name of the patron who eats it is specifically recorded with the date. 

Diners who order this dish will receive a postcard with their bird’s serial number as a souvenir. At present, La Tour’s long list of patrons who have ordered the Caneton Tour d’Argent include countless members of royalty, dignitaries and celebrities, and in 2003, the restaurant recorded the millionth duck consumed. The two-course dish is prepared in the dining room by a canardier or duck carver. The first part consists of duck breast cooked in cognac, lemon and Madeira with the essence of pressed-duck remains. This is followed by the bird’s wings cooked to a crisp and served with delicious sauce. Diners who happen to visit the restaurant before the end of winter might want to try the André Terrail pike dumplings, a dish created and named in honour of the grandfather of La Tour D’argent’s current owner. The dish is made of fish that is placed on a mushroom and coated in Mornay sauce, and is so fragile that it runs a risk of losing its texture and taste in hot weather. Thus the need to eat it in winter conditions.

Definitely, gourmets will not want to miss out on the restaurant’s emblematic desert, the delicate crepes Belle
Epoque. Flavoured with Mandarine Impériale and a preparation of orange with Cointreau, this dessert is browned for a length of time so it is lightly crisp when served. Then, there are also other scrumptious, sweet delights from the dessert menu like the chocolate and fig tart and crispy pear caramel cake for those who crave something sweet.

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