La Cristal Room Baccarat

For my last night in Paris, I wanted to do something special. My friend, Dawn, suggested that I go to Baccarat’s Crystal Room for dinner.

I had never heard of it. She was quite surprised as it opened a few years ago and it’s located on the Place des Etats-Unis, not too far from my apartment.

Specifically, it is a restaurant in the former home of Marie-Laure de Noailles, a well-known and respected patron of the arts and the great, great, great granddaughter of the infamous Marquis de Sade.

This was one of the most surreal dining experiences I’ve ever had. French designer Philippe Starck beautifully and creatively merged traditional and contemporary design elements to create a modern and inspiring experience that could only take place in Paris. Baccarat crystal chandeliers, serving pieces and decorative objects added an element of opulence rivaling that of the most luxurious homes I have ever seen in France.

We entered the dimly lit building and ascended a red carpet staircase to the reception desk. There, we were greeted by two very large Baccarat crystal urns flanking the room. Each urn contained a ghost-like image of a beautiful woman’s face, who greeted us upon our arrival. The mysterious images spoke in a soft voice; they likened the attributes of fine crystal to the attributes of a woman's beauty. This was the start to what would become a magical night.

Before being seated for dinner, we browsed the Baccarat boutique which contained mirrored display cases lit from below. The lighting technique created a sense of mystery and mise en valeur (put into value - as the French would say) the perfection of the crystal. Everything from unusual sculpted jewelry to stemware was on display, and everything exuded a combination of magnifience and artisitry. The chandelier photographed above, for example, contains more than 200 lights. We had reason to pause as we marveled at its beauty.

We dined in a very sweet, yet very elaborate, baroque inspired dining room. The walls were decorated in burgundy and green veined marble accented with gilded accents. The banquets were upholstered in bubblegum pink leather with cameo images centered on the back pillows. Glorious crystal chandeliers hung overhead from a tromphe l’oeil painted ceiling reminiscent of those I had seen at the Chateaux de Bagatelle. The same cameo images adorned a central portion of each wall that revealed exposed brick where plaster had been removed.

The opulent décor, the juxtaposition of materials and the beauty of the crystal were not the only things that impressed me. I had a delicios dinner. As an appetizer, I had foie gras accompanied by a glass of the same Muscat de Baumes-de-Venise wine I had a few nights earlier. This was followed by steamed lobster served over a bed of asparagus spears in a Marinière sauce and a glass of white wine from Burgundy. For dessert, I had the degustation, which usually means a small sampling of various flavors. In reality, this was anything but small. The selection consisted of five full-size desserts, including a chocolate soufflé, raspberry tarte, strawberries and vanilla cream served in an almond wafer box tied with Baccarat inscribed white ribbon, a timbale of hot chocolate and a lemon tarte. So much for eating light the night before a long flight…I devoured most of every dessert presented to me.

After dinner, we toured the Baccarat museum. The museum held a fascinating display of items made by master craftsman. The exhibition included an impressive array of extraordinary pieces used by or created for a virtual who’s who from around the world: a chair for the Czar of Russian, stemware designed and created for the Sultan of Brunei, the service used by Coco Chanel.

My apartment was close enough to the restaurant to walk home. I knew that if I walked, I would pass the Eiffel Tour at approximately midnight. This would be my last opporutnity to see the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tour before my departure.

During the walk, I became a little self-reflective as I thought about all of the wonderful experiences I had had in the preceding four weeks. Then it occurred to me, “Well, I’ve come full circle. My first visit took me to crystal garden and my last visit took me to crystal palace…a poetic coincidence.”


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