The W Paris – Opera & Dinner at Arola
We arrived in Paris from London at the Paris Gare du Nord railway station. It was a little frazzling getting off the train and and walking through a sea of tired, aggressive travelers to transfer our pounds into euros (which obviously we should have just done before we left). I had to go around a corner while Jade was with our bags and when I came back she seemed out of sorts. Turned out she had some Parisian creep tugging at our bags and making kissy faces at her. He even grabbed her hand. Oh man… if i would have been around… no telling what I would have done. But by the time I got back, he was long gone. Obviously Jade knows how to take care of herself in these kind of situations. What a great first impression in a train station, right? We got out of there and into a cab as quick as we could, off to our hotel.
We arrived at the W Paris – Opera in the late afternoon, and honestly, we were ready to crash but our stomachs had something else in mind. They were both still very much awake. Lucky us, we had a dinner scheduled that evening at the then in house restaurant, Arola. (The W’s restaurant after renovation is Coquette.) We were shown to our stylish, modern suite that was opposite the historic Paris Opera House right outside our window. The view was one I’ll never forget.
We did not know it when we first arrived that day, but Paris Fashion Week was still going strong. As we walked up the staircase from the lobby of the hotel for our dinner, we could not avoid the glammed out style of the decor as well as the unique, thoughtful pieces of fashion displayed on the mannequins that lined the restaurant’s vestibule.
The Arola Restaurant served tapas: small portions of spanish style foods that are meant to be shared. Our waiter showed us to our table and politely served us each a glass of persecco. He then brought us bread with a fragrant cheese spread and an aromatic tomato dressing in which you would take half a tomato and some garlic and rub it on your bread to give it the flavor. We decided on ordering an array of tapas that would be rich, but not too filling. Though we were hungry after our long day on the train, we were in no hurry to feel sluggish on top of exhausted. Our first course was a spiced carrot puree served in a small jar. It was served as a perfect palate cleanser before starting our main tapas entrees. First came a rich scallop served on sautéed mixed mushrooms. Definitely a perfect dish to start off with and made us exceptionally ready for the next course.
To accompany the steak tar tar and oxtail won ton raviolis that we ordered, Chef Arola came out to introduce himself and prepare the tar tar for us personally. He is a Michelin Star Chef from Spain who personally lead the Arola restaurant at the W Paris Opera, which was named after him, of course. He is a charismatic man with plenty of poise. As he broke an egg yolk over our tar tar dish and mixed it in vigorously he told us he was winding down this evening after so much going on during Paris Fashion Week. Though we didn’t order them, we were served Patatas Bravas Arola, which is a signature dish made by Chef Arola. They are potato based cylinders served with a spicy tomato sauce and topped with a creamy aioli. We intentionally did not order them because we wanted to stay away from dense, starchy dishes that might fill us up too quickly, but when a chef insists you eat his signature dish… you eat it. The last thing I wanted to do was insult the man. Of course they were delicious but they definitely filled me up sooner than I would have liked to be.
The following tapas brought to us were a marinated steak cooked to a rare perfection, a smokey marinated shrimp and another potato side we did not order of house made potato chips. It was obvious at this point that Chef Arola either had a major thing for potatos, or thought us as some kind of stereotypical Americans who needed to be filled with fried potatoes. Regardless the reason, we appreciated the fact that he wanted to share so much of his kitchen with us. Our final dish was a langoustine paella. It was ridiculously rich and slightly overcooked. We could barely eat any of it. In fact, we could’t, it was just too much. I blame the potato dishes that filled me up earlier in the evening.
We did not order dessert but were happy to oblige the chef in sampling his signature ‘Sweet Moment,’ hoping the cool and sweet notes would cut through the rich fare we had already consumed. The dessert was a three part presentation starting with pa amb xocolata which is usually known as children’s chocolate bread, but came in the form of canelle of chocolate with a crisped slice of caramelized bread. The second was fresas con nata, or starwberries and cream. The third was crema catalana, which is a spanish version of crème brulée. All three were brilliant re-imaginings of their larger, richer counterparts and were easy to finish even after consuming all our tapas.