Monsieur Paul is the signature restaurant located above Chefs de France in Epcot. It’s a bit of a tradition for the website to visit on July 4th, partially to celebrate my second favorite Lafayette in Marquis de (behind Lafayette Reynolds, Season 2, True Blood) and partially because the restaurant is one of the few that doesn’t accept the Tables in Wonderland discount. The Independence Day holiday is a block-out date, so since no restaurants accept the discount, it makes sense to visit one that otherwise doesn’t since I’m not giving up any savings. You might as well have your end-of-year-Disney-food-tally come up as $79,326.32 rather than $76,356.28, you know? My original review of the restaurant is here with the followup found here, in case the following 2,500 word review doesn’t fill you up on all things Bocuse.
July 4th at Epcot is otherwise not nearly as hectic as you might expect – the IllumiNations crowd is bigger than a random Tuesday in late January, but seeing the spectacular fireworks tag is more than manageable and easily worth the minimum amount of effort that it takes. We waltzed up to the Italy Pavilion after our 2+ hour meal with five minutes to spare and found a fine spot on the Isola. At least with my iPad Pro fully extended above my head, I got some great pics.
The entrance to Monsieur Paul is located inside the France Pavilion through an unassuming door behind Chefs de France and across from the Boulangerie.
After checking in, a hostess will walk you up the stairs to your table with pictures of the Bocuse family lining the walls. There is also an elevator that will carry one guest at a time if you require assistance. Our arrival was typically French. Because I am not very smart, I thought our reservation for two was at 6:30pm (WRONG! IT WAS ACTUALLY 6:15pm!), which is what I quoted upon arriving at 6:21pm, along with my name, “Lensanity Testacular.” After the hostess mulled through a few printed sheets, she muttered “6:15” under her breath as she crossed us off the list.
Paul is Epcot’s most elegant restaurant with its white linen tablecloths, bright accents, and charming lighting. But it’s absolutely accessible to the theme park crowd and the atmosphere “feels” glamorous without being stuffy.
Tables along the window are the best and worth requesting at check-in, even if it means pushing through a second sneer from the hostess and a promise that nothing is guaranteed. It’s fun to look out at the people heading to Liberty Inn as they pass by with the sun slowly setting behind the United Kingdom Pavilion.
Paul currently offers three prix fixe menus, though it only actively advertises the Menu Prestige. This is what you’ll see noted on the menu outside the restaurant and at DisneyWorld.com (assuming you check on the one day a year when the menu is up to date):
$89 or two Disney Dining Plan credits with a supplement of $29 buys you four courses, starting with the Cold Sweet Pea Soup and continuing on with a choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert. None of these entrees appear on the regular menu, while the lobster salad or oxtail soup would each run you $29 a la carte. The romaine hearts come in at a paltry $16 when ordered separately. And while $89 might sound expensive, the price has at least not gone up since Bistro de Paris reopened as Monsieur Paul back in December of 2012 and the supplement on the Dining Plan is actually down a buck fifty. Savings indeed.
The Menu Degustation is a six course extravaganza where the chef has done the work of choosing the courses for you:
At a cost of $119, it’s probably more money and more time than most people want to spend on a meal at Epcot, but it might be a good choice for a special occasion of if you’re looking for the most elevated experience possible.
There’s only three cocktails on the menu, though our server pushed a “French Martini” with vodka and pineapple juice, among other things, as he introduced himself.
Because I’m tacky, I looked up several of the bottle prices at TotalWine.com to see what looked to be the best value compared to the retail price, and arrived at a bottle of the Taittinger “Brut La Francaise.” With a retail price around $50 compared to the $115 restaurant price, it was well above average on the value front. We could really tell the difference between it and the Korbel we had been drinking back in the room with its rich, zesty citrus notes and a slightly toasty quality. Perhaps a bit too sweet with the entrees, but that’s my fault. Just kidding. I GIVE THIS RESTAURANT ONE STAR.
Some more wine selections:
It seemed like wines in the $45-$70 range were marked up about 400% compared to closer to 159% once you got up to around $100.
The Paul Mas Malbec is $10 at the store or $53 at Monsieur Paul, for example, while something like the Château Dauzac Labastide Margaux is $50 at the store or $120 here. Of course, $120 is also a lot more money than $53.
A roving server will come around and offer bread from a basket that’s held high enough that you can’t see what’s inside. This is a miniature French baguette – chewy with a crisp crust.
The twisted bread was fun to pull apart – denser than the French bread with a faint cheesy flavor. Quite good. The purchase of a bottle of champagne will also increase the number of times you see the bread person – our server looked like he was considering leaving for the night when I said tap water was fine, but perked up considerably upon delivering the Taittinger.
Otherwise, there’s something to say for the interactivity of bread delivery and they will drop off as many pieces as you want. Sometimes, though, you just want to hide behind the napkin that protects the number of pieces you’ve eaten inside the bread basket that’s left on the table.
That way, you can pretend to spill the baguettes on the floor so you have an excuse as to why your table of two requires eight more. The soft and creamy butter was served in a tasteful dish, which is a far cry from the ice cold packets delivered at Chefs downstairs.
Erin went with the $89 Menu Prestige, which starts off with the “Soupe froid de petit pois en gougère, crème de citron, menthe fraiche – Cold sweet pea soup served in a warm gougere, lemon cream, fresh mint.” We appreciated the sophisticated presentation with the few bites of cold soup contained inside of an airy cheese puff, which had cooled down a bit by the time it was served. But the bright green color pops nicely against the muted tone of the gougere with fresh summer flavors of cool mint and zesty lemon contrasting nicely with the savory quality of the cheese. The bread crumbs underneath form a nice base for any soup that spills out. A refreshing way to begin the meal.
I went a la carte, starting with the $29 “Soup aux Truffes V.G.E. – Oxtail broth with braised beef, vegetables and black winter truffles covered in puff pastry.”
I had been wanting to try this soup for some time, but was always apprehensive given that the cost is equal to or greater than the cost of most entrees at other table service restaurants around World Showcase.
The soup is otherwise a throwback to the version that Chef Paul Bocuse served the President of France at the Élysée Palace in 1975 upon receiving the country’s greatest culinary award. VGE in the soup’s name comes from said president Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s initials. When served at his restaurant in Lyon, which has been awarded three Michelin stars every year since 1965, the pleasure costs 85 Euros and includes foie gras. Anyway, the puff pastry is a lot of fun and helps keep the soup piping hot before the airy crust is broken. The broth is incredibly meaty with a richer beef flavor than any other soup I’ve experienced. The vegetables surprised, maintaining as much crunch as they retained flavor, which helped the silky texture of the earthy, aromatic winter truffles stand out even more. The oxtail itself was a little gummy, perhaps by design, but offered a nice chew against the crispy pastry, which you should try to corral as much of as possible into the broth.
Is it “worth” $29? I’ve certainly paid more and received less. The flavor really was incredible and while we’re not talking $2,500 a pound truffle shavings, I wasn’t mad at all after finishing it and would order it again. At least if nothing else was more bloggable.
Erin continued with the “Salade de Homard du Maine – Maine lobster salad, arugula coulis, quinoa taboule, crispy lobster claw.”
The presentation on this was spectacular as well, though the quinoa may not look particularly appetizing when zoomed in from across a table with poor lighting. But it’s a sizable piece of chilled lobster propped up on the refreshing salad, which had some hints of clove, pepper, parsley, and mint with even more finely chopped lobster dispersed underneath. It was a little awkward trying to cut through the lobster while it was still on top of the salad, but we persevered. The coulis added a slightly herb-y, basil flavor backed up by garlic. Very good and again, quite refreshing given the 90+ degree temperature outside.
But that’s not all as a generous amount of lobster claw meat is wrapped up in a deliciously crispy package. Once broken open, the meat soaks up the garlic, parsley, and herb flavors of the dollop of sauce underneath, creating a really flavorful few bites.
Is it worth the $29 a la carte price? It’s perhaps less novel, or at least much less famous, than the soup. But I was impressed by the quality of the ingredients and presentation. And while it’s true that you could grab two orders of Fish & Chips and a soda from Yorkshire for the same price, if you’re looking for the best food at Epcot, you really don’t need to look any further. It was great.
While we’re talking appetizers, here’s the rest of the menu, which includes options that are considerably less expensive.
This is what the previous lobster appetizer looked like, served hot with sauteed mushrooms, mollet quail egg, and creamy black truffle bouillon. Next time I think I’d like to try the escargots.
Six main courses are offered a la carte, which isn’t a tremendous amount, but none of the entrees from the prix fixe menus appear here. So you do have some choices so long as you’re willing to invest between $39 and $119 on dinner.
I ordered the $42 “Bar Noir Écailles de Pommes de Terre – Black sea bass in potato ‘scales,’ fresh spinach, rosemary sauce.” This is another beautiful plating of a dish Bocuse is famous for preparing. At his restaurant in Lyon, it’s currently served as “Red mullet dressed in crusty potato scales” for 67 Euros. The red mullet, unlike the American mullet sported by that redhead you never talked to in grade school, is a favored delicacy of the Mediterranean.
The fish is delicate, but holds up well considering its immersed in the delicious rosemary sauce that’s probably 49% butter, 49% crème fraîche, and 2% rosemary sprigs, perhaps with a bit of orange juice and vermouth added. There’s just a hint of pine from the rosemary that’s otherwise washed away by the creaminess of the butter and cream. The fried potato scales on top add an interesting crunch and a salty punch. Very good.
The spinach offered an earthy, slightly bitter contrast to the decadence of the fish. It makes the dish healthy.
Erin continued with the “Filet de Flétan Poêlé – Pan seared Halibut, fennel puree, steamed potatoes, baby fennel salad, clams emulsion.” It’s a sizable piece of expertly-seared fish with a nice meatiness to it. For a long time, I thought fennel was what you used when you wanted a prominent licorice flavor, but that isn’t always the case. Here, the fennel is sweated with oil, which gives it a much more subtle, sweet, herb-y flavor. Otherwise, the fennel works really well in the cold salad, where the anise is more prominent and will make you appreciate the puree even more. The potatoes were barely steamed and not to my tastes, but the texture would theoretically contrast nicely with the firm, but light halibut. Overall, another dish that’s well thought out and executed perfectly.
If you prefer a steak, the Beef Tenderloin is very good. The picture above is of the previous presentation with the mushroom crust.
Just to give you an idea about what plating has looked like in the past, here’s the previous Duck Breast entree.
And the Chicken Ballotine.
Dessert should not be skipped at Monsieur Paul, with Chef Bocuse also being well known for his Milk Chocolate Sphere.
I’m sorry as this picture does not look at all appetizing, but “La Verrine Pomme Caramel – Caramelized apples, Shortbread Brittany-style, vanilla cream, green apple sorbet, warm caramel sauce” actually has a really fun presentation, with the server pouring the warm caramel over a layer of chocolate, which then breaks, covering the dessert underneath. This was a tremendous finale with the sorbet providing a really sharp, sweet/sour apple flavor against the sweetness of the caramel and creaminess of the vanilla, on top of the sturdy shortbread cake underneath. Really good.
Overall, the atmosphere wasn’t quite as intimate as I would have liked as we were seated in the middle of the restaurant next to a family with a child that stared at me the entire evening. Dinner also took over two hours, which does make some sense given a bottle of champagne and four complete courses. But for whatever reason, it didn’t really “feel” like it was planned that way. On previous visits, the server has spent more time describing each course and why certain decisions were made and what region of France they represent, but that wasn’t our experience this time around. Still, our glasses of Taittinger never neared empty and I’ve never been offered bread so many times, so somebody was paying attention. And as far as $29 soups go, the truffle version here is the best I’ve ever had.
In the area, my favorite signature restaurant remains Flying Fish over at the BoardWalk, which I review here in its post-refurbishment glory. But if you’re looking for the most elegant restaurant at Epcot without leaving the Park, then it’s not even close. Monsieur Paul is it.
Happy Bastille Day.