W Paris Opera Hotel
4, rue Meyerbeer, in the 9th Arrondissement.
01 77 48 94 94.
The newest spot in town, the W Hotel, brought the crème de la crème of all my favorite regions of the world together under one roof at the new Restaurant Arola, named after the Catalan chef-owner, Sergi Arola. This Paris restaurant fuses a chic New York ambience with Catalan tapas and platillos while adding a touch of Parisian flair to the cuisine.
A lovely server greeted us with a home-style version of pan con tomate, or tostada. This was a do-it-yourself version of the dish—we rubbed the lightly toasted bread with fresh tomatoes and a fresh clove of garlic and then topped it off with olive oil and coarse sea salt. Don’t order this if you are on a date or a business lunch or dinner, but my friend and I certainly had a special moment of feeling at home.
We were also treated to olive-infused home-style breadsticks and a special dipping sauce. But my favorite of the complimentary hors d’oeuvres was the amuse-bouche, whose fresh herbs created an explosion inside my mouth that led me to experience taste buds I never knew I had.
For a mere 8 euros, the eggplant tapas sent me down memory lane, to my mother’s and grandmother’s roasted eggplant. I could taste the fire in the flame-charred eggplant, which was infused with a balsamic reduction and topped off with Spanish olives and roasted pine nuts.
We also loved the elegantly decorated Las Bravas de Arola, a delicious concoction of deep-fried potatoes made with spicy tomato sauce. These were a more chic version of the authentic patatas bravas, with a sophisticated, orderly display and a spicy aioli designed perfectly to top off the rounded potato. The Sancerre that accompanied our dinner smelled and tasted divine of floral bouquets.
The cèpes confit carpaccio was arranged like a flower in pine nut vinaigrette, topped off with fresh pasta and slivers of Iberian ham. But the dish that blew me away was the crema Catalana, a blissful caramelized dessert made with eggs and cinnamon. The ingredients were a mélange of what tasted like a cookie concoction: liquefied meringue topped off with mandarin sorbet and infused with citrus flavors.
If you’re a foodie who treasures authenticity, you may not be completely satisfied with the cuisine (and vegetarians may not have a variety of plates to choose from). Arola has altered the essence of true Catalan gastronomy and transformed it to appeal to a Parisian or even international palate. But I would definitely like to go back and try all the Iberian meat and seafood dishes.
In a nutshell: Arola offers good food in a trendy atmosphere. Have cocktails in the lounge downstairs, where you’ll find a deejay spinning good vibes from all around the globe.
Price check: Dinner with wine is around 50–60 euros per person.
If you like the sound of Restaurant Arola but want your Iberian ham in a wine bar setting, try L’Avant Comptoir. Read the review.
9, carrefour de l’Odéon, in the 6th.
No reservations. Open daily.
Editor’s note: For a gourmet walking tour, check out our DIY downloadable Paris tours.