13 Feb '18
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The Moulin Rouge’s Sexy Floorshow Now Includes Good Food in Addition to Tasteful Nudity

It was somewhere between the time the showgirl dove into a giant, transparent water tank filled with fat, writhing pythons, and the moment a parade of live mini-horses trotted out onstage that I understood what Chef David Le Quellec meant when he said he was looking to achieve “symbiosis” with the Moulin Rouge in his food.

Photo © Francis TheBlueRoom courtesy Moulin Rouge.

It’s a Thursday night at arguably the world’s most legendary, fabled cabaret. Most guests have come for the promise of beautiful women, sparkly costumes, the can-can, and tasteful toplessness.

Image by Sandie Bertrand for Moulin Rouge.

I, however, have come for the food.

In the 2018 edition of the Gault & Millau, one of France’s most influential restaurant guides, the Moulin Rouge earned a coveted spot in the book for its VIP menu, the first time a cabaret’s dining room has been deemed worthy in the guide’s 46-year history. In the review, inspectors applaud the chef for creating a dining experience that’s just as captivating as the spectacle.

A course of shellfish. Photo courtesy Moulin Rouge.

While my taste buds contemplate an amuse-bouche that pairs octopus and passionfruit, I snap the seeds pleasurably under my teeth, let the tart sweetness awaken my palate for what’s to come, and scan the pre-show dining room before me and determine it’s decidedly middle-aged (disclaimer: I include myself in this description). We sport suburban mom hair (a little too layered, a little too coiffed, five highlights too many), lots of spectacles, middle-age spread, matchy-matchy outfits, and most of us have ponied up between 120 to 420 euros to be wined, dined, and entertained.

Chef Le Quellec preparing for service. Photo by the author.

Maybe that’s why Le Quellec’s menu is so strait-laced and serious. Be it the VIP menu, or the less expensive three-course tasting menus, dishes are classically—some might say predictably—French. There are no coquettish references or playful culinary nods to its cabaret setting. Instead, Le Quellec—who has worked in some of the city’s most illustrious restaurants including Le George V, Taillevent, and Ledoyen—was scouted to bring a seriousness and rigor to the Moulin Rouge’s gastronomic offering.

“It’s true that cabarets in France and around the world don’t have the best reputation for their food,” the chef told me. “So I said to myself, ‘why can’t we enjoy a good meal and a good show?’ That’s why I came onboard.”

There’s a distinct note of pride as Le Quellec speaks about the privilege of being the first chef for the Moulin Rouge, which has been entertaining audiences since 1889—a badge of honor that will be inscribed in the venue’s already long and illustrious history books.

Prior to arriving in 2015, meals at the Moulin Rouge were prepared offsite by pastry house and caterer Dalloyau. But with the arrival of Le Quellec, the venue installed new working kitchens, where meats are dry-aged for weeks at a time and batches of vegetables are cooked sous-vide.

Le Quellec says his priority has been to elevate the previously lackluster dining experience to the same level and global renown of the show—to create “symbiosis.”

The completely non-titillating gnocchi. Photo by the author.

To kick off my “symbiotic” dining experience, I’m presented with a wreath of soft, pillowy potato and parmesan gnocchi balls, topped with generous truffle garnishes that coat the mouth in dark, musky, earthy tones. I double check the menu and find that there is no particularly titillating, “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” description. Is it juvenile of me, then, to see boobs on my plate of gnocchi? The brown, marbled truffle circles topping puffy, round spheres? Because Lord knows they’re everywhere else tonight, flesh and nipples tucked between strategically-placed ropes of Swarovski crystals, and studded leather straps.

Is it juvenile of me, then, to see boobs on my plate of gnocchi?

As I watch the ladies and their gravity-defying breasts sashay daintily across the stage in the way only tiara-wearing, feather-laden, rhinestone-blinking showgirls on tip-toes can do, I’m reminded of my main dish, a colorful plate of fresh, pink, brined langoustines and seafood, offset by pickled yellow cauliflower and butter sauce with caviar.

Like the cabaret show itself, there’s a lot to take in.


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The pink langoustine is satisfyingly fleshy, sweet and tender. And under a blanket of foamy caviar butter sauce, it takes on the taste of the sea—and wealth. Caviar bursts lend the langoustines, clams, and octopus tendrils the salty taste of the sea, before smoothening out in a soft butter sauce. All this could be cloying, were it not for the pickled cauliflower resetting your palate for more.

Unlike the visual feast that is the show, my one frustration is not being able to see clearly what I’m eating. I can’t quite identify a piece of seafood (or is it mushroom?) that I’ve just swallowed, and only under certain angles am able to see the pretty medley of colors on my plate.

Photo courtesy Moulin Rouge.

By the time I’ve sampled my cheese plate and polished off as much as I can of my chocolate espresso tart, I’ve completed a five-course meal that has primed me for a dizzyingly multi-sensory experience. The rhythm and variety of the show leave me gobsmacked.

Oooooh, pretty, says the 6-year-old girl in me, as the dancers float across stage in fluttery, rainbow silk skirts and flamingo-pink feather boas that illuminate like fairy lights.

Good God, man, don’t drop her! I find myself whispering several times throughout the night, be it during the roller-skating routine in which a woman is spun through the air at 400 revolutions per minute (conservative estimate), or when Mr. Strongarm does reverse tricep curls with an upside down woman as the weight.

Hell, no! I find myself shouting silently, when a naked woman dives into the stage that has just risen from the ground and turned itself into an aquarium filled with 40 tons of water and fat pythons.

Were it not for the gnocchi and langoustines cushioning my digestive tract, I’m sure I would have felt butterflies in my stomach.

For info: The VIP Dinner and Show is 420 euros, around $520. Less expensive three-course menus start at 175 euros or $220. An à la carte menu is also available.

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