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Marc Meneau a L'Esperance Restaurant Review: L'Espérance sits on the brim of Burgundy, in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Vézelay. For the serious diner, the two-hour drive from Paris should not be a deterrent---what an error it would be to bypass a meal at this rare table simply because it's off the beaten path. With Meneau's menu you receive a passport to the wonderland of very haute. The hors d'oeuvres are both warm and cold, and the cold ones are of a caliber to be found only at l'Espérance. Wrongly named les petits plats nouveaux, the four different compositions are great offerings. The first is an essence of crustacés with a lobster toast. Second are sea urchins hot and cold. Then come sardines with the most unexpected and delectable combination of turnips in mousseline with caviar. Finally: quail egg yolks à la neige with truffle cream. (Sometimes, the latter is replace with mousserons mushrooms). So exquisite, original and exciting, they cover in small portions a vast palette of tastes in unprecedented sequences. The other highlight in regard to appetizers is huîtres en gelée de mer, whose unexpected texture delivers in your mouth an oceanic fresh wave in the middle of France. The vegetables processed by Meneau are likely to convert diehard carnivores to vegetarianism. The turnip chips are incredible, for instance, but the summit is reached with the petits pois à la Française. It was Louis XIV's favorite dish, but Meneau concedes he has made some additions to the 17th-century original recipe, such as adding a chip of bacon and a hint of mint to the lettuce and carrots that traditionally accompany the petits pois. There are two stars on the meat and poultry register. First is the poularde de bresse rôtie stuffed with foie gras and truffles served with pommes soufflés. It requires an hour of preparation to produce this smooth and rich dish. Lighter and more appetizing to gaze upon, the quasi de veau is probably the most popular entry thanks to its exciting sweet and sour caramel sauce. A unique dish is the Atlantic turbot en pâte à sel with lobster butter. The large turbots are shipped to Meneau from Brittany by an artisan-fisherman who captures them on the high seas. He reserves his best catches for L'Espérance under the condition that Meneau never rejects his supply and does not quibble about their price. They're not cheap, but on the plate, under Meneau's care, they're extraordinary. Although L'Espérance is not a fish restaurant, this firm, moist, tangy turbot is a classic in the realm of fish preparations. The desserts are crafted around a fruit base such as strawberries, peaches, apricots and apples. They bring a final natural touch that superbly concludes a meal that has been served in style with a great refinement. The sparkling crystal, fine silverware and plates of different shape and color for each dish enhance an experience made also memorable by the most professional and attentive service, which could serve as a model for a waiters' training class. As expected, there is an endless list of the most beautiful Burgundies. But you can't do better, both price and taste-wise, than to pick Marc Meneau's Vilely, white or red. The thirty acres of vines he planted in the early 1980s now yield a Chardonnay with a discreet woodsy touch and honey background and a Pinot Noir with hints of cherries and raspberries.