A year in Paris has made us as snobby and suspicious about touristic sites as the locals. We roll our eyes at the snaking line outside the Pyramid du Louvre, pooh-pooh the Eiffel Tour and would probably die of shame if our French friends caught us posing in front of Moulin Rouge, kitschy windmill and all.
But filial piety trumps good sense, so when my godparents suggested a dinner and show at the Moulin Rouge to celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary, we obediently complied. And truth to be told, I was more than a little excited to see the world-famous show, especially on someone else’s coin.
A brief rundown of our evening for those contemplating the dinner and show combo at Moulin Rouge:
6:30 pm – Arrive at the Moulin Rouge (with reservations made well in advance). There are no seating assignments so it pays to arrive early in order to get a table with the best view of the stage. Real estate is at a premium so if you did not arrive early enough to secure one of the few two-tops, do not be shocked if your romantic night for two ends up being an evening with 4 strangers who get placed in the same long table as you.
7:00 – 9:00 pm – Dinner. While there are hundreds of seats in the crimson hall bathed in red light, the service staff are speed monsters, so everyone was seated with champagne within the first 20 minutes of dinner service during our evening there. Likewise, they were constantly hovering around the table to clear plates and usher us out of our seats the moment the curtains came up. The food (3 course dinner menu at 175e and 200e, including the price of the show and half a bottle of wine or champagne) is supplied by Dalloyau, an established high-end pastry shop and caterer. Throughout dinner one is serenaded by a jazz band and two MCs/crooners doing some pretty weak covers of classic love songs. A dance floor is set for those for would like to sway to the beat of music.
9:00 – 10: 30 pm – The famous Moulin Rouge cabaret show named “Feerie” is a spectacle full of glitz and glitter, more Vegas than Toulouse-Lautrec. The cancan may be the only holdover from the Belle Epoque. In between technicolor dance numbers featuring lots of professional dancers showing but skin and feathers were some old-fashioned circus acts that broke the monotony of too much song and dance. In fact, the ventriloquist probably earned the most laughs, the acrobats the most applause and the miniature ponies the loudest “awwwws”.
Since this is a food blog, I am obliged to report on our dinner, but make no mistake, dinner was not and will probably never be the point of a dinner show. Prepared in advance for hundreds, the quality of the meal was akin to that of soulless banquet hall food, reheated to feed the masses. But Dalloyau is a credible food supplier, hence the quality of the dishes, in particular those that needed no cooking, was fairly decent. For me, the thick, oily slices of Norwegian smoked salmon (from the 175e menu) were actually quite good.
The 200e menu features lobster and foie gras on the entrée list and those who picked this upgraded menu unanimously ordered the cold lobster tart in the fashion of a pastry. The boiled lobster meat was sweet with good texture though overwhelmed by the vanilla-infused cream.
For mains, the fish dishes tended to do better than the meat plates, in part because the cream sauces prevented the fish from getting too dry whilst the oven-finished meat tended to be over-cooked. My veal with mushrooms and a rice pilaf was tough, and the blunt knife I wielded made it impossible to cut the meat. Suffice to say I did not finish my plate. To their credit though, I must say the dishes were relatively well-seasoned, not too bland nor salty.
Dessert happens to be Dalloyau’s strong suite, so we had no problems in that arena, happily polishing off our sweets with what’s left of our 3.5 bottles of wine (being 7 that night). The Opera is a cake invented by Dalloyau and the version here comes with a red outer-shell and a chocolate windmill.
I must confess I had a much more enjoyable time at the Moulin Rouge than expected. The entertainment and production values were high, and the performances were not as tired as I had read about on online reviews. The food, as mentioned, was nothing to write home about and very expensive. But I suppose that was the price for good seats as the few spectators who had elected just watching the show (at 105e with drinks) were relegated to the sides of the room. My advice for anyone interested in just watching the show would be to attend the drinks-only second seating at 11pm instead of the 9pm.
Bal du Moulin Rouge
Address: 82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018, Paris, France