Thankfully, a number of Parisian chefs are going through an extremely creative, thoroughly down-to earth period, and Sven Chartier at Saturne is leading the pack. My last several meals there have been truly inspiring, it’s clear that he’s having a great time in the kitchen, turning out fare that excites him and nourishes us.
Whether at lunch or dinner, the spacious, wood and glass-roofed dining room is warming, offset by stunning white pendant lamps and a welcoming glassed-in wall of ready-to drink bottles of wine and spirits.
To say that his bite-sized appetizer brioches are feather-light is an understatement. They’re airy and not overly butter-rich, served with a pungent, creamy dipping sauce made with aged Comté cheese. It’s that kind of originality and quality that makes Chartier so endearing.
His vibrant bouquet vivant de Bretagne – tiny, red, full-flavored shrimp that arrive at the market still squiggling and alive – are all crunch and pleasure, showered with bright green powdered dried seaweed, understated yet brilliant.
The menu features some of the best that France has to offer: Oysters from Utah Beach are anointed with a surprising sauce of pomegranate juice and raspberries; a Brittany-fresh scallop carpaccio is topped with a lively green watercress sauce and pungent nasturtium leaves; smoked pigeon is paired with a big slice of cabbage that is almost, but not quite burnt, an effect that gives the vegetable a smoky touch of its own. But the star of my last meal there was his generous portion of alabaster barbue – or brill – one of the best versions of that Breton fish I have ever tasted. This turbot-like flat fish was cooked to a tender perfection, with flavors brilliantly offset by faintly sweet, braised Conference pears, teamed up with briny sea urchin, ham from the Bigorre in France’s southwest, and all tied together in a buttery sauce of sweet vin jaune from the Jura.
I can also credit Saturne with my latest white wine discovery: a fabulous Chardonnay from the Doubs, that far eastern French department in the region now known as Bourgone-Franche-Comté. The wine, a vins de pays de Franche-Comté from Domaine Viticole du Moutherot near Besançon, is a revelation: golden, mineral-rich, unique with its intense yet pleasing notes of white flowers and varied citrus.
As you dine, surely don’t forget to admire and devour the outstanding pain des amis bread, a rich, thick-crusted loaf with a bright and nutty flavor from baker Christophe Vasseur’s Du Pain et Des Idées.
SATURNE | 17 rue Notre-Dame des Victoires | Paris 2 | Tel: +33 1 42 60 31 90 | Métro: Bourse | Open Monday-Friday. Closed Saturday, Sunday, lunchtimes on public holidays and 22 December 2017 – 9 January 2018 | 45€ weekday lunch menu, 85€ carte blanche menu (150€ with wine pairing) at lunch and dinner.