Passion, Persistence, Passiflore

Paris – In the past, the talents of chef Roland Durand seemed to simply pass me by. I sampled his food at the Relais de Sevres, La Camélia in Bougival, and later at the Pre Catelan, and never fell in love with the fare and style that won him a coveted place as a meilleur ouvrier de France.

But persistence has paid off and so has this chef’s passion for travel. In his latest incarnation – the warm, chic, lively restaurant Passiflore (passion flower) --- he has hit it on the nail. His food sings, flies, does a fine little dance. Michelin thinks so too, and awarded him a Michelin star on March 1.

A first glance at the menu will no doubt confuse many diners. What country are we in and what is the century? Here we have everything from steak with polenta to a sweet potato vichyssoise and on to langoustines served with an Indian mulligatawny with Thai herbs, and then stuffed cabbage.

Surprisingly, this Auvergnat chef who spent years living in Thailand manages to combine all of his experiences into a cuisine that is at once modern, traditional, and exciting. He does not color outside the lines, yet his is a cuisine that takes French fare out of a rut.

Durand has a passion for soup, and manages to pass along that enthusiasm with a variety of brilliant renditions: His chilled red beet soup laced with horseradish is a winner and a real alarm clock for the palate. The sweet potato soup perfumed with star anise, along with chunks of fresh crabmeat, was astonishing in its complexity and ability to please.

Favorite dishes here include gorgeous langoustines paired with plump, ultra fresh scallops in a mulligatawny-spiced dish that managed a certain elegance; the wildly audacious jellied calves head paired with oysters in a deliciously capery sauce; and the obligatory molten warm chocolate cake, only here the surprise was a river of pistachio sauce running from the center.

Less ambitious diners will be just as happy with the thick and wholesome seared beef rib steak or the gargantuan and delicious stuffed cabbage. I found the pasta in his raviole of crab too thick, and the warm chocolate tart a bit too lacking in chocolate to satisfy.

The décor – faux marble walls in ochre tones, leopard skin carpeting, lots of chocolate brown, and crisp white linens – matches the cuisine. Service is excellent, and the wine list offers plenty of choice. Try the white Cairanne from Domaine Richaud (37.50 euros) or the fine red Fitou, Terre Natal (22 euros).

It will be a pleasure to follow Durand’s progress, and inspirations that come with the change of seasons.

33 rue du Longchamp
Paris 75016
Tel: 01 47 04 96 81
Fax: 01 47 04 32 27

Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday. Credit cards: American Express, Visa. Menus at 30 and 38 euros. A la carte, 45 to 67 euros including service but not wine.