Saturne: a keeper

Squid, Ble Noir, Osyter Mousse Saturne

Too much ink has already been spilled over Saturne, one of a handful of current cult restaurants in Paris. Since the restaurant’s opening in September, much of the word has been negative and underwhelming, suggesting the place might have needed a softer opening. All I can say is that a recent lunch at the hands of young chef Sven Chartier (last seen at Racines) tells me this is a place that I am going to want to return to again and again. What we want today is fresh, inventive fare that is at once familiar and surprisingly new and Saturne delivers.

The blond wood decor and airy glass roof is warming, and service (despite a bit of confusion over a reservation)  is attentive and correct. Sven loves the mandolin, and everything from all manner of root vegetables to golden Comté cheese are sliced paper thin. The vegetables arrive as though they were lean, shiny sheets of colorful pasta, all the while guarding their integrity and flavor. Main courses, such as a moist cochon de lait and fat slices of codfish, were cooked to perfection. And there are some pleasing surprises, such as alabaster squid topped with a tiny buckwheat blinis and an effusive oyster mousse (photo).  I didn’t love the wine, a “natural” beverage, Domaine Valette's  Viré Clessé 2005. It had a maderized edge, no balance of fruit and acid, an added, alas, nothing to the experience. Desserts were a bit heavy,  with a thick brioche perdu  and  overly saturated baba au rhum. But I’d go back again and again just to sample baker Christophe Vasseur’s pain des amis, a vibrant, thick-crusted loaf with a bright and nutty flavor. (Boulangerie du Pain et des Idées,  34, rue Yves Toudic, Paris 10.)  At lunch time, snacks and wine are served at the bar near the entrance.

Saturne, 17, rue Notre-Dames des Victoires, Paris 2. Telephone : +33 1 42 60 31 90.  Métro Bourse. Closed Saturday and Sunday. 35 euro lunch menu, 37 euro dinner menu.