I knew that I was going to have a good time on my first visit to Porte 12 – a brand new modern French restaurant in the 10th arrondissement – when, as we sat down for lunch and I heard them playing a favorite Nat King Cole tune, followed by the modern-day American jazz singer Stacey Kent, belting out a great song. There’s much to love, even embrace about this small, 30-seat restaurant with its simple, bright, contemporary décor, a bustling open kitchen, sincere and attentive service, not to mention straightforward, yet sophisticated, signature fare that makes me want to come back for dinner...which I plan to. Whimsical corset-shaped light fixtures all but swing from the high ceiling, echoing the space’s former incarnation as a textile and lingerie atelier. The one-bite starter of a miniature potato hollowed out, filled with an eggless aioli, a sprinkling of crunchy toast bits, and a few herbs sets a surprising and satisfying tone, and I’ll be serving a version of this to my cooking school students first chance I get.
The restaurant is overseen by Singapore chef André Chiang, with Vincent Crepel in charge in the kitchen. A native of Lourdes, Crepel has also worked in the kitchens of the landmark Swiss restaurant made famous in the 1980’s by Fredy Girardet, (now under the direction of chef Philippe Rochat and Benoit Violier), as well as, of course, in Chiang’s own highly celebrated restaurant in Singapore, Restaurant André.
Dishes that both inspire a cook as well as please the palate are always winners in my book, and Chef Crepel offers a stylish serving of moist and tender duck hearts bathed in a deep, dark poultry sauce all topped with an ethereal, thin, creamy potato puree, paper-thin toast crisps and a few tender, bright green wisps of salicorne, or edible sea beans. Also on the winners list goes his so simple yet brilliantly cohesive creation of ultra-tender strips of chicken breast set atop a full-flavored mixture of herb-infused fregola (lightly toasted Sardinian pasta that’s similar to Israeli couscous), and more of those crunchy, nutty, toast bits for added texture. The dish was brought together seamlessly by a delicate corn purée. His dessert (photo) – a plate of vibrant, warm, thickly sliced fresh figs, atop crumbled chocolate brownie, surprisingly tangy and not-too-sweet crumbled meringues, and a hazelnut ice cream that was light, yet made its presence felt, rounded-off a memorable, well-priced (€35) three-course lunch. The only disappointment of the meal was the rather timid plate of barely cooked mackerel-like chinchards set atop thick slices of crunchy, barely cooked potatoes, a pairing that was far from satisfying. The wine list is streamlined and offers some good choices by the glass, including a favorite Chardonnay from the Jura, from Domaine Labet. The 3-course lunch menu allows two selections for the first and main course, with a single choice appetizer and dessert. A smaller lunch menu of two dishes – starter and main, or main and dessert – is a very reasonable 28€. The more expensive dinner menu offers more choices, from 58-65€.
12 rue des Messageries | Paris 10 | Tel: +33 1 42 46 22 64 | Metro: Poissonnière
Open Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Saturday lunch, and all day Sunday and Monday.
email@example.com | www.porte12.com (reservations taken online)
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