It’s no secret that Fish – the very ambidextrous wine bar/bistro/everyman sort of restaurant in the Saint-Germain neighborhood – is one of my favorites. Every time I eat there I think back to when the space was an ordinary but extremely popular Left Bank trattoria, always bustling, always an event, even if the food did not amaze or surprise. There is surely something imbedded in the walls, in the soul of the place that just seems to make people happy and satisfied. Not to say that owners Juan Sanchez and Drew Harré (personal friends) have nothing to do with the success or the ambience, or that the current chef Ollie Clark (a Shropshire lad) does not add to their accomplishments with his immense talent. Of course they all have something to do with it, from the very laid back but very professional attitude to all things culinary, service and wine related. I am a frequent visitor here, and in the past several months have been surprised, pleased, sometimes even blown away by the quality that comes out of the upstairs kitchen, often at bargain prices.
Chef Clark does not shy away from ingredients you are unlikely find on menus elsewhere: such as lamb’s liver, Bambi (baby white-tailed deer), or baby goat (chevreaux). He weaves these ingredients into his repertoire with grace, roasting lamb’s liver and pairing it with apples, delicately flavored, crunchy sucrine lettuce, and hazelnuts. My cooking mind would never think of combining goat and beets, but Clark brilliantly pairs them on the plate, seasoning the warm dish with the aromatic Moroccan spice mix of ras el hanout, mint, and leeks.
What I love here as well, is that vegetables are never an afterthought, never a simple accompaniment, they are there on their own turf, with their own power to surprise as well as please. At a recent lunch, I was thoroughly delighted to tuck into a winter salad of celery root --he “roasts” the céleri-rave whole in coarse salt, wraps in foil and cooks atop the flat-top plancha -- then slices it thinly and pairs with thin strips of brilliant red radicchio, golden mustard seeds, colorful blue touches of borage flowers, and a few leaves of the intensely flavored oyster plant (mertensia maritima) as a gustatory surprise (photo).
I could simply live on their crusty, olive oil-rich, salty bread oven foccacia-style bread, delivered by hand from their sister-brother eatery, Cosi, right across the street.
As ever, diners will find plenty to love on the wine list, with many of my favorites, including two current wines by the glass, the always dependable, perfectly balanced white Picpoul de Pinet (100% from the grape Picpoul de Pinet) a Coteaux de Langeudoc from Domaines Félines Jourdain; and Mas Champart’s always peppery, rich with dark fruit red Saint-Chinian, also from the Languedoc area.
Fish – La Boissonnerie | 69 rue de Seine | Paris 6 | +33 1 43 54 34 69 | Metro: Mabillon or Odéon | Open daily, 12.30-2:30pm and 7pm-12:30am (kitchen closes at 10:45pm) | Open most holidays, annual closing for one week in August | Reservations recommended, but walk-ins taken at 7pm without reservation.