Finding a restaurant whose atmosphere gives you an authentic historic experience, while offering you fresh contemporary fare on the plate, can be somewhat of an enigma in Paris. Sure, historical settings with charming turn-of-the-century décor abound, but so do the disappointments when the food arrives. But since Sven Chartier and Ewen Lemoigne of restaurant Saturne fame have taken over Clown Bar -- the historic monument that was once the watering hole for the adjacent Cirque d’Hiver (Winter Circus) – this is decidedly not one of those places.
The charming Belle Epoque bistro setting with Sarreguemines ceramic tiles depicting parading clowns, a zinc bar and circus-style, exposed bulb lighting is a surprising but refreshing setting for chef Sota Atsumi’s modern French, produce-driven cuisine. Chef Atsumi, who has passed through the likes of 3 Michelin star Maison Troisgros in Roanne and Vivant Table and Toyo in Paris, assures a daily changing menu of carefully composed offerings, that are simple yet imaginative and satisfying. You might find entrees such as a sashimi coins of coquilles Saint Jacques (scallop) served with smoky shaved ricotta and delicately perfumed bergamot; or a raw beef tartare, brightened up with marinated anchovy fillets and a thick substantial burrata. For mains, we sampled a filet of cod, soft and pillowy (yet a touch overcooked) served with grilled Italian radicchio, spiked with miso and showered in a dramatic green seaweed powder (photo); and a perfectly cooked pigeon, served with fresh blueberries and a generous bowl of grilled whole gernika peppers from the Basque country.
We loved the light yet puckery tarte au citron (lemon tart), but being late in the season, the blueberry tart was a little lackluster, despite its pairing with a heavenly salted caramel ice-cream and we might have been better with the chocolate mousse with grilled tea ice-cream. Always good to have a reason to go back. Other bonuses include their six table terrace and they are open Sunday nights. All the elements are there for a great Parisian dining experience.
CLOWN BAR | Modern French / Bistro | 114 rue Amelot | Paris 11 | +33 1 43 55 87 35 | Métro: Filles du Calvaire or Oberkampf | Wednesday – Sunday for lunch and dinner, 7:30am-2am continued service for drinks only | 50-60€ à la carte | Reservations recommended |