Unexpected. This is the word that springs to mind when I think of the small unassuming restaurant-cum-wine bar that has shot to the top of my list of favorite neighborhood dining spots in recent months. Unexpected because of its unlikely location, its curious chef and the spectacular dishes that defy the impossibly small kitchen hidden at the back of the simple yet welcoming dining room. Such a restaurant might be more at home in the 9th or 10th arrondissements of Paris, yet has found itself nestled among the upmarket fashion boutiques and classic bistros of the well-heeled Sevres-Babylone neighborhood – luckily for me just steps from my 7th arrondissement apartment.
Like many of the most interesting new wave of chefs in Paris, chef Sebastien Leroy does not have classic French culinary training. He spent his early career as a graphic designer and then as a set designer in films, before turning his long time passion for food into a fulltime occupation. However, his earthy roots as the son of farmers goes a long way in explaining his deep affinity for all things seasonal and wild. True to the restaurant’s name (meaning wild), Leroy’s personal cooking style is punctuated with fresh herbs and edible flowers, sourced carefully from the likes of herbalist and professional forager Stéphane Meyer (also known as the Druid of Paris!).
My first meal there made quite an impression – an entrée of raw mackerel, green asparagus, toasted buckwheat and white nasturtium flowers was united by a vinegar dressing whose acidity was perfectly balanced. And herein lies what I love most about Leroy’s food, his understanding of acidity and how to make it bring a dish harmoniously together.
This perfect introduction was followed by a slow cooked pork dish served with a bright refreshing salad of raw thinly sliced cauliflower, radish, coriander, mint and punctuated with a vibrant miso dressing, a dish I immediately wanted to figure out how to recreate.
Most dishes seem to follow this formula, meat or fish, simply prepared and accompanied by one or two star vegetables, a scattering of fresh herbs, leaves and/or flowers, and a sauce with near perfect acidity every time to bring the dish coherently together – a rather ingenious blueprint that enables this humble wine bar with big ambitions to produce such sophisticated dishes from a kitchen barely big enough to fit the chef himself.
Two thirds of the wall space is dedicated to natural, organic and biodynamic wines from small, lesser known producers. The right balance of acidity, for Leroy, is just as important in the wines he sources as it is in each dish that he constructs. Since his early days of solo operation, Leroy now works with a front of house who can knowledgeably talk you through the extensive wine selection and will happily make food pairing recommendations.
The 15 seater dining room and the small sidewalk terrace fills up quickly, and although you may get lucky with a walk-in, it’s best to reserve ahead to guarantee a table.
Sauvage | Wine bar / Modern French | 60 rue du Cherche-Midi | Paris 7 | Tel: +33 6 88 88 48 23 | Métro: Sèvres-Babylone, Rennes or Vaneau | Open Monday through Saturday