Julia Sedefdjian’s Mediterranean, sun-drenched cuisine is a welcome injection of warmth at any season of the year. Sedefdjian came to fame at the 7th arrondissement restaurant Les Fables de la Fontaine when she, at the age of 21, was the youngest woman chef in France with a Michelin star. This gutsy young woman continues to impress: She is now running her own restaurant, Baieta, and still in possession of a Michelin star - this one acquired in the latest round of awards in January 2019.
There is much to love about Sedefdjian’s style and creativity as both a chef and a restaurateur. As much attention has been paid to the small details of design and decor as to what’s on the plate, although the food is really what stands out here. Julia’s unique cooking style is both a calling card to her hometown of Nice (the restaurant's name means little kiss in the Nice dialect), celebrating all the flavors of her southern French origins. Guests are welcomed with a small sample of pissaladière, a well- known tart of onion confit, olives, and anchovies, here served on a square of pillowy-soft bread, in all its glory atop a mini wooden stool, a cute and original touch. The warm confit of octopus was bursting with sunshine flavor, marinating in the rich comforting flavors of Provence: olives, tomatoes and olive oil. The sweet potato gnocchi that accompanied it felt slightly like an imposter and lacked the finesse and natural sense of place of the other ingredients.
The daurade tartare was a bright refreshing entree, exquisitely fresh and tasting of the sea, bathed in a subtle lime dressing and accompanied by a lemongrass infused cream – a little too subtle to be the highlight of the dish though.
Her bouillabaieta, a personal interpretation of the classic southern bouillabaisse fish soup is a triumph. It’s a modern revisit yet clearly recognizable as a classic, original without being wacky or losing sight of the heart of the dish that made it famous. Big chunks of monkfish, cubes of potato, garlic-rich aioli are set in a golden pool of rich fish sauce and served with a vibrant red rouille – a chile pepper mayonnaise -- making you feel as though you could be nearer the Mediterranean than the Seine.
A thoughtful and original offering of moist, delicately smoked chicken breast arrived with a flavorful package of ground chicken wrapped in cabbage, a showering of delicate greens, and a welcome, bright-tasting “tartine” of toast was topped with a silken spread made of the chicken’s organ meats, a clever way to use all parts of the bird.
Throughout, careful thought is given to the dishware, with each plate and bowl set to match the dish at hand. Sometime all white and modern, sometimes hand-crafted pottery in earth tones, always seeming to flatter the offering.
Sedefdjian’s solid qualifications in the pastry arts shine through in her desserts, the chocolate praline option came in the form of a row of mini soft chocolate biscuits filled with a rich dark chocolate ganache, interspersed with praline cream and small quenelles of hazelnut ice cream. A generous dessert of clementines teamed up with a delicate yogurt sorbet flavored with my favorite mouth-tingling Timut pepper, was served along with little cream-filled choux pastries and thin crisps of chocolate.
Service is warm and friendly albeit at times slow and distracted but if you are not in a rush, it doesn’t detract too much from an overall excellent dining experience. We were inspired by the passing dishes being delivered to neighboring tables and I suspect it won’t be long before I return for more of Julia’s sun-kissed cuisine.
Those who remember the Paris restaurant scene in the 1980s may recall that at this same address Colette Dejean officiated at Chez Toutoune, offering up an excellent red pepper mousse, fresh pasta with shellfish, and grilled leg of lamb with French fries. Vive les femmes!
Baieta | 5 rue de Pontoise. | Paris 5. | Tel: +33 1 42 02 59 19 | Métro: Maubert-Mutalité | Open Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday & Monday | 29€ (starter + main), €45 (4-course) lunch menus, €85 7-course menu for the whole table (lunch and dinner), à la carte 60–80€ | reservations essential | atmosphere: smart casual.
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