Breizh Café Odéon: Satisfying Buckwheat Galettes

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Following the gigantic success of its Marais location, Breizh Café has opened a second Parisian crêperie across the Seine in the bustling Odéon quartier. This charmingly decorated spot – all pale wood and warming exposed stone walls with a wraparound outdoor terrace on the place – still offers some of the best-tasting buckwheat, or sarrasin galettes around. The thin, deep brown, crisp-edged treats could almost stand on their own, they are so densely-flavored, almost meaty, with a rich built-in wholesome goodness.

In fact, this is almost the case with their Breizh Crousillant, pita-like wedges baked to a delicate crispness, and served with varied accompaniments. We chose a delightfully flavorful tarama, a dish whose presentation and preparation lend an international aura, taking it out of its native Brittany.

But as much as I love the place and could easily lunch there once a week – the menu is overly extensive and ultimately too varied – leaving one with the impression that they are just trying too hard. Their maki-inspired rolls are not that attractive and are awkward to eat, whether filled with onion confit and sausage, or Comté cheese and Andouille.

My advice is to stick to the simple options. I adored their classic galette filled with high-quality smoked salmon and soft goat’s milk cheese, topped with a refreshing, light salad. But the hefty price tag of 18.50€ was over the top for such a simple offering. The 19.80€ plate of langoustines seared in Bordier seaweed butter was appealing, but I would have preferred larger, meatier versions of my favorite seafood.

While I am happy to have a second incarnation of one of my favorite crêperies right here in my neighborhood, it’s clear that here you are paying for the location as much as you are for the quality ingredients. Service is slow and distracted, so be forewarned. The place is always full, make sure to reserve in advance. 

BREIZH CAFÉ ODEON   |  Cafés and Casual Bites – Crêperie   |   1 rue de l’Odeon   |   Paris 6   |   +33 10 42 49 34 73   |   Métro: Odéon   |   Open daily, 11:30 am to 11 pm   |   Sweet and savory crêpes and galettes from 4.50-22.90€   |   Reservations: essential.


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Yoshinori: fantastic fare in the 6th

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The next time I complain about a kitchen that’s too small, I will think of Yoshinori Morie. If I could turn out a fraction of the fantastic fare he manages from his postage stamp work space, I would applaud myself.

The Japanese chef’s Left Bank restaurant, Yoshinori, has been open since last October, and the 30-seat establishment on two levels already has a steady following. With its simple but elegant pale wood décor, delicate linen blinds, and painted white colombage, it’s simply a warming, welcoming, intimate spot.

With just two chefs in the kitchen and a staff of one in the dining room, Yoshinori works at a smooth and steady pace. The French fare is seasonal, varied, and well-sourced, with oysters from Utah Beach, milk-fed veal from the Corrèze, skate wing from Brittany, pork and lamb from la ferme de Clavisy in Burgundy, and cheese from Laurent Dubois.

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The plump Normandy oysters arrive bathed in a brilliant green sauce of sautéed leeks and juniper berry oil, showered with watercress. I fell instantly in love with his Ailes de Raie de Bretagne, meaty strips of moist skate wing served on a soothing bed of cabbage and Brussels sprouts, tossed in a buttery sherry vinegar sauce and topped with an avalanche of green herbs. The brilliant pink baby pork ribs—côte de cochon de la ferme de Clavisy – were paired with a mix of winter vegetables and a salty touch of Kalamata olives. And the bread, from baker Thierry Delabre, is worth a detour on its own, served with squares of sweet seaweed butter.

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But the real star of the show is the gorgeous, golden Passion Fruit Bavarois, set in a colorful mango sauce, flanked by squares of brilliant pink grapefruit jelly. It was a perfect wintry close – fruity, and easy on the palate – and I am inspired to recreate a version of this as a signature seasonal dessert.

The wine list presents some fine offerings, including selections from Michele Aubrey Laurent at Domaine Gramenon in the southern Rhône, Fanny Sabre in Burgundy, and Domaine Didier Dagueneau in the Loire Valley.

The well-priced 45€ lunch – first-course, main course, and dessert – is a must!

YOSHINORI   |  Modern French   |   18 rue Grégoire de Tours   |   Paris 6   |   +33 09 84 19 76 05   |   Métro: Odéon and Mabillon   |   Open Monday dinner, Tuesday to Friday lunch and dinner, and Saturday dinner. Closed Monday lunch, Saturday lunch and all day Sunday   |   35€ & 45€ lunch menus, 70€ dinner menu,  95€ dégustation menu at lunch and dinner   |   Reservations essential.


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Saturne: Leading the Pack

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Thankfully, a number of Parisian chefs are going through an extremely creative, thoroughly down-to earth period, and Sven Chartier at Saturne is leading the pack. My last several meals there have been truly inspiring, it’s clear that he’s having a great time in the kitchen, turning out fare that excites him and nourishes us.

Whether at lunch or dinner, the spacious, wood and glass-roofed dining room is warming, offset by stunning white pendant lamps and a welcoming glassed-in wall of ready-to drink bottles of wine and spirits.

To say that his bite-sized appetizer brioches are feather-light is an understatement.  They’re airy and not overly butter-rich, served with a pungent, creamy dipping sauce made with aged Comté cheese. It’s that kind of originality and quality that makes Chartier so endearing.

His vibrant bouquet vivant de Bretagne – tiny, red, full-flavored shrimp that arrive at the market still squiggling and alive – are all crunch and pleasure, showered with bright green powdered dried seaweed, understated yet brilliant.

The menu features some of the best that France has to offer: Oysters from Utah Beach are anointed with a surprising sauce of pomegranate juice and raspberries; a Brittany-fresh scallop carpaccio is topped with a lively green watercress sauce and pungent nasturtium leaves; smoked pigeon is paired with a big slice of cabbage that is almost, but not quite burnt, an effect that gives the vegetable a smoky touch of its own. But the star of my last meal there was his generous portion of alabaster barbue – or brill – one of the best versions of that Breton fish I have ever tasted. This turbot-like flat fish was cooked to a tender perfection, with flavors brilliantly offset by faintly sweet, braised Conference pears, teamed up with briny sea urchin, ham from the Bigorre in France’s southwest, and all tied together in a buttery sauce of sweet vin jaune from the Jura.

I can also credit Saturne with my latest white wine discovery: a fabulous Chardonnay from the Doubs, that far eastern French department in the region now known as Bourgone-Franche-Comté. The wine, a vins de pays de Franche-Comté from Domaine Viticole du Moutherot near Besançon, is a revelation: golden, mineral-rich, unique with its intense yet pleasing notes of white flowers and varied citrus.

As you dine, surely don’t forget to admire and devour the outstanding pain des amis bread, a rich, thick-crusted loaf with a bright and nutty flavor from baker Christophe Vasseur’s Du Pain et Des Idées

 

SATURNE   |   Modern French   |    17 rue Notre-Dame des Victoires   |   Paris 2   |   Tel: +33 1 42 60 31 90   |   Métro: Bourse   |   Open Monday-Friday. Closed Saturday, Sunday, lunchtimes on public holidays and 22 December 2017 – 9 January 2018   |   45€ weekday lunch menu, 85€ carte blanche menu (150€ with wine pairing) at lunch and dinner.


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Passerini: Superb Cucina Povera

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I admit that it has taken me a while to come around to the talents of Chef Giovanni Passerini, but a recent meal at his namesake restaurant Passerini has me a bonafide convert.

The native Roman opened his first restaurant Rino back in 2010 after passing through the kitchens of Alain Passard (Arpege), Peter Nilsson (La Gazzetta) and Iñaki Aizpatarte (Le Chateaubriand). To an adoring Parisian crowd he was able to showcase his own modern style of cucina povera, but for me, in those early days, something didn’t click and my initial experience of Passerini’s vision left me uninspired. In 2014 he sold Rino, to go on to open a new restaurant and adjacent pasta shop (Passerini Pastificio) two years later in 2016 with his partner Justine. The new space, much bigger and brighter than the shoebox Rino, embraces a more sophisticated sense of modern Italian conviviality, offering shared dishes as well as an à la carte menu.

The memory of a recent lunch there lingered in my mind for days afterwards, his dishes a beautiful mixture of hearty servings, delicate flavors, crunch, acid and, above all, that promised sense of conviviality that is at the heart of any good Italian meal. The Panais-Pané proved much more interesting on the plate than on the menu and we delighted in the small nuggets of creamy parsnip deep-fried in bread crumbs and served with a spicy mayonnaise, sautéed Roman chicory, and united with a small dab of gel de citron (almost like a lemon purée). The black radish with oyster sauce, smoked sardines, sorrel and endive was refreshing and harmonious, and a very original take on a light, modern appetizer.

 
 

His pasta is the best example of modern cucina povera that I can think off, with all the hallmarks of comforting rustic Italian cooking, elevated to the extraordinary with thoughtful garnishes and exquisite quality produce. The ravioli, made next door in the pastificio, were filled with a dreamy concoction of potimarron (a dense, full-flavored squash), citrusy notes of orange and an earthy hit of tonka bean. The tonnarelli, a robust dried pasta of square spaghetti strands, was tossed in a hearty lamb ragout, with strips of fresh mint and a generous showering of grated fior sardo, a hard sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia.

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My heart sang when the waiter brought the dessert of the last-of season fresh figs, teamed up with crunchy, caramelized pecans and a ginger and milk sorbet, the perfect end to a faultless meal.

Doggy bags were requested due to the large portion sizes of the pasta, so go hungry. But make sure you go, as this is surely the best Italian meal you will find in Paris.

PASSERINI   |   Italian   |   65 rue Traversière   |   Paris 12   |   +33 1 43 42 27 56   |   Métro: Ledru Rollin   |   Open Tuesday–Saturday dinner. Closed Sunday, Monday & Tuesday lunch   |   restaurant@passerini.paris   |   24-48€ weekday menus (2-4 courses), 40-65€ à la carte at dinner   |   Reservations essential.


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Sauvage: An Unexpected Delight

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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.

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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


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Kitchen Ter(re): Three times a charm

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If I had to assign a middle name to chef William Ledeuil, it would be “Inventive.” Few Parisian chefs working today can claim his depth and breadth of creativity, not to mention originality. With his unique passion for all things Asian – be they ingredients, cooking techniques such as steaming or his major respect for dense, full-flavored bouillons – he has set himself apart from those who seem to do no more than follow a trend.

The new Kitchen Ter(re), his third Left Bank restaurant, follows on the success of Ze Kitchen Galerie and Ze Kitchen Galerie Bis. Ter(re) continues his Asian flavor preoccupation– from green curries and coriander, to citron caviar, ginger and varied seaweed – but now artisanal pastas have been added to Ledeuil’s list of preferred specialty ingredients. After discovering a range of rare pastas made from ancient, stone-ground grains by miller and baker Roland Feuillas in France’s southwest, Ledeuil figured out a way to weave them into his already international approach.

Kitchen Ter(re) is not a pasta restaurant, nor an Asian restaurant but another convincing William Ledeuil endeavor. The restaurant is casual, with a brief menu that may include just four starters, four or five main pasta courses, and a trio of desserts. Go as a group of four and you can pretty much sample every delicious, inventive bite on the menu.

As an eternal lover of raw, marinated fish, I jumped on the marinated white fish – dorade – a burst of springtime flavor on a grey Paris day, colorful pinks and a sprinkling of green herbs, the explosive crunch of the little grains of citron caviar, punctuated by a welcome hit of fresh ginger.

Ledeuil moves more towards an Asian approach with his Thai beef bouillon, a dense, full-flavored broth teamed up with cubes of foie gras, quince, mushrooms, and of course sprigs of coriander. The pastas here – all tiny dense shapes – are first quickly blanched, cooled, then cooked off not in water but in various bouillons, giving each pasta a unique depth of flavor

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I would not have thought I’d fall in love with a chocolate dessert that includes the powerful soybean paste, miso, but in Ledeuil’s hands and with the addition of coffee, the dessert achieved a dense, fully chocolate flavor. Try, too, the honey ice cream paired with squash, passion fruit, and coconut.

There’s a lovely Burgundy Aligoté wine of the list: The grape’s depth and personality make it a fine match of Ledeuil’s full-flavored fare.

KITCHEN TER(RE)   |   Modern French / Modern International   |   25 Boulevard Saint Germain   |   Paris 5   |   +33 1 42 39 47 48   |   Métro: Maubert-Mutualité   |   Open Tuesday–Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday   |   |26 and 30€ (2–3 course) lunch menus, à la carte 45€ at dinner   |   Reservations recommended.


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The Food Lover's Guide to Paris 2.0 - Just Released!

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Great news for any of you Food Lovers traveling, already in, or dreaming of Paris – we have just released a stunning new version of the Food Lover's Guide to Paris for iOS 11. After several months of hard work and creative design, the ultra-talented team at Cactuslab has put together several new features and a beautiful redesign to make finding the best places to eat and dine in Paris even easier.

New features include:

~ a fantastic new function to refine your search with multiple filters such as cuisine type, neighborhood, details such as Michelin stars or gluten-free, atmosphere, price, and culinary specialties. Want to search for classic and modern bistros on the left bank that are open on a Monday night or a restaurant with a well-priced lunch menu and a sidewalk terrace to watch the world go by? We got you. 

~ A redesigned map section that displays multiple listings in any one area. You can use the filter function here too, to limit the addresses to the categories you are interested in. And just like the old version, the offline geolocator means you can use the map even when you are no longer connected to the internet, so you can find the best bites nearest to you at any given time.

~ A search function in the A-Z glossary so no more endless scrolling!

~ A beautiful slick new design with a new photo format to really showcase the food photos and whet your appetite.

For those of you who already have the app, simply update your existing app free of charge via the App Store app, to get the latest version. If you don't have the app, you can download it from iTunes or directly on your device via the App Store app for just $4.99.

As the French say, bon app!

 

 

Noglu: Fresh and Vibrant Gluten-free Fare

NoGlu appeared on the Paris food scene back in 2012, when restaurants and bakeries catering to those on a gluten-free diet were hard to come by. Since opening their first restaurant in the 2nd arrondissement, the brand has proliferated rapidly to include locations in the 3rd and 7th, as well as an outpost in New York. My local Noglu in the 7th arrondissement is a light and airy café offering a fresh, varied menu with an emphasis on healthy café food. Everything, of course is gluten free, and many dishes also offer vegan substitutes for dairy products.

The Avocado Toast with Gomasio arrived exactly as described, a generous slice of toasted chickpea and rice flour bread (Noglu’s standard loaf), topped with slices of perfectly ripe avocado, and showered in microgreens and Gomasio, a Japanese toasted sesame seed seasoning. The pastry crust of the quiche was very convincing, crisp, flavorful and well cooked, with a filling of sweet potato and feta.

Desserts were a little disappointing. The lemon tart was ‘correct’ as the French like to say, meaning “as it should be” but far from outstanding, let down by a slightly undercooked crust. The vegan raspberry layer cake was sadly inedible, with a very dry crumb and a vegan cream that, although made in house, tasted like an industrial cream from a can.

The madeleines, however, are a convincing gluten free version of this classic shell-shaped tea cake.

For the gluten-free home chef, the Noglu team has put out a cookbook that includes a very good gluten free flour mix, as well as recipes for madeleines, chouquettes (a childhood afternoon treat made from choux pastry and topped with pearl sugar) and their satisfying savory chickpea loaf.

NOGLU : 69 rue de Grenelle   |   Paris 7   |   +33 1 58 90 18 12   |   Métro: Rue du Bac   |   Open daily, Monday–Saturday 8.30am–7pm, Sunday brunch 10am–4pm   |   Reservations: not necessary


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Fairweather dining at Divellec

Poached oysters in watercress sauce and caviar

Poached oysters in watercress sauce and caviar

There are friends we love despite their faults, so we stick by them anyway. The 7th arrondissement fish restaurant, Divellec, is a bit like that for me. The brasserie-sized restaurant, overlooking Les Invalides, was recently re-incarnated from the 1980s Le Divellec, a rather haughty but quality businessman’s lunch place.

Today, chef Mathieu Pacaud – son of Bernard Pacaud of L’Ambroisie and owner of Hexagone – is in charge, and though the restaurant only opened in December of 2016, it has surprisingly received a Michelin stars right out of the starting gate.

Let me start with what I love about Divellec: With each visit I am charmed by the makeover of the décor with its ocean-like shades of blue, comfy wicker arm chairs, the mix and match of selected pottery, and ultra-slim stems of the wine glasses – all of which have the right touch of class and elegance. The staff, too, is spruced up, smiling, sometimes a bit distant and corporate perhaps, but they make you feel taken care of.

Some of the food can be spectacular as well as beautiful, like the gently poached oysters bathed in a brilliant green watercress sauce and topped with a spoonful of caviar. It’s full-flavored and satisfying, set in a white porcelain, shell-shaped bowl. Technicolor food at its best.

Their sole paired with fresh, seasonal morel mushrooms is a delight, the fish plump and flavorful, perfectly moist, with a touch of sweet vin jaune from the Jura in the sauce.

Sommelier Claude Esambert – an upright Frenchman back from a decades-long stint in California – is outgoing and knowledgeable, giving us the details of one of my favorite white wines, the Burgundian Saint-Aubin from Hubert Lamy.

The kitchen clearly understands deep-frying, and their current appetizer – which arrives almost the moment you sit down – is a dream: ultra-crispy, tiny, deep-fried eperlans (smelt or whitebait), the ideal starter to pair with a glass of Champagne rosé, such as the popular Billecart Salmon.

On this particular visit, everything from the simple raw ecrevisse (crayfish) topped with a colorful vegetable mix, fresh herbs, and bathed in a bright vinaigrette; to the moist, perfectly cooked sea bass paired with pasta shells stuffed with ricotta and herbs, made for a truly pleasant, lunchtime meal.

There is great attention to detail with top suppliers here: chocolates from Jacques Genin, cheese from Marie Quatrehomme, breads from Fréderic Lalo of Le Quartier du Pain, and olive oil from the famed cooperative in Mausanne-les-Alpilles in Provence.

But there are problems with Divellec, ones that I am surprised got past the Michelin inspectors. Fish is very hard to get right, and Divellec fails more often than it should, with dishes that are underseasoned or not totally thought out.

At times the kitchen favors presentation over flavor. On my first visit, I ordered their langoustines wrapped in pastry and deep fried. But sadly these lovely crustaceans were smothered in a white napkin, and covered by an ostentatious glass cloche, which turned what should have been crispy gastronomic treasures into a soggy, sad mess.

One order our ormeaux (abalone) was so tough it was inedible, and I did what I rarely do, returned the dish. In its place arrived a perfect platter of well-seasoned bar (sea bass) ceviche, but one doesn’t expect to send anything back to the kitchen in a 2-starred restaurant.

I have been to Divellec several times since it opened yet strangely I have never, ever, seen a chef in the dining room. What the restaurant lacks is someone in charge, someone who personifies the place and rules with a sense of style and perfection.

But the worst sin of all came on our last visit when the host of our party of eight decided he wanted a glass of red wine. We requested the wine list but the sommelier simply went ahead and poured an unordered glass of red. When I asked my friend how the wine was, his response was an unenthusiastic “okay.” I sniffed it, and could tell instantly it was seriously corked, with a strong scent of spoilage. The wine was quickly replaced, with an apology for the flaw, but the damage was done. This just should not happen in place of this caliber.

Prices here can be overwhelming, especially if you order their turbot, whole sea bass, lobster or whole sole, priced by the gram.

Despite all of this I will surely go back, for the creative fish combinations and presentations, great ideas for what I might recreate at home, as well as the magical chocolate soufflé made with Jacques Genin’s grand cru chocolate. But I do hope that someone takes charge of Divellec. The restaurant has been mostly deserted on my visits, and just does not have the sort of joie de vivre a restaurant like this should exhibit. Someone there needs to wake up!

DIVELLEC   |   18 rue Fabert   |   Paris 7   |   Tel: +33 1 45 51 91 96   |   Métro: Invalides   |   Open daily   |  Lunch: 49€, 90€, 210€ weekday menu; 49€ weekend brunch menu, Dinner: 210€ 8-course menu. Lunch and Dinner à la carte, 130€.  |   Reservations: suggested   |   www.divellec-paris.fr   |  contact@divellec-paris.fr

 


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Big Love for Gluten Free Pizza

Mammargherita Pizza: San Marzano tomatoes,  fior di latte  mozzarella, basil

Mammargherita Pizza: San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, basil

It seems that the Big Mamma Group is, once again, onto a winning formula with their pizza, pasta, brunch restaurant Biglove Caffé, in the upper Marais. The Group has given the former Rose Bakery space a magnificent makeover, transforming it into a charming Neopolitan style bar/café. The glass-plated entrance way is adorned with hanging cured meats, and the marble bar and the imposing Italian Belle Epoque style copper coffee machine set the scene for an authentic Neopolitan experience. 

The menu offers a handful of fresh pasta dishes (including a gluten-free vegetable lasagne which sadly should be avoided at all costs) as well as a few appealing salad options, and an international-style brunch menu. But the pizza is why you should go to Biglove, and those who follow a gluten-free diet can rejoice, as all the pizzas here are completely gluten free. Paris is home to some very respectable pizzaiole (pizza chefs) but few who specialize in the unique style of Neopolitan pizza, that boasts a slightly thicker crust, and is more lightly baked than the well-done thin crusted versions from other parts of Italy. The result is a sort of pillowy experience, where the elements of the pizza seamlessly blend into one. The dough here is made from a mixture of buckwheat, corn and rice flours and fermented for at least 36-hours before cooking to give it a good rise and a faint acidity to the crust. For those not interested in a gluten-free diet, do not be put off for these bases are a cunning likeness to the wheat flour version and perhaps only in the thick outer crust can you tell that it’s made from alternative flours. As a point of pride for the Mamma restaurants, ingredients are of an exceptionally high standard – mostly sourced directly from favored artisanal producers in Italy – including the essential San Marzano tomatoes grown at the foot of Mt Vesuvius. The pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired brick Acunta oven, hand-made in Naples, that can get to temperatures so high a pizza can be cooked in 60 seconds (just shy of 930°F/500°C). The resulting Mammargherita pizza – for me the simple concoction of tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella and fresh basil is the best litmus test for pizza – was remarkably close to a true Napolitano pizza, that is to say, very, very good.

The desserts were disappointing – the unnecessarily large portion of lemon meringue pie was cloyingly sweet and lacked any balance of acidity from the lemon cream that you might expect. The chocolate cake was devoid of any personality. Best to stick to an after-meal coffee, roasted dark and moody, true to Neopolitan style – of course.

Big Love doesn't take reservations and the lunch service fills up fast, so go early or be prepared to queue.

BIGLOVE CAFFÉ   |   30 rue Debelleyme   |   Paris 3   |   Métro: Filles de Calvaire   |   Open daily 8am-11pm   |   Pizza and main dishes €12-18   |   Reservations not taken.


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Yam'Tcha: Precision, Elegance and Creativity

Langoustine, onions, pomegranate, goji berry and tarragon

Langoustine, onions, pomegranate, goji berry and tarragon

There is plenty to love about Adeline Grattard’s Yam‘Tcha. Her French-Asian themed food is unique, well-thought-out, beautiful, and welcomingly assertive. The restaurant, relocated from rue Sauval in mid 2015, draws you in immediately with the appealing cooking aromas that waft from the semi-open kitchen, the coziness of the well-crafted wooden birch tables and elegant yet comfortable arm chairs, the frivolity of the tiny garden brightened by a white stone floor, the openness of the well-lit, well-stocked wine cellar.

Grattard’s pedigree includes time spent with three-Michelin star chefs Yannick Alléno (Pavillon Ledoyen) and Pascal Barbot (Astrance), and their influence on her food is evident: precision, elegance and a confidence to be creatively adventurous. She makes a rare team with her Chinese tea-sommelier husband, Chi Wah Chan, offering a careful selection of refined, soothing teas to accompany Grattard’s carefully constructed dishes (Yam’tcha, afterall, is the Mandarin word for ‘drink tea’.) Wine pairings are also available.

She employs and embraces a multitude of seasonal ingredients, and as you sample her fare, you feel as though everything from that vibrant red pomegranate seed to the brilliant green wild garlic emulsion are there for a reason and not simply as window dressing.

Any chef can win me over in a millisecond when they offer some of my truly favorite ingredients: asparagus, langoustines, and a shower of fresh black truffles. And she did. Her love for citrus as well as sweet and sour combinations come through loud and clear, as in her duo of white and green asparagus dressed with a frothy sauce of mandarin orange tinged with touches of kumquat, a dish with a lovely citrus bounce.

I am not sure where she secured the gigantic, soothingly rich langoustines, but they were cooked to a delicate perfection, paired with a bright sweet and sour sauce laced with crunchy pomegranate seeds and tangy goji berries. Each dish is complex without being overbearing, and by the end of the meal we were satisfied but not digestively assaulted, a rare feat after a seven course meal.

As a collector of modern as well as antique china and pottery, I wanted to walk away with a few of her colorful dinner plates, some from popular French designer Sarah Lavoine. Each is thoughtfully paired with a specific dish, from the golden ocher plates for the asparagus to the bright red pottery for the slow-cooked and tender Iberian pork that was showered with slices of exquisite fresh black truffles.

To add additional excellence to a wonderful dining experience, sommelière Marine Delaporte offers a brilliant and well-considered glass of wine with each course, accompanied by thoughtful and enthusiastic commentary with each pour. Of the six selections sampled, I truly loved the 2015 Riesling Cuvée Albert from Albert Mann, a distinctive Alsatian white that is well-balanced, ripe, juicy, and aromatic. Equally satisfying was the Loire Valley white Jasnières Rosiers 2015 Eric Nicolas, dry with the tiniest touch of sweetness.  The choice of mostly white wines with the meal was refreshing.

I was less enthused about the understated first course of rice-based congee with cubes of foie gras and the equally disappointing soup laced with scallops and mushrooms which lacked the personality and forward flavors of her other dishes.

 But at the end, Grattard totally surprised me with a dessert that included a bright green sorrel soup with a bitter almond (orgeat) sorbet, paired with a well-constructed mini-tart of a single prune wrapped in a coat of lemon jelly, topped with a Champagne granité.

Although I am generally not a fan of set menus where the diner has no choices, and each dish is a complete surprise, it works here, since the chef has so many layers and volumes, it is a treat to experience it all. And the wine and tea pairings only help amplify the experience.

Reserving at Yam’tcha can be tricky and staff don’t always answer the phone. Persistence is the key. By phone you’ll most likely be successful on a Tuesday when the restaurant is closed but staff are there. Otherwise I recommend stopping in at the restaurant to make a reservation in person, if time permits.

YAM ‘TCHA   |   121 rue Saint Honoré   |   Paris 1   |   Tel: +33 1 40 26 08 07   |   Métro: Louvre-Rivoli   |   Open Wednesday – Saturday. Closed Sunday & Monday   | Lunch and dinner: 60€ and 135€ menus, with options for 40€ tea tasting and 70€ wine tasting   |   Reservations essential.


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Do et Riz: The Holy Grail of Vietnamese Spring Rolls

If you are on a quest to find the crunchiest, freshest Vietnamese fried spring rolls in Paris, you can end your search at the doors of Do et Riz. Make a reservation, or be prepared to queue out into the street, as you will not be the only one clammering for a table or a stool at this charming canteen in the 12th arrondissement, run and owned by Vietnamese chef Do Thi Thanh Huyen. (The word Do, dually meaning ‘bean’ in Vietnamese and the chef’s maiden name, and riz meaning rice in French, are both ingredients important to Vietnamese cooking.)

Having been anointed with the passion for cuisine while helping run her grandmother’s road-side restaurant in Hai Phong in northern Vietnam as a child, chef Do now finds herself the third generation in a line of female chefs. After a brief flirtation with French cooking at Alain Ducasse’s Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower and Restaurant Beauvilliers in the 18th, Do has returned to her native cuisine, with her husband at her side in the kitchen. The small eatery makes clever use of the space, reminiscent of an outdoor street market in Vietnam: The steamy, fragrant, open kitchen bustles with activity, and shelves are stacked with beautiful Vietnamese-sourced ceramics and bunches of fresh mint and coriander. The countertop bar in the restaurant’s window overlooking the kitchen is particularly appealing for dining solo or as a couple, beneath the light of the suspended sea urchin lampshades.

Do et Riz offers a roster of Vietnamese classics on the small but ultra-fresh menu (ingredients are sourced daily from the nearby marché d’Aligre), including the aforementioned golden crunchy chicken and prawn spring rolls (nems); Bahn Cuon steamed rice crepe rolls filled with chicken and mushrooms: fresh spring rolls with duck breast and green papaya:, and there’s always some version of a green papaya or lotus salad, refreshing and pleasingly spicy. The Pho soup and Bo Bun noodle salad are a staple of the menu (an explosion in the popularity of the Bo Bun in Paris in the last five or so years means that it’s almost impossible to find a Vietnamese restaurant that doesn’t serve it), but the main course menu changes more frequently. On our last visit we sampled chicken meatballs perfumed with kaffir lime, and served with a spicy tamarind sauce; and a prawn coconut and noodle salad, fresh and invigorating, filled with Asian greens, mange-tout green beans, carefully butterflied tender pink prawns, all showered generously with fresh coriander.

 

Their seductive version of a classic tapioca coconut pudding is alone worth returning for: creamy, not too sweet, and punctuated with the refreshing tang of perfectly ripe mango.

And now here’s another reason to return to sample Do and her husband’s cooking, with the announcement of plans to soon open a second restaurant across the street. It will be named Em (meaning younger sibling in Vietnamese), focusing on grilled dishes.

Do et Riz   |  31 rue de Cotte   |   Paris 12   |   +33 1 43 45 57 13   |   Métro: Ledru-Rollin   |   Open Monday dinner – Sunday lunch. Closed Sunday dinner and Monday lunch   |   Lunch and dinner 30-35€ (for 3 course)   | Rservations essential.


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Elegant Understated Cuisine at Quinsou

Knowing of Chef Antonin Bonnet’s past experience in the kitchen’s of top-rated restaurants (L’Oustau de Baumanière), Michelin star chefs (Michel Bras) and exclusive London member clubs (Morton’s Club), you might think that his own personal venture might be a swanky affair. So it’s a refreshing surprise that his newly opened own restaurant, Quinsou (meaning Chaffinch – a small songbird – in Occitan) should be so down-to-earth and humble. The simple exposed stone, glass and wood interior of his modern bistro in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, is quietly reflective of his purist, produce-driven cuisine.
    
Last seen at Paris’s stylish Michelin starred Sergent Recruteur, and briefly as a consulting chef on the ambitious but now defunct La Jeune Rue project, Bonnet returns on form to stun us with his precision, bright clean flavors, and elegant pairings. Here, produce is king, and he sources his ingredients with diligence. The vegetables from the Bec Hellouin organic farm in Normandy are of exceptional quality, as was demonstrated in a superb entrée of green cabbage, tossed in an umami rich hazelnut vinaigrette and served with oeuf mollet, a soft boiled egg, here, delicately cooked to perfection.

This was followed by milk-fed lamb shoulder and liver served with a silken Jerusalem artichoke purée, yellow-stalked chard, a dusting of licorice powder to brighten the palate, and a comforting meaty jus poured over the dish at the moment of serving. We couldn’t resist the daily specials, large N°2 pleine de mer (open sea) oysters in the shell with a dashi (a Japanese fish and kelp-based stock) vinaigrette and a squeeze of sudachi, a Japanese citrus fruit. And a black truffle pasta dish that cleverly used dentelle (lace) pasta sheets with undulating edges – from Maîtres de Mon Moulin in Cucugnan – giving a texture that played beautifully with the mild crunch of the black truffle. For the 35€ price tag I would have hoped for a few shavings more, but I was won over by the addition of a ‘jus de volaille’ elegantly poured over the pasta as a supplementary sauce.

The only real disappointment in the meal was the dessert, a layered chocolate-tamarind assembly of almond biscuit and chocolate cream topped with a thin wafer, that to my palate, lacked the flavor – the tamarind was not at all present, the chocolate subdued and without interest – and refinement of the preceding dishes. The accompanying elderflower ice cream, although fragrant, lacked real personality and felt oddly out of season on a cold winter’s day.

The wine list is exceptional and our choice of the Domaine Vacheron white Sancerre, with its quiet and restrained mineral tones was a perfect match for Bonnet’s understated yet elegant cuisine.

QUINSOU   |   Modern French bistro   |   22 rue de l’Abbé Grégoire   |   Paris 6   |   +33 1 42 22 66 09   |   Métro: Rennes ou Saint-Placide   |   Open Tuesday to Saturday   | contact.quinsou@gmail.com   |   Lunch menus 35–48€ / Dinner menus 48–65€   |   Reservations recommended.


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Dans les Landes: An Authentic Bite of Southwestern France

 
 

Anyone looking for an honest food experience from Southwestern France should head for Dans les Landes, a vibrant, always bustling café/bistro that resounds with authenticity. Everything at this spot is true and flavorful, from the tastefully breaded and fried rings of baby squid (chipirons) to the smoky pork sausages served with the tiny pickled peppers known as guindilla. Although not traditionally from the region, their Asian spring rolls with a Southwestern touch are worth a try too: here wrapped in traditional rice paper but filled with an avalanche of vegetables and bits of flavorful duck (the prized bird of the region), with leaves of lettuce and sprigs of mint for wrapping the rolls in, accompanied by a perfectly spicy sauce. Dishes are advertised as tapas portions, but each tapas serving can easily be shared by two hungry diners. Make sure to order the local Iroulegy wine, white or red, both of which are organic. Service is swift and friendly, décor right out of a sports bar, with lots of sports team banners and it wouldn’t be the Southwest without a few hanging cured sausages and dried Espelette peppers.

Dans les Landes   |    Southwestern French Bistro / Tapas   |  119 bis rue Monge   |  Paris 5   |   +33 1 45 87 06 00   |   Métro: Censier-Daubenton   |   Open daily for lunch and dinner, continuous service on the weekends and public holidays   |   Reservations essential   |   Tapas: 9-19€   |   Atmosphere casual   |   http://dansleslandes.fr  


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Noodle Haven: Abri Soba

One of the more welcoming soba noodle restaurants to grace the Paris restaurant landscape is Abri Soba, a casual, friendly spot in the 9th arrondissement, just down from the Cadet métro stop. Run by Katsuaki Okiyama of the excellent restaurant Abri, in the 10th arrondissement, Abri Soba adds a new definition to the wholesome buckwheat (sarrasin) noodle. With its warm wooden décor and open kitchen, the compact restaurant has a Japanese country aire and breathes authenticity. I already want to return, having eyed the tempting cold soba noodles paired with crispy shrimp tempura. Everything has a careful -- yet hardly precious -- aesthetic sense here. The warm soba noodles arrive nestled in a mahogany-toned hand-crafted bowl, garnished with crisp sheets of jet-black nori, or strips of dried seaweed. I’d return again and again for the cold soba noodles topped with strips of tender chicken, crispy fried onions, and a touch of greenery, all presented in an elegant, light blue and white ceramic bowl.

Just add a glass of Kozaemon Junmai Daiginjo sake, and you’re on the road to heaven. Note that the noodles are 80 percent buckwheat, and 20 percent wheat flour, so are not suitable for for those with gluten intolerances. Note also that the restaurant does not take reservations. 

ABRI SOBA   |  Japanese   |    10 rue Saulnier   |   Paris 9   |   Open Sunday dinner and Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday lunch and all day Monday   |   No reservations.


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A bite of history: Clown Bar

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   |


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Juveniles: vibrant bright flavors and a wine list to love

Juveniles wine bar and wine shop is the sort of place you want in your neighborhood. When you don’t want to cook, you just slip in for a taste of solidly modern bistro fare, including sparkling fresh fish from Brittany, meaty duck breast from the southwest, and of course, enough wine choices to make your pleasure thermometer soar. And should you be cooking up a storm that day, test your wine-pairing skills and choose from owner Tim Johnston’s keen-eyed selection of wines from all over the world, take a bottle home and uncork it. 

Since Tim opened in March 1987, this tiny spot (you will surely slip past mountains of wine cartons on the way to your table) has been home to wine lovers from all over. In January 2014, he was joined by daughter Margaux and her partner Romain Roudeau, who reigns in the kitchen. The food here is vibrant, offering an avalanche of bright flavors and herbs galore. Who could not love a combination of soothing Italian buffalo-milk burratina set on a bed of crunchy fresh seasonal peas and fava beans, then showered in a pungent garden of mint, coriander and dill? Tender fillets of merlu (hake) are paired with beautifully seared chunks of zucchini, a mound of salad greens and crunchy toasted almonds. Like many menus today, the list of offerings reads like a welcome admonition to “eat your vegetables” and Romain does them proud with his ability to sear, char and turn sometimes mundane ingredients into real treasures. This is also a cheese-lover’s paradise, with everything from well-aged French Brie to the UK’s Neal’s Yard Dairy unpasteurized cheddar.

But of course wine is why we go, to ponder the compact yet extensive well-priced wine list, offering everything from Aubert de Villaine’s bright, citrusy white Bourgogne Côte Châlonnaise to Domaine de Marcoux’s always pleasurable white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In the red category, there is Tim’s own Vin de Table de France “Purple Fourteen” a wine crafted along with winemaker Marcel Richaud in the southern Rhone. They offer wines by the glass, the half-liter, the bottle, the magnum- from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Austria, Spain and Italy, so explore! 

Juveniles   |   47 rue de Richelieu   |   Paris 1   |   +33 1 42 97 46 49   |   Métro: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre, Bourse or Pyramides   |   Open Tuesday – Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday   |   www.juvenileswinebar.com    |   À la carte, 36-50€   |   Reservations suggested


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Papillon: An exciting new modern bistro from Christophe Saintonge

What a pleasure to find a restaurant where everything satisfies from the minute you walk in the door to signing the check at the end of the meal. No question about it, Papillon to my mind is one of the most exciting new modern bistros to hit the Paris food scene in many years. Chef-owner Christophe Saintonge, who was last seen as head chef at Alain Ducasse’s three Michelin star Paris restaurant Le Meurice, is now out on his own and continues to show us his talent, intelligence and maturity as a chef, but in a more low-key, accessible setting.

Located in the beautifully appointed Parc Monceau neighborhood in the 17th arrondissement, the restaurant looks onto the picturesque Hausmannien building opposite through its all-glass facade. The pristine 45-seat dining room is modern and understated, but not without character with it’s gold-rimmed grey oak veneer tables, orb-like suspended lamps, comfortable blonde wooden chairs and camel-colored leather banquettes. The alert attentive staff (the number of which seemed enormous for the size of the restaurant) are charmingly outfitted in crisp white shirts, black suit pants, black bow ties and black suspenders. While there is a ‘closed kitchen’ you can catch glimpses of the action into the slick, clean, stainless steel kitchen workshop.

But best and most important of all, the menu and wine list is something to embrace wholeheartedly. It’s a happy conundrum to be faced with a menu where your first reaction is “I want to try everything!” And I loved almost everything I tasted there, including the marinated daurade (porgy)  carpaccio (photo), bathed in lemon juice, olive oil, and tender leaves of mizuna, or Japanese mustard green. Paper-thin slices of radish added a winning touch of color and crunch. I will definitely be ordering that again.

The roasted asparagus was a marvel: Perfectly cooked so that its earthy flavor had a chance to star, topped with a tiny layer of melted Comté cheese and served with a tarragon cream alongside, to extend the pleasure. At least 35 years ago in the south of France I sampled a whole roasted leg of lamb that had been cooked in a bread oven and smothered in hay and I have never forgotten that smoky marriage of smoldering hay and tender meat. Saintonge’s version of lamb chops smoked in hay did not disappoint, paired with a side dish of my favored fregola, those crunchy, toasted pellets of pasta from Sardinia.

Equally fabulous was the roasted veal – full-flavored and tender – served with a brilliant creation of sliced, roasted artichoke hearts. A giant fillet of roasted barbue (brill) just barely cooked, was served with a spring-fresh salad of mixed herbs.

As we sat savoring our main course, we watched the waiters parade around the room, scooping warm chocolate cake direct from the pan into dessert bowls already adorned with fresh mint and chocolate nibs. No need to consult the dessert menu, we were sold. Pure chocolate heaven, one heady spoonful at a time.

My only serious disappointment was the madeleines offered with coffee, cleverly served directly out of their metal baking tins. But alas, they were undercooked with a distinct acidic tinge of baking soda.

The wine list was equal to the impressive menu however. Don’t miss one of my favorite whites, Domaine Ostertag’s pinot blanc from Alsace and the always dependable red Côtes–du-Rhône from Michel Richard. Prices are totally reasonable considering the all-around quality with 28€ and 36€ lunch menus (2 or 3 courses respectively), or 50-60€ à la carte.

PAPILLON   |   8 rue Meissonier   |   Paris 17   |   +33 1 56 79 81 88   |   Métro: Wagram   |   Open Monday to Friday. Closed Saturday and Sunday   |   www.papillonparis.fr    |   amis@papillonparis.fr   |   Lunch: 28€ and 36€ menus   |   50-60€ à la carte   |   Reservations recommended.


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Wide-eyed Wonder at Restaurant David Toutain

Pigeon and Asparagus at Restaurant David Toutain

One of my wine-loving friends says of a new wine discovery, “I’d like to have a bottle of this once a month for the rest of my life.” I could apply the same sentiment to dining at David Toutain’s outstanding Paris restaurant in the 7th arrondissement. Toutain stunned us several years ago as head chef at Agapé Substance before opening his own modern dining room in 2014.

Not many chefs today can offer total satisfaction in a single bite, but Toutain achieves it right off the bat with a brilliant red bundle of beef carpaccio, silken, glistening, set on a bed of pristine ground hazelnuts and topped with sharply flavored oxalis leaves.

The wide-eyed wonder continues throughout the meal as Toutain distinguishes himself as a chef who follows no one but himself, always experimenting, searching for the surprise and joy that a single bite can deliver.

Toutain has worked with the best – Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Passard, Bernard Pacaud – and has certainly been an exemplary student. But what I love most about his approach and his daring is the way he translates nature’s treasures to the plate. We marvel at some of his combinations – kiwi and oysters or salsify and white chocolate – and applaud when something as down to earth as a tender, juicy pigeon breast is paired with perfectly cooked first-of-season asparagus (photo). And who could resist a pair of brilliant green parsley tortellini floating in a sublime pork consommé?

His multicourse menu is restrained and you don’t leave this understated restaurant feeling as though you never want to eat again. Portions are small but not skimpy. The food is picture-perfect and always eye-opening, but not precious. Some dishes are more exciting than others: I could have lived without the abrasive smoked eel with black sesame. And I find that some of the chunky contemporary pottery – especially jet black plates and bowls – do little to flatter the visual appeal of the food.

Toutain’s attentive staff are not at all aggressive and I am always happy to put myself in the hands of sommelier Guillaume Lescoliere. We have similar tastes and I applaud many of his selections, including the vibrantly refreshing 2014 Vouvray Sec from Domaine du Clos Naudin, the lively Saint Romain pinot noir by Alain Gras, and the syrah-infused Saint Joseph from Domaine Gripa.

For a restaurant of this caliber prices are a veritable bargain with a 55€ lunch menu and 80€ and 110€ lunch and dinner menus (130€ and 180€) with wine. 

RESTAURANT DAVID TOUTAIN   |   29 rue Surcouf   |   Paris 7   |   Tel: +33 1 45 50 11 10   |   Métro: Invalides or La Tour Maubourg   |   Open Monday-Friday 12-2.30pm & 8-10pm   |   davidtoutain.com   |     reservations@davidtoutain.com    |   Lunch: 55€ menu (not available during school and public holidays), 80 and 110€ (130 and 180€ with wine) menus at lunch and dinner   |   Reservation: essential

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Fulgurances: A bold, brave concept

A fulgurance is like a lightening bolt – a moment that is intense in emotion, unique, exceptional, mystical, and cannot be reproduced. These are the words of the Parisian restaurateur Rebecca Asthalter, who, along with partners Hugo Hivernat and Sophie Coribert opened Fulgurances l’Adresse on October 14th of this year. The concept is a new one: The restaurant will change chefs every six months, working with sous-chefs from well-known restaurants who are eager to go it on their own.

Their first featured chef, Chloé Charles, worked most recently as a sous-chef at the nearby Septime, under the tutelage of Bertrand Grébaut, and earlier she passed through the kitchens of l’Astrance with Pascal Barbot and David Toutain during his days at L’Agapé Substance. The restaurant – a casual, modern, clean little 36-seat spot in the city’s 11th arrondissement – is not far from the scene of the city’s horrors of November 13th. On that Friday evening police came to the restaurant, directing the owners to lock the doors, turn off the lights, and wait. By 1 am the police returned, allowing guests and the owners to vacate. Obviously, a rather challenging beginning to an already brave adventure. Parisians have shown themselves in the wake of these events to be extremely resilient, and restaurant was close to full on the two occasions that we visited the restaurant in the last two weeks.

Locals, as well as diners who had already experienced the trio's pop-up restaurants at various venues around Paris since 2010, have become loyal supporters, and on a recent evening the small, elegantly casual restaurant was overflowing with tables full of 30-somethings sharing Chloé Charles's inventive cuisine. Her food is modern, vibrant and forward flavored, ranging from a sumptuous starter of giant artichokes bathed in a touch of red wine, bone marrow and a hit of Roquefort, to an unusual and soothing salad of smoked eel, paired with a broccoli puree seasoned with a bright touch of mint and orange. 

A main-course of plump, moist farm guinea hen was stuffed with herbs beneath the skin, seasoned with a yogurt sauce that included pepper, pear, and bit of grilled bread, a very modern bistro dish if there ever was one. 

She boldly pairs squid and sweetbreads with a mixture of winter vegetables, meat juices and a bit of lemon, and offers a super-fresh portion of rouget barbet (red mullet), served with generous portions of pleurotte and chanterelle mushrooms as well as crisp chestnut chips. 

One of the best tastes of the evening was her very bright flavored appetizer of mulet rillettes, served with the crusty sourdough bread from baker Olivier Haustraete of Boulangerie Bio near the marché d’Aligre. When baking the bread, the floor of the oven is spread with ground olive pits, which smoke as the bread bakes, giving each loaf a unique, smokey flavor. 

The brief wine list offers some appealing selections, including Domaine Valette’s satiny, mineral-rich Maçon Chaintré. 

Desserts were far less convincing, with a very dry poached pear with touches of quince mousseline, and a rather unimpressive chocolate cream dotted with bits of chocolate sablé. 

The lunchtime menu is more low key, offering two choices for starters and mains, a cheese course and one dessert. The thick textured mushroom soup was adorned with the flavors of autumn: paper thin slices of pair, crumbled tangy Roquefort, onions and chestnuts. The pork braised in white wine was impossibly tender, served with simple garlic potatoes, shitake mushrooms and topped with a handful of arugula and fresh herbs that were a welcome refreshing touch. The 19€ 2-course / 22€ 3-course lunchtime menu is a fantastic bargain, even if the dessert did not inspire.

I’m eager to go back again, to watch the bustle of the open kitchen, see the restaurant progress, and share in the creation of this unique, brave, bold idea. Chloe Charles will be resident chef until May 2016.

 

Fulgurances l'Adresse   |   10 rue Alexandre Dumas   |   Paris   |   +33 9 81 09 33 32   |   Metro: Rue des Boulets   |   Open Wednesday through Saturday   |  19 / 22€ lunch menus, 44€ dinner menu   |  

 

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