Friday, December 23, 2005

Le Transversal at MAC/VAL

Here are a few pictures from my recent lunch at the new MAC/VAL (Contemporary Art Museum of the Val de Marne, a suburb located 3km from Paris) restaurant, "Le Transversal". Although located in the boondocks of the for-the-moment ungentrified "neuf quatre", the art museum has obviously had a lot of money spent on it (I went to have lunch, obviously, and didn't really care too much for the art on display..). Lunch is based on 47 different dishes that range from 2.50 E to 10 E, which can be mixed and matched, depending on your tastes, with a few suggestions indicated to get you on your way. The real attraction here seems to be the ten-course evening "miniature" tasting menu, which I'll try in the near future. The spirit seems fairly similar to the cuisine of La Famille , top produce presented in a minimalist fashion, and the decor is also very brut, with lots of concrete, simple wood floor, and not much in the way of accoutrements... I had a chance to speak with one of the owner/chefs, Laurent Chareau (formerly Gilles Choukroun's second at the Café des Délices) in the kitchen, and he seemed a little down on as to the restaurant would work out or not, being so far from Paris center. He also seemed to feel that they needed to keep stable "diplomatic" ties with the museum itself. Service, to tell the truth, was seriously lacking, all of the waitstaff evidently recruited without much job experience, but they were very accomadating, and seemed to know the menu pretty well. Laurent seemed a little worried as well that Inaki's star power might transfer much needed pubicity away from Transversal when he opens up his new place, Le Chateaubriand, in January..

Incidentally, on their philosophy of melding food with art theme, I took a stroll through the (disappointing) Jacques Monot exhibit afterwards, and found in the middle of the room a small white rabbit with the tag "Monot l'a peinte" , meaning, Monot painted this- which also has a direct correlation on the menu, as one of the daily dishes is called "Mono Lapin" (One-Rabbit, or Uni-Rabbit). Gimicky.. Should've taken a picture..


Anonymous said...

Congratulations and good luck on your blog.

I'd like to see a bit of identification or text with a few of those photos.

We're now beginning to see museums as destination dining rooms. It's a peculiar phenomenon perhaps, but it may be easy enough to trace the development and understand. Museums, at least in the US, have long had cafeterias and places to dine both for daily visitors and contributing members. Any place that serves food should endeavor to serve as good food as it can. Moreover, decades ago, museums lost their scholarly nature and became meeting places for social groups. Two renovations back, the Musuem of Modern Art in NYC was described by one social commentator/architectural historian as the new Agora. It was a place people met. Looking at the art was secondary to the importance of the social event.

The number of museums paying attention to the quality of the food, or at least enlisting the services of a respected chef or restaurateur is growing. I'd note the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum as a trendsetter in Europe, but there are probably earlier examples. In NY, Danny Meyer, one of NY's more distinguished restaurateurs opened Museum at the Museum of Modern Art as his most formal and ambitious restaurant to date. First reviews may have been a bit mixed, but his chosen chef is capable of exceptional food as already proven in his last job.

The question in my mind is who will patronize le Transversal at MAC/VAL, especially for dinner. It would seem to me that there are far too many destination restaurants within Paris to served both locals and tourists. Iñaki's own new restaurant should certainly be too much competition. Thus the clientele must come from museum goers having lunch or staying for dinner and those living in the area. I understand public transportation to and from Paris is not all that convenient. Is that the case?

Anonymous said...


I would also like to wish you the best of luck in your blog. You are a wonderful writer and I will make sure to keep up with your news here on your blog.

I love the idea of the chef's doing a take on a piece in the exposition. This to me seems like one of the opportunities that comes from having a restaurant in such a venue. I think that it is a good thing to take what they can from their location.

About Bux's comments on museum restaurants becoming destinations in themselves, I can say that before they re-did the cafe at the Musee des Beaux Arts here in Lyon, it was one of my favorite places to go for lunch during the summer. But that's all over now.

I was thinking as I read this essay, that indeed your going for the restaurant only may be considered strange to some, but I can understand it.

Following Bux's comments on location and possible limitations due to that, there's one of the benefits of being attached to a museum, you get a sampling of the public that goes along with it as well.

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Le Transversal at the MAC/VAL and Maison Rouge

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A fun concept where the menu of the kitchen is connecting with the exhibitions. Gilles Stassart gives a food dimension to the exhibited works.
The idea was started at the MAC/VAL at Vitry sur Seine, but a satelite is made at Maison Rouge at the Bastille Paris.

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MAC/VAL, Musée d'art contemporain du Val-de-Marne, Place de la Libération, 94400 Vitry-sur-Seine, RER C : Gare de Vitry-sur-Seine and bus 180 direction Villejuif-Louis Aragon. Stop at Musée Mac-val.

Costa Rica FishingMaison Rouge, 10, Boulevard de la Bastille, 75012 Paris, tel 01 40 01 94 37, M°Quai de la Rapée/Bastille
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