One of the more surprising eateries to open up in recent months is this modern spot serving small dishes in a bar space around an open kitchen, wedged somewhere between the Hard Rock Café and Indiana Café (worst "Tex Mex" in Paris). An ovni (UFO) as the French food press would call it, this bar a tapas et tartares has young Israeli chef Yariv Berrebi (formerly of Kitchen Galerie bis) behind the counter live cooking excellent quality produce to crowds of businessmen (lunch), theatergoers (they are open until 11pm weekdays and midnight on Saturdays) and clued up foodies. Prices are reasonable, and although the cooking is (justifiably) a bit less asian fusion than before, Berrebi is an interesting chef to watch out for (although his rapid departure from ZKG was a bit of a shock for some). The 24€ three course menu is a steal.
Prague is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, but, excepting high end French gastronomy clones and beer halls purveying hearty fare, it has never really had much to draw gastrotourists to its regal streets. But a few addresses are changing the way people think about the Czech capital, and at the forefront is undoubtedly Sansho.
Founded by Brit chef Paul Day, Sansho, a modern little table replete with local media types and Brooklynesque tattooed and bearded servers, is making waves. Day, who apprenticed as a butcher at the age of 13, then who worked for three years at a Chinese butchers, went on to be number two at Nobu London followed by a stint at Nahm, (the first Thai restaurant in the world to gain a Michelin star) with David Thompson, and on to open a private club (failed) in Prague. This failure resulted in him opening his own place.
Thompson's skills in butchering, wok'ing, and roasting, love of and insistent use of local ingredients, and repertoire of South Asian recipes make Sansho an exciting table, especially in the staid, traditional Czech capital. Star dishes such as spider crab sliders with wasabi mayo, tea smoked trout with green mango, and pork belly (from rare breed Prestik pig) with watermelon are, as Day says, "updating the Czech palate".
A very smart idea of a French bistro from New York, reimported back to the mothercountry for easy consumption by Anglo or Anglo seeking hipsters in South Pigalle, Buvette Gastrotheque is a simulacrum, a Kinfolk wet dream of an eatery, a little too perfect, a little too Brooklyn meets Pigalle, but still, I liked it a lot.
Rant over, it’s a comfy, friendly place that serves up old school Gallic comfort food as seen through the eyes of a Yankee chef (Jody Williams) , and it’s very decent, although I couldn’t help thinking “what a great business idea” all the time. The space is all eclectic, with rickety vintage school chairs, bar counter stacked with fresh desserts, a vintage ham slicer, glass jars full of apples.. half of the clientelle seemingly bobo lifestyle journalists and bloggeuses whiling away the afternoon, strutting their Isabel Marant press sale threads while furiously jotting down details in their Moleskins and iPads.
The copious croque Madame, unfortunately sans oeuf (forgotten) was thick and crunchy, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs textbook, ratatouille quite delish, accompanied with fresh goat cheese and the desserts just what the doctor ordered: homemade waffles with fresh forrest berries, tarte tatin with fresh, just slightly sour as it should be, cream. All in all, it did seem a little too much esprit de Village , but sometimes that is just what you need (either that or a cheapass flight ticket to JFK). And plus they're open all day long, and closed only on Mondays.
When a member of Paris' expat food blogging royalty invites you to join him for lunch, you just can't say no. Especially when he takes you to a place a friend of a friend heard of that opened a week ago, in a former wine bar gone south, now creative French bistro run by a young Yves Cambdeborde trained Japanese chef and his wife (he the kitchen, her the front of house), and put it all up in the virtually unchanged storefront in a tiny street in the Nord du Marais, and you have a recipe for success.
This soon to be Figaroscoped and Fooding'd 12 table spot, sandwiched somewhere between the trendy rue de Bretagne and the Marché des Enfants Rouges hits all the right notes: 35€ men for dinner or lunch offering 4 choices for each dish. The amuse bouche was a haddock jelly covered shellfish mousse, and main choices included citrus marinaded salmon coupled with oxtail and celery, a delicious salted codfish quenelle, textbook quality ris de veau and Brittany caught cod with buckwheat risotto and shellfish. Bread was (surprise) not Pain des Amis, but from chef Thierry Bréton. All was comforting, technically perfect (one exception, the cod was a bit salty) , friendly and affordable, and served (slowly) with a smile. Book now before it becomes the new French/Nippon bistro flavor of the month. And, for the moment, make sure you bring cash, as their credit card machine isn't installed yet.
The brasserie is part of the world culinary consciousness. Synonymous with the Parisian restaurant scene, French institution has for years now fallen upon hard times, the remaining brasseries reduced to tolerable tourist traps full of loud Americans, or become gobbled up by companies not that different from fast food chains, indeed much of the food is mass produced and reheated to order in the remaining of these culinary dinosaurs. The overwhelming trend of the past decade or so having been in the smaller bistros of the city of light (bistronomy, tables d'auteur, etc), I think that the next trend might well be macro instead of micro: large, bustling easy and accessible places, where one can come any time of the day and eat something fresh and tasty, and I believe that LAZARE in the first of what will perhaps be the next restaurant revolution.
Lazare, located in the Gare Saint Lazare train station (the transport hub for his native Normandy), was opened a few days ago by Eric Fréchon, a chef who made his way from a small bistro in the 90's in a far-flung neighborhood near the park Buttes Chaumont to being a three star Michelin chef at Le Bristol in the space of a decade. His other restaurant, Mini Palais, the pleasant enough eatery located in the Grand Palais monument, is a good staple, but Lazare looks set to break some ground. The lofty brasserie has an open kitchen, center zinc bar and over 100 seats, and is open from 7:30 am until 11pm 7 days a week. You can come for breakfast, a plate of charcuterie (truffled Mortadella) and a glass of wine, or a full blown lunch and dinner. There are generous daily specials priced at under 20€ and a well curated selection of French comfort food favourites of all sort, and , sacre bleu!, friendly, professional service (most of the staff came from the Meurice, Bristol and 110 Taillevent).
A former two Michelin starred chef I knew, sitting at the counter eating a ham and baguette sandwich with a glass of rouge told me, "This isn't just a restaurant, this isn't just something new in the food world, it's a cultural change". Lazare hit all the right notes, and I'm inclined to agree. "I just want to do simple and honest dishes", Fréchon told me during a brief chat, "create a place for everyone to eat something good".
Funnest opening of the year definitely goes to Le Fantome, the new bar/restaurant/games arcade that opened recently on the corner of rue du Paradis and rue d'Hauteville in the (once again) trendy10th arrondissement. Created by La Clique, a cultish group of young restaurateurs behind establishments such as the Hotel Amour, Le Baron, Chez Moune, etc this spacious retro design space (mucho Formica) is open all day serving pizza by the slice and salads, and vintage games such as Ms. Pac Man and Space Invaders (but sadly no Dig Dug). One of the hottest addresses of the rentrée, especially when their new basement club (a friendlier version of Le Baron) opens with an ambition guest DJ program.
For phantoms of another type, try the excellent Manoir Hantée just next door.
One of the recent culinary trends in Paris has been the influx of small Japanese run bistros doing French cooking. Many of these young upstarts worked their way through top of the food chain culinary establishments and struck out on their own in popular up and coming neighborhoods (9th,10th,11th) with modest tables offering up limited choice tasting menus featuring seasonal produce from cult niche purveyors (Joel Thiebault, Annie Bertin, etc) accompanied by natural unfiltered wines. The chef, Yoshi Morie worked for five years in one of the vanguards of this trend, the Petit Verdot, and has now moved on to his own digs.
Encore, opened this summer was happily one of the few places open at the end of August, so I snagged a table and had one of the best meals of the pre- rentrée: 30€ for three delicious courses: a bright, crunchy mussels and cauliflower starter flavored with a vadouvan emulsion (French/Indian spice mix), and main course of monkfish with mixed cooked and raw vegetables (broccoli, burnt aubergine), all dishes doing a perfect job of creating layers of comforting taste and washed down with well chosen wines from our charming waitress. The dessert was the best I've had this season: a violet and fig compote with a Timut pepper sorbet.
Post-burger comfort food still has its hooks in the French dining public (an hours wait for a Camion qui Fume burger is proof enough), and although us expat Anglos have been waiting for years for well done quick grub, only a few have got it down pat. The latest, and one of the greatest, is the Sunken Chip, on the rue des Vinaigriers (Vinegar Bottle Street, funnily enough) , just off of the Canal Saint Martin. The tiny place, all white tile, communal wooden counter and smiling employees, is the brainchild of cult bistro Roseval's chef Michael Greenwold and James Whelan, former Monocle magazine employee and owner of the trendy bar L'Inconnu. The concept is simple enough: a few line caught fishes from the Finnestere region ("the closest we can get to English fish and chips taste", says Michael) from an up and coming small boat fisherman,Thomas Saracco, the all covered in light batter, accompanied by well turned out chips and iconic sodas and beer from the UK. Predictably the place was heaving at the seams with hipsters, curious local neighbors, French media types and yelpers, bloggers and pseudo food writers, many of which didn't even come to eat, but to check in and take photos.
My recent sojourn throughout the North and South of Thailand (my first) was full of surprises from exceptional expats, although perhaps none as enriching as my short stay at Howie's. The Homestay, located about 30 minutes outside of Chiang Mai is a custom built private villa in the foothills of the national reserve it is off of and was the fruit of seven years of work and many millions of dollars. The gorgeously landscaped site, designed by Thai resident and American architect Bill Bensley (he built the next door Four Seasons), embraces the local Lanna style of architecture and comports a main villas and a few attendant bungalows, a lily pad pond, pagoda and infinity pool with mountain views. The name, a riff on the Northern Thai city's many backpacker hostels, belies one of the most luxurious and comfortable "hotels" in the country. Howie, a Boston born businessman who has been living in Thailand for more than 20 years, is a perfect companion, and the entire complex, including their personal kitchen, fridges, etc are open to visitors. Howie's advice on the surrounding region is priceless and the delicate, generous home cooking from his wife, Jerri, perhaps the best we tasted on our trip. Believe me, it's worth going to Thailand just to experience this.
Located in the same part of the gentrifying 11th as other foody shrines Septime and Bones, this long and lofty restaurant is spacious and luminous, the staff (many comprised of unemployed people learning the restaurant trade) friendly and welcoming, and the menu, from thirty something chef, William Pradeleix who worked with Darroze at the Connaught and at a Jean Georges outpost in Bora Bora, is nicely turned out, fresh innofensive food for the arty bobos that filled the dining room (3à something PR chicks giving the maitre d' the bise, 50 something photographer with his teenage Justin Bieber mopped stagiere in tow..). Apparently a few high ranking Michelin star chefs have given their input, the Plaza's Michelak has remote controlled the dessert menu, and produce is top notch, but it just didn't hook me: the daily starter of carpaccio of foie gras terrine with strawberries and tiny fava beans was, fine, but unremarkable, the foie gras just a touch boring, the mackerel with corn, mango and coriander served with a side of pilaf rice acceptable, but I just couldn't feel the whizz bang talent my esteemed colleagues detected. And although they are doing good things for people in need, I'm on ze fence with this one, and Pradeleix is no Ledeuil. Maybe they need a bit more time..
An interesting review / rant popped up on Le Fooding's website the other day, in conjunction, I guess, in
some way with the Cannes Film Festival, resulting from a meeting at the LA
Fooding event, the first in their new series, "Jus de Cervelle"
("Brain Juice"), a place for "criticism, praise ... to
report on the times..let's see if your mouth is big enough".
"MacDonald's addict", French actor Mathieu Kassowitz, discussed Table, indie food blogger Bruno Verjus'
new product driven place not far from the Gare de Lyon in Paris.
Kassowitz, a perhaps unlikely
candidate to discuss food, calls it a subject that is of no interest to him,
gourmet cuisine is "like fashion, where you give a kidney to wear
something unwearable, the price to pay per gram of protein makes me lose my
appetite even before I begin to eat, all that without even talking about these
hipsters, elected to a closed off world that only they can understand and
appreciate. (kudos for the hipster blast).
He goes on, describing his dinner,
drinking a champagne (which he generously shares with the entire staff, other
diners, then complains of the price (600€) , which makes him "want to
vomit". One wonders why he didn't check the menu before... He says the
idea behind Table is "to offer good food in the most convivial of
circumstances.. a simple idea that made me want to be generous as well..but
isn't Table just hype, the ambassador of cool popular food?" and goes on
"to make someone pay 600€ for a bottle bought 150€ is a lack of taste, a
lack of respect that needs explanation before a punch in the
face".....ending with the word of advice, "If you come here, bring
your own can of Coke".
While certainly not condoning
Monsieur Kassowitz' review, Le Fooding, which normally shies away from the
critical, seems to have found an interesting opportunity to tap into a rich
vein of iconoclastic foodie rage. And doing what they do best, helping to
democratize a culture that's become too niche and hipstery for many people's
taste. Or have they..?
Where does one go, I found myself wondering when you've created perhaps the greatest upheaval in recent world cuisine (El Bulli) when the steam runs out of the idea which has fueled and inspired thousands of chefs worldwide. When molecular gastronomy gives way to New Nordic. Niche cuisines!
"After all those years at El Bulli, I just wanted to take it easy and have fun", Albert Adria explained to me last night at his hot new table, Pakta, located in an edgy and seemingly uninteresting corner of Barcelona, across from a massive concrete fire station. The thirty something seater, with a small Japanese style counter at the entrance, wooden looms filled with colorful yarn and minimalist tables and wood seating has a vibe that shares both Nippon and Peruvian influences. The restaurant, you see, is inspired by the same homegrown fusion (termed Nikkei) that sent Nobu on his path to fame and fortune. Here it allows Adria to avoid the trappings of a traditional high level Japanese restaurant, which he thought would be too difficult for him.
Nikkei was grown from Japanese immigrants to Peru, which was the first country to accept them a century ago. They brought their own cooking techniques and started to use local produce, the result being a natural fusion cuisine.
The team, from waitstaff to kitchen is almost entirely Peruvian and Japanese, with a few Spanish, Mexican and Argentians thrown in for good measure, and most of them have worked in the Adria empire in one form or another, either staging at El Bulli or gaining experience at the nearby 41° or Tickets.
Genial Argetinian chef Sebastien Mazzola, the imagination behind these establishments (and chef of 41° Experience, where he will return once his work here is done) developed more than 100 recipes for the new concept with Japanese head chef Kyoko Ii for a menu that will probably change monthly.
At 90€ for 25 dishes, it's a wild ride for the tastebuds and an incredibly interesting concept that seems to be going somewhere. Their next establishments, Bodega 1900 and Mexican influenced Yauarcan will expand their empire in another completely different direction and I look forward to trying each and every one of them.
Flashed sirloin steak, peppers, quail egg and potato "pillows"
Let's be frank, lobster rolls are sexy sandwiches. Maybe, the sexiest sandwich that exists, conjuring up images of New England summers, secluded beaches, the pervasive smell of suntan oil. Firm, delicate meat, creamy sauce, the crunch of an ever so slightly toasted bun. In New England, with lobster available pretty much everywhere for cheap, it's part of the local culture and collective memory, yet still has cachet.
Flash to Paris where a new Lobster Bar has been opened by a former Swiss screenwriter, pining for an imagined Maine, seaside childhood that never happened, replacing the local Maine product for Breton bleu, with a side of fries and salad for 26€ (!). Turns out it's just another luxe Frenchification of American comfort food.
The Figaroscope says "10cm of limp, panini grilled sandwich at 26€, find the error", and calls them "cette arnaque", which in French is a nasty word for swindle or theft.
A surefire way of measuring the excellence of a restaurant is how it haunts you. Now matter how many stars a certain chef may have, or how hot that new bistro chef is or how much science went into the cooking of that astoundingly impossible looking dish, the yardstick of true culinary goodness and greatness is gastronomic flashback, a dish or dishes that just won't let loose their grip on your primordial taste brain.
Well Goust did that to me. A week after my meal there with my gastronomic partner in crime Alec, "The second restaurant from the world's number one sommelier" as the chin high sign before the door proclaims really is something special and unique in Paris. Opened just a couple months ago by Enrico Bernardo, the youngest world champion sommelier ever, this room just oozes charm and class, with a cozy modern apartment decor not unlike what my friend and dining partner in crime says, "a 1960's Lufthansa first class lounge, but in a good way!". It is tasteful, and very well designed with lots of attention to detail. That's what Philippe Starck a few tables over said anyway.
The humble Valencia born chef , José Manuel Miguel, who cut his teeth most recently at Le Bristol as well as at with Martin Berasategui in Spain's Basque region creates deceptively simple dishes, using French techniques melded with sometimes rare and unusual (in Paris anyway) Spanish produce:think Valencia style rice long cooked in a seafood broth, impermeated with the flavor of the sea, a tuna tartar with a mango "egg" and Thai basil, technically impressive dishes, with exceedingly precise temperatures and textures...
The wine list reads like an eclectic best of from across France, Spain and Italy: a 2011 Chablis from Louis Michel, 2011 Sicilia Grillo from Firriato, a 2011 Rueda Verdeja from Lunton, Alsdee Pinot Gres 2010 from Weinbach, a 2011 Volnay from J.M. Boillot, finished off with a 10 year old porto Tawny Grahays.
The building itself, like a transplanted Florentine palace adds to the unique setting. A reasonable value 3 dish 35€ menu is available for lunch, but I'd suggest saving up your centimes and going for the full blast degustation menu with wine pairings in the evening with your own partners in crime.
advise all of my readers (with iPads) to download the new food and travel
magazine SABOR (free until March 15th) Best
digital mag to come out for a long time. And don't be afraid to leave comments
on iTunes store if you like it !!
from a New Zealand reader: "I purchased Sabor last week after reading about it on a
blog, and am very impressed with the quality and work that went into it (I even
wrote you a comment, saying that it's what Lucky Peach could have been had
David Chang not been too focused on keeping up his hipster cred rather than
providing a quality product)."
Apart from hot new bistros, fantastic, interesting and envelope pushing food can now be found in Paris bars, most notably, the recently opened Marie Celeste.
Created by Adam Tsou and Colombian beauty Carina Soto Velasquez Tsou, a husband and wife team who met at the Experimental Cocktail Club, this is their third establishment (the others being the Mexican inspired Candelaria and former titty bar turned Pigalle hipster magnet, Glass).
Marie Celeste is basically an oyster bar, with regional French and European small production bivalves, great cocktails from Carlos (formerly of L'Hotel) , Brooklyn IPA on tap, and, most, importantly, small plates from Canadian raised, half Chinese, half Romanian chef Haan Palcu-Chang, who worked at Copenhagen's Michelin starred Thai Kiin Kiin and did stints at Verre Volé, Chateaubriand, Au Passage and Saturne in Paris. Much more than just bar snacks, the food is delightfully playful, well executed and fusion-y with dishes such as Chinese crepes (ie tacos) with beef shin, peanuts, sesame, nicely spiced kimchee, and steamed oysters with black vinegar, shallots and coriander. Haan has got skills and the place is cool, ready to blow up soon. Best bar in Paris at the moment? Oui.
A funny thing happened to me. I've never really put much time, effort or thought into this blog, and have been surprised at the amount of attention I've received from people quite serious about their Paris restaurants. Maybe it's the "insider" angle, my general snarkiness (which is pretty absent in most other blogs here) or the fact that I work for a famous and fortunate clientelle in my day job. I've never considered this form of communication as anything other than a venting of my restaurant obsession (it started as a way to placate my friends who were tearing their hair out as I repeated experiences in this or that hot new place).
So it's a bit strange that, now working on a very serious project that involves writing, that the only way that I've been able to break down a block I've been having for some time, is to pretend that I am writing it up on a blog. A way to trick my mind into believing that this is fun and not serious and not grown up and mature. My brain seems to hate serious writing.
But pretending has been helping me turn out some pretty cool copy.
With the sometimes invasive, ever accelerating and self-proliferating Parisian expat foodie blogosphere about to explode with cool new addresses, I'm taking a bit more time to report on my favourite spots for fear of being associated with foaming at the mouth food fans. I almost missed them.
Pierre Jancou, the tattooed Messiah of Natural Wine, has cut a wino de luxe swathe through the City of Light, having participated in the creation of some of the most brilliant wine bars of the last decade, as well as heralding in a new understanding on natural, unadulterated small production wines. The fact that he has been a part time model, and is a hunky, shy and well inked man morsel also draws the aforementioned foodie fans, the only drawback I can see to his establishments. His most recent project, in the most quickly gentrifying part of the 10th arrondissement, is a double whammy called Vivant.
The Vivant empire is divided into two parts; Vivant Table, with a new Japanese chef, Atsumi Sota (Robuchon NYC, Stella Maris, Toyo) creating a three course, or blind six course tasting menu, in a former turn of the century bird shop, and Cave, the next door no reservations wine bar with superb small dishes at a much more reasonable price.
After the initial sticker shock (it is a bit pricey for the 10th), we proceeded to have one of the best meals of recent memory: delicate fish couscous and a sublime broth with perfectly seared scallops and mindbendingly good gnocchi, turbot meuniere that made me swoon (this chef is an expert saucier !) and an interesting chocolate terrine with Kalamata olives dusted with pain des amies breadcrumbs for a perfect chewy crunch. With one of the lower priced bottles of wine, it all came to about 80€ per person, which could break the bank for some, and made the plein a craqué popularity of his Cave next door all the more understandable. (Also Pierre, who really is the personality of the place, spends most of his time at the cave, not the restaurant). Think I'll pop over there next time. And (*cringe*) join the expat blaggeurs.
43 rue des Petites-Ecuries, 75010
+33 1 42 46 43 55
Menus( dinner) at 55€/70€
Located in the gorgeous Napoleon III era Elephant Paname dance and arts centre (owned by a scion of the Fiat family), the youngest ever world champion sommelier Enrico Bernardo, opens Goust, just behind the place Vendome, his second project after the Left Bank wine first restaurant Il Vino.
The concept is different and decidedly food first with 35€ (two dishes) and 45€ (three) lunch menus and evening degustation menus from 75€-130€, wine included.
The Spanish chef, who trained most recently under Eric Fréchon at Le Bristol and also at Mugaritz and the Ritz in Madrid will be doing a gourmet menu with both French and Spanish products and cooking techniques. The upstairs dining room, made to look like a comfy noble apartment will have 36 seats, and the downstairs 'tapas gallery' will be open from 12-midnight serving lighter fare and wines.
Sample dishes (pre opening tests) will include tuna tartar with oeuf a la mangue, lime tinged roast gambas in a Catalan style bisque and Bloody Mary oysters (tapas bar).
Review (very) soon... opens February 1st..
Goust par Enrico Bernardo
10 rue Volnay, 75002, Paris
+33 1 40 15 20 30
Last year I tried to hit the hottest tapas bar in the world, but unfortunately, they were closed. And if they weren't closed, there was anyway, I was told, a two month waiting list. Luckily the chef's girlfriend was able to fit me in with a two day notice this time around.
Tickets, as the Adria brothers new project is called, their first post El Bulli restaurant, is an experimental tapas place housed in a former theatre and with a marked circus-y theme (Maitre d' in top hat at the door, etc). It was relatively surprising, even though the Spanish eat quite late, to find that this, the hottest restaurant in town, was empty from 7pm-9pm, after which time groups and families flooded the space for pre-Christmas dinners and office parties.
The concept is pretty simple: classic and experimental small dishes, brought out until you say stop. The staff is happy to help out with choosing how much to eat and what to drink depending on you, and we devoured a large part of the menu (15 dishes or so) before saying stop.
ticket's olives (direct from El Bulli), two different types of sphere filled with olive essence (Gordal and Kalamata)
Seaweed tempura with vinaigrette jus
"Mini airbags" with manchego cheese
Salad taco with sea bass ceviche, i.e. the "taco" was a salad leaf
Razor clams in escabeche, saffron pearls and soy sauce "shards"
Avocado cannelloni with crab and romesco sauce (i.e. the ultimate crab/avocado maki)
Crostini with Cantabrian anchovy and tomato seeds
Razor thin tuna belly with a dollop of sea urchin
"Christmas" tapas with smoked beef and beetroot gelé
Tandori style fish cakes
Baby calimari "straight from El Bulli"
Steamed brioche with truffled cheese
Tuna belly confit with traditional escabeche
"High level" sirloin steak
Liquid cheese ravioli (payoyo cheese)
Truffled Canarejal cheese torta
Cheese and honey cupcake with strawberry ice cream
I've probably forgotten a few things along the way, but this is a great place for those who never got to try El Bulli and those who have Adria withdrawal symptoms, as well as for globetrotting gastronauts looking for a novel new hot table.