Thursday, September 12, 2013

The French brasserie comes back from the dead: LAZARE, Paris

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".

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Le Fantome

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.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

ENCORE, another delicious Franco-Japanese bistro

Daily 25/30€ blackboard menu

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.

Cauiflower, mussels, French/Indian spice mix emulsion