BY COURTESY

Quantic travel

The exquisite gourmet club

I have the simplest tastes… I am always satisfied with the best —Oscar Wilde

Return to the table of contents —by Cyril A. Skinazy Lire cette page en français

Adventure isn’t just a matter of going as far as possible, searching for lost civilizations, following in the steps of Rimbaud in Abyssinia or in the wake of Henry de Monfreid surfing on the Red Sea. Adventure, by its eternal need for surprising itself, is more than ever an inner journey whose taste—the quintessence of civilization—is the main gateway. Paris, frozen in the memory of a poetic and artistic golden age for the longest time, lost in its nostalgia for the avant-garde of yesteryear, has jumped back in to the driver’s seat of modernity. It’s now while dining out where aesthetics, philosophy and poetry are played out, it’s at the dinner table where the art of living is seeking out the most distant frontiers. The exquisite gourmet club, the secret society of exemplary connoisseurs, sends its ambassadors off to these inspiring and flavorful territories.

—Bruno Mallart, courtesy Galerie Bayart

The sweet winds of the colonies

La Coloniale

Madame Mœur at La Coloniale —photo by David Henry

While one we can speak of a rip in the time and space to explain the disappearance of aircraft over the Bermuda Triangle, one can also understand why epicureans are fading away in the most famous city in world gastronomy. Because we do not admit enough, more than one fan of great cuisine has found himself swallowed up by one of these space-time faults. And this is what might happen the immobile traveler who enters the lair of Madame Mœur.

The owner of this Khmer-style Jamaican inn does not run a tavern, but a cave which Ali Baba would rave about, jaded as he might have been. One must make one’s life a work of art said philosopher Michel Foucault, and though she who wanted to go to art school but married a Cambodian choreographer and film director instead, pretends to drag her wings around the floor like rusty knives, this is to better to beat the mechanism of time and cast her spells. With its lintels and pagoda doors, heads of canoes, a giant cast in bronze, an English cloakroom turned into a bar, and a constellation of unlikely objects found in flea markets with her very certain taste, this enclave on rue Mazarine is the boudoir of a esthete in exile.

As for the cuisine, the richness and subtlety on offer reflects the interior decor. Fried Amok shrimp fritters, fried rice sprinkled with blood pebbles or Chinon Pierre Chaud wine, and coconut rice dumpling in tapioca with sticky rice, dinner is a hit, the 1960s and Phnom Penh are equally enthralling.

La Coloniale: 25 rue Mazarine 75006 Paris; 01 43 43 69 10

The taste for sin

Boulettes

Things are not what they seem, no more so than otherwise claims the Kama Sutra. There are objects like souls, landscapes that are like cities. Thus rue Saint-Denis, the street famous for girls of doubtful virtue who gradually swapped their taste for life of easy temptation for more subtle fragrances. Were proof of this ever been needed it would indeed be found in Kevin Austruy’s boutique at No. 179. He is a virtuoso chef of high discerning practicing in a cozy and trendy setting, poetically decorated downstairs with frescoes by artist Lazarine.

The proprietor has long been used to mixing with celebrities and welcomes them as if at his home. He seems to have just one concern, serving his guests in the best possible and affordable way. Considering his position and profession one would figure he has vast amounts of experience combined with the skills of a tightrope walker, which allows him to carry out his sacred mission flawlessly. As for the rest it would be easy however, to find these foods served at the table of prelates eager to keep their hedonism secret.

The dumplings, as well as Charolais beef, Bellac lamb, fish and vegetable are a celebration of a bygone era. Spread across a panoply of 70 fruits and vegetables in summer, they are such a treat that after a dessert like meringue pie with freshly squeezed lemon juice, or the strawberry and pistachio tart—quite excellent all the while—the dumplings cannot be forgotten. On this high road of pleasure, ecstasy is now so much more virtuous.

Boulettes: 179, rue Saint-Denis 75002 Paris; 01 42 21 46 44.

Quintessence de la grâce

Alberico Penati, le chef de Penati al baretto —photo Jérôme Mondière

Penati al baretto

Amasterpiece of Italian literature was published in 1528. This book by the courtier, poet, diplomat, soldier and yet humanist Baldassare Castiglione was a considerable success all over Europe. Far from being a manual of intrigue and pretenses, this “Courtier” embodies all the qualities of the Renaissance, demanding individual and social rights, brilliantly uniting the chivalric ideal of the Middle Ages and the ideal of cultural humanism.

In this book, this great exponent of social decency advances the idea that courtesy can be truly perfect only if we have a sense of grace, and that perfection in refinement can only be achieved and perceived thanks to a certain style. In all, said the Mantuan poet, one must exercise a certain sprezzatura that conceals art and shows that what one does and says comes easily, almost without thinking.

This studied nonchalance, coupled with feigned indifference, intended to hint at a much greater merit than what we are willing to show still retains all its charms.

These days, this enviable sprezzatura affects musicians and athletes, dresses actors, inspires writers and captivates politicians. More rarely, this subtle sense of ease and tradition hides the effort in the background, bribing cooks.

Yet there is a place inhabited by this singular style, described by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V’s court writer. It’s Penati al Baretto, a restaurant now famous, on rue Balzac in Paris.

Originally from Casatenovo in Brianza, north of Milan, Alberico Penati left school at the age of 14 to serve his apprenticeship in a traditional restaurant run by a Venetian family in Lecco.

Like Renaissance artists summoned to the royal courts of Europe—as was Arcimboldo who inspired him—he went from great Italian hotels to French and British luxury hotels.

As a lieutenant of Angelo Paracucchi at the Royal Monceau and at the Troisgros in Roanne he contributed to the success of Harry’s Bar and Annabel’s Mark Birley in London for over two decades, then with Robin Birley—the son of Mark—he participated in the opening of the famous club “5 Herford Street” in London, the Mecca of British high society and aristocracy.

In the restaurant on rue Balzac, opened with Venetian businessman Pier Silli, deliciously nonchalant harmony is reflected in everything. The order and the geometry of the decor, tempered by pictures of Italian realist cinema stars from Massimo Gargia’s collection, the solar elegance of Francesca Gillio, the other elegance of the cheerful virtuoso sommelier Massimo Tacono, the propriety of restaurant manager Philippe Landat and his employees, and of course the cuisine, as earthly as it is spiritual. The salade de Puntarelle à la romaine, the Tuscan saffron risotto, the Sicilian Setaro spaghetti with sardines, the basil and “Gerardo di Nola” tomato pacherri Kamut Verrigni, the “Cremona” pumpkin ravioli, and to finish up, a “Strega Alberti” baba rum liqueur like in Benevento, these are the things that he served for my enjoyment. The homage to Bacchus was given with “Le Baretto” an apéritif made from white Martini and Amaretto di Saronno, as well as two excellent Chianti wines.

The true essence of seduction is the feeling that despite the intense pleasure of an experience, a deep mystery remains, a hidden greatness, that we look forward to like this indescribable sprezzatura, to experience it again.

Penati al Baretto: 9–11 rue Balzac 75008 Paris; 01 42 99 80 00.

The world of things possible

Blueberry & la Bocca della verita

What passes for reality in the quantum universe is as full of promises as it is surprises. As in the Kingdom of Serendip, anything can happen. This mystery of what is visible reveals a secret code from the I Ching Book of Changes. Marie Lorna, who wrote “World of possibilities” doubtlessly knows this, one of many proofs of her skills. Her sense of lifestyle and ability to bring her dreams to life is evidenced in the two excellent restaurants she has opened in Saint-Germain-des-Prés with her sister Florence, another friend of the muses. De la Bocca della verita, whose name is comes from a bas-relief on the Santa Maria é Cosmedin church de Rome in Blueberry, a title which is also reference to the comic series, is a happy journey between Italy and Japan. The two sisters’ enthusiasm for pasta at the Bocca, transcended by the talent of Antonio Vassallo, works its wonders. The linguine bottarga spiked with a dash of chili, or with clams, tortellini with white truffle cream are all so tantalizing.

Next door at Blueberry, the California maki prepared by Mr. Luu reach summits of precision and finesse. Enjoying red Rakkham layered with tempura prawns and black truffle Carpaccio or a Miss Yuzu filled with cucumber and flying fish eggs are pure moments of epicurean delight.

La Bocca della verita: 2, rue du Sabot; 01 45 48 96 65; Blueberry: 6, rue du Sabot 75006 Paris; 01 42 22 21 56.

Diamonds on a couch

Viandas de Salamanca

Viandas de Salamanca —photo by David Henry

One day an admirer of Salvador Dalí asked the Catalonian painter what was the secret for becoming rich and famous. The master of Cadaques, never one to get angry easily answered right away, saying that what allowed him to reach his heights of glory and fortune was drinking champagne and eating caviar every day. Though he had no fear of embellishing his response, he could have just as easily mentioned Jamón Ibérico, the shining star of Spanish gastronomy, famous world wide, now just as famous as sturgeon caviar.

As for me, who defends a vegetarian ethic anywhere and in all places, on going in to this Parisian shop, I felt like the hero of Le bœuf clandestin, a novel written by Marcel Aymé. The only thing is, for months already, despite my dietary habits, I have no qualms in saying how much this delicacy is a culinary monument.

This silly thing which is best enjoyed slowly at the back of one’s mouth with the richness of unexpected and extraordinary flavors is made from the meat of black Iberian pigs, almost black, allowed to roam freely in pastures and oak groves. The Bellota pigs are fed Encina acorns only, while the Cebo de Campo breed is fed acorns and grains and raised between 22 and 60 months. This patient maturation results in the Bellota Gran Reserva, the holy grail of refinement.

Viandas de Salamanca in Paris is one of the 15 shops opened by a group of three pig farmers from Guijuelo. The boutique is among the three establishments run by Julien Lescarret, a former French bullfighter, and Mila Bizot. In this embassy of Spanish cuisine you’ll also enjoy the delicious “hornazo”, thinly sliced ham, lomo and chorizo, olive oil flavorful enough to be spread on a slice of bread, authentic sheep and goat cheese, and robust red wines such as Cruz de Alba Crianza and Ramón Bilbao Rioja. ¡Vamos! as Rafael Nadal would say while hitting an overhead smash straight down the tennis court at the porte d’Auteuil.

Viandas de Salamanca: 3, rue des Quatre Vents 75006 Paris; 01 43 54 86 14.

Last night a DJ saved my life

Le Stendhal

One does not win a battle by blindly sending mercenaries to the front. François 1er went Marignan in person and Fidel Castro, entrenched with 3,000 men in the Sierra Maestra mountains lead the decisive attack on the Moncada barracks himself. As concerns cuisine, some brigades as experienced as Swiss guards can be decimated for lack of a visionary leader. The Swiss infantry destroyed in the Po Valley by the young Renaissance king saw their legend of invincibility shattered. In the war of taste one smart mind is worth more than a hundred well-equipped soldiers as evidenced by David Souma, the clever sentry of a drunken boat in search maritime epiphanies. At the Stendhal, a way station on the route between Paris and Dakar next to the Père Lachaise cemetery, this invigorating and delicious restaurant serves as an air bridge between France and Senegal. One of the cooks, Annie Duvauchelle, a neighborhood character, treats hordes of fans of delicious family fare meals at noon, while in the evening everything that does not kill us makes us stronger. I’d like to talk about thieps, maffés and colombos, accompanied by a sauce quite capable of topping the Scoville scale. It is said that music soothes the savage. This is doubtlessly true for the owner, previously a famous DJ who will reward you with a soothing ginger juice to put out the fire.

Le Stendhal: 30, rue Stendhal 75020 Paris; 01 43 58 03 95.

Not prohibited

Fanfan la tulipe

In “The Long Goodbye” by Raymond Chandler, the famous detective Philip Marlowe trots out enjoyable variations on the different types of blondes, these femmes fatales roaming around scenes shot in the “day for night” style. These actresses with eye-twinkling hearts and poisonous charm lurking in the mythology of pulp detective novels are legendary, as are the places they hang out in, dive bars and speakeasies.

Actresses like Betty Page or Veronica Lake, who inspired Vargas while making illustrations of ladder-climbing girls for his calendars, who end up in a villa in Antibes covered with diamonds, these sensuous and ingenuous beauties are inevitably nonchalantly holding a glass of Mary Pickford or Monkey Gland between a cigarette holder and a monogrammed lighter, caring so little that Eliot Ness might burst in tracking illicit substances.

In Paris, whether you are blond like Lana Turner or brunette like Gina Lollobrigida who famously played Fanfan la Tulipe with Gérard-Philippe, you can enjoy a sidecar or a mint julep in a place named after the novel by Pierre-Gilles Veber with no fear of seeing Al Capone and Meyer Lansky settling scores. Later on in the evening, under the severe regard of a protective zebra and carefully selected groovy music, you can enjoy invigorating appetizers that indeed leave you an appetite for dining.

Fanfan la tulipe: 14, rue des Cinq Diamants 75013 Paris; 09 82 32 62 23, with Guillaume Sereau, Bar & Playlist Maxim.

Les délices du Marquis

Il gelato del marchese

Il gelato del marchese —photo par David Henry

I’m back on rue des Quatre Vents, in a wondrously luminous establishment. In the window large animated circles are on display, as at World’s End, Vivienne Westwood’s legendary clock shop, where the hands turn counterclockwise. This image fits the place perfectly, Il Marchese del Gelato, is a delightful tearoom launched by epicurean aesthetes from Rome and Tuscany. There’s no need here for HG Wells’ time machine, nor for Dr. Emmet Brown’s De Lorean in Back to the Future in order to travel in time: splendid armchairs, Regency sofas, flamboyant crystal chandeliers, Saxony porcelain cups, silver spoons and tea pots which would never make Marie Antoinette homesick. Veronica is at the heart of the time warp in the zeitgeist of the Saint-Germain des Prés neighborhood, a warm host with very discerning taste.

Il Gelato del Marchese’s mission is to raise desserts to stratospheric heights of excellence. Ever since Marco Polo returned from China with these specialties that chefs to kings and papacy took good note of, there has been no shortage of inspired culinary artisans ready to take on such monumental challenges. But there’s actually another Marco, a famous ice cream maker in Rome that Renato and his have called upon to cobble together their menu quite capable of turning skilled expertise in to pure hedonism.

Here the substance and form face off in a voluptuous and poetic fencing duel. The delicate waitresses bring their pristine pages, spreading them out on the marble patina pedestal, in airy glass shells, ice cream made from tomato and basil, gorgonzola, ricotta, white truffle, apple sorbets, grapes, red wine and to initiate promising extravagances, a pear flavored with beer, the height of chic.

Unable to resist the call of exquisite vanilla and pure chocolate as radical as Winchester Joss Randall, I gaze at the wheels in the window, as if I’d suddenly been swept away in a sleeping car on the Orient Express of that previous era.

Il Gelato del Marchese: 3, rue des Quatre Vents 75006 Paris; 01 46 34 75 63.

Dolce Rita

Il Settimo

The writer and filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky says that God is not above us but instead we reside in him. So one evening, expected for dinner, I did not resign myself to leaving the art show opening where the party was in full swing. The champagne was first rate, the appetizers out of this world and the atmosphere the utmost of polite. Then my telephone rang, as it happens it was Rita, the owner of the restaurant to which I’d been invited, who suggested that I come a bit later because she was at a gallery opening, so she said.

An hour after heading in to Settimo, having walked up the stairs presided over by an impressive crystal chandelier I was greeted by my host Rita, who was as surprised as I was. And with good reason because we’d just passed by each other—without either of us recognizing the other—a few dozen minutes earlier at this elegant soirée.

With my partner in epicurean pursuits off to one side next to a mirror, under the watchful eye of a languid harem woman, we enjoyed a bass carpaccio with herbs, and even better, spinach and ricotta ravioli sprinkled with a delicious wine from Puglia, all that floating on celestial sauce. Dessert was supposed to be served when the soirée was winding up on opera singers’ vibrato notes that could move an angel, the hostess told me she had been expecting a certain guest that did not seem to have shown up. Between the mint ice cream, chocolate fudge and gorgonzola, she insisted on seeing me sing, before I decided to mangle «La Bohème» by the great Charles Aznavour. She asked my name and in a burst of laughter she immediately understood her mistake: I was exactly the guest she had been trying to call all that evening.

Walking impassively down the stairs later on, sauntering out in the street like a drunken sailor, my head still full of the singing of Michela Misco, Sébastien Fournier and Nicol Taylor, I took one last glance at the restaurant’s façade worthy of a life of Casanova, and was able to read: Il Settimo, Roman cuisine.

Il Settimo: 57, rue de Bellechasse 75007 Paris; 01 45 50 39 27, opera and jazz soirées.

*Michela Misco, pianist and opera singer, Sébastien Fournier, countertenor.

The cuisine of the art of cuisine

Kei

Had he not been a star chef Kei Kobayashi would have been a pop artist or a rock star. Most certainly Andy Warhol would have silkscreened him without skimping on gold, bright yellow or pink fuchsia backgrounds. However the painter of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor, who knew so well how to eat a hamburger on camera, would have appreciated the neoclassical decor of this restaurant on rue Coq Héron so much more than the what he would be served there. Because at the Kei restaurant the Franco-Japanese fusion cuisine is served with distinguished ceremony for refined palates. Here in the room presided over by an imposing Saint-Louis crystal chandelier is a proposition as cerebral as it is sensual, which flirts purposely or unconsciously with the daring of conceptual art. Of artichokes stuffed with mascarpone tempura, truffles and ham with scaled bass and a grapefruit limequat foam leading on to Norwegian lobster roasted in kabocha curry foam and rosemary juice, proof that epicurean delights are a way of life here. Art, philosophy and gastronomy are indeed all one and the same.

Kei: 5, rue Coq Héron 75001 Paris; 01 42 33 14 74.

The master of color

Ze kitchen Galerie

In Asia, the unique principle is the basis of the conception of existence. In strawberries, Picasso said, the seeds are on the outside, so where is the inside, what is its shape? This Spanish painter’s joke would not have bothered William Ledeuil, a great connoisseur of the Far East and head chef at Ze Kitchen Galerie where the cuisine is inspired, because he knows that the essence of things and their appearance can not be separated. Depending on the arrivals of fresh ingredients, between subtle yin and yang, the artist composes dishes with flavors as impressive as these meals are in their chromatic beauty. Revered rice and tempura soft shell crab, flash-fried calamari à la plancha accompanied by a naturally-produced Pouilly-Vinzelles white wine give an idea of the orchestra’s sheet music, played out every day in the kitchen with inspiration. With such careful and attentive service the pleasure, whether esthetic or culinary, is total.

Ze Kitchen Galerie: 4, rue des Grands Augustins 75006 Paris; 01 44 32 00 32.

Banquet Boulevard

Le BAT

Before it became such a bustling street full of noisy taverns and English beer bars, the Grands Boulevards were known under the Restoration for its elegant and extravagant cafés, where fops and dandies were seen with their feet propped up on chairs while watching pretty girls walking by with their parasols.

Today boulevard Montmartre seems to looking back at its lively past, like Le BaT, a restaurant that although bowing to the expectations of our age with its arty and minimalist decor sign, is evidence that chic and pleasure are back in a neighborhood that had been scorned and forgotten for so long. The name “BAT” (tapas bar) as well as its motto “The bar where you dine well” hardly hint at the quality on offer, because this restaurant opened by Joyce Levi and Emmanuel Catsoyannis, run by Amine Chraibi with a menu put together by Yariv Berrebi (formerly of Ledeuil William’s Ze Kitchen restaurant), is marvelous. The efficient yet attentive service, excellent ingredients and dishes presented as if they were paintings will charm equally gourmets as well as big fans of food photography. Dining here is a pure moment of pleasure, with among other emotional proposals, vegetable tempura, it’s exquisite.

Le BAT: 16 bis, boulevard Montmartre, 75009 Paris; 01 42 46 14 25

A vintage escapade

Le Hibou

In The Conjurer, the famous painting kept in a safe at the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Municipal Museum, the painter Hieronymus Bosch denounces the credulity of his contemporaries. In the same vein of hidden things, the owl, hero of the Egyptian symbolism reveals what escapes the gaze and which only wisdom can grasp. Thus this place named the Owl («Hibou»), a stone’s throw from métro Odéon, is a mythical meeting place for passionate adventurers. Could it be said that this dashing terrace, with a décor halfway between a Cuban bar and a circus curiosity show, hides other mysteries that elude even its creators?

Accompanied by this volatile night owl, after enjoying such fresh cuisine, finished up with a molten chocolate cake or a roof pie pastry from Saint-Tropez made by chef Jérémy Février, you can’t let yourself get carried away in the Nest upstairs, by the quaint atmosphere created by Clémence Goutal, somewhere between a vintage English bar and a Jamaica Inn, then indulging in a gentle slide with a “Commandante, Brazooka ou Hasta Siempre” cocktail by the expert barman Stéphane Picaut. In the laziness which gives in to everything trendy these days might be found the dawn of an inner journey.

Le Hibou: 16, carrefour de l’Odéon 75006 Paris; 01 43 54 96 91.

King of the heavens

Le Bien Aimé

Le Bien Aimé —photo par David Henry

In the 18th century royal courtyards one could have a rival tossed out of favor with nasty joke behind his back or with a kick in the knees, as shown by Ponceludon, a main character in Ridicule, the film by Patrice Leconte. But aside from fomenting a revolution one could not trip up the king.

These days in France culinary spirits seem to have changed in kitchens, and new and happening restaurants feature discerning and inventive menus. Le Bien Aimé, named in honor of Louis the 15th, Duke of Anjou, located in Paris on the street of the same name, lets its guiding principles be known without pomp and circumstance.

Minds seem to have moved in to kitchens these days in France, and cutting edge restaurants here are discerning and inventive. Le Bien Aimé’s name is a tribute to Louis XV, Duke of Anjou, located on the street of the same name in Paris, trots out the royal epigrams with no fuss or embarrassment. Erwin Durand trained with Robuchon and Loiseau, and his sommelier Martin Lutz is a great fan of French history. Their culinary work does not betray the spirit of the Sun King’s successor, whose hedonism was memorable. The asparagus gratin and colonnata are aristocratic, the bass and curly kale, the spaghetti with olive oil and crunchy garlic, the Bresse chicken with salsify, the potatoes cleverly sculpted in to cages and their dessert they call «l’instant glacé», everything here is so beloved.

Le Bien Aimé: 18, rue d’Anjou 75008 Paris; 01 42 65 45 99.

Insider delights

Chez Fernand

Rémi Lebon and Dimitri Labaye run a restaurant for quite a while known among those with discerning palates, lovers of French culinary tradition, Chez Fernand. These connoisseurs know that Rémi, the chef who searches the Clamart market every Sunday morning, will find for them the most sought-after ingredients for concocting his famous meals. From his Providence chicken with cream and cognac to his beef cheek bourguignon on cassis duck stock, the bons vivants of the world are sure to find many devilishly hidden delights, like pigeon or pheasant. And this passionate chef who prides himself on satisfying the most discerning appetites is not resting on his laurels so he could among other culinary reveries concoct an oreiller de la belle aurore (a game pie made from rabbit, venison, pigeon and pheasant), a famous tribute to Brillat-Savarin’s mother.

Chez Fernand: 13, rue Guisarde 75006 Paris, 01 43 54 61 47.

Patrician’s villa

Café Artcurial

As Alexander the Great solved thorny questions with a stroke of a sword, the chef at the Artcurial café leader must also take after this general of ancient times because his radical decisions are never done halfway. As proof of this, on this ship with its majestic deck piloted by Émilie, an admiral as warm she is determined, everything goes as it should. The decor is majestic, the service attentive and friendly, and first-class ingredients such as olive oil arriving straight from the peninsula are a perfect accompaniment to a spritz apéritif. Like memories of old royal customs, specialties arrive everyday from the kitchens at Fontainebleau, playing out a symphony of stuffed vegetables and pasta prepared alla vongole or according to a secret grandmother’s recipe… it’s a moment of pure rock and Rome.

Café Artcurial: 7, rond-point des Champs Élysées-Marcel Dassault 75008 Paris; 01 53 76 39 34.

Fresh, so fresh, exciting!

—photo Philippe Chanelet-Dardenne for By Courtesy

Pierre Loti considered interior decoration to be the essence of the traveling, and the main entrance to a flourishing imagination. This travel writer’s lifestyle is applied down to the last letter at Fresh Bagels and Juice, a cozy place where each object, from the tiles to the hand-painted chairs carrying on to the wall studded and decorated with plants like a garden, have such charm. Freshly squeezed fruit juices, fine bagels, Rachel’s famously delicious desserts and Nadja and Chanel’s warm middle east welcome make you want to settle in there as if you were boarding a train taking the scenic route to Istanbul. As a bonus they have literary soirées in the Annex, just next door.

Fresh Bagels and Juice: 1, rue Froment 75011 Paris; 01 55 28 61 32

Suave & sybaritic

Le Café Martini

At 11, rue du Pas de la Mule in Paris is a place dedicated to conviviality and conversation, reminiscent of the famous Venetian inns of the eighteenth century. For this tavern Marais is wide like a theater stage and big enough to house a casino in which Marina Morosini, mistress of Casanova and M. de Bernis served exquisite food and fine wines. And indeed sipping Bellini, Negroni or Spritz while sharing platters of Negrini mortadella, pizza filled with black truffle cream, irresistible ham fritters made according to ages-old family recipes, is an inevitable prelude to love and eroticism. All of which could only make the Count of Saint-Germain come back to compete in pleasures with the Knight of Seingalt.

Café Martini: 11, rue du Pas de la Mule 75004 Paris; 01 42 77 05 04.

Aerial acrobatics

Le Kube

In the realm of tightrope acrobatics, Jean Genet described a blacksmith who spoke daily to his anvil with gentle words, advice given to high-wire artists so they can master their tightrope. Eugen Herrigel, author of Zen in the Art of Archery, doesn’t stray one millimeter from this recommendation: absolute art can only exist if archer, art, arrow and target are in complete harmony.

Do Jérémy Moscovici and Jean-Baptiste Ascione, the two acrobats who preside over the four star hotel famous for its “Ice Kube Bar”, talk to their cooking utensils? Do they whisper sweet little nothings to their kitchen cauldrons as Robert Redford did in horses’ ears in that famous film? We’d love to believe it because fine cuisine, an art perilous as for poets, warriors & bullfighters, gives its verdict right away. After canapés and appetizers which send hungry diners lost in nature’s hinterlands, the main course honorably brings them back to the straight and narrow. Grilled turbot and pea and radish soup is however overshadowed by the lamb, Japanese salsify and black garlic.

The high point comes however with Anaïs Teynié desserts: sorbet, cucumber, yuzu and crumbled fennel pie, raspberry, pistachio, all to die for. As for cocktails, South African barman Philip Myburgh, whose courtesy and elegance can be a reference, they are the best of any made in Paris. His sidecars and bees knees climb mountain peaks and can bring you to your knees.

Le Kube: 1–5, passage Ruelle 75018 Paris; 01 42 05 20 00.

The ecstasy of apparitions

Evi Evane

That unforgettable scene in the film “The Burglers” by Henri Verneuil that takes us into the atmosphere of a highly hedonistic Greek restaurant brings Omar Sharif and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Between two appetizing allusions, the cross cut film editing shows hands taking trays of steaming gratin out of an oven, or dropping dumpling batter in to boiling oil. It’s a thinly veiled reference to Dionysus, the ancient God of intoxication and ecstasy who allowed his followers to go beyond death.

In Paris the God of wine and his excesses, drama and tragedy lives on and inspires Evi Evane, her restaurant devoted to Hellenistic feasts, run by Dina and Maria Nicolaou.

Dina has been cooking from the age of 12 and has perhaps not escaped the pirates as the tumultuous divinity, but never the less accomplishes great feats. Famous on television, she sings the praises of the eternal traveler of mythology, surprising us by pulling out stories evoking the wonders of the land of Homer, which inspire the 12 books she has written.

Honey cheese puffs, tasty cod dumplings, keftas melting in cod caviar, irresistible dolmas and moussaka, finishing up with a rich chocolate cream accompanied by pistachio Queen fingers, Dina takes us on a trip to the Cyclades, the region of Crete she loves, she is a devoted ambassador of a thousand-year-old culinary tradition.

The Hippocratic oath “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” takes on its full meaning here. The fineness of taste doubled with a courteous and warm generosity are evidence of this self-fulfilling prediction.

Evi Evane—with happiness—to your health: 10, rue Guisarde, 75006 Paris; 01 43 54 97 86.

A hallucinogenic bistro

Le café Mimosa

Tennis champion Roger Federer isn’t the most theatrical of players but like his illustrious predecessor Ilie Nastase, he is able to fire of the most outlandish shots. It’s doubtlessly in this spirit of the secret weapon, pretending not to try so hard, that the chef of the café Mimosa plays, he is more of a fearless Swiss than a demonstrative Romanian. For Luc Besson’s former chef who worked in the democratic bistro puts on a show with his matador’s verve that renders everyone else in the restaurant slack-jawed, like El Cordobes playing in a dark Spanish arena in his canvas leotard. He doesn’t wear a bright shimmering suit but plays his game sharp like a Toledo blade. Everything plays out on the plates, like the warm goat cheese pies with honey, the salad from the southwest of France that could startle the unsuspecting, and the roast pollock with thyme needles as bright a passing shot from between his legs with his back to the net. All of this to remind us that mimosa is a hallucinogenic drink for some South American tribes. The final act comes before the standing ovation: a lava cake covered with chocolate as persistent in the mouth as a slip and fall on the ocher sand of a tennis court.

Le café Mimosa: 27, rue du pont Neuf, 75001 Paris; 01 40 26 30 74.

Mori Yoshida

Mori Yoshida: a vast bay window bathed in the sun sheltering a white interior with a minimalist decor. The cakes in the windows are like works of contemporary art. This pastry expert, top star chef in his domain doubtlessly has an esthetic sense. His ingenuity as concerns form leaves us slack-jawed as he boldly revisits the classic rum baba. A perfect pear tart, a vertiginous Mont Blanc or his memorable chocolate éclairs will make anyone want to taste and enjoy the entire collection.

Mori Yoshida: 65, avenue de Breteuil 75007 Paris; 01 47 34 29 74.

Philosophy

Hedonist wanderings

Courtesy Oleg Oprisco

Bustronome

“Slow revolution” can just as well mean driving across Paris on the bus-restaurant «Bustronome», a sensational gastronomic journey, through the highlights of the capital. It’s a romantic interlude orchestrated as you wish, punctuated with fine food and wine, making you the king of the City of Lights. Tours start at 2, avenue Kleber 75016 Paris; 09 54 44 45 55.

Show devant

In his vast New York loft-style restaurant chef Olivier Chaput, culinary host for several years on the Gulli TV channel, offers generous slow cooked cuisine, lamb chops roasted for seven hours and many delicacies such as warm goat cheese and honey brick. As for the warm service, thanks to the cheerful master of ceremonies, it’s a smash success. The atmosphere is cordial as evidenced by his invitation once a month of a chef friend who prepares a special menu for the occasion. Esplanade Pierre-Yves Cosnier, 94800 Villejuif; 01 49 60 61 70.

Citrus étoile

Chef Gilles Épié spreads his talent and skill through with his menu which changes monthly according to which foods are in season. His cuisine is rich and subtle like the marinated royal sardines or the wild sea bream that’s just as princely, with fresh green asparagus from the island of Noirmoutier. Dining here amounts a continuous hike through a revisited French cuisine where the pleasure of delicious awaits you at the end of your trek. 6, rue Arsène Houssaye, 75008 Paris; 01 42 89 15 51.

Le KB

It was said of the great spiritualist and magician Harry Houdini, that aside from his virtuosity in performing his tricks, he had the gift of mystifying his audience by diverting their attention. Isn’t there a bit of that in Christophe Legros’ attractively decorated KB restaurant, a stone’s throw from the Porte d’Italie? Because as concerns cooking, Antoine Versini, who trained with Anne-Sophie Pic, Joël Robuchon, Alain Senderens and at Le Tour d’Argent, he attempts equally perilous tricks. But if you do not have an appetite for risk he can just as well satisfy you with tried-and-true recipes prepared with all his talent. 114, avenue de Fontainebleau 94270 Le Kremlin-Bicêtre; 01 46 72 75 97.

Coretta

Coretta, named after Martin Luther King’s wife, is perched above the garden of the same name near place de Clichy. With its huge windows, metal chairs, marble tables and oak woodwork, this restaurant could just as well be in the Bahamas, Monaco, Stockholm or Los Angeles. A chic ultra-modern atmosphere pervades the restaurant, right down to the dining tables. A Japanese skate marinated in black garlic and the prospect of veal sweetbreads crispy on outside and melting on the inside, are the specialties offered by a the chef who learned at the Apicius and the Grande Cascade restaurants, though he’s not inclined to brag about this. “I have a dream”, head along over to Coretta to be amazed. 151 bis, rue Cardinet 75017 Paris; 01 42 26 55 55.

Izakaya Issé

Here’s a whiskey bar where you can have your bottle of Yamazaki (one of the best single malts in the world) kept for when you return. Izakaya Issé is above all a restaurant, among other classics on the archipelago, which serves delicious teriyaki beef. Finishing up with an ice tea sprinkled with sake is a fine idea. 45, rue de Richelieu 75001 Paris; 01 42 96 26 60.

L’atelier de maître Albert

Aside from Jean-Michel Wilmotte’s decoration, l’Atelier de Maître Albert, located in the street of the same name and Guy Savoy’s favorite hangout, could easily remind one of an old way station for stage coaches. And the vast room with its imposing fireplace could easily accommodate d’Artagnan and his Musketeers for a capon rooster cock dinner after a long ride. An attentive yet swift service, a carefully chosen wine list including a Condrieu from the northern Rhône, remain a fine memory. 1, rue Maître Albert 75005 Paris; 01 56 81 30 01.

Ô Château

With a luxurious room downstairs and an elegant silence perfectly suitable for meetings of secret societies, Ô Château offers exquisite wines, accompanied by meals made from high quality local produce. Here reigns a pleasurable, weightless delirium. 68, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau 75001 Paris; 01 44 73 97 80.

Bruegger’s

According to a legend the bagel was invented in 1683 by a Viennese baker in honor of King Jan III Sobieski of Poland who repelled a Turkish invasion with the largest cavalry charge in history. The bagel is pierced at its center as a symbol of a stirrup, mostly likely because the word stirrup in German is “bügel”. Lately, after crossing the Atlantic, the bagel has come back to Europe and under the initiative of Bruegger’s from New York it has become a bit trendy in Paris. It is true that with its accompaniments of pastrami, salmon-salad-chives or bacon-lettuce-tomato served with particularly tasty fries, you suddenly feel like you’re in Manhattan, having traveled on such an affordable ticket. 11, rue de l’Arrivée 75015 Paris.

Maria Luisa

The cousin of Luisa Maria is another place run in Paris by Giovanni and Karine, this den of pizza is a sure value that celebrities such as Inès de la Fressange have adopted as their eatery. This cuisine from the south of the peninsula is a kick and it’s a joy to feast on a warm yet simple Margherita or Neapolitan pizza while sipping an exquisite Puglia wine under the entertained gaze of Luigi and the house cat. Above is a cozy mezzanine, but to dine there one must be at least the Lord of Halifax or a Nawab of Singali. 2, rue Marie et Louise, 75010 Paris; 01 44 84 04 01.

Un thé au square

This is one of the best tea times in Paris, thanks also to the delicious lemon cakes served along with the tea. All of this is in a voluptuously decorated hotel, with its curved rosewood doors, the height of chic. 3, rue de Boulainvillers 75016 Paris; 01 44 14 91 90.

Greffeuille Aveyron

A famous Embassy offering best foods from Aveyron, including the famous Laguiole cheese that was rescued from extinction in the 1960s. 120, rue Saint-Denis 75002 Paris; 01 42 36 73 61.

Sola

Recognized chef Hiroki Yoshitake, brings together French and Japanese cuisine. His fusion is chic, Zen and refined, like the minimalist decor and carefully prepared meals. The objective here is not a feast, but a culinary ritual of enjoying Sakura smoked salmon, cream of cauliflower or a filet mignon marinated in miso. 12, rue de l’Hôtel Colbert 75005 Paris; 01 43 29 59 04.

Johana’s fish and chips

In 1914 nearly a million fish and chips were sold each week in England, and this basic and unassuming meal, composed of battered and fried fish sprinkled with vinegar and served with greasy fries, nourishing as anything, remains an icon of British cuisine. Fish and chips have been slow to cross the Channel though they are finally being served in Paris made according to an authentic recipe. And while this modest fare, friend of great appetites, has been gentrified in luxury hotels as has happened with club sandwiches, other eateries in Paris pay appropriate and deserved tribute to fish and chips like Johanna’s fish and chips. In this restaurant, run by a whole family reminiscent of the New York clan in Woody Allen’s “Small Time Crooks,” the menu full of fresh home cooking could easily enjoy as much success as the cookies made by that filmmaker from the Big Apple. As far as we’ve heard so far, no bank has been robbed, the only thing having being hacked is the authentic recipe of this legendary breaded fish. The smell of cod doesn’t permeate the fries and those with delicate tastes will enjoy coming back also. 30, rue Saint-Sauveur 75002 Paris; 01 42 21 88 78.

Mama Bali

Indonesia is the Promised Land for spiritual healers like the famous Lukhuns of Java practicing physiotherapy and untying Gordian knots. At Mama Bali, an Indonesian enclave in Paris with an authentic Balinese atmosphere, a dozen masseurs practice the ancient art of giving the human body a never-suspected health and wellbeing. And for sustenance, what better than a few Bala-Balas, deliciously battered and fried crunchy vegetables, or Soto Ayam, the yellow spicy chicken soup made fresh every day that does one so much good. 8, rue Guillaume Bertrand 75011 Paris; 01 43 14 71 50.

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