Paris: An Unexpectedly Great Meal
October 6, 2014
Isn't this the most delicious looking round of cheese? It's a perfectly ripe Livarot, at the wonderful wine bar, Legrand Filles et Fils in the Palais Royal neighborhood. Excellent selection of wines, terrific cheeses. But probably not the perfect place to stop for a bite between an afternoon of major meat at Desnoyer and dinner at Verjus. Can't say I arrived at dinner with an enormous appetite.
But that soon changed. You're going to have to forgive the following photos: the light was dim, and in my enthusiasm for the flavors, textures and sheer exuberance of each dish, I didn't spend a lot of time capturing images. The food looked lovely, but it was so intelligently put together that I couldn't help concentrating more on the way it tasted than how it had been put upon the plate.
Chef Braden Perkins combines flavors in fascinating ways. The 7-course prix fixe meal (68 euros) began with this ceviche of bass on a bed of fresh hummus made of cranberry beans. Had you asked me ahead of time if I thought hummus belonged in ceviche, I would have given you an emphatically negative answer. And I would have been wrong. The textures were completely harmonious, the silvery smoothness of the fish underscored by the grainy texture of the beans. What really pulled the dish together though was those lightly charred snap peas, which changed the flavor profile of the plate. Wax beans and radishes frolicked through the dish, adding lovely little bits of crunch.
This next course pretty much blew me away:
Wonderful little strands of squid, looking just like pasta, topped with pasta that looked like something else. Dark green with nettles, the strands of pasta were tangled into a sauce of piquillo peppers; crushed marcona almonds were strewn through every bite. This was such a pleasing disht that I was deeply disappointed when I looked down and realized there was nothing left.
I thought that would be the high point of the meal. Then this arrived:
Braised porcini (cepes), topped with a salad of raw sliced mushrooms. Here the flavors were underlined by the sweet woodsy taste of hazelnuts, the savage wildness of strong arugula and a bit of burnt lemon powder. Those little black dots dancing across the plate? Dehydrated mushrooms.
So far this food had been extremely delicate, but it was about to become more forceful. And here it comes…
an impeccable little rabbit sausage. Most sausages are bursting with fat or dry as dust; this one was simply filled with flavor. A brilliant use of rabbit, the taste of the meat was enhanced by pickled grains of mustard that popped inside the mouth, the earthy sourness of mustard greens and the gentle sweetness of blackberry.
Terrible picture; my apologies. This duck breast was wonderful: cooked rare, slightly smokey, and served with celery root and a sauerkraut made of red cabbage pricked with caraway.
A pre-dessert: granita of apples perched on a strangely wonderful panna cotta that tasted like winter in the forest. Such an interesting pairing: the sweetness of the apples, the prickly sharpness of the pine.
Salted lemon cake – just a square, in froth of lemon creme anglaise with blackberry sorbet melting across the top. What’s lovely here is the utter lack of cloying sweetness: the perfect coda to a really impressive meal.
The room is lovely, the service sweet, and all over the room people were murmuring happily, loath to leave their tables.
I can't wait to go back.
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Ruth, you’re in Paris! Come join us Friday night at Clamato!
I am so glad you are having a good time in Paris. Sadly, this mouse just returned from a less-than-spectaular-foodie experience. I think I have to go back when I am not going it alone…stay cheesy!
Thank you for mentioning us. Hoping to welcome you again !
Are you off to Provence, France next?