The best 102 Paris restaurants are reviewed in Hungry for Paris. Since the Paris restaurant scene changes constantly, I regularly post new restaurant reviews and information on the city’s best places to eat on this site. I also review selected books with various gastronomic themes and comment on favorite foods, recipes, cookware and appliances. In addition to the reviews and writings here, I'd also invite you to follow me on Twitter @ Aleclobrano. So come to my table hungry and often, and please share your own rants and raves in the Hungry for Paris readers forum.
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Entries in Yam'Tcha (3)
Because I avoid going out to lunch--it's lovely, but takes too much time, and five is the maximum number of dinners out that I'm willing to do during a given week, I don't get back to many Paris restaurants that I've tried and liked as often as I'd prefer. So I made an exception to my life as a shut-in during the day when my freshman roommate from college turned up unexpectedly and called to say that he had a lunch reservation at Yam'Tcha, a wonderful restaurant in one of my favorite Paris neighborhoods, which is that great stretch of ancient turf between the rue de Rivoli and Les Halles in the 1st arrondissement. Despite the fact that the destruction of Les Halles was one of the greatest urban planning disasters any major western city has ever been subjected to, these atmospheric side streets survived untouched and they heave with terrific food shopping--I'll take any excuse to buy a baguette at Julien (75 rue Saint Honore), or browse in the many great boutiques in this neighborhood.
For reasons having to do with his expense account, which I benefitted from, my friend specifically asked me not to mention him by name, so I'll call him Brad and briefly state that he lives in a large East coast city and works as a money man. His real passion, however, is good food, and when we were kids in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, he was always game to try the off-beat restaurants recommended in the local counter-culture newspaper with me, our favorite being a Polish place in Hadley that doubtless no longer exists but which made some of the best stuffed cabbage I've ever eaten. There was great pizza in Springfield, too, and a better-than-average Chinese place that we liked in Holyoke. Anyway, between white-knuckle meetings with a couple of French banks, he was rightly keen on trying Yam'Tcha during a day-trip to Paris from London, and since it's a real challenge to get a table here, I was thrilled to be dealt in on the fun.
Arriving, I'd forgotten how attractive this small shop-front place is--old beamed ceiling, exposed stone walls, a pretty Chinese panel of lotus flowers, and also was happy to see that Brad is still as handsome as he was when I was driving him crazy by playing the same Bette Midler record all the time. Since he didn't have much time, we decided on the carte-blanche lunch menu, which includes an amuse bouche, two first courses, a main, and then a choice of cheese or dessert. We also chose the tea-and-wine pairing for this meal--two different types of tea and two glasses of wine, which turned out to be an excellent decision, since the teas were superb and we drank a brilliant white Collioure, one of my favorite wines, and then an exceptionally good Bernard Grippa Saint Joseph.
As we ate our delicious amuse bouche of slivered broad beans with cubes of smoked tofu, sesame seeds and a light sesame-seed-oil dressing, I gave him the back story on delightful chef Adeline Grattard, who works with a team of three in a tiny glass enclosed kitchen just inside the front door. To wit, after cooking with Pascal Barbot at the brilliant three-star L'Astrance, she headed for Hong Kong and became intrigued by the kitchens of China. We both loved the crunchy, savory beans and the silky smoky tofu, and chatted away, with Brad mentioning that he'd run into Abigail, my freshman year girl friend after a fashion, on the street in Boston a few weeks ago. A beautiful woman from Kansas, she's now the happily married mother of four on the North Shore of Boston and doubtless still rues the day she met me, since John and his girlfriend, and the two of us created a perfect rectangle of frustrated desire for about a year. He was secretly besotted with Abigail, while I was secretly besotted with him. Abigail was very keen on me, and Brad's's girlfriend Lizzie was also carrying a quiet torch for Abigail (she's new a distinguished neurosurgeon in San Francisco).
"This is wonderful food, such an interesting mixture of great French produce and Asian flavors and cooking techniques," Brad said when he tucked into our first course, crunchy shrimp (from Mozambique) in XO sauce with dried prawns on a bed of almost raw riced potatoes. I loved the mixture of textures and also the umami notes of the XO sauce and dried prawns with the sweetness of the fresh shrimp, which were served with steamed rice flour rolls.
Next up, my favorite dish of this meal, a deeply vegetal and slightly peppery watercress veloute with oysters topped by nearly transparent slices of Bigorre pork. Here, Grattard stayed true to her Burgundian roots, and the soup was also a nice pause from the Asian palate. "You know what's great about this food? It's inventive without being gimmicky or silly," said Brad, and I agreed. Grattard's cooking is deeply personal, gently creative, and unfailingly delicious.
"You know, I always knew that you liked me," Brad said when our main course, wok-sauteed Bigorre pork with Japanese eggplant in a light soy based sauce with microplaned garlic and ginger arrived. "It was sort of weirdly flattering," he added. I decided a Cheshire cat's grin was the best response. "Of course, now with my little paunch and graying hair, I'm sure I've lost whatever appeal I had in those days...." Bemused, I reassured him that he was wrong, and we dug into the pork--a succulent little rack of ribs and a chunk of filet with a crispy golden skin. It was delicious.
"Do you remember the time we went to that party at Wellsley where I smoked pot for the only time in my life and had a panic attack?" I'd never forget it. "You were a really good friend, I mean you could have just dumped me, but you took me outside for some fresh air and I calmed down, and the next day we met my parents and ate lobsters at Anthony's Pier Four." Yikes, memories of that frosty pair from Philadelphia's main line were not going to distract me from nettle-flavored Gouda with hot toast, a perfect conclusion to this meal with a last slug of Saint Joseph.
Brad preferred dessert, a perfectly ripe Brazilian mango garnished with blanc-manger, raspberries and passionfruit seeds under a pane of brown sugar, which was served with jasmine scented green tea.
"What a wonderful meal," he said once we'd paid up, and he was enjoying a cigar on the sidewalk outside. And it was indeed an excellent lunch, and one much abetted by really good service. "I can't think of a better basis for a life-long friendship than a love of good food, too," he added, and then I packed him off into a taxi and promised I'd try and get back next summer with Bruno so that he and his charming wife Rosa, a native of Manila, and me can cook up a storm together.
Yam'Tcha, 4 rue Sauval, 1st, Tel. 01-40-26-08-07. Metro: Louvre-Rivoli. Closed Sunday dinner, Monday and Tuesday. Average 75 Euros.
Almost nothing could be more telling of the impact of this year's steep recession on the Paris restaurant scene than the instant notoriety of Yam'Tcha, a sweet little restaurant that recently opened in an ancient side street in Les Halles. To wit, this 20 seat place run by earnest, amiable young chef Adeline Grattard, former second to Pascal Barbot at L'Astrance, has passed through global gastro cyber space with the intensity and speed of a comet. Because Grattard actually is a serious, talented and original cook, I'd like to think her table, which she runs with her Hong Kong born husband Chiwah Chan, will withstand the blow-back of a culinary media world that's so desperate for news that it exalts anything that's even slightly different and half plausible.
So am I being hypocritical in writing about this fragile new flower on this website? No, not really--though I'm flattered that your eyes may be rolling over these words, I wouldn't pretend to be such an oracle that famished throngs will be pressing their faces to Tam'Tcha's window on Monday morning. I assume that those of you who find their way to this quiet little patch of the culinary cyber world are people who are very seriously interested not only in eating well, but in thinking about gastronomy in all of its facets, which brings me back to Yam'Tcha. Quite simply, I worry that the relative paucity of restaurant news out of Paris this year means that the city's substantial core of food writers is going to pick this tasty morsel to the bone before its had a chance to find its groove.
I've been three times, and if I've eaten well on every occasion, and I like Grattard's shrewd, subtle and original Franco-Chinese approach to cooking, I've also been exasperated by the very slow (if well-meaning) service, the fiddliness of the idea of a different tea with each course in the dinner tasting menu (I like tea, and I like drinking tea with my food, but poor Chiwah Chan is way out of his depth as the sole tea steward meant to track twenty different meal from a single service bar). I also think that the tea option needs to be more carefully explained, and that there should also be a wine-by-the-glass option. Finally, no dinner in a casual Paris bistro should take longer than three hours; the last time I ate here, I thought the attractive young Brazilian couple at the table next to ours would become violent before their dessert arrived. Like us, they loved Grattard's cooking, but like us, they eventually briddled at the very long waits between courses.
We started with a delicious tiny complimentary appetizer of slivered broad beans with crumbled sauteed pork dressed with ginger, garlic and sesame-seed oil, then loved plump Mozambique shrimps steamed as over-sized pot-stickers, sublime duckling with sauteed eggplant, a lovely piece of Citeaux (an abbey cheese from Burgundy) with toasted country bread and a few drops of delicious olive oil, and a delightful dessert of homemade ginger ice cream with avocado slices and passion fruit. Fresh, healthy, original, sincere--this was a great meal, and Yam'Tcha is a place I'd look forward to enjoying regularly if I didn't know that it's going to be taken by such a storm that it will soon be impossible to get a table without booking two months in advance.
I've known Yannick Alleno's cooking every since I first discovered him in a dreary Howard Johnson like dining room in the basement of the Hotel Scribe, and it's been a delicious pleasure to follow his deserved ascension to the Mount Olympus of French chefs--today he's head chef at Le Meurice and he received Bibendum's ultimate benediction--triple twinklers--several years ago. Because Le Meurice is shudderingly expensive, it's not a place that I go with any regularity, which is why I was delighted to be invited to lunch there this week.
We decided to go with Yannick's new "Terroir Parisien" lunch menu at 90 Euros, and what followed was one of the best meals I've had in a very longtime. Ninety euros is a hefty chunk of change to be sure, but this stunningly good feed would have been worth twice as much. We nibbled on impeccably fried white-bait to start, and then the meal began with an exquisite lozenge of Norwegian salmon sauced with a vivid green watercress sauce and a charming confetti of spring vegetables. Next, steamed sole with pencil-sized asparagus from the Paris suburb of Auteil in a light sauce made with vin jaune, then Ile de France lamb cooked for a long time at a low temperature so that it was so tender you could eat it with a spoon. At this point, Alleno came by and explained the idea of "Terroir Parisien," which is to work with seasonal produce from the Ile-de-France, or the region surrounding Paris, and even to revive some of the region's signature produce. "French cuisine was born using the produce of the Ile de France," Alleno explained. "When the first restaurant's opened after the French Revolution, the chefs used what came from the countryside surrounding Paris. This explains dishes like a la Crecy, which always indicates the presence of carrots in a dish, since the village of Crecy was originally known for its carrots. Similarly, a la Montmorency, always means cherries and references the village of Montmorency, once known for same." Other local products that Alleno is using include brie de meaux, mint poivree from Milly-la-Foret, asparagus from Argenteuil, champignons de Paris, jambon de Paris, honey from the hives on the roof of the Opera Garnier, and, eventually chickens from Houdan. Located in the Yvelines, Houdan was once famous for its fowl. "La poule de Houdon was more famous in Europe than the poulet de Bresse," Alleno explained. "What changed everything was the Great Depression, when the government encouraged Paris chefs to use produce from all over the country and also the urbanization of the Ile de France between 1945 and 1970. The region still produces some wonderful comestibles, though, and I want to use as many of them possible in creating a new cuisine de Paris." Suffice it to say that I volunteered to become a recipe taster for the initiative as often as Alleno might need me. I think "Terroir Parisien" is a brilliant idea, and five days after left the table at Le Meurice, I am still savoring that exquisite spring lunch.
Le Meurice, 228 rue de Rivoli, 1st, 01-44-58-10-10. Metro: Tuileries
Yam'Tcha, 4 rue Sauval, 1st, Tel. 01-40-26-08-07. Metro: Louvre-Rivoli