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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Louis - New Kid in Town

Only 3 months old, Breton chef Stéphane Pitré's Louis has begun to make its mark on the Paris restaurant front.  The spacially-challenged, well-appointed venue in the 9th - somber blues on the outside and elegant whites on the inside houses a whopping 10 tables, providing the possibility of feeding 27 patrons.  There were fewer than that last Friday night when Co. and I went for dinner,  with a few tables still unoccupied by evening's end, and so nice that one of those empty tables was next to ours, providing a bit of privacy to our fascinating, enlightening conversation, which had to be toned down every two minutes when one of the two attentive and informative hostesses/servers - what is the politically correct term anyway? - kept hovering over my shoulder to work on the restaurant's computer to manage reservations, l'additions, etc.  It's that kind of place.  Monsieur Pitré and two assistants worked their fine-tuned choreography in the tiny, open kitchen providing, at least for me, endless amazement at how the three weren't constantly bumping into each other, but we're talking pros here.  The meal was outstanding, need I say more?  I'll think of something.

 As I had done my homework before arrival, I knew not to expect much from the carte, and true to expectation, beyond price and number of dishes, there was ... nothing. 

 Co. and I slummed it, opting for the Louis en 6 temps formule at 48€ a pop.  Throw in an intriguing 3-part mise-en-bouche and a quartet of end-of-meal patisseries, one does not leave Louis wanting for more.

Mise en bouche - a merangue croustillant with mustard, a green brioche, and although I can't remember what was the third, it was without doubt the tastiest

Temps 1 - a foie gras and bouillon de moules concoction that belied the chef's Breton origins

Temps 2 - Co.'s boeuf tartare with wasabi (and her hands)

Shying away from beef, my alternative was an amazing haddock and caviar dish

Temps 3 - an original take on Asian noodles - its bouquet enveloping a hefty langoustine, with raspberry garnish

Temps 4 - the photo doesn't do justice to this tender vollaile dish with girolles - probably the tastiest dish of the meal

Temps 5 - not that the meal wasn't copious enough, but this 'pre-dessert,' albeit very nice, wasn't much of a dish

Temps 6 - oh yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about - just because it's summer doesn't mean we have to limit ourselves to fruit; this chocolate mi-cuit with avocado ice cream and chocolate flakes left me wanting another one, now.

 No photo for the patisseries at the end - two financiers au poire and a couple fondant chocolates.  This was a great meal, with flavors spanning various parts of the globe.  The 48€ menu -or if you want, 62€ for 8 dishes - is a bargain and there were some reasonably priced, well-selected wines on the list, including the 37€ Chinon that accompanied our meal.  This is one we'll definitely be revisiting, although I highly doubt we'll have much luck with the empty table next to us in the future - once word gets out - or at least further than it has to date - get ready to have to reserve weeks in advance.

LOUIS  -  Stéphane Pitré
23 rue de la Victoire
75009 PARIS
tel. 01 55 07 86 52
website:  http://www.louis.paris/

As an inane postcript, as a baseball fan, and even more specifically, a Baltimore Orioles fan, I couldn't help thinking of O's Mexican-born starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez every time I glanced upon M. Pitré work his kitchen.  I don't know if anyone has ever seen the two in the same room at the same time, but they are both aces in my book.

The chef

The baseball player

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Neige d'été -Mono no aware in action

The Japanese aesthetical concept of mono no aware, literally translates as the bittersweet awareness of the transience of things, signifying a sad, fleeting beauty that is conspicuous in traditional Japanese cultural expressions.  And it is no surprise that this notion kept coming to mind during last Saturday evening's dinner at Co.'s latest Paris discovery, Neige d'ete, itself translated, for the uninformed, as 'summer snow.'  Nice - it was a summery, mid-June evening, and our long journey to the 15th paid off big-time with a surprisingly fresh, original, and refreshing meal.  Hideki Nishi's restaurant is austere beyond belief - no sign on the facade, and no embellishments on the whitewashed walls, save some understated chandeliers and white, linen curtains.  The restaurant's name evokes a winter flower that blooms in the summer in France, once again suggesting the ephemeral nature of things.  An overly attentive staff of black-clad Japanese servers were as understated as the decor.  The fleeting nature of things further personified by the virtual wine list, brought to the table on an iPad.

But the food is where the real action is at Neige d'été.  As le Fooding guide observed, "vegetables from Annie Bertin, fish from the Etel auction, lobsters from Vincent Doucet…).  The more things change, the more they stay the same - another fixed price, fixed options menu , respectably priced at 70€ per person.  There was a second option priced at 90€ that included a special cut of beef, but Co. and I slummed it and went with option 1, which looked like this:

70 euro menu, page 1  (click to enlarge)  

70 euro menu, page 2  - missing from the top is dish 4, couchon (click to enlarge)

No skimping on extras either - the meal started off with two well-appointed mises-en-bouche, as seen below.

Something is missing - the pain d'epice, the least interesting of the trio which I impulsively ingested prior to shooting, but right off the bat, it was apparent that something good was happening here Mrs. Jones

Mise en bouche 2 - a simple gazpacho

This salmon with flowers, resting on a croustillant base, takes the prize as the most beautifully prepared dish I've had all year.

Another exquisite dish, the obligatory - for Paris in May/June - white asparagus dish - didn't reach the pinnacle of the salmon, but still tasty

This Saint-Pierre fish and rice was a most original take on paella

Co.'s couchon

... and my couchon alternative, pintade

Desert 1 - hit the spot

Desert 2 - the also obligatory - on Paris menus May/June - panna cotta.  Sorry, I know it's summertime and you're supposed to eat refreshing fruit and all, but panna cotta isn't my thing.

More extras, just in case two deserts weren't enough - and these weren't throwaway patisseries, either, these were really good.

Somewhat difficult to get to and a bit on the pricy side, true - wines starting at around 40€ - you can expect to close in on the 200€ mark for two - but Neige d'été, although currently not all the buzz, will probably garner quite a bit pretty soon.   So reserve while you can.

Opining on mono no aware, the designer Jaitra noted that the Japanese ideal sees beauty . . .as
an experience of the heart and soul, a feeling for and appreciation of objects or artwork—most commonly nature or the depiction of—in a pristine, untouched state.  That's not a bad way of characterizing the philosophy behind Neige d'été.

Just a little gift on the way out the door - a plastic bag holding two sugar cookies.

Two for the road

Neige d'été
12 rue de l'Amiral Roussin
75015 Paris
tel: 01 42 73 66 66

Read more about mono no aware in my new book, People and Products:

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