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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TANNAT - Another Winner on Parmentier

I like the idea of naming one's restaurant after something related to food and not, say, the street address of the establishment.  The former is the case for Tannat, whose brave owners Ariane Stern and Simon Auscher had the tenacity to open about a half block from Chateaubriand, one of the top eating venues in all of Paris.  Tannat doesn't reach the heights of Chateaubriand, but it has its merits and is definitely worth its place on the map.  Getting back to names, as I digress, according to Wikipedia:

Tannat is a red wine grape, historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC, and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the "national grape".

Okay, I admit I didn't know what tannat meant until I looked it up, so maybe it's not such a great thing to name your restaurant after a food item that one has to google, but if you want to be a culinary snob, you have to do some work.  And as part of my work, I also learned that Tannat's home on 119 avenue Parmentier was for 20 years the site of "the fiery and gourmet cabaret evenings at Chez Raymonde," according to the Le Fooding website.  And just to clarify, Tannat is not a Uruguayan restaurant, but a place to find - oh, what the hell, Le Fooding was on a roll, "colorful neo-bistronomic creations from Olivier Le Corre (Tour d’Argent, Bristol, 52 Faubourg)."

Co. and I checked out Tannat on a Friday evening in mid-May and found an airy, brightly-lit, mirrored room centered by a bar where one can perhaps find a seat without a reservation.  Already this is pretty unique, because when I think of the typical Parisian neobistrot, the words 'airy' and 'brightly-lit' rarely come to mind.  Those adjectives are also appropriate to describe the colorful, elegantly prepared dishes, some of which were more successful than others, but what else is new?

One of my few gripes about Tannat is that everything is ala carte.  I can't remember the last time I ate in Paris without some sort of 'menu' deal offered.  In fact, more and more I am drawn to establishments with fixed menus - the tyranny of the carte as some critics claim.  But from my vantage point, I'd prefer to let the chef decide what is best, but you are free to differ.  To each one's own.  But if you like choice - albeit limited - you'll like Tannat.  So let's get down to business - the business of food.  Here's what the carte looked like during our visit:

What's on the menu?  Click on it to find out.

Another something you don't see very often in Parisian neobistrots is a selection of dishes to share at the start.  Be forewarned, though, the plates at Tannat are copious enough without taking one of the 'partager' dishes - I was pretty much stuffed early into my main plate - but as a reviewer, I felt obliged, with Co's hesitant blessing, to go with the radis et tandoori butter.  This was just okay - the butters were blander than I expected - something I probably would have enjoyed more to embellish some cocktails.  The thinly sliced bettrave was an interesting ingredient, however.

Radishes, beet, and tandoori butter for sharing

And the very satisfying entrees:

Pain perdu, asperge vert, moelle, gremolata for Co. - what is gremolata you ask? I'll tell you.  It's a chopped herb condiment with lemon zest, garlic, and parsley

Although tempted by the beets and herring dish, I selected this one - artichokes, coques, and sable parmesan

The main plates:

For Co., the beef, gambas, and navet unique melange.  Hard to see the thinly sliced beef, but its there. 

No idea I was ordering fish and chips, even though that's what the menu says, and that's what I got.  And when I say chips, I mean chips - not the British kind (fries), but the potato chips kind, even though this dish would make any obese Brit diner (which I am happily not) proud.  Not fantastic, but I rather enjoyed this very rich dish - and I just said rather with a British accent, so as not to offend anyone, I think.

Dessert time:

Killer presentation for the strawberry, rhubarb, and white chocolate dish

A chocolate dessert fit for a Marquise - not as rich as it looks, which made it even better

We accompanied our meal with a rapidly disappearing Coteaux du Languedoc Argentier (27 euros), bringing our bill, sans cafe, to 114 euros.  I liked Tannat a lot more than I thought I would, especially in retrospect.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the carte varies in the future, which isn't the wittiest way to end this post, but it will have to do.

119 avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris
tel. 09 53 86 38 61
useless website

Note:  Apparently you can overcome my fixed-price formula nit pick at lunch with a 15 euro two-dish meal, which sounds like a pretty good deal.  You can also take a nice little walk to the Canal St Martin after your dinner, which Co and I did - on this particular evening the streets were packed, the canal lined on both sides with YOUTH, and the intersection of Petit Cambodge and Le Carillon was happily animated, six months after tragedy struck.

The canal - a short walk from Tannat

Friday, May 6, 2016

Maloka - You Say Oka, I Say Maloka

I've got another good one for you, just don't ask me what it's name is.  The card says 'Maloka,' the bill says 'Maloka,' the website says "Maloka' and 'Oka' and the facade used to read 'Oka' but now shows 'Maloka.'  The server said 'Maloka.'  I'm going with 'Maloka.'  Maloka used to be Oka, okay?  Oka will soon be Oka again, but in another location (rue Berthollet in the 5th, starting next September), as a higher priced gastronomic Franco-Brasilian establishment (80 euros per person for 20 small tasting dishes).  Until then, you'll have to settle for (and continue to do so since it's not going away according to our server) the
'alma Brasileira' on rue de la Tour d'Auvergne in the 9th (36 euro menu for five courses).

The old facade
If you have followed the evolution of Daniel Rose's now famous Spring restaurant, you probably know that Maloka is situated at Spring's birthplace before the latter outgrew its success and moved to a roomier locale.  I never did get to Spring in those early years, but I did have a deja vu experience as I sat at our corner front table in Maloka.  Yes, I've been here before.  Indeed, it's a small world (but, in the words of the immortal Stephen Wright, I wouldn't want to paint it).  For about five minutes in early 2012, the setting used to house the mediocre La Vitrine, which Co. and I did visit.  I didn't care much for La Vitrine, but I really like Maloka, and I hope it doesn't disappear once Oka the sequel takes off.

As I've already sort of suggested, this is another one of those small 16-seater Paris restaurants that we all have come to love, if we ever are lucky enough to reserve in time - several prospective patrons were turned away at the door of Maloka during our Friday evening dinner which, because of a second serving, commenced at the ungodly early hour of 7 pm.  True, I remember eating dinner at 5 pm when I lived in the States (and then a post-dinner dinner when I was starving around 10 pm), but by European standards, 7 pm is pretty early.  On the other hand, the earlier hour meant we weren't rushed to finish to make way for the second service (a lousy policy that in the past ruined a perfectly excellent dinner at La Servan and a recent meal at Hero) .  Maloka is that kind of place - genial servers, good atmosphere, and as far as the food goes, some nice original flavors and ingredients.  This isn't a Brazilian restaurant per se - instead, carico chef Raphaël Rego infuses French dishes with Brazilian accents, such as guava, corn cream sauce, palm heart emulsion, verbana jus, cilantro, and feijao (puréed black beans). Not exactly your typical Parisian.

Here's what mine and Co's dishes looked like for our visit, offerings which are sure to change nightly according to chef Rego's inspiration:

A great start with four amuses bouche, topped off with a delicate pure sugar cane wafer

A rich coconut emulsion

This ceviche and wild flowers is a good example of the Delboeuf illusion in practice

Maigre fish, emulsion, and puree of patate douce

More fish for me as a meat alternative - cabillaud and black bean puree

Co's copious beef dish - definitely not an example of Delbouef

Stupendous dessert with fresh basilic

Whatever you call the restaurant - it's not Spring, it's not La Vitrine, and it's no longer Oka, this was a terrific meal for 36 euros per person plus another 36 euros for a bottle of a Brazilian cabernet (Aurora Reserva).


28 rue de la Tour d'Auvergne
75009 Paris
useless website, don't bother
tel. 01 45 23 99 13
closed Sunday & Monday; open for lunch on Saturday

seen on the way to Maloka

still on the way to Maloka

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