Canard & Champagne, Paris | A Delicious New French Couple, B

April 15, 2016
Canard & Champagne @Stephane Adam

@Stephane Adam


Canard & Champagne, a new restaurant in the Passage des Panoramas in Paris, has a very clever concept. Occupying the magnificent landmarked former premises of an 18th century stationery shop with black-and-white marble floors and a magnificent carved wooden shop in the moody Passage des Panoramas, this casual convivial place specializes in two of the most quintessentially French products imaginable, duck and Champagne. It’s the brainchild of shrewd young restauranteurs Jean Valfort, who previously launched Blend, Paris’s first gourmet burger chain, and Pierre Dutaret, who comes from a famous foie-gras producing family in southwestern France.


Bar at Canard & Champagne @ Stephane Adam


“Our concept is unabashedly cocorico (this is how the French hear the crowing of the cock that is their national symbol, and the word is also slang for patriotism),” says the amiable Valfort. “We also wanted to promote Champagne as a table wine, or a wine that pairs well with food. Too many people think of it only in terms of being a party drink or a special-occasion quaff, but it goes so well with a variety of different foods, including duck and foie gras, the staples of our menu,” he added.

foie gras - canard et champagne @alec lobrano

canard et champagne - magret @alec lobrano

canard et champagne - confit de canard @alec lobrano

Indeed, it’s easy to order here since you have a choice of two starters—excellent foie gras that comes with an intriguing chutney of fruit and nuts or a green salad, three main courses—magret de canard (grilled duck breast), confit de canard (duck preserved in its own fat) or a steak. Desserts come from the Boulangerie BO in eastern Paris, and they’re superb, especially the Madagascar vanilla and chocolate tarts. And to add to the fun of a meal here, the sommelier is happy to suggest a different Champagne for each course.

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Le Champ des Lunes, Lauris | A Dazzlingly Creative New Chef Arrives in Provence, B+

March 30, 2016
Domaine Fontenille by Serge Chapuis

Domaine Fontenille by Serge Chapuis

When the summer throngs descend upon the Luberon, the tenderloin of Provence, this year, I have no doubt that Le Champ des Lunes, the table gastronomique of the magnificent new Domaine de Fontenille hotel outside of Lauris near Lourmarin, will become one of the season’s most sought-after reservations. Chef Jérôme Faure may be a native of the Jura, the mountainous region of eastern France on the border of Switzerland best known for its Comte cheese and Montbeliard sausages and the place where he won a Michelin star, but in the space of a few of months, he has brilliantly created a very personal and strikingly creative new contemporary Provencale cuisine that’s based on superb local seasonal produce.

Chef Jerome Faure of Le Domaine Fontenille by Serge Chapuis

Chef Jerome Faure of Le Domaine Fontenille @ Serge Chapuis

“It’s not exactly breaking news, but the best thing about Provence for a chef is the incredible produce,” says the amiable Faure, who scouted local markets and chatted up farmers to create his own unique network of suppliers for the two restaurants he runs at the hotel, Le Champ des Lunes, the gastronomic table with an open kitchen overlooking a dining room with polished cement floors, dangling lamps with Edison bulbs, and re-editions of classic modern furniture, including Charles and Ray Eames chairs, and La Cuisine d’Amélie, a simpler bistro with a southern accent.

Le Champs des Lune, Le Domaine de Fonteville

Lunes Domaine Fontenille by Serge Chapuis

During the course of an overnight stay at this lovely new hotel, I was lucky enough to eat twice at Le Champ des Lunes, and aside from the wonderful food, one of the things I liked best about these meals was the dining room itself. I love Provence but it was refreshing to dine in a space that was more worldly and urbane than most of the restaurants in the region. There wasn’t a ribbon tied bunch of lavender, a faience cicada or an inch of fussy Souleiado fabric to be seen anywhere in this cool, hip space with a lot of natural light. Like the decors throughout the Domaine de Fontenille, this bracing good taste is the work of owners Frédéric Biousse and Guillaume Foucher, who own art galleries in Paris and Brussels.

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Kult, Paris | Good Casual Dining in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, B

March 16, 2016

Kult restaurant in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Paris

Inspite of its dopey name, Kult, the stylish but easygoing restaurant in the just-opened hotel Le Saint, is a welcome new option for good casual dining in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Surprisingly, the restaurant offer in this storied Left Bank neighborhood, the most loved district of Paris for upmarket visitors to the city, is relatively meager. To wit, if you want a good French meal within a five-to-ten-minute walk of the Cafe Deux Magots or the Cafe de Flore, your best choices are pretty much Fish La Boissonnerie, Semilla, Le 21 and, a little bit further afield, the excellent Cafe Trama on the rue du Cherche Midi.

Kult - Restaurant in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Paris

The good-looking new hotel Le Saint was created from a legendary local hotel, the Hotel Lenox, a place I loved, because I lived there for three months in a beautiful duplex suite at the expense of the publishing company I was working for when I first moved to Paris. Day in and day out, the Lenox offered me, a gangly unknowing neophyte, lessons in the ways of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the neighborhood which remains the boiler-room of a certain eternal style of that distinctively Parisian off-center bourgeois chic the world just can’t get enough of.

So what did I learn there in those early days? Oh, well, lots of things, but among them, the fact that true beauty is always flawed, personal and a tiny bit eccentric. That charm comes from a dared but never excessively scrutinized mixture of social confidence, verbal wit, graciousness and self-deprecation. And that even if it isn’t always easy, it’s better to listen for a long time rather than to speak too quickly. Oh, and also that opposites are always style friends, as in cheap and expensive, new and old, and bold and conservative. H & M and Hermes, Marks & Spencer and Comme des Garcons, mais pourquoi pas?

My gastronomic lessons in the neighborhood were of less importance, since even in 1986, Saint-Germain-des-Prés wasn’t exactly heaving with good bistros aside from the long gone but still much missed La Cafetière in the rue Mazarine. That said, my take away from Saint-Germain-des-Prés was an infinitely valuable lesson about great French food, which is that the true axis of this country’s exalted cuisine is a triumph of exceptionally good seasonal produce cooked simply.

Kult restaurant, Saint-Germain-des=-Pres, Paris - the Bar

So after I was seated on a stripped velvet banquette at the end of the bar and watching the bar tenders slowly, slowly, slowly mixing drinks, I wondered, would Kult ‘get’ the food ways of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, or would it be a silly gimmicky place like the Costes brothers glamorous but mediocre La Société?

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Papillon, Paris | Chef Christophe Saintagne Escapes From the Island With a Good New Bistro, B-

February 27, 2016
Papillon, Paris - Chef Christophe Saintagne

@Pierre Monetta


Papillon, chef Christophe Saintagne’s new bistro in the 17th Arrondissement, brings a bracing shot of hipster energy to a very bourgeois part of Paris. From its cobalt-blue facade to its friendly suspender-wearing waiters and market-driven Nordic inflected modern bistro menu, this relaxed, happy place with a decor of oak tables, parquet floors, and suspended lamps looks like a restaurant you could as easily find in Santa Monica or Sydney as western Paris. And that is a mostly good thing, since this Gaullist redoubt is long overdue for a good social, political and gastronomic shakeup.

Papillon also marks a high-profile change in the life of Saintagne, a talented and hard-working chef who most recently ran the kitchens of the Hotel Meurice under the auspices of Alain Ducasse. Suffice it to say, that Saintagne moved on after the decidedly Machiavellian machinery of the Michelin guide foreshadowed the demotion of this restaurant from three stars to two even before the 2016 Guide was released.

So just an aside here; from my point of view, it would considerably augment the credibility of Bibendum, i.e. Michelin,  if they posted their inspectors’ reports online after their annual guides have come out. This way any curious diner could read their assessment, like you can read my assessments of dozens and dozens of restaurants on this site, and come to their own conclusions. Not showing your cards when you’re in the business of food criticism rather smacks of antiquated king-making in my book. But then the high dudgeon of the guidebook company is notoriously well-known in both media circles and the food world: it may be the wick of their business, but they themselves do not take kindly to criticism.

Papillon - Paris - Marinated Salmon @ Pierre Monetta

@ Pierre Monetta


At Le Meurice, Saintagne was deputised to launch Ducasse’s new healthy haute cuisine for the 21st century, and I think he pulled off this very difficult task brilliantly, because health and ecology have not heretofore been among the main reasons people go to haute cuisine restaurants. Bon, for reasons we don’t currently know, Michelin didn’t agree, and since their ratings still have staggering commercial impact in terms of any restaurant’s bottom-line, the deer caught-in-the-headlights was Monsieur Saintagne, which struck me as very unfair, and this is why I went to dinner at this new restaurant with great expectations. Like Steve McQueen in the film that inspired the bistro’s name, Papillon, Saintagne had escaped from the island (McQueen escapes from Devil’s Island, the infamous penal colony off the coast of French Guiana), and I was eager to see what he’d do with his freedom.

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La Table du 11, Versailles | A Royally Good Young Bistro, B+

February 15, 2016
La Table du 11 - lieu jaune, choux de Pontoise, sauce agrumes

Yellow pollack, charred Pontoise cabbage, citrus fruit sauce


Jean Baptiste Lavergne Morazzani dans son restaurant La Table du 11

Jean-Baptiste Lavergne Morazzani


With the recent opening of the excellent La Table du 11, Versailles finally has the restaurant it has needed to complete its appeal as the greatest of all day-trips out of Paris.

Oddly, even though it’s one of the most visited places in France, Versailles has always been pretty underwhelming in terms of its restaurant offer. If I enjoyed the cooking of chef Gérard Vié  when he ran the dining room at the famous Trianon Palace hotel, I’ve never been convinced by the Gordon Ramsay branded menus currently served in the once beautiful dining room overlooking the park that surrounds the famous chateau. To be sure, L’Angélique, which has a Michelin star, is a pleasant table, but it’s not very convenient for anyone visiting the town on foot. It’s also rather formal, even stiff, in a très Versaillaise type of way.

La Table du 11 - Salle

So it’s not surprising La Table du 11 has become such a hit that it’s often booked weeks in advance, especially on the weekend. If the superb contemporary French cooking of young chef Jean-Baptiste Lavergne Morazzani, 24, is the main reason this fledgling table has so quickly won an enviable reputation, the good-looking storefront dining room across the street from the Cathédrale Saint-Louis de Versailles also charms with its warm hospitality and excellent service, both of which are directed by Jean-François Lavergne Morazzani, the chef’s father and a very experienced restaurateur. A further attraction is the fact that it’s halfway between the main entrance to the chateau de Versailles and the Versailles Rive Gauche train station, making it ideally convenient for a late lunch after an ambitious morning of touring.

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Bistro Paradis | A Tantalizing Taste of Tropical Umami at a Charming New Bistro, B

January 30, 2016
Bistro Paradis - Facade - PhotoMarieGenin

@Marie Genin


The Bistro Paradis, a winsome new restaurant on the street of the same name, adds some delicious momentum to the ongoing transformation of a formerly fusty part of the 10th Arrondissement into a lively new restaurant district with a lot of adventurous and innovative young chefs. Talented Brazilian born chef Alexander Furtado’s delicious and quietly original riff on the cannon of modern French bistro cuisine also demonstrates how alluringly cosmopolitan this cooking has become in Paris at the beginning of the 21st century. Previously reluctant or resistant when it came to foreign seasonings and ingredients, Parisians have recently embraced them with such wholehearted curiosity that the French capital is quietly becoming almost as wordly at the table as larger cities like New York and London.

Bistrot Paradis-Tartare de Saumon - Copyright A.Schachmes

Tartare of bass and salmon with lemongrass, ginger and combava @Anabelle Schachmes


“I use typically Brazilian produce like coconut milk and shavings of toasted coconut, guava, mango, acai and pecqui in dishes that are cooked according to the classical French techniques I learned while working at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant at the Hotel Dorchester in London and then at  Christian Constant’s restaurants in Paris,” explains the very friendly Furtado. “Contrary to what many people think, Brazilian cooking is characterized by subtle melded flavors, and it’s not hot, which makes it appealing to the French,” says the chef.

What he’s referring to is a flavor palette that might be described as a spectrum of tropical umami, or sweet savoury often nutty flavors which evoke someplace much sunnier than the rue de Paradis, despite a name that would seem to promise an eternity of pleasure. What’s fascinating about Furtado’s cooking is how easily and alluringly the idiom contemporary French bistro cooking embraces his well-groomed expression of childhood taste memories in a huge, distant and famously sensual homeland, Brazil.

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