Nice in Nice, and a Redux at Rech in Paris

June 12, 2009

In Nice this summer, there’s bad news and there’s good news. The bad is that talented young chef Jouni Tormanen has been mysteriously forced out of his job as head chef at La Reserve. For the moment, no one seems to know where Jouni has done or if he’s planning to open another restaurant locally, which is a shame, because he really is a terrific cook. The good news is that a constellation of small, excellent modern bistros are popping up all over the city. A perfect example is Millesime 82 (which is named for the year the chef was born). Stopping in for lunch on a recent Saturday, I liked this funky little dining room, its relaxed and friendly staff, excellent wine list (including several brilliant Corsican roses), and their smart idea of serving a choice of three main courses and a single dessert at noon. From the little chalkboard menu, we tried a generously served and beautifully dressed salad of tender octopus with chickpeas, tomatoes, fresh coriander, parsley and a light vinaigrette and an equally good artichoke risotto that was topped with slices of delicious steak cooked rare. The apple-banana crumble we shared for dessert was delicious, too, and the next time I’m town, I’ll definitely stop in for dinner, which has a full menu.

In Paris, it’s taken a longtime for Alain Ducasse, Inc., to get Rech, the snobbish seafood brasserie in the 17th right, but to their credit, it’s likely to become one of the best seafood restaurants in the world now that Jacques Maximin has been recruited to oversee the menu. Maximin, the 70s-80s wonder chef of the Riviera, is a hard-working, passionate cook with a deceptively brilliant aptitude for simplicity (his simplicity is the same as that of an Antwerp diamond cutter). What he knows how to do–and does with deep modesty–is extract all of the flavor out of every fin and frond he works with. He’s just getting started in Paris, but I’ve been dreaming about an exquisite salad I ate here the other night for over a week–mesclun, poached egg, radishes, a few Nicois olives, fruity green olive oil, and thin strips (goujonettes, if you will) of steamed sole with the most magnificent aioli (garlic mayonnaise) I’ve ever eaten. Next, perfectly cooked salmon with a sauce vierge (chopped tomato and frizzled basil in olive oil), then a magnificent hunk of camembert, and a drop-dead good pain perdu (‘French toast’ made with brioche) with weepingly perfect salted-caramel ice cream. I didn’t like this restaurant at all when it first became part of the Ducasse stable two years ago, but now, with Maximin, and the brilliant stewardship of maitre d’hotel Eric Mercier, it’s become one of my favorite tables.

UPDATE: November 2, 2011. Please read the latest comment on Rech. It appears that the brilliantly talented Jacques Maximin isn’t as present at Rech as he was the last time I went there.

Millésime 82, 6 rue Chauvain, Nice, Tél: 04 93 01 84 83, Avg lunch 30 Euros, Avg dinner 50 Euros.

Rech, 62 Avenue des Ternes, 17th, Tel: 01 45 72 41 60, Metro: Etoile or Place des Ternes, Dinner menu 53 Euros.

  • John Mihalec

    Alex, we ate at Rech in December before we came back to the US and were less than overwhelmed. For the price, it was no Gaigne or Gazzetta, and the service was spotty. Would have preferred to go across the street to Verre Bouteille. Glad to know they have fixed things up.

  • Alec Lobrano

    I didn’t much like Rech before either, John, but was very impressed by the makeover. Had a truly excellent meal here and can’t wait to go back, which I’ll be doing soon, and if there’s any change, I’ll let you know.

  • Rech was outstanding on our recent visit. The sardines and John Dory were sublime. However, both preparations of the langoustines at Fables de la Fontaine — really everything at Fables — were just so delicious. As refined and nuanced as the food is there, it still felt as guttural as a Texas smokehouse, which to me is the mark of a truly great meal.

  • I went last week and it was not only underwhelming and very pricey, but a meal filled with service disasters, just plain rudeness and , eek, a worm in my starter!

  • Alexander Lobrano

    Hey Adrian,

    I read your post and really liked it. I don't know what's going on ever there, since it was great when Maximin was around more often. Maybe he's too busy with his place down south to keep tabs on this kitchen now, but one way or another, it's slipped badly.

    Cheers, Alec