SPOON: Great Modern French

December 16, 2008

The 10th anniversary of Spoon, Alain Ducasse’s world food restaurant just off the Champs Elysees, offers an intriguing year-end opportunity to muse on how much eating in Paris has changed over the course of a decade.

  When Spoon first opened, it was an almost seditious challenge to Parisians to wake up to the rest of the world’s cooking, and discover some of the foreign flavors and dishes that had seduced the globe-trotting Monsieur Ducasse. It was pretty bold gambit at the time, too, since you never saw food served in bamboo steamers in Paris restaurants in those days, and the wine list was–shock, horror–almost entirely Californian. 

   Parisians reacted to this tasty provocation with an odd mixture of curiosity and indifference. This somewhat antic mixing, matching and melding of various different cuisines–Japanese, Chinese, Indian, “American,” Italian and French among them–worked about 60% of the time when it first got out the gate, the problem being that the menu was constructed like some sort of deranged calculus problem, i.e. you were supposed to chose your produce, cooking method and sauce.

   A decade later, the concept has calmed down and been beautifully streamlined, so that today Spoon is actually a fun if pricey place for a meal. Dining here the other night with Steven, a friend who lives in the Napa Valley, we loved the pumpkin tofu with raw marinated scallops and pork-and-shrimp potstickers with spicy (not spicy enough, actually) tomato sauce as starters, and also the nice bright, crisp Galician Albarino that the sommelier cleverly poured to accompany these eats. Next, Steven, who’s a vegetarian, loved his steamed maigre (a white fish) glossed with tangy Greek yogurt, a brilliant idea–so good and so simple, with baby spinach, and my grilled tuna with peanut satay sauce and wok-fried vegetables was excellent, too. 

Next, a superb plate of grilled pork short ribs with tandoori sauce and dramatic shards of transparent, golden pommes Maxim (potatoes) for me, and the tuna for Steven. I wasn’t wild about the Gidget-becomes-a-winemaker style Pays Catalan red the sommelier teamed with our main courses–oddly flirtatious and standoffish at the same time, and unwilling to give the food even a peck on the cheek, but aside from the desserts, which have never been a strong point at Spoon, this was the only really off note in an otherwise excellent meal. And a final word on the desserts–I’d bring back to the U.S. style cheese cake they used to serve, ditch the gimmicky chocolate pizza, and push the Mojito sipper, a wonderful slush of mint and lime that’s the perfect set up for a night on the town. 

Spoon, 12 rue Marignan, 8th, Tel. 01-40-76-34-44. Mo Franklin D. Roosevelt. www.spoon-restaurants.com

  • jp

    ‘steven’ is vegetarian and had two types of fish? a fish is not a vegetable, ergo steven is not vegetarian.

    agreed though, spoon is great.