The Two Hottest New Openings in Paris This Fall: KGB (A-) and 114 Faubourg (B+)

October 9, 2009

Occupying an ancient Saint Germain des Pres space that most recently housed chef Jacques Cagna’s seafood bistro, William Ledeuil’s new KGB, or Kitchen Galerie Bis, is more than just an annex to his wildly popular Ze Kitchen Galerie a few doors down. For starters, the prices are lower and the service is brisker, but most importantly, he offers a different declension of the Asian influenced contemporary French bistro cooking that has made him one of the most influential chefs in Paris. Here the menu begins with hors d’oeuvres, served as two, four or six snap shots of his vivid, graphic and absolutely delicious cuisine. I loved his crispy panko-coated shrimp-and chicken croquette with piquillo ketchup, shot of white bean soup with galangal, Wagyu beef tartare with carrot-ginger jus, and mushroom-stuffed macaroni in a chlorophyll bright broth. Next, a Cubist style presentation—Ledeuil’s cooking is intentionally graphic, of capeletti, little pasta caps that look like fiddle head ferns, with a fried quail’s egg, fine slices of Mimolette cheese, green-olive tapenade and an Asian pesto sauce, then a white china casserole of slow-braised pork ribs and griddled potatoes in a hoisin-shoyu marinade.

The grand finale: apple cappuccino with ginger ice cream and a gelee of mostarda di Cremona, the best dessert I’ve eaten all year, and a perfect example of Ledeuil’s imagination. “The mating of different culinary traditions is a very ancient story,” Ledeuil told me after dinner. “Olive oil was once exotic anywhere in France outside of Provence, but today it’s an essential part of the modern French pantry. I see my cooking as part of this same tradition—I exhilirate French dishes with Asian herbs and seasonings.” True, but the main reason Ledeuil’s food is so good is that his finely honed culinary technique doesn’t “fuse” these foreign ingredients into French bistro cooking, it sublimates them.

114 Faubourg is a glamorous new duplex restaurant that occupies most of the ground floor of the new twenty-six room annex of the Hotel Le Bistrol in Paris, and it not only offers a chance to sample the superb cooking of Eric Frechon, head chef at the hotel’s very expensive three-star Le Bistrol restaurant, at relatively more moderate prices, it shrewdly offers a new take on the Parisian brasserie for the 21st century.

With a décor seemingly inspired by the painting of Chinese and Japanese screens—giant dahlias and tiny butterflies on a scarlet background, the centerpiece of this wonderfully well-lit (both dining rooms are  bathed in low flattering golden light) restaurant is a grand curving staircase that connects the ground floor dining to the open kitchen and basement dining room below.

Banquette seating lines a whole wall in the main dining room, which seems to say that 114 Faubourg is clearly gunning for other beau monde classics like the Plaza Athenee’s Relais Plaza restaurant.

The reason that 114 Faubourg will trump the competition and is a welcome new addition to the Paris dining scene for being open seven days a week 365 days a year, is that it’s serving up some very good contemporary French food from a menu that offers a puckish snapshot of what stylish Parisians like to eat these days. I loved an hors d’oeuvres of hard-boiled eggs with fresh mayonnaise and shredded crab and thought the spaghetti with octopus bolognaise was not only delicious but smart—it’s very low-cal comfort food. Honey lacquered pork knuckle from the restaurant’s huge rotisserie came on a bed of gently pungent turnip sauerkraut, and the mille feuille with salted caramel sauce is the type of dessert that makes it easy to say the hell with your waistline. Service is smart, polished and multi-lingual, and they pour a great selection of wines by the glass as part of a surprisingly cosmopolitan—foreign wine still barely gets a look in in Paris—list.  The only fly in the ointment is a big one, however—this place is shudderingly expensive.

KGB, 25 rue des Grand Augustins, 6th, Tel. 01-46-33-00-85. Metro: Odeon. Avg 50 Euros.

114 Faubourg, Hotel Le Bristol, 114 rue du Faubourg Saint Honore, 8th, Tel. 01-53-43-43-00. Metro: Miromesnil. Average 100 Euros (gulp)