Friday, 19 March 2010

Sous les Cerisiers

A new Parisian fusion restaurant recommended by my Tokyo friend

My friend Kyoko (actually, she is my counterpart in Tokyo) told me that a friend of hers opened a fusion restaurant in Paris. So before my trip to Japan (I leave next week), I thought I would try out the restaurant, meet Sakura (Kyoko's friend) and then report to Kyoko when I see her.

Sakura Franck is a lovely Japanese chef who is very proud of her Japanese tradition and interested in giving its products a French twist. The restaurant is beautifully designed--a long, light grey room with pink geometrical creations peeking out from the ceiling. The look is pristine and the atmosphere quite calm. The back room has two beautiful tables and every chair is dressed in a costume out of the Opera. It is quite surprising to see the chairs so elegantly dressed. The dishes in that room are also very elegant.

Sakura means cherry tree in Japanese and the French name of the restaurant means "Under the Cherry Trees". My first visit was at lunch where you may choose from three appetizers, three main courses and three desserts for a total of less than 20 euros. I started with a lovely and creamy mousse de tofu, sauce au wasabi. This was spectacular! The mousse was smooth and flavorful and the wasabi added the right amount of oomph. My main course was Supions Grillées--the fat bodies of squid simply grilled and served with a light provençale-type sauce. That was served with rice. To accompany my meal, I chose a glass of white Burgundy which was quite rich and contrasted with my food very well.

Sakura does serve tuna but she has written in her menu that the tuna she serves is not the endangered type. It is actually quite small and is very different from the red tuna that is such a controversial food item at this time.

At dinner, there are a number of menus ranging from 40 euros to about 70 euros. And there is an à la carte menu as well. A specialty is foie gras sushi. (I can't wait to go back and try that.) She also serves a variety of fish dishes creatively conceived and reflecting the two cultures. There is meat on the menu as well.

The restaurant has already had a lot of press in French and in Japanese journals, and in 5 short months, it is doing very well. I look forward to going back again soon.

Restaurant Senderens

Alain Senderens makes history by giving up his stars so as to make his art more affordable, only to be awarded with lots of new stars! See my latest review of his restaurant.

The last time I wrote about this restaurant was January 15, 2008. He is my all time favorite French chef, and I have been going to Alain Senderens' restaurants for over 30 years. I first met the great chef at his restaurant, L'Archestrate in the '70s. From there, he moved to the Place de la Madeleine, and opened the regal Lucas Carton. There I met the maître de fromage, Loic Morvan. Loic is now a good friend and also the restaurant's director. I am also friends with the chef and his wife, and know many of the wait staff and of course, the head sommelier and the maîtres d'hotel. It is funny to think of this restaurant as a little piece of home, as it is so chic and has such a long gastronomic history.

Senderens gave up his three stars several years ago. They say he wanted to work in sardines and not in truffles or foie gras. That is not entirely true as there are still luxury items on the menu, but the prices reflect a movement towards an affordable cuisine. As a result, more people can know what this chef is made of. No more 400 euro dinners, thank you. As a result, I come here for festive occasions and sometimes, just for a delicious lunch.

A couple of weeks ago, I went for a delicious lunch, and delicious it was. With my champagne, the amuse-bouche was a lovely consommé de langoustine topped with a watercress cream. After that, Loic treated me too one of the crunchy langoustines (crunchy with toasted almonds) that one dips in a special sauce. This was fabulous and next time I will order it as my appetizer.

I regret that I left my camera at home because my first dish was so beautifully presented (and so very delicious): Gnocchi d'Agria aux Truffes. And truffes there were!! 13 or more lamelles (paper-thin rounds) and truffle pieces sprinkled throughout the dish. On top was a beautiful lattice-work of crispy potato. So delicate. The sauce was lightly creamy and there were also i as a garnish. In a word, the essence of truffle for a very reasonable price. Senderens prides himself in his wine-pairings and with this dish I had a glass of Saint-Aubin "Sur Gamay" 1996 of the Domaine Louise Jadot. Not as buttery as a chardonnay and therefore contrasting well with the rich dish.

(The photos you see are actually from a dinner I had at this restaurant a year ago.)

I have had so many of Alain Senderens' main courses and today Loic suggested that I try the Cochon de Lait. The filet of pork rested atop a bed of leeks, sweet red peppers and savory peppercorns. There was a ravioli filled with the same mixture (rougail), and the dish was garnished with mango and leek. It was served with an Alsatian wine which was rather sweet and married beautifully with the dish.

For the predessert, I was served a lovely pannacotta of mango and vanilla. And for dessert, I couldn't resist the classic Mille Feuille à la Vanille. I am not a fan of creme patissière, but at this restaurant. the crème in the mille feuille is silky and delectable.

With coffee comes small chocolate tarts and cannelés bordelais. I do miss the crunchy tuiles that had big chunks of chocolate and almond in the dough, but hopefully those will come back in the future. With champagne, the meal came to about 125 euros which, for a beautiful meal from a three-star chef, is very reasonable indeed.