Thursday, 3 June 2010

Dinner at Yam'Tcha

A tiny jewel of a restaurant in the heart of Paris where a tea master creates pairings with the different foods that are served

I was very lucky to get a reservation at this very hot restaurant. In about a year, it went from newly opened to newly starred by Michelin. And it is a star! There are only 22 seats and one seating per night. The day reservations open for the next month, they close. Well, I made it at the cutoff!
The chef at Yam' Tcha studied in Asia, especially in Hong Kong and parts of China, where I assume, she met her husband. The restaurant is a collaboration between the two: she an expert in the kitchen, and he a master in the art of tea serving.

Eric and I went and were very impressed with the cooking, the service and rhythm of the meal. Yam 'Tcha means foods that are accompanied with tea.The menu dégustation changes daily and with each course comes a tea or, if you like, glass of wine. You can choose to have all tea, three teas and three wines or all wine with your meal.

Although a copious meal, the dishes are so light that one never feels stuffed. We started with a lovely cold coco bean salad garnished with Japanese greens, sesame and soy. The next light salad (this is almost summer, after all) was of mussels, red and green tomatoes, smokey tofu and a lovely sauce. What followed was sautéed foie gras garnished with red currants and onion flowers. The fish dish was superb--a firm carrelet on black rice, and the lamb that followed was sensational. One can only get this type of young lamb in France and it is delicious. Everyone is not served the same thing so we got to see other dishes coming from the kitchen. There is a cheese course. We had a goat cheese that was garnished with honey and soy sauce and a touch of olive oil. Dessert was lovely and refreshing: fresh strawberries and raspberries topped with a sweet fromage blanc and a crispy tuile made of brown sugar.

Wines were excellent: A Bourgogne Aligoté for the mussel salad, a Vouvray sec with the foie gras, and a Crozes Hermitage for the lamb. We had an interesting oolong, a green tea from China. and a wonderful thé au jasmin with dessert.

As the evening progressed, we watched the activity in the kitchen: the chef and her assistants. And in the diningroom, the tea expert tended his teapots and cups. We were surprised when we looked at our watches and saw that three hours had passed! The calm and friendly atmosphere and wonderful food contributed to a relaxing and fun dinner conversation. The space is lovely as is and I think that the staff handles the size of the room perfectly. It would be a shame to expand. This is definitely a place to watch.

Diner a Quatre Mains at Senderens

French chef Jerome of Senderens and Japanese chef Nakahigashi of Kyoto share talents and knowledge to create a meal showcasing the talents of each.

One of the importers of Japanese products proposed to a reknowned Japanese chef from Kyoto and to Alain Senderens that the Kyoto chef come to Paris and share the stove and culinary genius with the executive chef here. As a result, Nakahigashi-san from the restaurant Miyamasou outside of Kyoto and Jerome Banktel of Restaurant Senderens created a "dinner with four hands" for three consecutive evenings at the end of May. Along with six delicious dishes were wines and sakes that married well with what was served.

There was marinated mackerel sashimi and sake, a wonderful warm lobster salad served with a lovely Saumur, a terrific Rouget Barbet in a Sakura (cherry blossom) broth served with a delicious Vin de Pays des Alpilles, a spectacular canard de Challans roast in old sake and served with a dashi redolent of wild mushroom flavors. With this dish came an aged Madeira. Two light desserts followed along with an excellent Riesling. In one of the desserts were cherry blossoms and the other was a play on the baba au rhum, this time with yuzu.

The chef speaks very good French and I also had the honor of conversing with his elegant wife in Japanese. She was surprised at how well I spoke, and I was quite proud.

Inviting guest chefs is a wonderful idea. The cuisine of the main restaurant is taken to a new direction and the guest chef lets us know yet another wonderful place to try. I promised that the next time I go to Kyoto, I will go to Miyamasou--known for the fresh herbs that are picked daily and used in the dishes.