Monday, 27 September 2010

Le Bar à Huitres

My brother David surprised me with a morning call saying he was coming to Paris on business with a colleague. We decided meet for dinner and left it to me to find a fish restaurant near his hotel. I chose Le Bar à Huitres where I always buy oysters when I have guests.

When we hopped out of the cab in front of the restaurant, David's friend, Jon, could not hide his enthusiasm. He decided then and there that I had chosen the best restaurant for us. I reserved judgment until we actually ate the meal.

The restaurant has its own menu of Plateau de Fruits de Mer--assorted oysters and seafood on a dramatically presented platter, but I decided that we should choose for ourselves. The two men deferred to me, and I told the waiter that I would be ordering for the table. For our starter, we had three sorts of oysters: the flat belons which are redolent of the sea, the succulent speciales, which are my favorite as they are the most meaty, and the delicate fine de claires which have a green hue from the seaweed that grows among them. We also ordered a portion of wonderful pink prawns.

After that, we chose our main course and each came with its choice of garnish. Jon and I shared that magnificent fish, turbot which was simply grilled. With that we had sautéed potatoes and piperade--a Basque assortment of peppers of various colors enhanced with a bit of Espelette hot pepper. With David's wonderful lotte à la provençale came lovely French haricots verts.

Since fish is relatively light, we felt like sharing some of the tempting offerings on the dessert menu. For the table, we ordered a melting chocolate cake with dark chocolate ice cream and a wonderful sablé (buttery pastry) with fresh raspberries, whipped cream and spun sugar.

After the dinner, I could agree with Jon and say that I had chosen a great place.

Sunday, 26 September 2010


A spectacular gastronomic discovery of a new two-star restaurant.

My friend, Carol, came to visit me for five days from Boston. Although we have been friends since the age of 3-4, we crossed several hiatuses of not being in touch during our lives and this time, had not seen each other for 20 years. So it was a great reunion.

I had heard of a new restaurant, Bigarrade, that had received two Michelin stars in just two years. Of course, I wanted to go there and called as soon as I read about it. I had to ask them when they had free tables as there are only 20 seats in this jewel-box of a space. Luckily, one of the available dates fell when Carol was here.

The restaurant is very attractive and the staff casual and friendly. The tables are nicely spaced and one can view the activities in the kitchen, as it is in the same room. There is no menu but they do ask if there are things that you don't eat. Of course, I had called ahead about the cilantro issue.

One's only choice is between the 45 euro and the 65 euro menu--a bargain for a restaurant of this caliber. We chose the smaller menu for our lunch. I started the meal with a coupe de champagne from a small producer: Fleury Blanc de Blanc 2004. After a fresh fried anchovy amuse-bouche, we were served our first course. It knocked our socks off--simply a fried softshell crab. The French do not know about this species of shellfish and the man at the table next to us had never seen one. It was crunchy and delectable: to be eaten with your fingers.

After that came a parade of fish and seafood dishes prepared in very creative and delicious ways: squid with porcini mushrooms, green tomato and onion flowers; a succulent piece of rouget with black radish, red onion and seaweed; cabillaud (cod) with bacon attached to its topside, red Japanese shizo leaf and lime-infused oil. This was garnished with grilled spinach and salmon eggs.

With our meal, we opted for wines by the glass so that we both could choose. I had a lovely Anjou and later, a glass of Riesling which had a deep golden hue. Carol chose a Chenin Blanc.

After all the fish courses came a lovely plate of cheese: conté, fromage de chèvre with an orange confit and cumin seeds. This was wonderful.

Then came a trilogy of excellent desserts. Outstanding was the lemon cream with cauliflower. The cauliflower has a very mild taste and just adds some crunchiness to the dish. There was a small cup of pear juice with a peanut and mint in the cup; fabulous hazelnut ice cream garnished with tiny bits of sweet beet, raisins, caramelized hazelnut, and orange zests. Finally, they brought the ganache au chocolat with a small brownie garnished with a fresh raspberry and fromage blanc. I am not a fan of ultra-creative strange desserts but all of these played up the individual flavors of each part of the dish and were thoroughly enjoyable.

The restaurant is in a small space in the 17th arrondissement near metro Brochant. That is to say, it is not in the center of town. But like most Michelin 2-star restaurants, it is definitely worth the trip.