Paris 'Branché' RestaurantsHome >> Experiences
Paris restaurant guides sometime indicate a restaurant is branché - meaning local celebrities congregate there for a few months before moving to a new fashionable spot. The food is usually not the reason a place becomes branché although it can be outstanding. Most branché places lose that status within 12 months. But just how good are they if you don't care for Parisian celebrities? I visited three of them - here is my report.
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
The service is affable, knowledgeable and efficient, but the cooks invariably have the sad looks of a battered dog. They look at you like if they wanted to tell you but fear receiving a saucepan on the head in reprisal. Apparently Mr Robuchon is a demanding boss and both Gordon Ramsay and Giorgo Locatelli report boot camp discipline in his kitchens. You can't help that but if you are one that wants everybody around to look happy that's not the place for you.
are lean equations centered around one gastronomic sensation. I had
beautiful ravioles in a consommé and a roasted quail with Mr Robuchon's
legendary truffle potato purée. A Chartreuse soufflé finished the meal:
The maître d' gave me a tip about tarragon sorbet which I was able to make the week after.
The other guests seated next to you at the bar, invariably you have some contact with them. A lovely young Parisian couple, the man answered his cellphone discreetly and said 'Yeah, we are here at l'Aaaaaatelier'. The other person apparently didn't understand and he had to explain 'Yes, you know, l'Atelier de Joël Robuchon'. A proof, if one was needed, that the restaurant is no longer branché and has entered adulthood.
The Atelier concept seems to be working as Robuchon opened one in
Tokyo, New York, Las Vegas, London and Scotland, apparently exact
copies of the Paris original. I would definitely go back.
Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Spoon and wine
Food at Spoon is served in the spirit of tapas or dim sum. You order a bit of this and a bit of that and end up with a table covered with plates. Or at least that was the idea. I think most people just order three courses and take a discreet bite from the neighbor's plate to see what they missed.
Service is fast and very pleasant, and the light, airy room on a Champs-Elysee side street attracts young professionals working in one of the many large French companies with headquarters nearby.
Readers of FXcuisine.com know how much I enjoyed Mr Ducasse's Bubble Gum Ice Cream. Well, I won't be asking for the Tagada Ice Cream recipe. Tagada are chemical candies shaped like martian strawberries (see picture below) and made into an ice cream they give a most awful texture. I couldn't finish the huge portion. I still think somebody has been overly generous with the plaster in the ice cream mix that day.
I love the place and visited twice, only to find the same menu. I promised to not come back until they changed it. And they just did, with a complete overhaul of the restaurant. I will be back.
If you really loved the food and have a large budget, there is a huge Spoon Food book for about €150.
Spoon Food & Wine
You are greeted by two spectacular Grace Jones clones who operate as maîtresses d'. With grace and energy they lead you to your table in a rather noisy room. The menu looked very promising and, having tasted Mr Vongerichten's talent in his Shanghai restaurant, my expectations were high.
Their 'iced infusions' looked nice on the menu but both the passion fruit and the lemon-ginger tasted like hydrochloric acid mixed with Perrier and filled with tap water ice cubes.
The truffle pizza was baked in a gas oven and tasted like some paper-thin flatbread with some fontina on top. A huge amount of crunchy salad hid most of the pizza and provided so much distraction you almost forgot the truffle. Not good. I asked the waitress for recommendation and she said 'The crispy tuna rolls'. Help me. Oversalted raw tuna in a tasteless green bean cream, I almost couldn't finish it. Another dish was slightly more encouraging. They didn't spoil and excellent meat but what can I say about the pumpkin raviolis? Deep-fried with no pre-blanching, their crust managed to be greasy, dry and flaky at the same time. I had to think of New York to finish them. When the bill came, it was accompanied by two chocolates in a chipped glass. The waitress was so nice I didn't say anything, but they won't see me back at Market.
Although everybody complains about Market being loud and poorly lit, I kind of like the decor. If you go to the washroom, at the bottom of the stairs you can grasp the busy open kitchen, the entrance of the toilets and right next to you what must be the chef's table- hardly the best location. I love the designer stainless steel sinks in the toilets.
More about branché...
glitterati are indeed a fickle lot and restaurant owners have a hard time
keeping their joint branché. A very bright exception is L'étoile ('The
Star') 12 Rue Presbourg, a discotheque-restaurant run by a brilliant
nightlife professional, Tony Gomez. He is on first-name basis with most
of Paris' stars and manages to get some of them inside his
establishment almost every night. And not by chance or his good looks.
When a singer promises to come after his concert, Gomez goes himself in
his loge after the concert with a few bottles of Champagne and drives
him personally to 'L'Etoile' to make sure he doesn't change his mind.
Needless to say, few restaurateurs can compete.