Wed 5 Dec 2012
Auberge Flora’s triple-decker tapas sampler.
44, blvd Richard Lenoir, in the 11th Arrondissement.
01 47 00 52 77. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
I’ve always had a special place in my heart for women chefs. While there are certainly a growing number of celebrated top toques of the female persuasion, it’s still a fairly male-centric culinary world. So when I heard that accomplished chef Florence Mikula opened her third Paris restaurant, I knew I had to go check it out.
Mikula previously owned and operated Parisian staples Les Olivades and the now-defunct Les Saveurs de Flora in the 7th and 8th arrondissements, respectively. Now situated near the Bastille, she’s brought a fun and funky vibe to her new restaurant, which extends into the adjoining hotel she also helped conceive.
The atmosphere is full of whimsy, with bright blue walls and an assortment of different-size white plates hanging at seemingly random heights. On one end of the L-shaped space is a bar with high-topped tables for drinking and grazing; the other end houses a small dining room filled with distressed wood tables with herbs and silverware in tin pails playfully perched on top.
When we arrived Mikula herself was whizzing around the kitchen and dining room, along with two servers who seemed a little overwhelmed, but warm and friendly nonetheless. It was a random Tuesday night and there wasn’t an empty seat in the place.
We were confronted with a long tapas menu where each item looked more tantalizing than the last. Unable to choose among the tapas and the several interesting starters and mains, we lucked out: the 45 euro menu for the evening included an assortment of cold and hot tapas along with a choice of a main, so we could in fact try it all.
When the tapas sampler arrived, we couldn’t believe our eyes. It was a three-tiered smorgasbord of multibite delicacies. There were fried sardines, baba ghanoush, chevre with pesto, tapenade, rillettes, guacamole, ceviche, pâté, tender duck, warm mussels and a pumpkin soup with smoked mozzarella in the cutest terrine. This spread certainly seemed to be the best of the tapas, and we can only hope it will become a staple on the menu. The dishes certainly gave us a good sampling of the fabulous work Mikula is doing in her kitchen, not to mention her attention to detail.
After all this food, we still had our main courses coming. I had plump scallops served individually in plastic shells with a slightly sweet almond butter. It was a nice transition from the tapas. My friend received a round Creuset pot filled with meaty pork ribs in an olive jus with wild mushrooms. Eaten on its own, it would have been the perfect satiating winter meal, but after all the tapas it was hard to finish.
Then came our duo of desserts, which included a flan with rosemary and a tall glass filled beyond the rim with rice pudding that was in turn topped with a violet mousse served by Mikula herself—a woman whose success I don’t think I have any reason to worry about.
In a nutshell: Auberge Flora is a warm and whimsical restaurant where you can snack or feast on a menu of inventive tapas or enjoy fresh, home-cooked mains for a reasonable price.
Price check: Tapas, 6–18 euros each; prix-fixe dinner menu, 45 euros.
If you like the sound of Auberge Flora, you might also like Mojito & Bob. Read the review.
Mojita & Bob
3, rue Oberkampf, in the 11th. 01 58 30 88 59.
Tues–Fri, noon–3 p.m. and 6 p.m.–2 a.m.
Sat, 6 p.m.–2 a.m.; Sun, 4 p.m.–midnight.
Editor’s note: For a gourmet walking trip, check out our DIY downloadable Paris trips.