Wed 22 Jun 2011
Squid salad with piment d’Espelette.
39, ave George V, in the 8th Arrondissement.
Lunch and dinner, Mon–Fri.
01 56 62 39 05.
Le 39V opened last fall, one of a handful of higher-end places to appear, a welcome flash of bling in this age of austerity.
There is no old world charm in this Paris restaurant. This is a slick and sleek address, black and chrome, perched on the roof of the Sony building, just off the Champs Elysées. You’re welcomed on the ground floor in a foyer through a massive sliding door and sent upstairs in a private elevator. The door opens into a glassed-in compound that surrounds a leafy terrace. The bar and dining room are to the right and the kitchen is to the left; every part is visible from every other. It’s like a vision of the future from the late 1960s, maybe: a little bit James Bond villain, a little bit disco, saved from camp by a chic clientele and direct, elegant cooking.
Given the setting, I was surprised—not unpleasantly—to see a fairly classic menu. The chef, Frédéric Vardon, is a Ducasse alum, and the food at this high-up restaurant remains grounded.
Like many Paris restaurants, the best deal at Le 39V is found at lunch, when a 39.50 euro no-choice formule is offered. On this day it began with a calamari salad slathered in a sauce pigmented by piquant piment d’Espelette. The squid was tender, the greens were fresh; it was not haute cuisine but a fine presummer starter. My friend ordered off the menu, beginning with a perfectly oozy oeuf mollet in an ethereal mushroom emulsion, a lightened-up, elegant version of a dish found on many bistro menus.
Rouget with courgettes.
My steak was a bit tough, though it was flavorful and well seared. The asparagus were nicely cooked; a thin jus graced the plate. But the highlight was a bright green herbaceous zucchini purée with a generous amount of butter, at once light and luxe, and delicious. Again the à la carte choice was much more interesting, though: delicate rouget was served with an exquisite sort of vegetable mille-feuille, all the elements of a ratatouille organized into a bright stack of saturated colors, fragrant with basil. A stuffed squash blossom finished the tableau.
We drank a fruity Chablis; like the food, the wine list here definitely gets more interesting the more you’re willing to spend.
The desserts were tempting, especially the religieuse caramel and the wild strawberry vacherin. But the day had slipped away from us, so we had to skip it. A lovely dish of mignardises, including miniature blueberry financiers and fantastic caramels, arrived, a sweet way to soften the blow of the check.
In a nutshell: This chic rooftop restaurant has a mod and modern aesthetic, but the cooking is classic.
Price check: Lunch menus at 39.50 and 49.50 euros. À la carte first courses, 14–24 euros; main courses, 24–62 euros. Desserts, 12–22 euros.
If you like the sound of Le 39V, you’ll also like Frédéric Simonin, a posh table in a quiet part of the 17th. Read the review.
25, rue Bayen, in the 17th.
Lunch and dinner, Tues–Sat.
01 45 74 74 74.