Paris Restaurants: Abri
Wed 22 May 2013
92, rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, in the 10th Arrondissement.
01 83 97 00 00. Closed all day Sunday and Monday dinner.
Maybe you should skip this article altogether and just try calling for a reservation. It’s not that Abri is the most unbeatably fantastic choice out of all Paris restaurants, but it is definitely good, and, most of all, it doesn’t sit more than 20 and is full for weeks.
Chef Katsuaki Okiyama (Robuchon, Taillevent, Agapé, no less) runs a tight ship with a small team that cooks under your eyes in the middle of the small space. The restaurant has been open for only five months, and from the lack of signage outside and minimalist decor inside, one gets the feeling that this is a trial setup before it moves on to better things. As it deserves to.
In the meantime, Abri offers a four-course lunch menu and a six-course dinner menu. Your only choices are between fish and meat for the main, food allergies considered. My lunch started with a bar carpaccio with mandolined radish in a vanilla-scented vinaigrette. The vinaigrette lapped the carpaccio smoothly, with delightful bursts of lemon and one stray spark of mint, and it was a confident stride into a meal.
The second entrée took the flavors up a notch, with a gratin of Jerusalem artichoke, deconstructed, of course, in this restaurant of artfully imagined and plated dishes. Three little nuggets arrived—not flaming hot, which is appreciated—but just so, with delightful, crunchy exteriors. I preferred to forego the buttery sauce for the delicate taste of the Jerusalem artichoke that had prevailed.
I thoroughly enjoyed my main of seared lieu (pollock) served with a coconut milk and lemongrass emulsion—a good piece of fish that benefited from the same light hand in seasoning and the sort of perfect (under)cooking you wish you could master at home. The emulsion was an unusual nod to Southeast Asian flavours, with a sweetness and richness that made me want to mop it up with the bread, as I saw a fellow diner do, except the bread was no insipid table bread but a very flavorful sourdough specially made for the restaurant by a baker friend.
I eyed said diner’s suave, dark chocolate dessert and imagined I would get the same; instead I had an apple mille-feuille and couldn’t have been happier. It was as perfect as mille-feuilles come. Smaller than most, it was mille-feuille fashioned as Swiss roll, with faultless flaky pastry ensconcing cream and shards of crackly dried apple and moist fresh ones, topped with a scoop of vanilla-speckled ice cream. It’s the sort of dessert that puts you in that happy place: you wish you could have more but know you’ve just tasted something really fine and that it should end there.
Reserve well in advance so you don’t end up with a seat like mine at the back of the restaurant, with dim lighting and metal tubes running above your head. I’m definitely going back to see what other surprises the chef has up his sleeve. And for that chocolate dessert.
In a nutshell: Light, inventive and sharp cuisine by a chef who has been places. The triple-decker tonkatsu, Japanese omelet and sauerkraut sandwich has everyone who has tried it raving. Another reason to go?
Price check: Four-course lunch menu, 22 euros; six-course dinner menu, 38.5 euros; a special sandwich lunch menu only on Monday and Saturday.
If Abri sounds good, you might like Semilla. Read the review.
54, rue de Seine, in the 6th Arrondissement.
01 43 54 34 50. Lunch and dinner daily.
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