Paris Restaurants: Clandestino


8, rue Crozatier, in the 12th Arrondissement. 09 80 68 08 08.
Open Tues–Sat, noon–2 p.m. and 8 p.m.–10:30 p.m.

When Marcelo Julio and the chef Masayuki Shibuya cheekily set up camp in an abandoned Korean food joint last July, recycling suddenly took a very tasty turn. Masayuki’s modern take on French cuisine peppered with Japanese accents may merit chandeliers and champagne, but the quick-and-dirty setting encourages a refreshing refocus on the food and service themselves—details that a surprising number of Paris restaurants have shrugged off. Clandestino, their deliciously new restaurant-squat in the 12th Arrondissement, flaunts reusability at its very best.

Snared by the idea of a resto-squat, I braved a frigid monsoon rain to give the place the once over. A faux-wood bar à la sushi shop and cafeteria-style tables clash with granny’s mix-and-match plates and a few decidedly trendy clients for a somewhat schizophrenic impression. A collage of recycled cookware and Asian paraphernalia along with a Maoist postcard collection subsume the scant decor. Uncharacteristically on time for our lunch reservations, we were warmly received, seated and briefed on the three-course menu du jour, offering a choice of two appetizers, two entrées and two desserts—an auspicious sign at Paris restaurants, where menus stagnate in the interest of time and (allegedly) money. 

Thanks to a nearly vacant dining room, my asparagus with poached eggs arrived like a shot. This green variety featured pickled onions, soy sauce and a smattering of four-leaf clovers, just for grins. While the asparagus was a bit stout in size (the unseasonably cold weather at the time likely didn’t help), it was nicely crunchy, and I was too busy delighting in the pickled onions and soy sauce to hold a real grudge. Unfortunately, my entrée rang in as ho-hum after this clever appetizer. The pork chops served with potatoes in a traditional glazed onion sauce, topped with chives, were clumsily cooked: only one of the four pieces (presumably the center one) had remained succulent. 

Judging from my lunch companion’s overcooked pollack, our order suffered from a case of negligence or maybe a lofty smoking break. By dessert, Shibuya had me back under his spell. I buried the hatchet by digging into his perfectly crafted chocolate dessert. A lovely scoop of mild chocolate ice cream stabilized a robust but smooth chocolate cream crowned with a sprinkling of pistachios and orange zest compote. My companion’s complex but well-balanced combination of fresh strawberries, cooked beets, cream and pistachios floated in a tangy raspberry coulis that dazzled us.

While the main dishes lacked the powerful character and attention of the appetizers, the well-crafted desserts rectified the muck-up, making for a fine meal with enough poetic notes to keep things creative. Helpful and friendly service, which not even my camera wielding could spoil, combined with the quirky concept of a resto-squat, made for a worthwhile affair at only 22.20 euros per person. Comme d’habitude at Paris restaurants, lunch packs the most value. Dinner patrons can choose a 33.30 euro three-course meal or a four-course tasting at 44.40 euros. Tôt ou tard, I suggest giving it a try, before this squat is turned out.
In a nutshell: This squat stands apart from the phonies where pomp and feathers tend to overshadow the cuisine. While we can only hope that Clandestino’s illegal existence won’t get it down anytime soon, one thing remains certain: rebellion has never tasted this good.

Price check: Three-courses for 22.20 euros (lunch) or 33.30 euros (dinner), as well as a dinner tasting menu at 44.40 euros.
If you like the sound of Clandestino’s Japanese influences, you might also like Gyoza Bar. Read the review.
Gyoza Bar
56, passage des Panoramas, in the 2nd Arrondissement.
01 44 82 00 62.
Open Tues–Sat, noon–2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.–11:00 p.m.

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