Wed 13 Oct 2010
17, rue Notre Dame des Victoires, in the 2nd Arrondissement.
01 42 60 31 90. Mon–Fri, lunch and dinner.
Chef Sven Chartier and sommelier Ewan Lemoigne, formerly of Racines, in the passage des Panoramas, are running the show at Saturne in the 2nd Arrondissement, near the Bourse.
There are reminders of Racines to be found at Saturne, but not in the decor. If you like your Paris restaurants cramped and quirky, the modern space may strike you as sterile. But anyone craving airy minimalism will love the atriumlike dining room, the long blond lines of the bar, the glassed-in wine storage and the gleaming stainless kitchen at Saturne.
Chartier’s hyperseasonal cooking is showcased in a limited but always changing menu. There is a four-course option for 37 euros, or six courses for 59 euros. On the smaller menu you must choose between two main courses, and between cheese or dessert, all of which were included on the bigger menu. A group of four, we chose the smaller menu but ordered such that we could try all the dishes. On my next visit to Saturne, there was only one dish that was unique to the larger menu.
There are many more options on the wine side at Saturne, and choosing a bottle from Lemoigne’s well-stocked library of natural and biodynamic selections can feel a bit like a piece of absurdist theatre: he wants to know what you want, but you want to know what he has, and a printed list may or may not exist. Make some general decisions (color, style, price range), and let Lemoigne do the rest.
Both of my meals started with late tomatoes, first with a salad of piquant mustard greens and then as a loosely constructed tart, a flaky strip of puff pastry topped with a sort of intense jam and a thin fresh slice of green tomato, all justly seasoned. A salad of shaved champignons de Paris was a reminder of how unfresh most vegetables are by the time they reach the table. A strong morsel of mackerel was tempered with slender leeks, tender after grilling, and refreshing cucumber. We made easy work of a pile of rosy bouquets—tiny Breton shrimp—that had been quickly sautéed in whiskey, popping off the heads and tails and tossing them back in crunchy bites. Crisp-skinned pintade (guinea fowl) was moist on the inside, served with a splurge of squash purée and a pile of just-cooked-enough beans in their pods and a dousing of herbs.
Occasionally, Chartier’s cooking is a bit too straightforward. A delicately cooked piece of merlu (hake) with spinach and smoked mussels tasted perfectly good, but it was a dish that was texturally uninteresting, lacking that particular charisma that great restaurant cooking has.
A dessert of chocolate cream capped with a crisp shell and a scattering of praline was delicious. The verbena-poached peach with a spongy textured quince ice cream and coriander blossoms was less successful. The cheese plate, which includes thinly shaved flags of a fantastic old Comté, is perhaps the best way to finish a meal at Saturne.
In a nutshell: Pristine ingredients, natural wines, a modern space—the team from Racines has replanted with fresh results at Saturne.
Price check: Four courses for 37 euros, six for 59 euros. Wines run the gamut.
If Saturne sounds good, you’ll naturally like Spring Restaurant. Read a full review here.
6, rue Bailleul, in the 1st.
01 45 96 05 72.
Tues–Sat, dinner; Wed–Sat, lunch.