Wed 9 May 2012
Cucumber-pepper gazpacho with burrata mozzarella.
52, rue de Richelieu, in the 1st Arrondissement.
01 42 97 54 40. Mon–Fri, 7 p.m.–10 p.m.
I remember experiencing extreme joy and sadness last year after eating an exquisite meal at the home of US culinary power couple Braden and Laura, when they hosted their final installment of their supper club, Hidden Kitchen. The pair has since returned to hanging laundry in their dining room and entertaining just for family and intimate friends, but if you’re not related to them, you’re still in luck—Braden and Laura have opened their first Paris restaurant, Verjus.
They also run a très petit but très bon wine bar, Verjus Bar à Vin, which shares a kitchen with the main restaurant but offers a different menu. (Laura mans the wine bar; Braden oversees the dining room upstairs.) Though the couple has left the supper club behind, they have still managed to bring a touch of home to Verjus by creating a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere while producing innovative, high-quality dishes. The dining room is simple, white walled and open, with large windows on two sides and wood floors. You have the option of the six-course chef’s menu or the four-course market menu, with or without wine pairings. We chose the market menu with wine and a selection of cheese, and we all left fully satiated.
The menu rotates monthly with the seasons and the chefs’ whims. Our amuse-bouche was a warm two-bite potato stacked with crème fraîche and caviar, which brought my taste buds to attention and readied them for the courses to come. Braden kicked into high gear with a pool of thick, green cucumber-pepper gazpacho bolstered by a smooth slab of burrata mozzarella in the center. A large garlic crouton topped off the cheese, providing a good chew, but the key was really the chili and sesame oil drizzled in the corner—it brought additional dimension and flavor to the dish.
Next came a journey to the sea, with fresh tastes of hake and scented rose mushrooms to add a little bite to their light fennel-saffron broth. The Bergerac blanc pairing nearly transported me to a beach chair by the water.
Veal with red-pepper ricotta and asparagus.
The veal was tender and delicate, playing perfectly against the accompanying creamy red-pepper ricotta. Pieces of grilled asparagus were draped casually over each other on top of the veal, while the wine from Anjou threw in subtle notes of ripe red fruit.
The selection of three cheeses from the neighboring Fromagerie Hisada prepared my palate for the grand finale: a divine peanut butter mousse atop homemade graham crackers, garnished with toasted peanuts. It might sound hard to believe, but the mousse was light because it wasn’t sugary sweet, and it was amazing. A cooked grape on the side was a nod to the PB&J for Americans truly missing a touch of home.
In a nutshell: Reserve now for a creative, well-conceived meal of France’s freshest ingredients expertly prepared in a welcoming environment by warm people.
Price check: There are two tasting menus to choose from, along with optional wine pairings. Four courses: 55 euros (85 euros with wine pairings). Six courses: 70 euros (110 euros with wine pairings). Cheese course for two: 14 euros.
If Verjus sounds good, you’ll also like Frenchie, though plan ahead for this difficult-to-come-by reservation, or enjoy their first-come, first-served wine bar. Read the review.
5–6, rue du Nil, in the 2nd. 01 40 39 96 19.
Mon–Fri, 7:00 p.m.–10:30 p.m.
Editor’s note: For a gourmet walking trip, check out our DIY downloadable Paris trips.