Thu 7 Jan 2010
Ze Kitchen Galerie
4, rue des Grands Augustins, in the 6th Arrondissement.
01 44 32 00 32. Sat, dinner only. Closed Sun.
Ze Kitchen Galerie is a restaurant that I avoided for many years for one simple and superficial reason: that name is stupid. The faux-French pronunciation . . . the dual-purpose (food/art) pretension . . . I can barely think about it without rolling my eyes.
But perhaps there’s another reason for my tardy arrival at the door of chef William Ledeuil: his reviews were, and still are, very mixed. More than perhaps any other restaurant in Paris, ZKG divides its diners into fans and full-on haters. After two recent visits, once for lunch and once for the dinner degustation, I find myself (surprised to be) counted among the fans.
I suppose that puts me in good company, along with superfan John Talbott and the folks at Gault Millau, who named Ledeuil their 2010 chef of the year. Here’s what we like: Ledeuil’s marriage of Far Eastern flavors and traditional French ingredients is unusual in this city. Beyond simply being “interesting,” Ledeuil’s conceptions also taste consistently good. Much of that has to do with flawless execution (during my two visits, at least) and high-quality ingredients. I’ve never tasted a dish that wasn’t properly cooked and freshly in season. That level of cooking, combined with the polished service and Seine-side location, makes ZKG a great choice in many situations.
A few illustrative dishes:
A richly flavored bouillon with foie gras and winter vegetables.
Rabbit ravioli with Thai herbs, pistou-arugula condiment and yuzu kosho jus.
Bouchot mussels, razor clams, Obsiblue shrimp and shellfish-lemongrass broth.
It’s important to note that ZKG is not right for every situation. Ledeuil’s Asian fusion (look, it’s lemongrass!) will not impress New Yorkers (or any city dwellers) in the same the way it pleases the provincial Parisian palate. Well-traveled gastronomic adventurers may find his acrobatics a bit passé (especially when priced at 70 euros). But not every performance need be a revolution. I enjoy ZKG because the food is delicious, not because it teaches me something new.
In a nutshell: Head into Ze Kitchen to taste William Ledeuil’s marriage of French and Asian flavors. The modern and polished dining room is just steps away from the Seine, making it easy to pull off a postprandial stroll along the water. The experience isn’t cheap—count 70 euros for the dinner degustation and 30–40 euros for lunch.
If you like the sound of Ze Kitchen Galerie but want to spend 20 euros less:
Ze Kitchen Galerie Bis (KGB)
25, rue des Grands-Augustins, in the 6th.
01 46 33 00 85.