It’s easy to find just about any type of cuisine in Paris to suit any mood or urge. This week, we try restaurants with a bit of a twist, where each one has a very specific single concept, ranging from sweet and savoury cuisine to chargrilled meats and vegetables, and the best meatballs in town to top-of-the-range roast chicken. So if you’re bored of the usual brasserie suspects or you’ve had enough of shelling out for small plates that fail to fill, try one of the four below.
Dessance – dessert for dinner
Unique in its concept, the food rustled up at Dessance (a combination of ‘dessert’ and ‘sense’) by chef Christophe Boucher (a former Ledoyen and Grand Véfour hand) serves up a starter of finely sliced Serrano ham on a bed of lentils, pickled shallots and vanilla ice cream – you read it right. Here, the boundaries between sweet and savoury are blurred, breaking the mould for the traditional three-course meal. Owner Philippe Baranes wanted to shake things up on the Parisian dining scene, “Why does dessert have to always be served at the end of the meal? Why not mix things up and play with flavours?” he asks. By using mainly the natural sugars of the ingredients, the result is magnificently presented dishes that are quirky and refreshing.
We particularly liked the perfectly cooked rosé veal with a lemongrass sauce, peas and sweet pickled onions, followed by a super-fresh dessert of watermelon and cucumber scoops teamed with yoghurt, cardamom, coriander or the moorish chestnut ice cream topped with salted popcorn. And each dish can be paired with a selection of natural wines and non-alcoholic beverages. The icing on the cake is the smart indoor-outdoor décor reminding of a summer patio that echoes the overturned menu. As the chef only uses fresh and organic seasonal produce with a minimal amount of fat, patrons aren’t left feeling sluggish after a meal either. A completely new experience for the senses, Dessance is a must for curious palates.
This cheeky little red and yellow neon-lit haunt opened in a South Pigalle backstreet four years ago, and counts the famed French photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino as one of its regulars. Without so much as an ounce of ostentation, it’s easy to understand why this simple little restaurant that serves up sumptuous cuts of chargrilled meat is popular with the neighbours. Braisenville (a play on the word ‘baisenville’, meaning vanity case but also literally to have sex in town, and ‘braise’, meaning embers, and ‘ville’ meaning town, literally red hot town), with its innuendo, blown up photograph of a scantily-clad woman a red apple in hand, legs of ham hanging along the exposed brick wall behind the timber bar, and grilled meat, is a bit of a lad’s lunch pad; and while most diners were male, my lunch partner and I, both female, felt at home.
Very urban, with attentive and friendly service, chef Christophe Gaud rustles up a watercress soup with a dollop of cream to die for, and a mean trout ceviche followed by a melt-in-the-mouth chargrilled chunk of rare beef with shitake mushrooms and a side of seasonal vegetables – also chargrilled of course. We finished with chocolate ganache, praline and sesame nougat and the off-the-charts Pecorino cheese the owner fetches himself from an off-the-map Sardinian village.
© Braisenville veal with confit tomatoes, cumin, courgette purèe with orange and anchovy emulsion
Relaxed for lunch but very buzzy in the evenings, the flavour shaker Phillipe Baranes (also behind Dessance) and king of calm Karim Habibi let on that a VIP basement club-room will be opening à la rentrée (September), but it’s all still very much hush hush. And even without the VIP room, Braisenville gets top marks and has me already looking forward to dinner there next week.
Boulettes – hail to the healthy, hearty meatball
Dripping in oil and tomato sauce, doused in salt and herbs, sometimes in spaghetti, sometimes in paper cones, meatballs are the perfect comfort food. Well, at Boulettes, forget all that – apart from the comfort factor, that is. Take away at the counter in the week or take a seat at one of the timber tables the evenings tables at the weekends, and choose from five types of meat (beef and lamb being the staples and the other three changing regularly) and five types of sides, and let Kevin Austury do the rest. Formerly at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Kevin and his business partner Dan, decided to head off to the States in search of their big business idea – and found it. Using nothing but premium cuts of meat from Rungis (Paris’ supersize food market), all minced on site, Kevin makes the best meatballs we’ve ever had. Healthy and low on fat, they are all oven-cooked as opposed to fried – great when trying to get into shape for summer.
Boulettes © Nicolas Medad
My dinner partner and I were particularly partial to the full-flavoured accra meatballs that came with a side of greens and the roast chicken meatballs with mashed potato. To finish, we recommend the apple crumble, also homemade, the perfect ending to a substantial but light meal. In summer, Boulettes sets up a small terrace with an artificial lawn just outside on the pavement, which due to the restaurant’s quiet location between the Marais and Sentier, is far from the usual terrace lunch among the exhaust fumes and noise of passing traffic.
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Numerous rotisseries line Paris’ pavements, but none are like Solyles. Thirty-somethings Maxime Bellenguez and Charles Lorphelin have overhauled the rotisserie concept, making it more than a 30-second standing experience while the owner bags up your roast chicken for you to enjoy at home. Here, at what they call ‘the lab’, you can sit at one of the tables in contemporary surroundings designed by eco-responsible restaurant designer Germain Bourré, and indulge in some of the country’s very best organic red label and rare breed chicken, all roasted using the traditional string-tied method or ‘contisage’ meaning slipping herbs and other flavour-giving elements between the chicken and the skin.
© Solyles Rotisserie
The chicken is then spun on thick metal spits in glass-fronted cabinets that line the counter. But meat isn’t the only highlight here; chef Christophe Haton (Meilleur Ouvrier de France 2011) also roasts skewers of vegetables as well as fruit for dessert. Aside from a quarter, half or whole roasted chicken, fans can also opt for other chicken dishes like the homemade rillettes (a sort of paté), chicken wings, Caesar salad, club sandwich or chicken soup. And for those who still prefer to have their chicken at home, there is also a delivery and take-away service.
© Solyles Rotisserie