Named for his signature dish–a composition of smoked eel with reglisse (liquorice root), apples and hazelnuts, Restaurants Eels is the best new table of La Rentree (the Fall season) in Paris. The solid allure of this place is foremost due to the superbly witty, inventive and assured cooking of chef Adrien Ferrand, but also to the beautiful renovation of an old couscous restaurant with a real attention to customer comfort in terms of lighting and noise by interior designer Pascale Perrier and the charming and professional service of the dining room staff.
Arriving for dinner with Bruno, we were immediately impressed by how well-run and professional this new restaurant is for a place that’s only three months old. Even before we’d looked at the menu, this aura of cheerful but steely confidence set table place apart from other young-chef-going-out-on-his-or-her openings. Here, every last detail has been thought through, what from the wood-panelled zinc-topped service bar where Ferrand composes his dishes before they’re served, to the clever black-steel glass racks strategically located around the dining room to save steps and the pretty vases of early autumn wild flowers that decorate the bar. Without coming off as a uniform, the staff wears one, and it’s almost invisible, since the ensemble has a sort of a graduate-student chic created by gray shirts, navy trousers and tobacco-colored leather Oxford shoes. Think sexy nerd.
On a Tuesday night, the dining room, which used to be couscous place and has since been renovated and given a great looking vaguely midcentury retro decor by interior designer Pascale Perrier, was full, with all 42 covers spoken for. In an old high-ceilinged corner shop front like this, this could mean punishing a punishing decibel level, but not here. The tables are widely spaced enough to dampen any din, and the charming maitre d’hotel with a full but neatly trimmed beard volunteered that they are still planning to install more noise-abatement insulation in the near future. The message was clear: This is a restaurant that care very much about its customers.
As he poured us each an excellent glass of Chardonnay from the Jura, he added that chef Adrien Ferrand’s signature dish is the smoked eel composition, and added that the fish of the day was hake. Without having given it a lot of thought, I had already sampled Ferrand’s cooking when he was cooking at KGB, chef William Ledeuil’s annex table to his excellent Ze Kitchen Galerie, in Saint-Germain-des-Pres. If the food I’d had at several meals there was excellent, Ferrand was still cooking within the gastronomic bookends of Ledeuil’s style.
Here, Ferrand, 25, not only comes into his own with a style that nods at Ledeuil’s fondness for herbs and Asian seasonings, but surprises with suave, deeply reasoned contemporary French dishes that display his own wiry creativity and delicious wit. After perusing the appealing menu, I chose the carpaccio of red tuna from the Basque fishing port of Guéthary and Bruno decided on the roasted beets with goat cheese. Garnished with caper flowers, Thai basil, roasted cherry tomatoes and tomato marmalade, the unctuous tuna was generously served and had a delicious faint taste of the sesame seed oil, ginger and ponzu vinaigrette in which it had been briefly marinated. Nothing overwhelmed the essential mineral-rich oceanic flavor of this sublime fish, however, and this is why this dish was so outstanding. Bruno enjoyed his beets and goat cheese, but observed that as nicely made and presented as it was, even its fruity blackberry-balsamic vinaigrette couldn’t make it original.
In my experience, many young Paris chefs dazzle with their starters and then become more conventional with their main courses, which leads to a polite letdown. Ferrand is the exception. My Iberian pork came with roasted salsify roots and an intriguing autumn barnyard garnish of white beans, corn and girolles. A ruddy jus de viand dressed the meat and an umeboshi (Japanese salted plums) condiments was one of the best garnishes I’d ever eaten with pork, since its salt, umami and puckery sourness were the perfect foil for the rich meat. Bruno loved his lamb with smoked aubergine puree, wilted Pontoise cabbage and tamarind-spiked jus, too.
Since portions here are generous, we split a dessert–a winsomely autumnal dish of baked mirabelles, the tiny little plums from Lorraine, and quetsche (red plums) with hazelnuts, pistachio pound cake cubes, and clover-infused cream. It was delightful, and so was our meal here.
What makes Restaurant Eels such an excellent new table is that the young team behind it deliver a flawless and charming service experience around the outstanding cooking of Adrien Ferrand. And it was while we walking home after dinner that it occurred tome that this level of charm, good humor and precision is much too rare in young chef bistros in Paris. Regrettably often, the staff in such places are so in awe of the chef and his or her kitchen that their service posture is off-handed and haughty, just at the limits of being polite, the supposed justification being that you’re lucky (and barely worthy) to be eating in a place where the chef walks on water (several truly awful meals at Saturne come to mind, but they’re many other offenders).
There’s none of this nonsense at Restaurant Eels, where Adrien Ferrand’s superb cooking is beautifully framed by an exceptionally pleasant customer experience. So go now before it gets any more popular and the prices inevitably go up, since it really is wonderful.
The post Restaurant Eels, Paris | A Solidly Talented Table in the 10th Arrondissement, A-/B+ appeared first on Alexander Lobrano.