I believe of late we all have an obsession with food and restaurants. An obsession bordering on an undefined pathology. I have yet to speculate in depth on what it all means. How many more food publications can we digest? How much more buzz can be created on new eateries? To say nothing about the TV cooking channels, rising chefs and specialty delis. Assuming both a metaphorical and literal use of the word appetite, it is a matter of time before the bellyful syndrome will set in, when the happy ride, the endless parade of this culinary craze will collapse like the proverbial house of cards.
Cultures, where the traditional celebration of the senses have afforded a place for food, are more immune to this tsunami. So the enlightened “foodie” in, say, the Mediterranean world, has a much more laid back approach to this new hedonism. In those parts, food has an inevitable goodness, it does not require elaborate props for legitimacy. So, two understandings of joy at the table collide and the inescapable consequence leads one faction to treat food too seriously: a mortal sin of sorts.
These musings floated in my mind after my second meal at Le Paul Bert 6, a fresh and straightforward locale recently opened in one of the culinary baronies of Paris, the eponymous street Paul Bert. Here food is fresh, of exacting quality, simple and jubilant. It lacks the cerebral complications of some contemporary cooking. Dishes are small, following a reassuring tendency. Delicately grilled sweetbreads are served with yellow carrots and Trébons onions- a sort of torpedo onion, but sweeter. The red mullet fillet sits on a bed of wild asparagus and a seaweed marinade. Baby squid mingles with tiny gnocchi and grilled cebettes, a form of scallion. It, especially When one dish after the other intensifies one’s enthusiasm, that is that poetry of the palette we all long for and rarely find .
Yet, I find their vegetarian offerings in short supply, particularly in view of the succulent rendering of their vegetables. On my last visit, only one out of ten dishes was vegetarian.
So Bertrand Auboyneau, a lord of the French bistrots, has a winner on his hands. And another winner at the helm of the cellar. Sommelier Solenne Jouane, deploys charm and connoisseurship dealing with the clients. Her experience, from Vivant to Saturne, offers more than solid credentials. The list leans towards natural wines and eclectic choices. This much I can say: you will leave the restaurant knowing that it will not be your last visit.