On the last hot night of July, I managed to get a table at Au Passage, just before their closing for the summer vacation. The days of James Henry, the swashbuckling Australian at the helm of the kitchen ended in June, passing on the scepter to Shaun Kelly, recently arrived from St. John in London. I was curious to know what was the heritage he bequeathed to his successor.
This place has a resonating buzz since its early days. The cooking is part of the blazing trail generated by the arrival of young chefs from the anglo-saxon world to Paris. These days Paris counts a large number of foreign cooking talents that have come into a mutual embrace with this reticent city, a curious but friendly symbiosis in this former culinary fortress.
These guys have brought a global vision to what should be on our plates. Most of them chose the intersection of East and West as their point of inspiration, adding a strong Mediterranean touch to their cooking, practicing a true international cuisine, far removed from the sad denomination which was used in cosmopolitan places in the 60s. Tasting a delicious green salad with shaved ricotta salata followed by a tender chunk of roasted échine de porc with greens, I closed my eyes and imagined myself in one of the spirited eateries of San Francisco’s Mission district. The Burgundy Passetoutgrain of Fanny Sabre, with its clean and pleasurable tones, framed the meal impeccably.
But this is Paris and the retro look of this canteen cannot be replicated easily. It could have been part of the décor of “Maigret tend un piège” where the Marais is cast in black and white as in no other movie. It fulfills all the fantasies of the patrons for “authenticity”. Therefore the charm of the place is undeniable. Its popularity also.
Luckily for all of us, the departure of James has not modified the joyous conviviality of the dishes. James will be back with his partners at a new bistro venture in Rue Godefroy Cavaignac to be opened in September. This team is doing very well.