Paris Food favorites
3 dishes I loved in the last few months
I’m reaching the end of the first phase of a seven month project that has required me to report, research, write and eat across Paris. Bummer, right ? (In all seriousness, that’s also why this missive is hitting your inboxes later than I would have liked! Down to the wire, writing as furiously as that meme of a cat pounding on a keyboard).
The challenge today, however, is that the experience of doing such work is markedly different than when I was writing The New Paris. Change is constant. Novelty can be found around every corner. It’s hard to keep track of the forward movement and even harder to parse what’s worth the attention and what is likely to end up a passing fad. The changes in dining and retail were moderate, even sluggish at times, seven to eight years ago.
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Assessing the value of one great restaurant or specialty shop against another, equally as great without much of an obvious differentiator, feels futile. In the end, it comes down to a feeling — or maybe a preference for the color of the banquette or the atypical ceramic dishes, or that one special bottle of wine the sommelier could offer that the other couldn’t.
But when you know a place is stellar, that it represents all the reasons to spend money and time dining out, the realization is thrilling. It enters a small but meaningful personal collection of favorites.
I’ve had a few of those experiences in the last two-to-three months (I’d like to say it’s all been for the job but it’s also the way I most prefer to spend my money!) and left me feeling thoroughly elated to be living in this city in a post-ish-pandemic period of renewal and transformation.
With that, here are 3 memorable dishes in 3 memorable restaurants.
1—Tortellini ragu with mapo sauce at Cheval d’Or
Hanz Gueco has been among the most interesting chefs to follow in the last year. After leaving the kitchens of Ellsworth, the Filipino-Australian chef popped up at Le 6 Paul Bert for an extended residency where locals discovered the breadth of his cooking repertoire. There, the dishes leaned Italian but his influences have much wider reach. That’s clear from the menu he’s created at Cheval d’Or in the 19th arrondissement, which he took over with Luis Andrade, Nadim Smair, and Crislaine Medina (who was previously the sommelière at Le Rigmarole) in the fall from Florent Ciccoli (he opened the restaurant with the late chef Taku Sekine before the pandemic).
Here, the dishes are a harmonious mashup of French and Chinese, with an Italian nod or two thrown in, as was the case with the dish that blew my mind: tortellini ragu (ground veal, shiitake, ricotta and spring onion) with mapo sauce. I honestly could have chosen to put forward at least four other dishes that I tried—the twist on the poireaux-vinaigrette was an outstanding variation, both in terms of flavor and presentation, that included seaweed, ginger and black vinaigre, and I can almost taste the tempura-fried squash with sweet and sour sauce as I write this—but the tortellini felt healing, like a slightly spicy hug I didn’t know I needed.
What I can tell you about the rest of the dishes (which included the lamb pithiviers, une vraie découverte as one might say) is that Gueco has an impressive mastery of blending flavors and cuisines in a way that both nurtures and embellishes each of them.
21 rue de la Villette, 75019