In addition to checking out some of the classic Paris bistros, I've also been giving equal opportunity to the newer Paris restaurants that have been popping up around the city. Many of the classically trained French chefs are getting their education at the old school, white table clothed, Michelin starred restaurants and then moving on and out of the city center to try their hand at something a little bit different. Such is the case with newcomers Roseval and Bones.
Roseval was named the best Paris Restaurant in 2013 by French food magazine Le Fooding (but sadly is now closed). I always take these awards with a grain of salt, but needless to say, it’s been on my list to visit for some time, so I ventured to the 20th arrondissement which has become a hot bed for the cutting edge chefs to set up shop and avoid the high rents in the center of town.
The restaurant is tiny with just a handful of tables wedged together beneath exposed brick and wooden beans. Service was friendly, including dish delivery and explanation by the young, handsome, English chef Michael Greenwold who created the restaurant with Simone Tondo. While young in years, both have done time in notable Paris restaurants like Rino and Chateaubriand.
The menu was a no choice 4 course tasting menu that began with a bang. Mussels were arranged with chewy croutons in a sweet onion and lemongrass broth that was so good we needed to flag down a waiter halfway through the dish to ensure we had enough bread to soak up the amazing citrus sauce. A crisp, lean white fish arrived next on a bright green bed of parsley puree that again had us fighting over bread to enjoy every last taste on the plate.
We moved into the meat category with a rare duck served with a mix of sautéed mushrooms, homemade cheese and flakes of seaweed. It had all the flavors I like in a dish with umami, sweet and salty notes.
Dessert came in two rounds with a decadent caramel panna cotta topped with stewed apples and walnuts. I would have been happy stopping there, but then we received a somewhat confusing dish of figs and pears in an odd savory celeriac sauce with pear ice cream. The ice cream was delicious, but the rest left us befuddled at the combination, but nonetheless content with an overall outstanding meal worthy of top honors from Le Fooding .
Bones comes from an Australian chef, James Henry, who arrived in Paris and did what a lot of us do when arriving in the City of Light. He thought he’d learn some and then move on, and he did just that, but never ended up leaving France. He started at the well-regarded Paris restaurant Spring, and then was given the opportunity to act as head chef at Au Passage in the Oberkampf area. Henry thought he’d fill in for a week, but that week turned into a year, and during that year he became known as a bit of a culinary phenom, cooking unique, inventive small plates for a reasonable price.
When it was time to move on again, he decided he’d try it all on his own, from the physical structure of the restaurant to the end concept. James found an old Irish old Irish pub in the 11th and had the vision to know this was his place. He ripped the fake wood paneling off the walls to reveal the original stone walls and tiles, and that's when James could see the true "bones" of the establishment, and he knew he had his restaurant.
Rugged, but beautiful exposed rock surround the open room with a decent sized bar up front that was bustling with energetic hipsters enjoying a drink and some oysters the night we arrived. The staff was casually dressed and equally enthused and helpful about the unique fare they’re serving from James’ kitchen.
It’s a 4 course tasting menu with just 2 choices for your main and an option to include a cheese plate. Beyond that, you’ll be treated to a few locally sourced small plates to get your mind around where James is going to take you on your meal, like a single oyster cooked in a smoker to bring the best of earth and sea together. Shrimp was grilled and served in the shell with a luscious herb butter, one of the many items made in house. Our final amuse bouche was a beef heart with a sprinkling of fleur de sel, tender and flavorful, even for the organ fearful at the table.
I feared not, and even had veal heart for my main, which was bursting with flavor, along with the tender white beans and Tuscan Kale it was served beside.
In between hearts, we cleansed our palates with a light and delicious cuttlefish gently folded with fennel and pig cheek, followed by a heartier, seared white fish with a reduced piperade of tomatoes, peppers and onions.
James isn’t afraid to push the envelope outside of plain fish and steak frites. In fact, he worries that the Paris youth are growing up not being exposed to offal and organ meat, so he’s doing what he can to put it back on the menu and make it digestable and enjoyable for everyone.
Our final course started with cool, green grapes served in a small white bowl filled with ice. Then we curiously devoured our dessert of a creamy almond and plum ice cream served with a homemade plum meringue cookie – certainly nothing I had ever had before, like most of the combinations, but definitely interesting flavors for which I’d happily return.
I love that there's a new crop of restaurants in Paris offering unique options to classic French dishes. One could say that they're a little late to the game compared to the rest of the food forward world, but the alternative Paris bistros are here and I'm happy to welcome them all.
To see more information on these restaurants and more of my favorites in Paris, check out Paris by Mouth.