The inside had a lot of hard materials that sound just bounced off of, and two projectors flashed pictures behind me all night. Yes, that is a pair of red lips you see on the wall. It was strange and a little unsettling, especially since the other dining rooms in the back are much more subdued and comfortable.
The menu seemed lighter and more modern than most French restaurants. We chose the Assiette de Snackings (9€) to start, and it came with a selection of croquettes, shellfish, foams and jellies that were quite tasty and inventive. At this stage, Martin seemed to be successfully changing his image to a newer, more modern one.
Next up was seared foie gras with pumpkin and pickled mushrooms (26€). Although I didn't care much for the mushrooms, H liked them. This was seared foie at its best- a nice crust, well seasoned, with a creamy interior and not a hint of vein. The pumpkin accompanying it was a nice wintry touch. It was well done and delicious, and I was impressed and happy to once again be in the land of foie gras.
The pigeon with muscavados sugar (33€) was highly recommended from my research, so of course we had to order it. It came with the sugar crust, a traditional jus mounted with butter, and turnips in butter. Funny thing was, 3 breasts and one leg arrived. What happened to the other leg, and how did the additional breast show up? Must be one funny-looking bird.
I ordered my meat rosé, which means medium rare. What came was an unquestionable rare. To be honest, I think I know how pigeon should be cooked, especially in France. Our final exam was on pigeon, and I can't remember how many times the chefs emphasized that the meat should be medium rare, not rare or well-done. While my dish here was edible, I just found it a little lacking in technique. The turnips had very little flavor, and the whole dish was presented as shown in the photo. I always thought meat should be served on the bottom of the plate, not on the side. Maybe it's Martin's way of being modern?
We then had John Dory fish with a hazelnut crust, served with salsify and capers (36€). This was a big disappointment: the fish was cooked perfectly but tasted nothing like the promised hazelnut. It needed a sauce of some kind, the little drizzle of jus around the plate wasn't enough. The worst part was the pile of salsify. Believe it or not, each piece of salsify was cooked to a different consistency, even though there were all about the same width. It ranged from almost raw to perfectly cooked. Overall, the dish lacked focus and was fell short of expectations.
Dessert was a shared trio of clementine desserts (12€). The tart sorbet was delicious, the middle glass held a fruit salad with clementines, nuts and I believe mint syrup, and the far right of the plate held a whole clementine that was bruléed on top. I thought it was a clever use of the winter fruit, yet I got too much bitterness from the pith of the clementine. On the other hand, it was light and refreshing, a nice change from cloyingly rich and sweet desserts usually served in French restaurants.
Service also couldn't seem to decide if it wanted to be 3-star or modern and subtle. There seemed to be confusion as to who served us, dishes arriving without a verbal description (which was annoying because the menu descriptions were very brief), and a long lapse between the main course and the dessert menu. Some servers were overtly gracious, what you would expect at a 3-star restaurant, while some were more reserved and discreet.
I'm not sure what Guy Martin's vision for this restaurant was. Was everything supposed to be modern and funky, including the food? Or was it supposed to be traditional French food in a modern setting? I'm not sure I really understood what this restaurant was about. The food on the whole was fairly good, I just wish I didn't spend most of the evening trying to figure out how everything else fit together.
19, rue Brea
75006 Paris, France
01 43 27 08 80