It’s no secret that Coi is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. So, you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon what seems to be the Coi of Paris: La Bigarrade. There are many similarities: a small, limited-seat dining room, utter precision and immaculate presentation on the plate (so much so that I recently designed business cards featuring a picture I took during my meal), a focus on serving the best, local ingredients available, and a careful balance of flavors – so careful that even a single, extra grain of salt could throw it off.
Rather than get into the details of every single dish I think it’s best to only call out the things that set this restaurant apart from all of the others recent visit to Europe – starting with the presentation. The plating of each dish was immaculate – just look at the pictures! Not too modern and sleek, but striking and varied. Even two months later I still have a vivid image of every dish in my mind.
Now the food. At this point in my “dining career” it’s getting more and more rare to taste something that is completely new to me. Whether it’s a new concept, or a completely new flavor, I live for those moments where I’m both amazed and completely surprised. So, after having four moments like that in a single seating, I left feeling like my head was in the clouds. First of all, let’s talk about lemon caviar. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like, and yes, it’s as delicious as you would think. I’m not entirely clear about where to find it, but apparently there are little tiny balls found on lemon trees (or certain varietals) that have similar properties to real caviar – minus the fishy flavor. A little, acidic burst of tartness brought a just the right punch to the veal tartare, and a lot of surprise to my mouth!
And that brings up another first – I’ve certainly had tuna and beef tartare, but never veal. And for the middle of May, it was the perfect choice. The tender, delicate flavor of the meat paired beautifully with the lemon caviar and carefully placed chive blossom, making an otherwise heavy dish sing of spring.
Another highlight in terms of novelty happened at dessert, where the focus was clearly on clean, simple, refreshing flavors. Who would’ve thought that cucumber and mango would pair so well?! Literally, just a small slice of cucumber served in a tiny bowl with an equally small slice of mango blew me away. It’s amazing that after 10 courses, something as simple as “seasons best” in a bowl could have such a lasting impact.
Finally, the chocolate cake was possibly the most decadent I’ve ever had. And while an incredibly dense Chocolate Cake is certainly not new, the dehydrated fava bean powder and single fava that laid atop the decadent slice certainly was. A seasonal chocolate cake? Brilliant.
While that may round up the novel aspects of my meal, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t touch on the best dish of my entire European trip: a type of white fish with a slice of sharp, salty cheese, an anchovy filet, fromage blanc, and dollop of black garlic purée, and the largest, most amazing English peas I’ve ever put in my mouth. This dish was absolute perfection in terms of balance; the flavors and the textures made every bite magical. Unfortunately, I not only lost the menu for this meal (just the fact I could remember almost every detail speaks volumes!), but I’m not quite fluent enough in French to have understood what kind of white fish it was, nor what type of hard cheese. So, for now it remains a mystery – one that I may have to go back and solve next year.
The man behind the stoves, Christophe Pelé, is one of the most talented (and friendly!) chefs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Similar to many Bay Area chefs, his philosophy is finding the freshest, seasonal ingredients available to him and transforming them into something different and amazing every day. His kitchen is one where creativity reigns supreme, and culinary boundaries are constantly stretched. And with two Michelin stars and global notoriety, I think that it’s working.
106 Rue Nollet
75017 Paris, France
01 42 26 01 02