3, rue de Prague (12)
As the substance of this Diary should confirm, it is likely I am more familiar with Paris restaurants than many American visitors and probably many French. So when a recommendation like Table comes along, a five year old Michelin one-star, that I have never even heard the name of, it surprises me. It shouldn’t, there could be tens, maybe hundreds like it, although not likely as good. More work to do!
Table is small, contemporary in feel in an unusual physical space. A long, undulating counter running the full length of the space, with high top tables and a handful of conventional chairs and tables on the floor. Everything is focused on the kitchen and chef and his three younger assistants who prepare and assemble all of the dishes from the short, but changing a la carte menu behind the counter (see L’Agrume, 5th). Basically, sitting at the counter where most parties of two are seated, is eating in the kitchen. The menu details the obsessive focus on artisanal sourcing. We can attest to the bread; beautiful and delicious in a city replete with noteworthy bread.
All of this takes place in a perfectly safe-appearing, non-descript street in the slightly scruffy 12th, one block from the very busy (daytime only) Rue d’Aligre Market, the only open and covered market in Paris which on a daily basis combines food and flea market stalls.
The concise a la carte menu is expensive. A 39€ 3 course formula this is not.
Entrees of raw fish, girolles lightly cooked and served with an egg yolk to break into the sauce, raw sardines and tomatoes with burrata were each in the range of 25€. We had the girolles, generous and delicious.
The plats included sautéed monkfish or tuna, each carefully cut to order, pintade portioned from a very large semi-cooked bird and finished on the plancha, then sauced and plated with a boiled crayfish and served with a root vegetable “salad”, a small version of the vegetarian offering. Also available was ¼ of a 3 pound Mediterranean lobster, split and grilled on the plancha (actually offered as an entrée) or sweetbreads sautéed in a half pound or so of butter. (At 69€, they were going fast!) Also on the entrée menu was sautéed frogs legs.
Being in the kitchen was an essential part of the experience, and an enjoyable one.
Desserts matched the food. A version of ethereal chocolate mousse with ice cream, praline tart with sorrel ice cream, fresh strawberries with nuts, hot fresh cherries. We never saw a wine list. The glasses offered (16€) were varied and delicious, but judging from the wine on display, there is plenty to choose from.
A patient maître d’ explained each dish. Kind servers delivered the food and wine. Both exemplary, but the prime interaction was with the chefs, mostly watching.
High, but worth the splurge. All in with a total of 5 glasses of wine, 260€.
A second visit confirms everything experienced from my original writeup.
This time the remarkably solicitous waiter suggested the multiple course tasting menu. At 189€ a major investment, but with very high a la carte prices (maybe higher than the year before), a sensible suggestion.
Extraordinary variety. Modern, but not fussy dishes each totally original and cooked and plated directly in front of us, served by the chef or one of the three sous chefs. Pea soup, barely cooked lobster, oyster with pork head cheese, griolles, turbot, goat, cheese, dessert. Every dish carefully plated, deliciously sauced. A memorable meal.
Now a third meal. Still very high prices, still a highly personal meal, inches from the 3 cooks (2 English speaking women) and the larger than life chef, with whom we also talked (in English) periodically during the meal.
We left our meal to the chef, what became 9 courses (scallops, mushrooms, rouget, John Dory, lobster, vegetables, chicken, cheese, 2 desserts). Each dish was unusual; small portions, attractive, unusually flavored. This was a tasting menu, of course, but put together in front of us, served and explained by the lovely, hardworking people who cooked it, overseen by a somewhat eccentric older chef who created it. And an unusually attentive, knowledgeable and solicitous sommelier who poured wines by the glass. And two waiters who checked in with us throughout the meal, charming and friendly if slightly redundant except to clean plates.
A very expensive, but very memorable meal.
This was our fourth dinner at La Table. It prompts a revision – upward. Perhaps because of the location in the 12th, so off the beaten track, the staff so young and casual, the décor so informal and the chef playing host so enthusiastically to seats of regulars, that I didn’t adequately focus on how good it was.
They urge you to order the tasting menu. Wildly expensive (300€) (as are the a la carte options). It is fabulous. Seemingly, it will continue until you ask them to stop. Wine pairings offered (and changed) by the glass. Heavy use of luxury ingredients: langoustines, prawns, caviar. Small portions, but many of them. Delicately sliced raw squid with caviar, vegetables, sweetbreads, raw sardines, steamed langoustine.
The food was inventive, uncomplicated, prepared in front of you and served by cooks and waiters all of whom seemed to be having great fun.
And, every one of the 30 or so seats taken. We were two of four foreigners. Not one looked like they were dressed for a 300€ menu. All looked as if they had been there before.
Now one of our favorite special event/only in Paris tables.