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Akrame in Paris - 2 Michelin stars

Rating: 91.
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Established in 2011, Akrame in Paris' 16th arrondissement has quickly collected two Michelin stars. The first star was awarded shortly after the opening in tje 2012 guide and the second star followed in 2014 already. Akrame is the fine dining restaurant of executive chef Akrame Benallal (b. 1981), who also owns two bistro/barbeque restaurants in Paris called Atelier Vivanda, one of which is located right across the street from Akrame proper. There also is an Akrame restaurant in Hong Kong, which was awarded a Michelin star in the 2015 Hong Kong guide. Akrame Benallal has worked with chefs like Pierre Gagnaire and Alain Solivérès at the then two-starred Les Elysées in Paris, and he spent a season at Ferran Adria's famed el Bulli in Spain. After these apprenticeships Benallal became 'Chef de Cuisine' at Château des Sept Tours in the Loire Valley; before opening Akrame he was briefly head chef at hotel/restaurant Le Konfidentiel in Paris.

Akrame is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday. There are two tasting menus on offer. There's the 4-course "Menu Coup de Coeur" for €100 and there's the 6-course "Menu Gourmand" for €130. At lunch the restaurant also offers a 3-course "Menu Amis du Midi" for €60. I had lunch with my husband at Akrame on Wednesday 15 October 2014 and we both opted for the 6-course Menu Gourmand.

To start there were four tasty canapés. First to arrive was a savoury olive and Parmesan cheese Oreo cookie with a sardine crème filling, the former being the dominant flavour in this cookie. To follow there was a "pina colada": pineapple infused with rum and coconut (no photograph). Shortly after two more canapés arrived, a buttery olive crisp with a crème fraîche filling, and a thin a crisp potato and squid ink cracker topped with a strip of smoked eel.





 
Next up was a small salad of fresh tomatoes (last of the season), clear tomato jelly and a vodka-lemon granita. I wasn't too keen on this salad, the granita had a very strong, unpleasant alcoholic flavour, that was fighting the tomato flavours. More convincing was the next amuse bouche of oyster with a hazelnut crumble, shaved fresh hazelnut and a hint of lemon. The oyster was nice and salty and combined well with the toasty and sweet hazelnut crumble.


 

The first course of the Gourmand Menu was called Cockles "au vin". Tender and juicy cockles and finely chopped shallots were served in a foamy and vinegary "au vin" sauce. A lovely and imaginative dish with exciting flavours.


 

Second course was raw Brittany lobster, cooked a la minute in a hot lobster and fennel consommé, and served with shredded algae, tobiko roe and strips of celery. The a la minute cooking had made the lobster wonderfully succulent and the consommé was elegantly flavoured. Nice crunch and flavour from the tobiko roe and the celery.


This was followed by well-cooked red mullet, covered with a thin veil of Lardo di Colonnata, and complemented by a spicy red pepper sauce and some puffed rice crumble. Best of all was a red mullet sauce, for which the mullet's liver (à la Becasse) had been used, resulting in a great depth of flavour and the liver gave the sauce a lovely, velvety touch. An absolutely sublime and delicately balanced dish of red rice risotto, shredded andive and red mullet tartare, was served on the side. The risotto, flavoured with mascarpone, Parmesan cheese and mustard, was seductively creamy, but with just the right touch of acidity. An exquisite dish with spot-on flavours.


 

Before the main course we were served a refreshing palate cleanser of blackberry sorbet accompanied by a teaspoon with apple balsamic vinegar and a drop of black pepper oil.

The main course was beautifully cooked, moist and succulent rack of veal, served with a pitch-black squid ink sauce, a veal jus reduction, and onion filled with soft potato and topped with white chocolate and a piment d'espelette foam. Perhaps not the most obvious gathering of ingredients, but the flavours worked and the quality of the veal was superb.



Fifth course was a tart built up of thin layers of beetroot and Tête de Moine garnished with tarragon, around which a delicate chicken consommé was poured. The Tête de Moine married well with the beetroot, but the flavours of the consommé were nondescript.


Dessert was comprised of three dishes. The first one was an avocado espuma, served with a banana crème, a white chocolate disc and some puffed rice. A lovely combination of creamy, grassy flavours, the white chocolate adding a nice touch of luxury. Then there was a charred pear and almond raviolo served with a beer sorbet. A interesting take on the pear-almond flavour combination, the distinctive beer sorbet being an original touch. Last in line was dramatic and fun dessert of chocolate cake, caramel crisp, and caramel ice cream, all coloured black with bamboo charcoal.


 






With our coffees we were served some delicious lime-flavoured madeleines, liquorice mints, and a homemade chocolate bar.

When you enter the restaurant, the modern, dark decor instantly gives away that Akrame is not your typical Parisian Michelin-starred restaurant and this lunch was anything but ordinary. Akrame Benallal uses top notch ingredients to inform his innovative and idiosyncratic style of cooking and I enjoyed his playful and provocative cuisine with sometimes remarkable flavour combinations. The Menu Gourmand provided a medley of dishes that were attractive and interesting, and both the red mullet and veal were truly excellent. However, even though this certainly was an expressive and enjoyable meal, I ultimately did find a certain measure of style over substance.


Posted 29-01-2015




 
 
 
 

 
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