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Passage 53 in Paris - 2 Michelin stars

Rating: 93.
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When Japanese chef and Astrance alumnus Shinichi Sato and Guillaume Guedj, a member of the famous Paris butcher family Desnoyer, had opened Passage 53 in 2009, Michelin was quick to award a first star (in the next, 2010 guide for France) and the following year the restaurant was awarded a second star. Passage 53 is a tiny restaurant located in Paris' famous Passage des Panoramas which opened in 1800 and is the oldest in the city.

Passage 53 also houses a listed historic spiral staircase, via which the food is brought down to the restaurant from the upstairs kitchen. Only one person can use it at a time, because the staircase is very narrow.
Apart from Astrance, where he worked for 2 years, chef Shinichi Sato, also did stints at Mugaritz in Spain and Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.

(courtesy of Relais & Châteaux)

Passage 53 is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. There's a multi-course menu at lunch for €60 and a larger version at dinner for €140. I had dinner with my husband at Passage 53 on Tuesday 14 October 2014.

First to arrive was a pumpkin velouté that was lightly seasoned with cinnamon and topped with a Café au lait foam (no photograph). A lovely combination: first you get the creaminess fromt the velouté, which is then followed by the light coffe bitters from the foam.

Next up were thinly sliced scallops, served with a kombu cream, a kombu jelly, covered with ultra-thin slices of radish and finished with finger lime and a sprinkling of cress. A beautifully balanced dish with a wonderful, long aftertaste. Well-judged use of kombu, the kombu jelly having lovely, clean flavours and the cream added some warmth. Great texture and freshness from the radish and both the radish and the cress delivered a nice peppery contrast.

Then there was scored squid served with cauliflower puree. The squid was lovely and tender and had a light caramelisation on it. The creamy cauliflower puree had a lovely touch of nuttiness and struck the perfect balance between elegance and comfort. Perched on top of the squid was some freshly shaved cauliflower for extra texture and freshness.

Another dish with scallops followed. This time they were lightly grilled and successfully paired with sliced raw ceps, small and large pieces of fried cep, chopped chestnuts and a deliciously creamy cep sauce. A terrific combination of earthy, rich flavours, balanced out nicely by some chopped flat-leaf parsley. Loved the different flavour intensities of the ceps. The chopped fried ceps were nice and buttery, the larger pieces more light and juicy; there were lovely fresh, almost almond-like flavours from the fresh ceps and the sauce had wonderful earthy-sweet notes.

The next course was a beautifully caramelised, roasted sweet onion with thinly sliced spicy chorizo placed between the onion layers. This dish was an exercise in the art art of turning a humble ingredient such as an onion into something marvellous; the chorizo delivered a nice spicy contrast to the sweetness of the onion.

Even better were the next two courses. First up was a sublime, aromatic dish of superbly cooked Bresse chicken, served with girolle mushrooms, a Parmesan cream and Roscoff onion ravioli. Wonderful fruity and nutty flavours from the girolle mushrooms and the the Parmesan cream gave the dish a nice salty finish. Equally good was the next dish of tender hare filet, accompanied by a small hare stew pie, quince puree and dark hare sauce flavoured with chocolate. A superb dish that managed to deliver all the characteristic deep and gamey hare flavours, the hare stew being particularly divine.

Time for dessert. The first dessert was white grape sorbet served with a light meringue disc, skinned white grapes, a lime foam, and some freshly grated lime zest. A refreshing dessert with a wonderful balance between freshness and sharpness. Last to arrive was a trio of desserts. There was soft pear and ice cream with rice pudding (no photograph), a chocolate tart (no photograph) and vanilla ice cream with a coffee creme brulee and fresh and sugared walnuts. Three excellent and pleasing desserts.

Passage 53 is well-known for sourcing their produce from famous Paris producers, such as Joël Thiébault for vegetables and obviously Hugo Desnoyer for meat. With this immaculate produce Shinichi Sato puts together intelligent creations that stand out through their intrinsic simplicity, focus, perfect execution, and pleasant touch of complexity. The flavours are clean and precise but occasionally there is some textural indulgence too. The friendly and knowledgeable service, combined with the very intimate dining room (just 20 covers) made for a memorable experience.

Posted 29-11-2014


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