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Garance in Paris

Rating: 87.
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In 2012 l'Arpège alumni Guillaume Iskandar (chef) and Guillaume Muller (sommerlier/restaurant manager) opened Garance, a two-story restaurant in Paris' 7th arrondissement. On the ground floor there is a 4-seat kitchen counter and upstairs there is a small modern dining room and bar, which seats around 14 people.

Garance is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday. At lunch the restaurant offers two multi-course lunch menus for €39 and €68 and at dinner you can choose between the a la carte menu (starters €20 - €26, mains €38 - €41, desserts €10) and a 5-course menu for €68. I had dinner with my husband at Garance on Monday 13 October 2014 and we both ordered the 5-course menu.

First to arrive was some mozarella brioche, accompanied by a creamy and intense celeriac puree. Shortly after we were served an amuse bouche of velvety pumpkin soup, flavoured with ginger and served with a dollop of Faisselle (a creamy Fromage Blanc-like cheese). A lovely soup, the ginger adding a nice touch of fruity sharpness.

The first course of the menu was lobster in a clear tomato broth, spiked with a few drops of chilli oil, served with fresh, raw tomatoes, mange tout, Mexican cucumbers, sliced raw celery, red currants and finely chopped basil. The lobster was nice and succulent and combined well with the mildly sweet tomato broth, that had a lovely touch of sharpness and some heat in the aftertaste. An attractively presented dish but overall there were too many raw textures.

Second course was Sardinian fregola served with thinly sliced raw mushrooms, fried girolle mushrooms, soft red onions, a few spoonfuls of Parmesan cream and a burned hay sauce/oil. Nice and creamy fregola, elegantly seasoned with garlic, and well-paired with the earthy and nutty mushrooms. The hay sauce was flavoursome and had a nice hint of smokiness. A satisfying dish with nice and comforting flavours.

This was followed by turbot served in a concentrated beef broth, served with with kale, artichoke, spring onion and broccolini, and accompanied by a delicious white bean, horseradish and sliced shallot salad. Both the salty beef broth and the mildly bitter vegetables complemented the turbot nicely. The beef broth had been seasoned with mint leaves, which delivered a nice touch of freshness.

The fourth course was beautifully cooked, pink veal, served with an aubergine puree, some warm mozarella cheese sprinkled with toasted buckwheat, grapes, and a mildly sweet and sour jus. Also on the plate were some grilled cherry tomatoes, yellow pepper and fennel. The veal was deliciously succulent and had a lovely touch of smokiness; I liked the hearty creaminess of the mozarella.

Dessert was comprised of fresh strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, served with a powerful and clean-tasting blackcurrant sorbet, a piece of cake, crunchy caramelised black olives and some Fromage Blanc sprinkled with Mukhwas (a fragrant and colourful mixture of seeds to help the digestive system). A dessert with interesting but challenging flavours. The level of acidity was quite high, this was balanced to some extent by the Fromage Blanc, but in the end there was a lack of refinement and comfort.

This dinner was a good meal but not a flawless meal. Both the lobster and the dessert missed the mark and some of the other dishes, however hearty, could do with a bit of fine tuning and finesse. The restaurant's website flaunts both Guillaumes' work experience at l'Arpège, and all the food is served on l'Arpège's iconic red-rimmed plates, but this is were the similarity ends. All the same, all the dishes were well-cooked and I liked the build up in the menu and the choice of ingredients, which demonstrates there's skill and talent in the kitchen. Garance is an energetic restaurant with ambition, but for the time being it is still a work in progress.

Posted 07-01-2015


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