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Neige d'Ete in Paris - 1 Michelin star

Rating: 88.
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Pages, Neige d'Été and Nakatani: these are three of the seven new one-star restaurants in Paris, all are run by Japanese chefs, and all three are serving modern French/neo-bistro cuisine. Apart from the Michelin star these restaurants also have a minimalist, mainly white decor in common, with tablecloths by the way (are they making a comeback?!). Neige d'Été, meaning 'summer snow', opened in 2014 and head chef is Hideki Nishi, who previously worked for a number of years in the kitchens at George V (Le Cinq) in Paris.

Neige d'Été is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday. At lunchtime the restaurant offers a 4-course lunch menu for €45 and at dinner there are two multi-course menus on offer: 5 courses for €80 or 6 courses for €130. I had dinner with my husband at Neige d'Été on Saturday 23 April 2016 and we both had the 6-course menu and an extra cheese course (priced at €12).

To start there was a nice and creamy foie gras terrine and pain d'épices sandwich; this was shortly after followed by tender pan-fried abalone with sea grapes and shiso, served with an elegant shellfish stock. Arriving at the same time was a deep-fried olive and some flavoursome and tender deep-fried octopus. Four relatively simple appetisers, but nonetheless a pleasant start of the evening.

First course of tonight's menu was a good looking dish of langoustine carpaccio topped with a salad of shaved white asparagus, diced Granny Smith apple, shredded pink radish, and a tiny bit of caviar hidden in the middle. Right before serving the asparagus are flame-torched, which creates a nice colour and flavour effect. The fresh and crisp flavours of the asparagus combined well with the sweetness of the langoustine, and I liked the extra crunch of the green apple.

Next up was "Cromesquis d'Huître (battered, deep-fried oyster), served with green asparagus (whole and puree), white aspargus tops, broad beans, little pieces of fried chorizo, oyster leaf, and a sprinkling of "poudre de Bottarga", the latter adding colour, flavour and texture. Lovely asparagus, particularly the green, but I also loved the subtle sweetness of the white. A well-executed dish with pleasing flavours.

Third course was turbot accompanied by pasta with a razor clam, squid and clam ragout, topped with a creamy and foamy sauce Americaine. Hidden underneath the turbot were fresh peas and some finely chopped red chilli. A pleasing dish with safe but comforting flavours and well-cooked turbot, if not the thickest of cuts. 

Fourth course was Brittany blue lobster, cooked over charcoal, and simply served with a drizzle of lobster jus and grilled fennel. A lovely dish, the lobster having nice smoky flavours and aromas, and the aniseedy fennel was a good match for the lobster.

Then there was some perfectly cooked Simmental Beef (aged for 3 weeks), served with a pungent but not spicy red chilli puree, mushrooms, confit potato, and some truffle potato mash on the side. The cooking process of the beef (as was explained to me), is as follows: first the beef is briefly cooked over Japenese charcoal (Binchōtan), then placed in the oven for some gentle heating, then back on the grill, and back in the oven again, right before it's served. The end result is a juicy piece of beef with all the lovely characteristic notes from the charcoal and a succulent texture from the temperature controlled heating in the oven. A very satisfying combination of flavours, the well-seasoned beef offset nicely by the fresh and almost grassy red chili puree. However, I was slightly let down by the potato mash, which good but not great, and I believe the dish could have done without it. 

On to the cheese course. The cheese board at Neige d'Été features cheeses from the highly regarded Parisian cheesemonger Laurent Dubois. Dubois is a Meuilleur Ouvrier de France (commonly referred to as "MOF"), the ultimate accolade a craftsman can get in France. 

Pre-dessert was Gariguette strawberry compote, topped with a basil parfait, a thin sugar disc, and strawberry sorbet, and garnished with a thin chocolate ring. A delightful pre-dessert with elegant, sweet flavours, and the basil added a lovely, almost cinnamon-like touch.

Dessert and final course was a crisp tartlet lined with a delicious layer of salted caramel and filled with a smooth milk chocolate crème. On top of the tartlet was a quenelle of vanilla ice cream, some caramelised hazelnuts and chocolate curls. A perfectly executed dessert, the tartlet having a totally even thickness, and the filling, with its silky texture, was simply wonderful. 

Hideki Nishi is a talented and skilled chef who puts much care into sourcing great ingredients, which he uses confidently in his subtle dishes. I will say this however: the food could do with a bit more heart and soul and a bit more complexity and finesse. It was fine, but it was neither strikingly simple nor particularly imaginative. Perhaps this style of cooking is just not for me. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable, but the pricing of tonight's 6-course menu seemed steep, especially when compared to the other restaurants in the new generation of neo-bistros in Paris. The extra course was the lobster and the main course of the 6-course menu was the Simmental beef (instead of pigeon or pork). The lobster and beef added more than 60% to the price of the menu. Quibbles aside, I did have a pleasant evening at Neige d'Éte.

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Posted 08-06-2016


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