The slowly gentrifying Avenue Parmentier in Paris’s 11th arrondissement has a new restaurant, Achi, that will certainly speed up the process, in the best sense.
The kitchen is manned by yet another convert from the business world – computer scientist-turned-chef Sacha Ouss – and womaned by his assistant, Charlotte Drouhin, who used to work at the now-closed restaurant Tannat, also located on Avenue Parmentier.
I liked Achi right off the bat because of the friendly servers and the spacious interior, with a high ceiling and a big skylight creating a pleasant airy feel. Music was playing, but at just the right volume, loud enough to be heard but not loud enough to annoy.
We studied the menu for some time before making our choices and pretty much sharing everything. The four starters sounded more interesting than the three main courses, but there were four of us, and we ended up tasting almost all of them, except for the vegetarian main course of aioli, soft-boiled egg and seasonal vegetables, which didn’t sound very exciting or worth €22, although, judging by what we did have, it was probably very good as well.
We even ended up tasting two of the three snack dishes listed at the bottom of the menu, both of which we loved: burrata with crispy, garlicky puffed quinoa and chives, super-fresh radishes with herb butter.
The accras made with merlu (hake) and served with tzatziki were a tasty, sophisticated version of the Caribbean fish fritters, softer and less chewy.
A refreshing, colorful and creative salad consisted of summer squash with ricotta, fig leaf, fermented cherries and samphire.
The beef tartare was combined with the flesh of raw razor clams, a surprising combination that I found quite delicious, even though the flavors blended rather than standing out distinctly from each other.
The fish course, hake wrapped up in seaweed and served with wonderful fresh peas and snow peas and a citrusy sauce was delightful.
Another hit was the juicy paleron de bœuf (chuck steak) served with a mix of raw and wonderfully crispy fried mushrooms, a thick gravy and what seemed to be home-made grain mustard, the only thing none of us appreciated: it was too vinegary and not mustardy enough.
The two desserts we shared were also winners, especially the original dish of strawberries and rhubarb with elderflower-flavored crushed ice. The more traditional almond tart with red berries and cream was also a pleasure.
The day after eating there, I was telling a friend how much I liked Achi and idly wondered where its odd name had come from. Clever Cathy said, “I know! Hachis Parmentier.” Duh! Of course! The French version of shepherd’s pie wasn’t on the menu, but Achi was on the right street. I won’t be forgetting its name soon.Favorite