AG Les Halles

Renewed Hope for a Fast-Food Ghetto

November 11, 2015By Heidi EllisonRestaurants

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The dining room at AG Les Halles.

Full disclosure: the friends who took me to the brand-new restaurant AG Les Halles know the chef, so we were treated like visiting royalty right from the welcoming coupe de champagne to the parade of extra treats that showed up on our table between courses.

Alan Geaam, already well known as the chef at Auberge Nicolas Flamel and AG Saint Germain, opened this new place near the Forum des Halles last week in a former disco. It seats 50 and is delightfully decorated with a glass ceiling (an original feature), a monumental Cubist-inspired painting on glass, and such clever elements as the wrought-iron front of an old-fashioned elevator, used here as a room divider. The front room, with its armchairs where customers can have a drink, is separated from the main dining room by a glass-fronted wine case.

And so to the food. With our complimentary

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champagne we were treated to perfect mini-brioches with herbs and a fantastic olive oil, Alexis Muñoz’s 18:1.

Next up were little hazelnut cookies topped with hazelnut mascarpone and an actual hazelnut, prettily served in a box filled with

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unshelled guess-whats (Geaam is a nutty kind of guy: nuts pop up in many of his dishes). They were beautifully made, but a bit bland.

My starter was a refreshing and tasty tartare of

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bass and oyster doctored up with sticks of Granny Smith apple, pistachios, fennel and yuzu, and served in an oyster-shell-shaped white porcelain dish with a little yuzu cream on the side in another white-porcelain dish, this one shaped liked a sea urchin.

One of my companions started with a stir-fry

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of wild mushrooms and chestnuts in a luscious parsleyed sauce with miso zabaglione.

Then came another complimentary treat that

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added an extra touch of joy: foie gras ravioli with squash, pieces of grapefruit and ground peanuts, in a delightful rich, foamy sauce.

After all those delicious detours, we finally got to the main courses. I simply loved my suckling

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pig served pot au feu style, with a broth to beat all broths in terms of deep flavor and pure goodness. Of the other two main courses, I

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found the chicken with cabbage, carrots and roast juices the least exciting, while the pavé chevillard (the butcher’s pick of the best cut of

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beef) with deep-fried bone marrow, parsnips and grelots (new potatoes) was a big hit with the other friend.

The desserts were fully up to the standards of what had come before. The “no cheese cake,” as its name suggests, looked like a cheesecake but

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contained no cheese. Made with agar (a seaweed extract), lemon and yuzu, it tasted more like a lemon tart. The savarin, drenched in alcohol like a baba, was excellent, but it was the chocolate dessert that drove me mad with desire and had me compulsively spooning it up from my friend’s plate.

The new Forum des Halles is nowhere near finished, but it is encouraging to see fine new restaurants already opening in the neighborhood. Together with the excellent Pirouette a couple of doors away (which my in-the-know friends told me will soon have a new chef), AG Les Halles forms a small enclave of gastronomic excellence in what was until recently a grim corner of Paris, spoiled by the last wave of urban renewal in the 1960s. Let us pray for the continuation of this revival in the direction of high quality.

 

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