Sous-chef in action at Alliance.
There were no hints of the delights to come when we entered the restaurant Alliance in the fifth arrondissement, but it was a good sign that the kitchen was fully visible through a rectangular window that stretched across the entire back wall. Chef Toshitaka Omiya and his sous-chef appeared to be laboring away in a fish tank.
Otherwise, the restaurant, with its minimalist decor, had a bourgeois feel with its white linen tablecloths and wall-to-wall carpeting, an impression enhanced by the attentive, courteous greeting offered by three servers, more than usual for a small Paris restaurant seating about 30.
Alliance is not cheap, but it is well worth spoiling yourself at lunchtime with the €39 seasonal tasting menu. The dishes are a surprise, but any food allergies or aversions are carefully catered to, as we quickly learned. Chloe, the friend I went with, is allergic to wheat and was served special dishes whenever there was a whiff of wheat in the food. She didn’t even have to skip the bread, since the restaurant was stocked with a delicious gluten-free loaf from the Eric Kayser bakery. I did feel bad, however, that she was missing out on the incredibly tasty warm focaccia with olive oil and lemon.
I found our amuse-bouches – a rye crisp on dehydrated nori and a tiny but perfect brioche – rather uninspired (Chloe was given little
treats involving fish eggs and radishes), but everything became far more interesting with the first course, a reconstructed sea urchin with its astringent flavor tempered by a creamy filling studded with bits of sea-urchin
flesh and salicornia, and topped with foam flavored with Campari and grapefruit. The shell sat atop some pretty edible ice-plant leaves, crunchy and refreshing.
The fish course was perfectly cooked scallops beautifully presented with three types of cauliflower – normal, green and purple –
and a turmeric foam. Again, a wonderfully balanced and unusual combination of ingredients.
The meat course, morsels of tender lamb
served with toothsome coco de Paimpol beans and a confit of red peppers, was another triumph.
Next came a classy touch: a palate cleanser
consisting of a tablet of lemon- and thyme-flavored ice. It was followed by a stunningly good pre-dessert (I’m getting used to that concept now; why have only one dessert?): vanilla cream sprinkled with dried olive pieces
that added a nice salty touch (the chef here is something of a genius when it comes to salt, adding just the right amount in the right place at the right time).
The main dessert kept up the high standards with rich Dominican chocolate cream topped with Madagascar vanilla ice cream and coffee-flavored custard sauce. In between the
layers was a nougatine and chocolate cookie called an arlette. Bliss. That was followed by a few more bite-sized sweets, with, once again,
special ones for Chloe, including matcha-flavored meringue sticks.
All the products here are carefully sourced, and the charming and ebullient maître d’hôtel, Shawn Joyeux, explains them all carefully when they arrive at the table. The alliance referred to in the restaurant’s name is that between Omiya and Joyeux, who met while working together at Michelin-starred L’Agapé, where Omiya was the chef, and decided to team up and open their own restaurant.
The alliance seems to be a happy one, and it certainly made two customers happy last week when we lunched there. Chloe and I both felt like we were floating on the voluptuous clouds over the Seine when we walked out of the restaurant.
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