The charming and historic late-18th-century Passage des Panoramas in Paris’s second arrondissement has become a restaurant row of ever-rising quality. It is home to the Michelin-two-star Passage 53 as well as such popular and worthy restaurants as Canard & Champagne, Coinstot Vino, Racines, Caffè Stern (Italian) and Noglu (gourmet gluten-free), and quality fast-food places like Gyoza Bar (Japanese dumplings) and Clasico Argentino (empanadas). Last week, I tried out another promising eatery in the passage, Astair (owned by the same team as Canard & Champagne), and wasn’t disappointed.
Sensitive souls may be disturbed by the hunting trophies on the walls (a zebra and what looks like an eland), but Astair’s decor, by designer Tristan Auer, is otherwise very pleasing, with circular ceiling lights echoing the round bar below, comfy-looking red stools, a golden curved wall and red banquettes.
We took advantage of the €25 set lunch menu (à la carte prices can get a bit steep), with two choices for each course.
My friend had the creamy parsnip soup topped with crispy and delicious grilled slices of the selfsame vegetable.
I had the wonderful pork rillettes, with far more flavor and far less fat than is usually found in this dish of shredded meat slow-cooked in fat.
My American friend, who said he had never met a sausage he didn’t like, nevertheless had a hard time appreciating his main course of saucisse de Morteau, which comes from the Doubs Department in eastern France. Smoked with conifer and juniper sawdust, it has its own appellation. I tasted a chunk of it and thought it was perfect: juicy, with a nice smoky flavor, and not at all greasy. It was served with creamy mashed potatoes. I wonder if it’s a question of acquired taste. If so, it’s worth acquiring for a sausage of this quality.
My main course was a lovely piece of colin (pollock), perfectly cooked, served on a bed of refined sweet-potato purée with a swirl of bright green, top-quality olive oil stirred in. Simple, good and satisfying.
We shared a dessert of chestnut mousse with lots of fine whipped cream, topped with chocolate cookie crumbs. A good end to a good meal.
The service at Astair was friendly and professional, and the à la carte menu in this new-style brasserie offers a wide variety of choices, from oysters and foie gras to grilled meats and traditional dishes like blanquette de veau.
With the panorama of choices available in the passage, you could easily eat there every day, rotating restaurants and never growing bored.