Automne is a long, narrow, nondescript little French restaurant in the 11th arrondissement with pale-green walls, wooden tables and an open kitchen in the back, where self-taught chef Nobuyuki Akishige labors away (the restaurant’s full name is “Restaurant Automne par Nobuyuki Akishige”; no comment). The place makes up for its lack of decor with some serious triumphs from the kitchen.
The lunch menu, with three courses for €25, offers two choices for each. The smoked herring with potatoes and fines herbes was a classic version of a classic starter and didn’t involve any cooking to show off the chef’s talents but was made with top-quality ingredients.
The tasty sanglier (boar) croquettes, however, did show off his expertise, especially paired as they were with a creamy mushroom sauce and mustard greens. It was a dish full of the autumnal flavors one might expect from the name of the restaurant—even though we were in the dead of winter—plus a surprise ingredient: a few candied hazelnuts.
Then came the dish that dazzled us both: grilled pintade (guinea fowl) with endives. Wow! The skin so crispy, the meat so, so tender, with a few capers here and there adding just the right spark of intense flavor. The caramelized endives that came with it were also painfully good. It was a generous dish, and though hunger was gone, I finished every bit.
We were expecting more great things from dessert, but, alas, it was a big disappointment. The brownie-like chocolate cake was refrigerator-cold, effectively killing the flavor, and was served with fruits that couldn’t have been more unseasonal (shouldn’t a restaurant named after a season try to stick to seasonal food?) and tasteless – strawberries and raspberries.
We drank an excellent organic Côtes de Gascogne called Cubik from Domaine Seailles, with far more body than the natural wine we had the previous week at GAG.
The uninspired dessert was something of a shock after the great finesse of what came before it, but I choose to take it as an anomaly and can’t wait to go back and taste that pintade again. And I won’t wait until the seasons turn.Favorite