The restaurant inhabiting this location in the Marais seems to change every few years, but one thing remains the same: the plaque noting that mystery writer Georges Simenon, creator of Inspector Maigret, was a regular in one of its previous incarnations. All this to say that I hope the new restaurant in the space, Capitaine, lasts for much longer than its recent predecessors.
Not much has been done to create an exciting new decor. The walls have been painted in shades of greige, and there are a couple of posters, but that’s about it. The brass-topped bar, which I believe was already there, is the only point of interest.
The effort here seems to have gone into the menu rather than the decor. The young chef, Baptiste Day, who most recently worked at Servan but has also passed through the kitchens of Astrance, Arpège and Ambroisie, puts a great deal of work into each dish.
We were there for lunch and had the €29 three-course fixed-price menu (with a rather shocking €16 supplement if you ordered the pigeon). There were no à la carte offerings at lunchtime.
Mary and I loved the first course of surprise starters to be shared. No fewer than five of them arrived on the table: nicely crunchy croquettes of andouille, creamy fennel soup with sesame (in individual servings), mackerel rillettes with toast, cockles with fennel in dashi, and a complex salad with lots of fresh herbs, thin slices of black radish, carrot shavings, and more. Everything was wonderfully fresh and subtly flavored.
The main courses were, as is so often the case, slightly less interesting than the starters, but still very good. The Landes chicken had crispy skin, and the chef had taken the trouble to stuff herbs under it. It was wonderfully accented by a lemon and cardamom chutney and came with lots of tiny potatoes, fresh spinach cooked just right and raw mushroom slices.
I had the merlu (hake), which was lightly breaded and accompanied by garlic-ginger butter, with multicolored carrots.
This meal reminded me a bit of the one I had last week at Empreinte in Lille, but overall, the lunch at Capitaine was better, more complex and flavorful. Both restaurants, however, had spectacular desserts. A rich all-chocolate – cake, mousse and icing – square was so perfectly balanced that even with all that chocolate, it was not the least bit cloying. The flavors were clean and pure.
The other dessert made a perfect accompaniment to it: a cold citrus soup with a crunchy, nutty cookie and an orange sorbet.
Bravo to the chef. A real sweetheart, he seems to take his role as captain of this ship seriously and even asked our opinion of specific dishes. And special mention to another sweetheart, the friendly and highly professional young Belgian waiter.