A mystery surrounds the new Paris restaurant Circonstances: why, with its excellent food and appealing decor, was it nearly empty at lunchtime the other day? Possible explanations: it has only been open for three months and hasn’t really been “discovered” yet, or perhaps confusion was caused by a name change, from Caractères to Circonstances.
In any case, it is a restaurant to be recommended, especially since it is located in the land of bad chain restaurants near the Grand Rex cinema. The decor is original, with a warm, contemporary look: multi-toned rough-wood paneling complementing black surfaces, a white-painted brick wall, and unusual lighting fixtures.
The same care taken with the interior appointments – were those panels hanging from the ceiling designed to reduce noise levels? – was evident in all the dishes we sampled. We ignored the €20 lunch formula, which includes a main course and a drink, and ordered à la carte. Mushroom-loving Michael had the first big hit:
a seasonal dish of succulent, earthy ceps with mini-penne in meat juice. Myra and I enjoyed a starter of crushed tomatoes with smoky sliced
beef in a pretty green sauce made with riquette (wild arugula), topped with a thin slice of parmesan cheese, while Vadinho found his fusion dish of shrimp ravioli with mint and coriander and an emulsion of Thai coconut curry to be light and refreshing. Nine-year-old Alice made a whole meal of the starter of warm potato salad with beef.
The main courses were even better. Once again, Michael chose the dish deemed to be the most sublime: the estouffade (stew) of lamb with baby vegetables cooked a la plancha and
seasoned with lemon thyme. The meltingly tender lamb was bathed in a highly flavorful sauce, and the vegetables were cooked to perfection.
I had the tender, nicely fatted suckling pig,
which came with a soothing and delicious compote of eggplant and tomatoes. Vadinho’s brandade, instead of being served in a casserole dish, came heaped on the plate with a big pile of baby-spinach salad. A Brazilian who knows his bacalhau, he approved of this mix of
buttery mashed potatoes and salt cod (it was rather salty, but that seems to be par for the course for brandade). Meanwhile, Myra had
taken a lighter route by ordering the nicely cooked supions (cuttlefish) and stir-fried vegetables. She loved it.
We shared three desserts, all of which came in generous servings: the very fine dark-chocolate mousse, a divine chocolate “gratin” (more like a soft-centered chocolate cake) deliciously
paired with raspberries, and a nice tart made with the last apricots of the season. Alice proclaimed the chocolate gratin to be the best, but I had a weakness for that mousse.
Not a single false note marred the meal. I’ll definitely go back and hope that the rest of the world will follow suit.