After hearing a horror story about all the good restaurants in Paris being fully booked for the weeks following their reopening on May 19, I whipped out my list of wanna-try restaurants and prepared myself mentally for a frustrating hour or two of seeking a reservation. Miracle! The first place I called said, “Sure!” as if it were no big deal to get a table after almost six months of privation.
The restaurant, in the 9th arrondissement, is called simply Cuisine. I can’t tell you much about the small interior since it had been stripped of its furniture, dining being allowed only on outdoor terraces until June 9 (for future reference, the interior is soundproofed). We lucked out: it had been a chilly, rainy week, but it was fairly warm that evening and nary a drop fell on us.
I had reserved for the ungodly hour of 6:30 pm since we still have a 9 pm curfew (it will move to 11 pm on June 9), but we had become used to strange hours during lockdown. I went with the same friend who had shared a wonderful last meal with me at Chez Michel the day before Paris restaurants were forced to close at the end of last October.
Cuisine has a few tables on the sidewalk and one of those jerry-built rough-wood temporary terraces now seen all over Paris; they are being allowed by the city for a time to help restaurants get back on their feet.
Reading the fusion-y menu was extremely exciting after mainly dining on homemade pasta and omelets for such a long time. My friend and I didn’t even know what several of the ingredients on the short menu (six starters, two main courses and a couple of desserts) were, but all the dishes sounded fabulous when the waiter explained them to us.
As starters, we opted for “xiu-mai au pork, crevettes, ail des ours, œufs de salmon” and “demi-pigeon de Normandie façon karaage, poivre de Sichaun.”
Xiu-mai, according to the Web, can be Vietnamese pork meatballs in tomato sauce or Chinese pork and shrimp dumplings. They turned out to be two fancy, oversized examples of the latter made, as promised, with pork, shrimp, wild garlic and salmon roe. Not as exotic as what we had expected, but beautifully presented and made with great ingredients. They might have benefited from an appropriate sauce.
The server explained that “karaage” is a Japanese cooking technique in which meat is marinated then deep-fried. The half-pigeon (Americans call it squab) cooked this way was sumptuous, with a crunchy crust and luscious, flavorful deep-pink meat in a very generous serving. The Sichuan pepper gave it just the right touch of heat.
Unusually, I found the main courses to be more interesting than the starters in spite of the latter’s more intriguing descriptions on the menu.
I had the exceedingly tender and tasty smoked, breaded and fried lamb chops, which came with delicious crispy fried potatoes, even better when dipped into the white sauce with chives, and ratatouille, once again in a very generous serving.
My friend had the other main course, barbue (brill) with a very fine risotto with green asparagus and samphire. The fish was smothered in beurre blanc flavored with yuzu-kosho (a Japanese condiment made with chili peppere, yuzu and salt). He loved it.
The mixed influences on the menu can be explained by Cuisine’s ownership by two alumni of favorite Paris restaurants: Benoit Simon, formerly of Chateaubriand, and Takao Inazawa, who once worked at Verre Volé. The wine list also showed some unusual influences, with a number of bottles from the Jura and Alsace regions. We really enjoyed the 2018 organic, sulfite-free Côtes du Jura from Domaine Morel, made with Pinot Noir grapes from 40-year-old vines.
The dessert we shared was even more Japan-inflected than the other dishes: a white chocolate and matcha fondant with mochi, strawberries and azuki (bean) paste. My friend took to it wholeheartedly, and while I appreciated its quality, matcha is an acquired taste I have not yet acquired, although I keep trying.
I have, however, acquired a taste for the good cooking with an original twist at Cuisine. I will go back.Favorite