Cuistance was on a truffle binge when I dined there the other night with Paris Update’s former restaurant reviewer Richard Hesse. We were celebrating his birthday, so it seemed appropriate that there was something special on the menu.
This recently opened restaurant, whose name is French slang for “kitchen,” is located near the Forum des Halles (whose new roof structure is now going up). It offers “small plates,” a big trend these days, and one that I greatly appreciate, since it offers a chance to try many different dishes during a single meal. The interior is simple and pretty, with exposed-stone walls, white tiles, chesterfield-style leather banquettes and amusing spiky light fixtures. The servers, two smiley young men, were more than eager to please.
Luckily, we both like – and sometimes love, depending on how they are prepared – truffles. And, as usual, we split each dish. We started with the “crousti de crabe royale,” delicious
nems made with crab. Crispy and super-fresh, they were perfectly complemented by a sweet-and-sour sauce and a little salad of raw julienned vegetables. The other starter was an
absolutely divine combination of burrata, grated truffles, nameko mushrooms, hazelnuts, pinenuts, crunchy croutons and truffle oil. This was a dish to dream about.
The next two courses were far less successful. We had broken one of my golden rules: never order pasta in a French restaurant (because they do not seem to be able to cook it properly). The tagliatelle with ceps was seriously overcooked and rather
bland. The truffles appeared this time in thin slices on top of the pasta but were not well integrated into the dish the way the truffles in the burrata dish were. The earthy ceps provided the only welcome touch of flavor. The other pasta dish was ravioli filled with beef
cheeks and topped with more sliced truffles and arugula. The truffled sauce was lovely, and it was better than the tagliatelle, but we were not terribly impressed.
The chef – Henri Serge Manga, who has worked at, among other restaurants, the three-star Fat Duck in Britain – redeemed himself fully with the next two dishes. The succulent beef fillet was cooked to a rare turn
and served with foie gras, caramelized onions, a rich, dark gravy and panisse (deep-fried chickpea-flour sticks). Stunning. The squid was equally good in a different way, cooked with
spätzle in squid ink, baby spinach, lime butter and crispy celery. A perfect blend of flavors and melting textures.
The good-news, bad-news desserts were a luscious serving of eggy French toast with
truffles, and a very dry chocolate tart. The latter was saved by the fact that it came with
surprisingly delicious truffle ice cream.
No complaints about the wine: we started with a glass of Quincy and then had a pleasing bottle of “Les Graves” Chinon from Domaine Fabrice Gasnier.
The young maître d’hôtel graciously removed the chocolate tart from the bill when the waiter told him that we had not enjoyed it. By that time, the restaurant had filled up with young people, who all seemed to be enjoying their meal and having a good time.
The several excellent dishes we had at Cuistance more than made up for a couple of letdowns, and I will be happy to return.
After dinner we went around the corner to Spring to say hello to chef/owner Daniel Rose, who showed us his just-published cookbook, entitled simply Spring and charmingly illustrated with his own drawings. More on that at a later date.Favorite