It’s true that Parisians (myself included) were not taking the call for social distancing during the coronavirus crisis seriously. When my friend Frances and I arrived at Django last Friday night, the place was packed. Revelers were making so much noise around the bar area that I asked that we be moved to a table around the corner in the back room. The next day, it was announced that all bars and restaurants would be shut until further notice to help prevent such proximity among people, so it turned out to be our last hurrah, at least in terms of a good restaurant meal.
Django, in the ninth arrondissement near Pigalle, is named in honor of the great guitarist Django Reinhardt; it is located on Rue Victor Massé, historic home to numerous guitar stores, and itself occupies what used to be a guitar shop. It is another of those restaurants serving small plates that are currently popular with young people. This one claims to make an effort to use fresh, organic, local ingredients. At first glance, the menu wasn’t promising: too many of the standard offerings for this kind of place, among them burrata and ceviche. We went ahead and ordered five different dishes to share among the two of us (our lovely waiter recommended two or three per person) and hoped for the best.
To our surprise, the best was what we got. We started with the burrata, which was wonderfully paired with a slightly sweet jelly made with beets and an endive and walnut salad.
Before we ordered the asparagus, we checked to make sure that it was fresh. It was – super-fresh, in fact, and slightly undercooked, so that it had a nice snap to it. It was served in a refreshing and original way: with diced granny apple, cédrat (citron) and Parmesan.
The ceviche, which came with puréed sweet potato and za’atar, didn’t appeal to me at first, but after letting the flavors develop in the mouth, I began to really appreciate the spices with the fish and the down-to-earth sweet potato, which had seemed like a strange combination at first.
The two hot dishes that came next were just as good if not better. The fry-up of oyster and enoki mushrooms and emulsion of carrots and ginger was an earthy dream.
Even the marinated octopus salad had some interesting additions: kumquats and kale lightly cooked in a red-wine reduction (the too-worthy vegetable was greatly improved by that treatment).
Those five dishes (plus lots of good dark bread) had filled us up, but we ordered one of the two desserts just to try it: chocolate lava cake with crème fraîche and salted-butter caramel. It was the least original of all the dishes we tried, but it was very tasty and perfectly executed.
I went into Django with low expectations and left looking forward to my next visit. That’s the way it should be. Now the question is, when will it be possible to go back?