The invasion of foreign chefs continues in Paris. Not only is chef Hannah Kowalenko at the new restaurant Ellsworth a Canadian, but she is just 22 years old, which makes the quality of the lunch we had there the other day even more impressive.
Ellsworth (named after a grandfather of one of the owners), near the Palais Royal, is an offshoot of the nearby Verjus, owned by the American couple Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian, who have already proven their mettle, but the new place feels more casual than the restaurant of Verjus, which also has a popular wine bar downstairs. Ellsworth is a long, narrow place, bright, clean and welcoming, with stone walls and marble tables.
The lunch menu here is a real deal, at €18 for two courses and €24 for three (the prices for dinner are quite reasonable as well). It was difficult to decide among the three choices for each course since they all sounded so appetizing. In the end, I opted for the foie gras ganache with hazelnuts, apple gastrique
(an apple-infused vinegar and sugar reduction), mesclun and croutons, a perfect balance of creamy, acidic and crunchy, complemented by the bright flavors of the fresh herbs in the salad. Pierre ordered the mackerel with harissa, labneh (strained yogurt),
marinated artichokes and herb oil with capers, another excellent, fine-tuned combination of flavors, with none overwhelming the others.
After that we had high expectations for the second course, and we weren’t disappointed. The buttermilk-fried chicken, served with a
light, fresh (sans mayonnaise) coleslaw, was a smashing success, with its crispy, almost tempura-like crust – without a trace of oiliness – and tender, juicy chicken. I was surprised to discovered that the braised lamb I had ordered
was really a parmentier, with a layer of ground meat in its sauce topped with light whey-
whipped potatoes and fresh peas. The more I ate, the more it grew on me.
The real highlight for me, however, were the amazing apple fritters I had for dessert, served piping hot and crusted with sugar and a hint of
cinnamon (once again, no excess oil), with a dipping sauce of dulce de leche with Maldon salt. Sublime. Pierre had a big hunk of
Chaource cheese with a lovely apple-honey compote.
The servings were more than generous, and the service was amiably provided by a young man and woman. My meal was accompanied by an extra-fine glass of 2014 Beaujolais Village from France Gonzalvez.
I have only one negative thing to say about Ellsworth: it is far too noisy. Shortly after we arrived, the place was nearly empty, but our ears were ringing from the loud chatter of two young American women whose voices seemed to be amplified as they bounced off the restaurant’s hard surfaces. When I asked them to keep it down, they were offended, but to their credit, they did lower the tone during the rest of the meal. This is a big drawback that will make me think twice about going back to this otherwise highly appealing restaurant, which has the added advantage of being open seven days a week.
Reader John Deamer writes: “Bless you for pointing out the atrocious acoustics in Ellsworth. Nothing destroys a lovely meal faster than a loud dining room. We have such a plague here in San Francisco. And those two American women you mentioned? They must be flying back and forth between Paris and San Francisco. I often find them around here! Keep producing the good journalism.”
Reader Meredith Mullins writes: “I have to agree with everything you said about Ellsworth. I love the fried chicken (especially that great cole slaw and the shaved brussel sprouts as a starter). The first time I went in for lunch, there was just one other table besides me. A young Paris-based American girl was entertaining some visitors. Her voice carried all over the restaurant. Bad acoustics and, I’m afraid, the American trait of being good at voice projection. I really didn’t want to know her entire life story, but it was meant to be.