Hidden away in the far reaches of the 18th arrondissement is a new restaurant, Etsi, that Parisians from all over are already seeking out. When we went there for lunch on the first truly springlike day of the season, the sunny terrace was already full, and it was clear that the restaurant was not yet prepared for its newfound celebrity following a flattering article in a French magazine.
There was only one waiter on duty, but he managed to retain his good humor throughout the service, in spite of a full house indoors and out, and even when a jar full of herbs fell off a high shelf onto his head. Luckily we had already eaten by then, since those spilt herbs had made felicitous appearances in our delightful meal.
At lunchtime, only one fixed-price menu is available, at €18 for three courses (the à la carte prices in the evening are equally reasonable), with one offering for first course and dessert, and a choice of meat or fish for the main course.
That day’s starter was a ceviche with mussels, fresh as the spring day and full of tasty bits and pieces: pistachios, pomegranate, cucumber, carrots, fresh coriander and avocado cream.
My main course was fresh églefin (haddock) with almonds, puréed artichokes, cooked celery and spinach, and blood-orange vinaigrette. A happy combination, especially with a dusting of chili flakes on top to give it a little extra kick.
The farmhouse pork rib roast was also beautifully dolled up, in its case with a purée of fava beans, a sprinkling of pistachios (the chef obviously loves to use toasted nuts as an accent, which is just about always fine with me) and capers.
Dessert came on a pretty handmade plate with swirls of pale blue and white. Its three ingredients – plain chocolate cake, banana and lime ice cream (with almost no sweetness to it), and morello cherry sauce – were not very interesting separately but really exploded when eaten all together.
The young chef, Mikaëla Liaroutsos, is half Greek and half French, and has worked in the kitchens of Cyril Lignac and Michel Rostang. She brings a homey feel and a Mediterranean touch to her small restaurant with its simple blue and white decor conjuring dreams of a Greek island.
Her friendly face can be seen through the window into the kitchen when you enter, and she is there behind the bar to chat with you as you leave, hoping that you will be able to get back there very soon to taste more of her happy fusions and enjoy the sunny (in both senses of the word) ambiance.