I have already written about Fulgurances, a restaurant that changes chefs regularly, not because they storm out in a fit of pique as chefs are sometimes wont to do, but because its mission is to act as a springboard for up-and-coming young chefs, giving them a chance to run a kitchen, usually for six months, before going out into the world and perhaps opening their own place.
A side benefit for Fulgurances is that this formula gets customers to come back frequently, both to re-experience the cuisine of a chef they like and to try out a new one. That’s no hardship, since this is an extremely congenial place to eat.
My first and most brilliant meal there so far was made by Tamir Nahmias, an alumnus of Frenchie, who blew us away with his Middle Eastern-influenced cooking. He will soon be opening his own place, Tamir, in Paris. I then sampled the excellent work of British chef Sam Miller, who had only a few days left of a short stint in the kitchen, and then went back to try the cooking of the latest arrival, Céline Pham, who had just started.
Pham has worked with some of Paris’s leading chefs: William Ledeuil at Ze Kitchen Gallery, Sven Chartier at Saturne and Bertrand Grébaut at Septime. We ate there just a few days after she took over, and I had the impression that she was still finding her feet. She looked a bit stressed in the open kitchen right in front of the restaurant, and of the four dishes we tried from the €24 lunch menu, two were amazingly good and two were just good.
First, the most amazingly good: the beef ravioli in a spiced bouillon with ngo gai (culantro, a relative of cilantro) was a virtual trip to Vietnam, far more subtle and fiery than the pho found in most Vietnamese eateries in Paris. I would have happily eaten another bowl of it.
The other starter, “daurade snacké” (flash-cooked sea bream) with carrot juice, was nicely cooked but a bit bland, enlivened only by the tasty baby endives served with it. The rice noodles in a fancy lattice shape didn’t add much.
The main courses followed the same pattern. The pork was heaven: two hunks of tender, slow-cooked pork belly accompanied by a big flavorful, fatty piece of crackling. It was served with a polenta-like helping of Basque cornmeal and prettily topped with baby corn cobs (fresh and delicious; nothing like those pickled ones that come in a jar), lightly cooked baby okra and radicchio.
The encornets (squid) with tamarind jus suffered the same fate as the sea bream: good but unexciting. The tiny potatoes, cooked to a melt-in-the-mouth consistency, were my favorite part of this dish.
The only dessert on offer for lunch that day was a hit. I loved the basil ice cream (billed as sorbet but awfully creamy) with broken cookies, bergamot curd and fresh citrus fruits.
We were then treated to a little extra: rich, buttery matcha cookies studded with Morello cherries.
I hope to get back to Fulgurances during Pham’s reign. She is obviously capable of great things, and once she hits her stride, I expect that every dish will be amazing.Favorite