Fun with the Whole Fish
|Christian Ghion decorated Pierre Gagnaire’s new restaurant, Gaya. Photo: Jacques Gavard|
Those who can’t afford to eat at superstar chef Pierre Gagnaire’s three-star restaurant in the Hôtel Balzac can now get an idea of what all the fuss is about at Gaya, the neighborhood fish restaurant he has recently taken over and had redecorated by Christian Ghion in a modern gray and white style that somehow manages to be cozy.
Friendly, attentive service from a youthful staff sets the scene. The menu features everything from simple classics like perfectly cooked scallops with a shallot and butter sauce, lobster and sole to creative interpretations of mundane dishes like “fish and chips,” which turns out to be a sort of deep-fried brandade (cod mixed with mashed potatoes) served with a salad of paper-thin slices of raw cèpes and a delightfully mushroomy cèpe sauce. The individual elements were all delicious, especially the sauce, but it was hard to understand what these three things were doing together on the plate.
Another questionable mixture of excellent ingredients was the shellfish-flavored jelly with white beans and Iberian ham, which was served too cold direct from the refrigerator and somehow didn’t gel into the happy marriage of flavors one would expect from Gagnaire, a follower of the theories of Hervé This, proponent of a scientific approach to cooking known as “molecular gastronomy.”
A “black croque monsieur” was more successful, although it looked more like a three-layer chocolate cake than the classic French grilled ham, cheese and béchamel sandwich. The layers of bread soaked in squid ink offered a subtle contrast to the pesto, slivers of Bocconcini mozzarella and zucchini in between them.
The latter two dishes contained no actual
fish, just the creative use of fish flavors, which must be an attempt to keep prices down while putting everything to use. One dish came with a glass of fish broth to be drunk like a soup.
The desserts were sheer bliss: we tried the delicious and sweetly alcoholic Baba Créole with “lazy” sauce and plenty of whipped cream, and the Turinois, which came in a martini glass and was cleverly constructed to leave empty spaces between the layers of different types of chocolate wafers and cream, with a lovely syrupy cherry waiting at the bottom to add another delightful flavor.
And do have a coffee, even if it’s a decaf, just to taste the divine fruit-flavored, melt-in-the-mouth meringues that come with it.
The restaurant, which opened at the beginning of September, still seems to be finding its way, but overall the meal was a delightful experience. We look forward to a return visit to find out what’s new.
Gaya: 44 rue du Bac, 75007. Métro: Rue du Bac. Tel: 01 45 44 73 73. Around €70 per person without wine. www.pierre-gagnaire.com
© 2005 Paris Update
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