The party began at the Paris restaurant Jour de Fête even before we arrived. When I called to say my friend and I were running a bit late for our 9pm reservation the other night, the woman who answered the phone told me that I was “adorable” for calling to let them know. When we arrived, she said she was giving us the table that “everyone wanted” and ushered us to the back of the long restaurant to a round, cloth-covered table next to a large window overlooking a steep, wooded hillside. She willingly explained that we were looking at the maquis of Montmartre, a patch of protected, unbuilt land where people used to hunt rabbits back in the day when the area was just a windmill-dotted hillside outside the Paris walls.
On that warm, humid evening, we couldn’t have been happier seated by an open window next to all that greenery, our joy only slightly marred by the loud laughter of a group of six, most of them Americans, next to us.
The whole place was like a breath of fresh air, with its clean, colorful decor: one wall painted purple and another gray, multicolored glass lamps hanging over the small white bar in the front, and two amusing huge spoked ceiling lamps in the back (a nod to the eponymous Jacque Tati film about a village postman on a bicycle?).
The blackboard menu hinted at a fusion influence, and chef Koji Tsuchiya reportedly has worked at Astrance and Monjul (one of our favorite Paris restaurants). While we were waiting for our first courses, we were served an appetizer of cold pea soup – a miraculous little concentrate of fresh pea-ness, perfectly enlivened with a zippy emulsion of lemon balm.
From the rather pricey starters, starting at €13, my friend chose the white and green asparagus with a wine and cheese (Comté) sauce, which was lovely, and I opted for the watercress soup with bonita flan – frankly, that fishy-flavored flan in the soup didn’t do it for me – which also came with a boat-shaped dish of pieces of grilled miso-coated mackerel with a few drops of intense lemon coulis, which did do it for me – delicious!
I had already fallen in love with our wine, a fruity 2011 Coulanges la Vineuse Burgundy from Vini Viti Vici (€28), and then I fell in love again, with my main course, magret de canard (duck breast) seared with yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit) and served with fragrant mushrooms and a round little tower of layered eggplant. The succulent meat was stunningly good, and with that wine was even better. My friend was very happy with his Iberian pork served with root vegetables, but perhaps not quite as happy as I was with my duck.
We finished with a mango sorbet (for him) and a rich, creamy three-chocolate dessert with nougatine and a hint of coffee (for me). A nice end to a nearly perfect meal.
The prices were a bit high, but it seemed worth it for the amount of pleasure we took in this meal and the lovely setting and service. All worth fêting.