Jujube is a new restaurant in Montmartre where you won’t find any of the usual bistronomic dishes on the menu. Named after an exotic fruit and billing itself as a “restaurant d’auteur,” it serves wonderfully executed African/Asian/South American/European/fusion with fascinating flavors.
Right away you know you are in for something a bit different when the amuse-bouche is not the usual butternut soup but creamed onions topped with pecans, a nut rarely seen in Paris, except in the occasional pecan pie.
One of the three starters on the short menu consisted of the same creamed onions transformed into a base for an unusual yet comforting and satisfying soup with the addition of tamarind, which gave it a pleasingly acidic flavor. Floating in the soup was a delicious West African steamed rice cake called an ablo, which offered a change of texture, while the pickled okra on top provided contrasting astringency.
The swordfish ceviche with kiwi, pomelos and leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), with verjus for extra acidity, was a perfect specimen of the genre.
Although I loved the ablo, I thought the veal tartare with pecans, puffed chickpeas, and nasturtiums was amazingly good, with its medley of flavors and fresh ingredients.
The creative surprises kept coming with the main courses. One was mafé, another West African dish consisting of a sauce made with groundnuts, usually containing meat and/or vegetables and served with rice. Chef Senda D. Waguena, however, who was born in Togo and learned to cook in Italy, came up with his own wonderful interpretation, which included pork tenderloin with coffee, roasted vegetables and ayimolou (Togolese rice and black beans).
Another clever reinterpretation of different world cuisines was the bánh mi (normally a Vietnamese version of a French baguette, used to make sandwiches), here made with the restaurant’s fabulous focaccia (which had accompanied the ceviche) and served like an open-face sandwich with julienned vegetables and lotte (monkfish) cooked in banana leaves, the whole thing topped with fish roe. Underlying this felicitous combination was the heat – at just the right temperature to add depth with no burn – of fermented chilis. Wow!
The parade of stunning dishes continued with dessert. A light version of rice pudding was enhanced by white chocolate, Cape gooseberry coulis and drops of preserved chili.
The savarin was made with cognac instead of the usual rum and kinkeliba, an African plant used to make an herbal tea. This addictively good cake was topped with whipped cream flavored with lemongrass.
The decor of the small restaurant is plain and simple, with one brick wall, one stone wall and a wood-paneled bar. The two servers were sweet and helpful. Although the prices are slightly higher than most of the restaurants reviewed in Paris Update (especially if you order the seven-course tasting menu at €75 or the special chicken with truffles – which smelled divine when served at another table – at €10 per 100 kilograms), it’s worth it for the generous portions, high quality and extreme inventiveness of the food.
Jujube has only been open for five months, but it is already being talked up for a Michelin star. I recommend that you go there soon before the stars come out and the prices rise even higher.Favorite