Writing reviews of Paris restaurants can be a tough job. I know, I know, it’s hard to pity me. But I rarely get a chance to go back to my favorite restaurants, because I’m always looking for one that I haven’t yet tried, and it can be a chore to do the research and find a potentially good restaurant that fits two other criteria: it’s open on the day I want to go (so many good little restaurants are closed on weekends, Mondays and/or one month in summer) and it has an available table.
That was the case last week, when I spent a couple of hours researching interesting places and trying to get a reservation for four. I finally came up with L’Apibo, a restaurant on the Rue Tiquetonne in the second arrondissement that got good reviews when it opened about a year ago.
It was a good choice during the heat wave that hit Paris last week, since it was – unusually for a small Paris restaurant – air-conditioned.
L’Apibo’s decor, with the now-ubiquitous exposed wooden beams and stone walls, is brightened by colorful abstract paintings. I appreciated the fact that there was some space around the tables, another rarity in a small bistro. While studying the menu, we sampled a refreshing complimentary appetizer of fromage frais wrapped in cucumber slices; after we ordered, we were served little glasses of season-appropriate watermelon gazpacho, a small extra that comes with the €32 fixed-priced menu (the price hasn’t gone up since last year).
A couple of us started with the fois gras with Montbazillac aspic. Impeccable! as the French love to say. The generous serving of foie gras was creamy-smooth and flavorful, with just
the right touch of fruitiness from the aspic. The piece of melon wrapped in dried ham and the swirl of celery purée accompanying it seemed like unrelated afterthoughts added to decorate the plate. Emma was very happy with her chicken ravioli topped with a foamy sauce sprinkled with za’atar (a mixture of Middle Eastern herbs, sesame seeds and sumac) and with a slice of raw red onion. The most refreshing of the three starters was the dorade tartare with crunchy vegetables, sesame wasabi and lime zest.
For the main course, I loved my tender confit of joues de veau (veal cheeks) with creamy polenta, baby onions, a variety of vegetables, parmesan shavings and rich gravy. Two of the others sampled the bass cooked in sea salt, artfully arranged on the plate with black rice,
caviar d’aubergine (mashed eggplant with olive oil and seasonings), a pool of squid ink and another of tandoori sauce, while the fourth had the stuffed encornet (squid) with swiss chard, red peppers, rice, pine nuts and a shrimp emulsion. Conversation slowed as we enjoyed these inventive dishes.
The most summer-friendly desserts were the bright and pretty iced lime parfait with pomelos and orange juice, topped with sticks of meringue, followed by the strawberry “soup and salad” with a rhubarb cookie. I had the
tasty “Velours”: red berries and their juice, almond cookie and meringue kisses. The chocolate-three-ways (mousse, cookie and pistachio-cinnamon ganache) dessert was another winner.
The hot night influenced our wine choice: an enjoyable 2012 rosé from Château d’Ollières, near Aix-en-Provence.
I know that I said I rarely get the chance to revisit restaurants, but L’Apibo might well be an exception, especially if the sweltering summer weather continues.