The dining room at La Cantine de l’Embuscade.
My friend Connie felt like she was being ambushed by offal when she glanced at the menu at L’Embuscade, a new restaurant that has replaced a neighborhood institution, the anarchist restaurant Le Maldoror, of which no traces remain – nary a political tract hangs on walls that were once papered with them. Now they are painted white and are nearly bare, and the dining room is simply furnished with wooden tables and chairs, and a few stools at the blue-tiled bar.
Back to the offal: although there was more than usual on the menu – calf’s brains and sweetbreads and pig’s head – there were a number of other offerings as well, so Connie had no trouble finding something she found palatable.
Nor did I. I started with the foie gras with eel, mushrooms and yuzu, which sounds like a fairly revolting mixture, but turned out to be
rather delicate and delicious, with the smoked eel nicely balancing the yuzu-infused foie gras.
One of the new clichés of Paris’s bistronomic restaurants, the œuf parfait (egg cooked at 65 degrees C to a state of perfect unctuousness),
was here served with pulled pork and papada (pork jowl) in a bouillon with some al dente fennel. Connie liked its balance of of sweet and savory flavors but as a whole found the dish to be rather incoherent.
While the menu listed six starters, only two main courses were on offer, so we ordered one of each. The flavorful steak (the menu notes the
source of all ingredients; the meat is from Huguenin) came with crispy fried potatoes, salsify and turnips, while the perfectly cooked and tasty line-caught meagre (similar to sea
bass) was served with asparagus, spinach and a purée of oyster mushrooms.
For dessert, we ordered the crème brûlée because it contained a mysterious (to us) ingredient called agastache, which turned out
to be the flowering plant hyssop. I can’t say the result was particularly exciting. The other dessert was more original: chocolate ganache
between two praline cookies, served with sheep-cheese yogurt and a dash of olive oil. The mystery ingredient here was poivre des minorités, a type of Sichuan pepper from the mountains of northern Vietnam. It all worked together convincingly and enjoyably.
La Cantine de l’Embuscade, a brand-new restaurant that seems to still be seeking its identity, is worth keeping an eye on. An effort is obviously being made to produce dishes that are a cut above the ordinary in terms of creativity and quality. The service was more than pleasant, and there was no sign of anarchy, except maybe from a recalcitrant computer that was making it difficult for the waitress to print out the menu when we arrived.Favorite