|The isolated tables in the back room are the best bet.|
Goethe’s last words were reportedly “Mehr licht” (“more light”), pretty much my first thoughts as I was seated by the friendly maître d’ in La Gazzetta’s spacious back room. I don’t find candlelight a romantic adjunct to dining, and as my sight weakens with age, I find that I, too, need more light. And while we’re on the subject of minor irritations, I should mention La Gazzetta’s rather uncomfortable noise levels. Diners are forced to talk loudly to make themselves heard over the din, especially if, like my companion and myself, you’re bracketed between very strident voices.
The best way to avoid this at La Gazzetta is to ask to be seated in the front room (smoking) or at one of the isolated tables in the non-smoking back room, and not on the banquette, practically in other diners’ laps. Given the systematic complaints about the noise in comments I read on the Web, I’m surprised that the management hasn’t done anything about it. Tablecloths might help.
Having gotten that out, I hasten to add that La Gazzetta is a most pleasant operation with a highly attractive Art Deco decor and charming service. Like the nearby Square Trousseau, it is the sort of place where you would like to have your own table. You can stop by for a nibble and a glass of wine at most times, and even take tea there. And, given the emphasis on well-sourced ingredients, your taste buds are bound to be pleased.
We opened the proceedings with a sherry, all too rare in France, especially in restaurants. This Pedro Ximenez Toro Albala 1972 was a deep, rich sherry quite unlike the dry finos and manzanillas I usually drink. It was rather like a ruby port: “Black as coal and thick as engine oil,” the maker’s Web site quotes a critic from Wine & Spirits magazine as saying.
We chose the good-value-for-money €32 four-course evening menu (you can lunch on three courses for €14), which kicked off with a frothy Jerusalem artichoke soup pepped up with allspice and watercress. Pretty lip-smacking, although it could have been a bit warmer on that cold evening.
Next came the chaud-froid de sardines et haricots borlotti, menthe, abricot, fenouil. We loved these borlotti beans with mint, apricot and fennel, but felt that the extremely pronounced flavor of the sardines rather upstaged them. Still, I would happily go back for this very original dish concocted by Scandi-chef Petter Nillson.
The main course on the fixed-price menu was either roast monkfish or duckling. The monkfish came with beetroot cooked in gros sel (cooking salt), mustard leaves and a smear of pickled lemon confiture, which was incredibly lemony. It was perfectly cooked and as fresh as if it had just come out of the water. My duckling was fat and juicy, with the perfect degree of rareness. It also had flavor, enhanced by an underpinning of Chinese leaves, tarragon, red wine and cream of parsnip.
For dessert, I had the cheese, a decent Saint Nectaire, with a salad of hazelnuts, radish, honey and almond purée, an excellent palate cleanser after the duck, and no doubt very healthy. My companion’s candied pineapple, meringue and walnuts served with ice cream made with Valrhona’s manjari chocolate from Madagascar was a real winner: not the sort of thing that’s easy to make at home. We drank a La Jasse Vieilles Vignes 2001, Vin de Pays d’Oc that had that resinous character of many southern wines – you either like it or you don’t. I do.
From the street, La Gazzetta looks very welcoming, and what you see is what you get: The staff are delightful and considerate to a fault. This is a good find.
La Gazzetta: 29, rue de la Cotte, 75012 Paris. Métro: Ledru-Rollin. Tel: 01 43 47 47 05.
© 2007 Paris Update
Click here to respond to this article (your response may be published on this page and is subject to editing).