Chouette! An excellent new restaurant has just opened in a fantastic former industrial space in the upper Marais. Les Chouettes (the word means “owl,” but it is also used as an adjective and an exclamation to mean “cool”) is the latest in a string of restaurants in this glass-roofed three-story building, once the chouette Web bar, a chic Internet café. I have a feeling this one will last longer than its predecessors, however, since it has all the right ingredients: a gorgeous new decor by Barcelona design firm Lázaro Rosa Violán; friendly, professional service; and good, creative food at reasonable prices.
One thing I really appreciate about Les Chouettes is that even though the interior is quite elegant, it feels casual and relaxed. You can choose to sit in the airy, high-ceilinged main dining room under the glass roof, on one of the two mezzanines (one done up in wood paneling and leather like a library) or in one of two smaller, cozier rooms. The mezzanines have lots of cozy corners that would be a great place for a quiet drink en tête à tête.
The menu, which lists three choices for each course, is as appealing as the decor. My friend and I decided to go halvsies on everything and started with a soft-boiled egg with crispy
bacon and cauliflower purée, all precisely cooked, a comforting and felicitous combo. The other starter was a lovely langoustine ravioli,
served with bits of crunchy fresh fennel in the rich sauce; we couldn’t taste the orange zest promised on the menu.
The highlight of the meal was the main course of quail with foie gras. The latter, bursting
with flavor, was perfectly pan-fried and still rare inside. The quail was also delicious and came with a sort of croquette filled with chopped duck and bacon.
The cod with green vichyssoise seemed rather
pale in comparison with the quail, but it was actually very good, although the chef overdid the salt a bit here.
Of the two desserts, the Mont Blanc with
clementine sorbet was the winner for originality, but the guanaja chocolate dessert
with Szechwan pepper and vanilla ice cream could not be faulted in any way.
Extra points go to the maître d’hôtel for immediately turning down the music when we asked him to. It really wasn’t very loud, and we liked the choice of music (sounded like Deezer, with lots of Barry White), but we were sitting right under the speaker.
Will I go back? No doubt about it.