The butternut season is upon us. It’s wonderful how Parisian bistros follow the seasons, but we will soon be getting tired of this vegetable, which seems to have been only recently discovered in France. As one of the few winter vegetables around, it will certainly be appearing on menus far into next spring, putting the creative talents of chefs sorely to the test to keep it interesting.
Luckily, I had dinner the other evening in a restaurant where the chef was up to the task: L’Esquisse, a Montmartre eatery with a classic bistro decor that had escaped my attention until now. The thinly sliced butternut was artfully integrated into a dish that included a number of other delicious ingredients, including smoked scamorza, toasted squash seeds and crunchy cracker bits.
Another starter, scallop ceviche, was just as appealing, if not more so, with the added attractions of clementines, sliced carrots and toasted pecans.
Just as delicate was a main course of cabillaud (cod), simply and perfectly cooked and served with lentils in coconut sauce (improbable-sounding but truly wonderful) and a lovely, colorful mix of julienned Granny apples, zucchini and beets.
Much heartier and delightful in its own meaty way was the flavourful braised veal brisket with garlic, olives and toasted hazelnuts (I love all those added toasted nuts and seeds) served with roasted parsnips, another vegetable we’ll be seeing a lot of this winter.
For dessert, we chose the two fruity options. One was the aptly named “Magnifique” pear and chocolate combo with bits of meringue.
The other was a baked apple with stracciatella mousse and four-spice caramel sauce, a lovely variation on an old classic.
Cheffe/owner Laëtitia Bret has been keeping the fire going at L’Esquisse for seven years now.
Esquisse does not mean “exquisite,” by the way, although the word applies here, but “sketch.” There was nothing sketchy about our meal, however – it was more like a finished masterpiece.Favorite