It seems strange – even unnatural – to go to Paris’s main Chinatown in the 13th arrondissement and not eat Chinese food, especially when the wonderful smells of the spices fill the air as soon as you step off the Métro. But there we were on a nasty Saturday with freezing slush raining down outside, taking refuge in the pretty French restaurant L’Hommage, painted white with lots of mirrors, a small bar in the front and an open kitchen in the back.
For €22 the lunch menu offers three courses. One of our starters was feta ravioli with walnuts, shallots, black olives and lime in a ginger and lemongrass stock (a touch of Asia after all). At first it seemed too acidic, but as I dug into it and the flavors and textures collided, it mellowed and grew much more enjoyable.
The other starter was a salad of lentils in sherry with herring “espuma” (foam) and celery. Again, it didn’t seem exciting at first, but I liked the contrast between the lentils and the creamy, fishy espuma. My friend, however, said he would have preferred the more straightforward approach of pairing the lentils with real herring.
The main course of pork tenderloin with pan-fried cauliflower was faultless but, we both agreed, far too bland.
Much more interesting was my all-onion risotto of fregola, an original concept that worked wonderfully. It had all kinds of onions cooked in different ways to vary the textures and flavors. I would have preferred rice to fregola, but it was delicious.
We tried two desserts. One was a complex passion fruit and banana concoction with a black-sesame-and-chocolate crust, banana mousse and compote, and passion-fruit jelly and caramel. It was perfectly balanced – the banana flavor did not overwhelm, as it sometimes can – and the crushed black sesame was a brilliant touch. The other was a cream puff filled with lemon cream and topped with lemon caramel, the crowning touch that made it all come together.
I can only pay homage to this new restaurant with its friendly staff, good prices and mostly delightful food.