I keep going back to the Office because this little restaurant in the ninth arrondissement changes chefs occasionally, not by plan like Fulgurances, but in the way of an ordinary restaurant not owned by its chef.
The Office is owned by talented restaurateur Charles Compagnon, who has since given us two other fine restaurants, the lively Richer, just across the street from the Office, and the deservedly popular 52 Faubourg Saint-Denis. The Office, a well-known haven of bistronomy, just celebrated its 10th anniversary.
The new chef whose cuisine we were testing is the charming Benjamin Schmitt, who cheerfully helped the Italian waitress with the service the night we were there.
We weren’t entirely won over by the starters. One was a symphony in celery, which sounded
more interesting on the menu than it turned out to be: “celery cooked en papillote, vin jaune zabaglione, Comté and hazelnuts.” The dominant flavor, however, was simply celery. The hazelnuts were there as promised, but were not toasted and didn’t add much besides crunch.
The other starter was just three small boiled
potatoes topped with salmon roe and fresh dill. They were tasty but certainly not a showcase for creative cooking.
We did better with the main courses. I loved my tender fillet and leg of Challan duckling,
served with ginger-enhanced carrot purée and a whole carrot, all prettily arranged on the plate with a few lamb’s lettuce leaves. The cod
with leeks, olives and watercress sauce went over well with my dining companion Cathy, but she said it “didn’t make her heart sing.”
Dessert-wise, we were back to great undelivered promises on the menu with the
farmhouse faisselle (translated as cottage cheese but more like fromage blanc) with honey, a financier (rather dry), preserved pear and, supposedly, dark-beer granita, although I didn’t notice the latter. It fell flat.
Cathy, a big fan of chestnut purée, was blissed
out by the Mont Blanc with candied oranges, chestnut tuiles and little cubes of Cognac jelly.
While it certainly wasn’t hard work eating dinner at the Ofiice, it wasn’t pure pleasure either, but perhaps Schmitt is still finding his feet and deserves another try.