Much-lauded chef Tomy Gousset, owner of the Michelin-one-starred Tomy & Co (seventh arrondissement) and Hugo & Co (fifth), has just moved into new Left Bank territory – a corner of the 13th arrondissement not particularly known for its gourmet hotspots – and opened Marso & Co, his third Paris restaurant.
When I arrived, my visiting friends from Philadelphia had already bonded with one of the waiters, un grand gaillard (big, lusty guy) over some American sports figure. This has to be one of the happiest, friendliest and most efficient restaurant teams, led by chef Tomoki Saito Matsushita, that I have seen in Paris in a long time.
The restaurant has a Mediterranean-themed menu, and instead of ordinary bread, we were served delicious, light focaccia with a nice grassy olive oil for dipping.
The Mediterranean influence also explains the two pasta dishes on the menu, which I initially ignored (“Never order pasta in a French restaurant,” is my too-oft-repeated dictum), but sounded delicious when I looked more closely. One example: linguini with garlic cream and white truffles. Still, all three of us chose other dishes and passed them around the table for maximum taste sensations.
The best of the three starters was the marinated-watermelon salad with feta cheese and watercress, given a wonderful North African twist with preserved lemon and almonds.
The bass tartare with mint ricotta, served on carasau bread (crispy, paper-thin Sardinian flatbread) was tasty and delicate but perhaps a bit bland.
The confit eggplant with anchovies (my friends said the anchovies were what made the dish, but I never actually tasted them), tomatoes, pesto and pine nuts was very good, but not quite as exciting as it sounded either.
Among the main courses, I loved the confit lamb with apricots, baby onions and yogurt, a delicious adaptation of a tagine, with little surprises like cardamom seeds in the sauce. The rice that came with it was dolled up with pomegranate seeds, fresh peas and dill.
The brandade, a dish of mashed potatoes and (usually) salt cod that has many fans but has never been one of my favorites (mainly because it’s often too salty), was much more to my liking in this revised version, with crispy cod (not salt cod), chorizo, capers and pesto.
The other fishy main course was merlu (hake) with red peppers, chickpeas, chorizo and a salad of fresh herbs – all excellent.
The desserts kept to the Mediterranean theme but were slightly less successful. The semolina cake with olive oil, figs and cinnamon-flavored mascarpone was a bit heavy, and the pasteis de nata was over-revised – when the original Portuguese pastry is so rich and good, it doesn’t need to be gussied up and served with chocolate ganache.
The rice pudding was fine, but I’ve had better. This is another case where simple is best; a good rice pudding doesn’t need pomegranate seeds, pistachios and caramel sauce, even though those are all wonderful things.
Those are quibbles. We had a great time at Marso & Co and I’d be happy to return. To paraphrase Tomy Gousset’s motto: “Life is (good) food.” You’ll find it here.