The decor is as original as the cuisine.
After peering through the glass facade of Matière à several times and making a mental note to eat there, I finally found myself on the other side of the glass the other night feeling smug as numerous passersby peered enviously at us from outside.
Most diners sit at the large shared table in the small restaurant, which seats only about 20. But we booked late and were given the only table for two in the room, right next the window. We were just as happy to be there. Surprisingly, given the white-painted brick walls and other hard surfaces, we were by no means deafened by the chattering of the large group of French people at the big table.
With its collection of variously shaped light bulbs hanging over the big table, clocks and mirrors on one wall, and shelves of books, wine bottles and miscellaneous on another, the restaurant has a pleasingly eclectic and original look that is echoed in the food. There wasn’t a single copycat dish on the menu: no egg cooked at 65 degrees C, no Jerusalem artichoke soup, just a very short list consisting of one starter, two main courses (one fish, one meat), a cheese course and one dessert.
The starter was a stunning dish of ravioli of
paleron (chuck steak) and foie gras in a beef consommé with coulemelles (parasol) mushrooms, brightened with a few cranberries.
We shared the main courses. The fish was steamed dorade (sea bream) with bits of Granny Smith apple and toasted squash
seeds (my companion found the latter hard going, but I rather liked their chewy/crunchy quality). It came with butternut squash cooked risotto style with touches of chorizo, grilled persimmon and parsley sauce. I must say I haven’t enjoyed a fish dish so much in a long time.
The meat course was a poire de boeuf (round
of beef) with coffee-flavored sauce (I couldn’t taste the coffee), celery mousseline, caraway seeds (a great touch, rarely seen in French restaurants) and roasted parsley root. Fabulous, with one slight drawback: the flavorful beef was a bit chewy.
For dessert we shared a plate of three fine
cheeses, Comté, Saint Maur and Coulommiers, followed by a truly original dessert of pumpkin
with saffron, chestnut cream, pears and milk-chocolate mousse. I’m no fan of vegetables in desserts, but in this one all the ingredients worked together to charm away my skepticism.
The homemade bread, by the way, is
All this is produced by chef Anthony Courteille alone in the open kitchen in the back of the room, with service efficiently provided by a lovely and likable young woman.Favorite