February 24, 2009By Paris UpdateArchive


Everybody starts their articles these days with a nod to the crisis, so here’s mine. One of the first victims of real-economy meltdown in Britain was Woolworths (affectionately known to Brits as “Woollies”). All 807 stores in


Everybody starts their articles these days with a nod to the crisis, so here’s mine. One of the first victims of real-economy meltdown in Britain was Woolworths (affectionately known to Brits as “Woollies”). All 807 stores in Britain were shut down in early January. One of the brighter sides of the story was the auction on eBay of the last bag of Pick’n’Mix candies, scooped up by the erstwhile manager in the final moments before his store closed for ever.

I mention this not only in tribute to the stores where I used by buy my notebooks (and candy) as a kid, but also because the words “Pick’n’Mix” popped into my head when I was thinking about Gilles Choukroun’s new restaurant, located within spitting distance of the Porte Maillot hotels and conference complex. His attitude to ingredients, and especially spices and seasonings, is very much pick’n’mix, highly eclectic. And it was a blessed relief after the relatively indifferent meals I’ve subjected myself to in the past few weeks.

I’ve already reviewed two of Choukroun’s earlier Paris ventures, Angl’Opéra and Mini Palais, and I have a lot of time for this chef, who’s a mover and shaker in the Generation C clan of young French cooks. He likes to set places up and then move on to something else.

The new place is called MBC, ostensibly in honor of chef’s three favorite ingredients, mint, basil and coriander. It has a nice contemporary feel when you walk in, with warm purple walls and Moroccan-style cushions on the two-tone banquettes (there are some fine photos of the interior – and the food – on his Web site).

We were a party of six, but the way the menu cards were stacked, we ended up eating mostly the same thing: four dishes for €45 euros. They were Choukroun’s signature foie gras crème brûlée, which I had already raved about after trying it at Angl’Opéra, here with the addition of toasted peanuts; a single mi-cuit scallop with lemon and shizo, sitting in a sesame seed and cauliflower béchamel environment topped with a circular wafer of celeriac – a delicate touch; a smallish piece of Angus rump steak sitting atop a nest of soba noodles, with a walk-on part for a small cube of beef-cheek; and a dessert, which was either a ganache moelleuse made from fashionable Grand Cru Manjari chocolate, or, another signature dish, his “Dessert ‘Café des Délices’ aux agrumes,” citrusy and mouth freshening after the rich savory dishes.

The scallop was smooth bliss, with many surprises in the creamy sauce, among them pomegranate seeds. Buckwheat pasta and rare beef may seem an odd combination, but it worked perfectly in terms of taste and texture, with the added pizzazz of some citron mustard (it could as easily have been wasabi), and that tiny piece of beef cheek on the side, coated in a thickly glistening, flavorful jus (although my piece of meat was on the dry, fibrous side, reminding me of some barbecued kangaroo I ate in Australia).

The wines took me back to my student days, when I spent a year in Auxerre, drinking (excessive quantities of) the local sauvignon from Saint Bris, and the light, floral pinot noirs from nearby Chitry, neither of them very far from the more famed Chablis. Choukroun’s buyer has managed to find some very good examples, which are very easy on the palate and wallet (well under €30).

The service was alert and good-humored, but I can’t really judge the noise levels as we were pretty raucous ourselves, and the restaurant was not full (MBC has only been open for a couple of weeks). Now is probably a good time to try it, while Choukroun is still in the kitchen himself. I’ll happily go back there myself.

Richard Hesse

MBC: 4, rue du Débarcadère, 75107 Paris. Tel: 01 45 72 22 55. Métro: Argentine or Porte Maillot. Nearest Vélib stations: 26, rue Saint Ferdinand; 227 Bd Pereire. A la carte: around €50*. Tasting menus: €45 (four dishes), €65 (six dishes), €80 (eight dishes). www.gilleschoukroun.com

* three courses, not including wine

© 2009 Paris Update

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