Located near the no-man’s-land created by the train tracks running out of the Gare Saint Lazare, Neva Cuisine is something of an anomaly in the neighborhood. With its elegantly simple modern furnishings, high ceilings and 19th-century-style glass-ball chandeliers, it looks like the kind of place where businesspeople would take their clients, but that was manifestly not the case on Monday night, when the restaurant had pulled off the feat of filling all its seats and was even turning away potential customers.
I got there early, which gave me the chance to study the menu, sip a glass of white wine and nibble on (more properly, gobble) the delicious, moist, almost-cake-like roll containing bits of spicy chorizo. I ate the whole thing, assuming more would come when Bobbie and Lauren arrived, but alas (sorry, ladies), none did.
The three of us sat at a large round table on an elevated platform in the middle of the room, a great vantage point, but the table was a little too large for comfortable conversing, so we all squished together on one side of it, at the risk of one of my companions falling backwards if she moved her chair too far back.
We had been slightly worried that there would be few choices on the menu for the non-meat-eating Lauren, but in fact there were few choices for meat-eating me. Of the four starters, only one (foie gras with apple/quince jelly) contained meat, and two of the five main courses were fish (although the cod was spiced up with chorizo).
To start, they both chose and relished the delicate tart with cooked and
raw ceps (enjoy them now while they’re in season) and onion compote, while I had a perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg cleverly encased in bird’s-nest pastry
(how do they do that?) accompanied by cauliflower prepared in different ways: puréed, boiled, etc. Flavor-wise, I wasn’t bowled over, but it was a pleasant beginning to the meal.
Main courses were, for my two companions, scallops beautifully
enlivened with a citrusy Tonka-bean-foam sauce and more ceps, this time prepared Italian-style. I had the veal sweetbreads, a generous portion, crispy and crunchy on the outside and meltingly tender on the outside. They lacked that slight
gaminess I like, and were served with braised baby artichokes mixed with cooked vegetables and raw scallions. The latter provided a nice contrast to the richness of the sweetbreads but were so strong that their taste lingered in the mouth.
The desserts were the highlight of the meal for me. We ordered two for the three of us, both of them stunners. The “destructured sphere of pure Samana chocolate” came to the table as a perfect ball of chocolate, over which the waiter poured hot chocolate sauce
from a saucepan, causing the ball to melt swiftly and dramatically, revealing a scoop of ice cream in the middle. The result was an amazingly delicious mess, like the best hot-fudge sundae you ever tasted, with the addition of bits of candied pineapple.
The artfully designed meringue dessert was a series of layers. On the bottom, a bed of caramel sauce, with a mango sauce on the side, then a half-sphere of
meringue, a square cookie, a half-sphere of a wonderful and intensely flavored sorbet (passion fruit, ginger and grilled-coconut, according to the menu), topped with decorative sticks of meringue.
Disappointingly, the restaurant was out of the Crozes-Hermitage we wanted, so we settled for a Côtes-du-Rhône, which was fine. The service was highly professional and friendly. And, if you’re wondering about the Russian-sounding name, it’s a clever reference to the restaurant’s location at the corner of Rue de Saint Petersbourg in the Quartier de l’Europe, where all the streets are named after European cities.
We met smiling chef Beatriz Gonzalez as we were leaving and complimented her on the meal, especially the desserts. She pointed to the secret of those marvelous concoctions: the pastry chef, Yannick Tranchant. Now that’s class. How many Paris bistros have their own pastry chefs? I would go back again just for that chocolate sphere.