I have been wanting – with some apprehension – to try Noglu, Paris’s new gluten-free restaurant, ever since it opened. The perfect opportunity presented itself last week when Dana, an American friend who is gluten-intolerant, came to Paris.
For those who are tempted to stop reading now for fear of hearing a report of a worthy meal of tasteless “health food,” let me reassure you that it was anything but. In fact, it this is one of the best meals I’ve had in quite a while.
The Japanese-sounding name actually stands for “no gluten,” but there is a distinct Japanese touch to both the place and the cuisine. The chef, Mitsuru Yanase, is Japanese, and the tiny downstairs dining room has a sushi-style bar and a few tables.
We were ushered upstairs to a stark, no-dec[or] dining room that was very stuffy on that hot evening (note to Noglu’s owners: a fan would be an excellent, low-cost investment). When we refused the first table we were offered because of the heat-emitting light bulb hanging over it, the waitress grudgingly allowed us to sit at another one.
Everything on the short menu (three choices for each course) is gluten-free, and those that contain dairy products are thoughtfully indicated for those who are also lactose-intolerant. There were three of us, so we tried every dish except the main course of vegetarian lasagna with salad.
There were no complaints about the starters – au contraire! They were all superb to both
the eye and the taste buds: a refreshing, icy-cool cucumber soup with fresh peas, chives and bits of pear adding just a soupcon of sweetness; a delightful salad of nicely seasoned soba (buckwheat) noodles with fresh peas and noodle-shaped strings of carrot and zucchini; and a generous plate of tataki, barely cooked white tuna with sliced raw fennel and perfectly cooked baby bok choy and snow peas. The latter may have been the least inventive of the three, but the tuna was flavorful and straight-from-the-sea fresh – a real treat, especially after having eaten some not-so-fresh sushi in another restaurant recently.
Onward to the main courses. They matched the quality of the starters, which is not the case
in every restaurant. My friend Steve’s rack of lamb with luscious mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage was magnificent – the quality of the meat evident in the flavorful fat.
Meanwhile, Dana and I were in heaven with our oh-so-fresh, flavorful fried bass, cooked to a turn and served with celery cooked two ways (as a purée, and sliced and sautéed), risotto and shimeji mushrooms.
The desserts – a soft-centered chocolate cake, fig and almond tart, and poire Belle Hélène –
were very good, but didn’t rock our world the way the first two courses did.
The wine list was on the pricey side – the cheapest offering was €27 – and we paid a hefty €40 for what turned out to be an excellent rosé: a 2011 Riberach from Roussillon made from Carignan Noir grapes.
Everything served at Noglu was of the highest quality, sourced from some of the best small producers. I recommend it without hesitation, as does Dana, who was thrilled to be able to eat everything on her plate with thinking twice. I may even give up gluten to have an excuse to go back often.