July 21, 2009By Richard HesseArchive
nomiya arthome restaurant, palais de tokyo, paris

Waiting for lunch at Nomiya.

A couple of years back, I saw a news item about two Belgian entrepreneurs, David Ghysels and Stefan Kerkhofs, who had come up with the idea of using a giant crane to hoist …

nomiya arthome restaurant, palais de tokyo, paris

Waiting for lunch at Nomiya.

A couple of years back, I saw a news item about two Belgian entrepreneurs, David Ghysels and Stefan Kerkhofs, who had come up with the idea of using a giant crane to hoist a table of 16 diners 150 feet into the air for a formal meal, with musicians playing nearby on a similar platform. Diners ate strapped into their seats and paid a handsome price for the privilege (a more detailed description here). Even though I have happily flown microlights with my feet dangling above 3,000 feet of empty air, each time I see images of those hapless diners suspended in mid-air, my heart lurches at the idea of that void beneath them.

But then my editor suggested we try a similar, if less vertigo-inducing experience on top of the Palais de Tokyo. Here, you sit in a stylish rectangular glass and steel box with 11 other diners around a large table d’hôte, gawping between mouthfuls at the stupendous views of the Eiffel Tower and the rest of Paris.

It’s a civilized and civilizing experience, provided that you’re lucky enough to be seated next to agreeable dining companions, which indeed seemed the case for all present, judging by the racket we were making within minutes of sitting down. Our own table companions were a most charming, well-traveled couple who regaled us, among many other conversational topics, with tales of disabled access and the lack of it in Moscow, Mongolia and the Emirates, as the wife is wheelchair-bound. And yes, Nomiya was perfectly accessible for her.

We all enjoyed the food, too, by chef Gilles Stassart, although it’s served in relatively small portions, to the extent that I was feeling peckish by 4 p.m. (in fairnesss, I had skipped breakfast for once). Menus change daily, with little or no warning as to what you are going to eat, so you have to be prepared to put unfamiliar things in your mouth.

An amuse bouche of a quartered gooseberry – a whole gooseberry, nothing less – topped with smoky caviar came out first to accompany the glass of champagne served as soon as we had finished raving about the views and taken our seats.

After that came small cubes of raw pollack with a yogurt and coconut-milk sauce bloodied with a dash of redcurrant juice and topped with a wafer-thin slice of a member of the radish family, also raw, plus minuscule snippings of fresh mint for added color. The fish was perfectly fresh and flavorsome, for a very clean-tasting start to the meal.

nomiya arthome restaurant, palais de tokyo, paris

Next up was a spatchcocked quail with an absolutely melting texture. It had been slow-cooked in a steam oven after being browned. Setting aside our initial attempts to deal with it elegantly using knife and fork, we all relied on our god-given fingers and gnawed away unashamedly. Underneath it on the plate was some fresh spinach and, nearby, a square of polenta, a couple of pieces of potato infused with rosemary, a little dab of a banana-vanilla concoction and a spoonful of a brilliantly reduced, distant cousin of ratatouille.

nomiya arthome restaurant, palais de tokyo, paris

Dessert was a brace of poppy-flavored macaroons with a little slick of basil cream which, of course, triggered a discussion about the merits of the various Paris macaroon houses, with Ladurée and Dalloyau winning out over Pierre Hermé.

Wine is included in the price, and in addition to the sip of champagne we started with, we were given Akméniné, a natural Sancerre wine by Sébastien Riffault that had most mouths turning down in unbelieving pouts: it was unctuous and unexpectedly colorful for a white wine; it looked like a deep-gold 30-year old Vouvray and tasted distinctly oxidized. At our end of the table, we soon switched to the red, the same Nuits d’Ivresse Bourgueil by Catherine and Pierre Breton we had drunk at Frenchie a few weeks back, which was better received. Both wines had clearly been chosen for their organic, nearly sulfur-free credentials.

Do the math. No one is making big bucks out of this short-lived venture, which will close after one year. Collectively referred to as the “ArtHome concept,” it includes a kitchen garden on a terrace below the restaurant, design by artist Laurent Grasso, and cooking workshops led by Stassart. For the money, and the quality of the cuisine, a meal at Nomiya is a truly worthwhile experience. There’s a fairly democratic booking online system (reservations are only taken for the coming month), so you stand a decent chance of getting in. But be prepared to talk to your neighbors!

Richard Hesse

Nomiya: Art Home at Palais de Tokyo, 13, avenue du Président Wilson, 75016 Paris. Reserve on Open Tuesday-Sunday, noon-2:30 p.m. and 7 :30 p.m.-11 :45 p.m. Fixed-price menus (including a glass of champagne and red and white wine): €60 (lunch) and €80 (dinner).

© 2009 Paris Update

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