The name of the new restaurant Pantagruel was a bit worrying. Would we leave looking like the Rabelaisian giant, known for his voracious appetite? Well, even if we did and died in the act, it would have been worth it. Pantagruel is the restaurant find of 2020 thus far.
The decor is minimal in the smallish restaurant, but white tablecloths and napkins, candles and comfortable royal-blue velvet banquettes create a warm atmosphere, abetted by the charming servers.
While sipping a glass of divine Geoffroy champagne, we decided to opt for the €68 eight-course tasting menu, and the fun soon began with two appetizers: delicious crispy potato leaves (to call them potato chips would be an insult) with a citrus and chive cream, and confit leeks wrapped around herring and blowtorched at the table by the server (they are big on special effects at Pantagruel).
I should say at this point that each successive savory dish was even better than the one that came before, with the meal culminating in the sublime and unforgettable pithiviers de canard with foie gras. “Everything that came before was just foreplay,” said my dining companion. “This is the orgasm.”
But I anticipate. There were many other delights in between, starting with a single oyster with beet purée and pepper-flavored foam (I couldn’t taste the pepper, but my dinner companion could).
Then we had frogs’ legs, so rare in restaurants these days, with a wonderfully bright sauce gribiche (chopped hard-boiled egg, capers and herbs in mayonnaise) and fine homemade breadcrumbs for crunch.
Things started to get really fancy with the next dish: fennel encased in a brioche crust with potato, trout roe and fennel sauce. It arrived in a puff of rosemary-scented smoke released by the server from under a glass bell. This dish demonstrated what marvels can be accomplished with vegetables when a little imagination (and a lot of effort) go into the mix. It was a symphony of subtle flavors.
We went up another notch with the fish course: maigre (meager) in a stunning sauce made with langoustine shells. It came with pieces of grilled langoustine and watercress purée. In a separate preparation, the meager took the form of carpaccio with watercress coulis, aioli and pickled onions.
Before the serving of the aforementioned duck pithiviers, we were offered a choice of knives. Would we prefer a knife with a handle made from ebony or goat’s horn? It was kind of pointless (pun intended), but it did draw attention to the high quality of the super-sharp knives.
The foreplay finally ended when the pithiviers was served. This surprise package, a kind of pie, was filled with edible gems: melt-in-the-mouth foie gras and tender, flavorful pieces of duck. And the sauce! I could never become a vegetarian if I had to give up dishes like this. The side dish it came with – breast meat with red cabbage and black-pepper foam – was also delicious but paled in comparison.
The desserts – intense pear sorbet with mascarpone-and-Chartreuse ice cream in a mini-cone; a deconstructed tarte tatin; and tarragon ice cream with a sesame cookie – were excellent but were something of an anti-climax because everything that came before was so fabulous.
I forgot to mention the excellent wine – a 2017 Burgundy Côte d’Or from Huguenot – and the incredible bread, which comes from the Terroir bakery on nearby Rue de Nil. I had a hard time resisting it and the algae-flavored butter it was served with, which may explain why I felt like Pantagruel himself when I left the restaurant to walk home bathed in the afterglow.
This brand-new restaurant is the first for chef Jason Gouzy (ex-Bristol and -Galopin), but he is surely destined for a great future and the notice of Michelin. Get there before a reservation becomes impossible to obtain.