Porte 12 has an attractive decor with a spiral staircase and coppery fixtures, but diners are more interested in their plates.
I have never been to Singapore, famed for its great restaurants and street food, but I have had the pleasure of eating food cooked by talented young Taiwanese chef André Chiang – whose Restaurant André in Singapore has been rated one of the top 50 in the world – at a food event in Paris a few years ago called Singapore Takeout. I have never forgotten it. It was great news, then, to hear that Chiang, who has worked at some of the best restaurants in France, had opened a place in Paris called Porte 12, reversing the trend of top French chefs opening restaurants in Asia.
The continent-hopping Chiang, of course, is not doing the cooking, since he must officiate at his restaurant in Singapore. At the stove is his French colleague Vincent Crépel, who spent two years working at Restaurant André.
Porte 12, located on a nondescript street in the 10th arrondissement, has a mysterious-looking facade that sends the message “only for those
in the know,” with an elegant copper frame around the menu next to the door. Those in the know – mostly attractive thirty-somethings – were already there even though Porte 12 had only been open for a week or so when we ate there.
The interior, apparently a former industrial space with cast-iron ceiling beams and a big skylight, is quite handsome, with the copper theme continued inside, notably in pretty copper-wire hanging light fixtures and other discreet touches. The chef and his staff are
squeezed into a small open kitchen, their work spotlighted by more copper light fixtures.
And what great work it is! The menu lists eight dishes. Diners can have six of them for €58 or all eight for €65. For wine pairings with each course, add €30 or €40 respectively.
Naturally, we chose to taste everything, but instead of the wine pairings, we had a lovely bottle of Saint Joseph for €35.
First up was a complimentary amuse-bouche, one of the highlights of the meal. Luckily, the sweet, efficient waiter had warned us to be careful when we popped the melon
ball into our mouths. At first bite it exploded into a flood of liquid melon flavored with vanilla. But for me the real joy was an André Chiang special: a squid-ink cracker with a touch of mustard. Good thing they don’t sell these as snacks in supermarkets, because I would be scarfing them down nonstop. These delicacies were served on a bed of moss.
Then the parade of dishes began, all of them original and excellent, some of them sublime: Atlantic mackerel cuit a la torche with cucumber sorbet and salade de la mer
(salicorn and seaweed); hot salad of cauliflower cooked in different ways (one of the sublime dishes); seiche (cuttlefish) cooked two ways
and served with livèche (lovage); merlan (whiting) with a tiny dab of butternut squash,
fish eggs and a meat-based jus; Australian beef (incredibly tender and rich; another
outstanding dish) with a bamboo charcoal crust infused with black tea, served with a tiny Noirmutier potato; for the cheese course, three
varieties (Swiss cow’s milk cheese, goat-cheese tomme from Savoie and Basque cheese) served with an original garlic/honey jam. That was followed by a palate-cleansing “pre-dessert” –
a grape in beet-vinegar sauce – and the actual dessert, a creamy “crème briochée.”
Amazingly, even though the restaurant had been open for such a short time, we didn’t notice a single hiccup in either the food or service.
What more can I say? Go there.