The fashionably unfinished interior of Roseval.
I admit to being slow off the mark in reviewing Roseval, which has been around for a while and is already well known. In my defense, I did try to go there a number of times, but it was always booked up, and eventually it fell off the bottom of my list. It took the visit of my intrepid friend Connie, whom I entrusted with the thankless task of finding a restaurant for us on a Monday night, to get me in. After an hour or two of searching for a decent place to eat that hadn’t already been reviewed here, she managed to get a reservation at Roseval, but with conditions. First they said we had to come to the second sitting, at 10pm, then they called back to say we could come at eight if we were willing to sit under the scaffolding on the terrace. We grabbed it, even though the weather was coolish.
Roseval’s terrace has the great advantage of being set on a pretty and relatively calm
(when macho scooter drivers weren’t roaring past) square at the corner of Rue d’Eupatoria (named after the site of a major battle during the Crimean War) and Rue Julien Lacroix.
The charmingly rustic interior was all brick walls and simple tables and chairs. Above the bar was a sign reading “Travaux Poétiques.”
The poetic works here cost €45 for a no-choice menu. This seems to be the going rate (see review of Les Déserteurs) for this kind of young-chef-struts-his-stuff-and-you-can-take-it-or-leave-it kind of place (I’ll take it, but many wouldn’t) – further confirmation, if any is needed, that Paris is now one of the most expensive cities in the world and that quality will cost you, even if you have to sit under scaffolding next to a few trash cans redolently awaiting the garbage collectors (luckily, they didn’t arrive while we were there, but they might well have). Ordering sweetbreads or a cheese course raised the price even higher.
So, was it worth it? Yes and no. Everything we had was fresh and of excellent quality, and there were some delicious combinations, but the portions were quite small.
We started with red and white beets with fresh anchovies and a slightly smoky-flavored raspberry-colored sauce, prettily topped with salicornia. Next was my favorite dish of the
meal, crispy-skinned mullet with smoked heirloom tomatoes, slivers of pickled onion and a dash of cream, flavored with lemon and basil. The meat course came in a close second: bavette (flank steak) with purée of radishes, grilled zucchini, black olives, lemon oil and a type of parsley that looked like grass.
We were then served a “pre-dessert”: a delicious little concoction of pannacotta, chopped peaches, mint and lemon. Was this to compensate for the main dessert, which
consisted of cooked carrots with cumin and slivers of raw almond? The vanilla ice cream didn’t change the fact that carrots are carrots and don’t belong in desserts (I thought this trend of using vegetables in desserts had deservedly died out long ago). As if to offer further compensation, we were then given a post-dessert: two luscious little financiers.
The restaurant has an intriguing wine list, with bottles from all over Europe, including Italy, Spain, Greece, Austria and Germany. We drank one of the less-expensive offerings, a table wine from Gaillac, Bois Moisset’s Vieilles Vignes du Falgueyras, which was fine but didn’t set any bells ringing.
The scrumptious crusty bread was from the bakery Du Pain et des Idées, a favorite – with good reason – in this type of restaurant. I think I might have gone hungry if I hadn’t eaten so much of it.
Was it utopia on Rue d’Eupatoria? Not quite. Was there poetry in the food? Yes, at times. Was it worth the money? I’m not so sure…
Roseval: 1, rue d’Eupatoria, 75020 Paris. Tel.: 09 53 56 24 14. Métro: Ménilmontant. Fixed-price menu (no choice): €45. www.roseval.fr
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Reader Harriet Welty Rochefort writes: “I went to Roseval with some foodie friends from the States, one of whom is a cookbook writer and intrepid restaurant-goer. She was horrified by just about everything: the neighborhood (dismal), the menu (small, illegible printing), the no-choice menu, the so-so service. I was less horrified, but it was an eminently forgettable experience, and I won’t return. The food was ‘interesting’ and sometimes tasty, but I had the feeling that we were barely tolerated as customers (and that wasn’t because of my friend’s bad attitude which, to her credit, she successfully hid). I know this place is a big deal with many chefs so maybe it’s a ‘chef’s restaurant.’ It certainly looked like there were those were ‘in’ and those who were ‘out.’ In any case, Roseval didn’t ring bells for me – which is really too bad considering I live in the 20th. I keep hoping that the nearby 11th will get too small for all the chefs who have flocked there and that some of them will come over to the 20th, which deserves a better restaurant scene than it has.”
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