My friend Terry lives in the Batignolles quarter of Paris, which has an abundance of restaurants of every genre and level of quality. Together, she and I are seeking out the best ones. Two great recent discoveries were Mova and Truffaut.
The latest is Salicorne, a tiny new restaurant with a sidewalk terrace and a simple, charming decor in pale green with a big golden light fixture and shelves stocked with cookbooks, jars of preserves and wine.
Like the restaurant, the menu is small, perhaps too small. There were four starters on offer the other evening, but only three main courses, two of which were gnocchi, each with a different topping, one totally vegetarian, with white asparagus, broad beans and Swiss chard, and the other with guanciale (the only meat on the menu) and Swiss chard.
The two starters we had were exquisite. Terry tried the focaccia, deliciously combined with ricotta, roasted zucchini, anchovies and watercress. It might sound strange but it all blended together beautifully.
I had the cockles. Pure joy. They were perfectly cooked, tender and juicy, in a ginger- and chili-oil-flavored broth so wonderful that I drank it out of the bowl like soup when I had finished the shellfish.
We were waiting for a friend whose train was extremely late getting into Paris, so by the time we ordered our main courses, both versions of the gnocchi, which had looked so tempting when served at other tables, were sold out. That left only one serving of bar (bass), which I ordered, while Terry had the cockles as her second course. The fish was lovely, served with fennel purée, baby artichokes, datterini tomatoes (a small, sweet Italian variety), and wilted fresh spinach and radicchio.
For dessert, we shared the delightfully light, not very sweet cheesecake, served with roasted rhubarb, and the torta caprese (flourless Italian chocolate-and-almonds cake), topped with toasted seeds and nuts and served with fleur de sel ice cream. It seemed too salty at first but quickly grew on us.
Irish chef Carol Pender, formerly of Mokoloco, obviously has a way with vegetables and creative flavor combinations. My only complaint has to do with the lack of variety in the main courses and that most of them ran out before all the customers had ordered. Some improved management is needed there. That said, this little gem of a restaurant will remain on my list of Batignolles favorites.Favorite