There’s nothing particularly wild about the restaurant Sauvage, but it is rather difficult to find since the sign outside says “La Marlotte” (the restaurant had just moved across the street into the space of La Marlotte). Because I was looking up, trying to find the street number on the building, I almost bumped into two of my dining companions, who were standing on the sidewalk looking confused.
No matter. We soon figured it out and were happy to be indoors on the first cool evening of autumn and ready to be wowed.
And wowed we were by the first courses, especially by the fresh, plump clams, simply steamed in a memorable broth and then sprinkled with fresh lovage. Sublime.
The raw bonito was very happily paired with raspberries and rings of mild raw onion, a brilliant invention on the chef’s part.
The oysters, two big fat ones served without their shells, were swimming in a cold cucumber soup with thin slices of apple and topped with plenty of fresh chervil, another felicitous marriage.
Could the chef keep it up with the main courses? Yes, but not quite as brilliantly as in the first courses, with the exception of the meltingly tender pork, which was served with incredibly tender, smoky-flavored eggplant and delicious gravy. We couldn’t figure out what the green sauce threaded with fresh tarragon was, and the waiter, a Timothy Spall lookalike, teasingly refused to tell us what it was. It was so mild, not to say bland, that we just couldn’t guess. The main ingredient turned out to be zucchini. I never heard of making a sauce of it before, and while it didn’t add much, the dish as a whole worked beautifully.
The friend who had the lotte (monkfish) found it rather dull at first, but it grew on her as the various flavors of fresh mussels, tomatoes and peach slices chimed in and harmonized. It was another excellent confrontation of ingredients.
I had the sweetbreads, which were delicious – crispy outside, tender inside – but weren’t especially well-served by the accompaniment of celeriac and barely cooked broccoli rabe.
The desserts were unusual. The poached pear was not a great success. It was, unfortunately, not poached in wine, and it came with a strange sauce made with brioche. The chef seems to have a penchant for making sauces from bland ingredients, and the results are not very exciting, but I admire his willingness to experiment. I also appreciated the low sugar content in his desserts.
We enjoyed the other dessert (there are only two on the menu) far more: a luscious little strawberry tart with verbena flavoring and a hint of mild Espelette pepper.
On second thought, although Sauvage is a highly civilized place, it is wild after all – wildly good.