Editor’s note: Sadly, after 10 years in business, Spring is now closed. Daniel Rose’s recipes can still be found, however, at La Bourse et la Vie.
The Café des Musées is under new management.
Whenever I’m asked to name my favorite restaurant in Paris, I say Spring. Not just because the food is invariably wonderful, but also and especially because of the warm welcome and the way the servers seem to be enjoying themselves as much as you are, turning a meal into an experience that’s fun for everyone, with none of the sharp edges that sometimes crop up in even the best places. I hadn’t been there in a while, however, so it was time to check up on the situation.
The occasion was the birthday of my visiting sister, Anika. We reserved well in advance (much simpler now that online booking is available) and had no trouble getting a table.
As always, chef-owner Daniel Rose was welcoming and attentive, keeping an eye on both the cooks in the open kitchen and the well-being of his customers.
At Spring, there are no choices on the preset menu, although food allergies and preferences are taken into account if noted when reserving. Michael, my sister’s partner, doesn’t eat beef, so he was offered quail instead of veal and was thrilled with it.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we ate: crispy deep-fried frogs’ legs (deboned) with sesame oil and Espelette pepper; cold pea soup with cream; bonito sashimi with asparagus,
peppercorns and a light and luscious lemon sabayon; sea bream with crispy skin; tender, perfectly cooked veal served with a carrot and a fabulous broth; and for dessert, tea sorbet with grapefruit jelly (a surprisingly wonderful combination), chocolate mousse with blackberries, vanilla cream with raspberries, and lemon curd with meringue. Everything was cooked just right and balanced to perfection. Bravo!
In celebration of Anika’s birthday, we drank Champagne: the super-fine J.L. Vernon Grand Cru Blancs de Blancs at the reasonable price (for Champagne in a restaurant) of €60. We also sampled (on the house) the marvelous 2012 Domaine de la Taille aux Loups from Montlouis sur Loire. A glance at the wine list revealed a surprisingly wide range of prices (I had been under the impression that the wine was on the high end here, but there were numerous bottles under €30).
Most of the customers at Spring still seem to be Americans, and I wondered why the French haven’t adopted it. Distrust of an American chef? They have heartily embraced the many Japanese, Australian and even British chefs around town. Maybe it’s just because it is so popular with Americans that no one else can get a reservation.
Is it still my favorite? I think so, but check this space next week. I am going to try a new place that promises to be stellar.
By the way, one problem at Spring mentioned in a previous Paris Update review – the smell of cleaning products coming from the open kitchen while people were still eating – has been corrected, another sign that Rose is a responsive restaurateur.
I’m sorry to say that I can no longer recommend another old favorite we went to the following evening, the Café des Musées, which seems to have fallen victim to its own success. While I never found the cramped interior very comfortable, the food was always plenty good enough to make up for it.
Dinner there the other night, however, was a trial rather than the pleasure it should have been. The restaurant seems to have squeezed even more tables into its narrow space to profit from its great popularity, especially with Americans. Our table jutted out into the walkway used by the servers. A waitress asked one of my companions to squeeze over, which I thought was rather nervy considering that they had placed the table in such a way that it would partially block her route.
The servers were rushed off their feet even though there were several of them. Although they were mostly pleasant, we got a dirty look from one waitress when we said we had not ordered a steak tartare she brought to the table, as if her error was our fault.
The food was no longer up to standard. Michael loved his asparagus soup, but I found it uninteresting. His sliced duck breast was overcooked, and my échine de porc was dry and lacking in flavor.
Chocoholism won out over a pressing desire to leave as the sound levels grew increasingly unbearable, so we shared a dark-chocolate terrine with caramel and crème anglaise, which was fine, for dessert.
By the time my sister finished her tea, the mega-decibels were hacking at my nerves. Did I say that eating there was not a pleasant experience? By the end of the evening, I felt like I was tied to a conveyor belt in a James Bond film as a chainsaw prepared to slice my skull in two. Luckily I escaped in the nick of time.
Café des Musées: 49, rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris. Tel.: 01 42 72 96 17. Fixed-price menu: €21; à la carte: around €30. Open daily for lunch and dinner. cafedesmusees.frFavorite