Transplanted Rose Blooms in Paris
|Daniel Rose at work in his shoebox restaurant.|
“Have you heard about this place? It’s the latest buzz, everyone’s talking about it!” was my introduction to Spring a few weeks back from a friend who also writes about food. We don’t read the same publications, and no, I hadn’t heard about it, but the idea of a four-course menu with no choices in a “shoebox” restaurant didn’t set my heart racing with excitement.
A shoebox it is, with just eight tables for two. That evening, six English-speakers, five of them American, and 10 French people were all having a good time in the smoke-free zone. The Americans at the table next to us apparently spend their time jetting around the world eating in all the famous restaurants: they had even managed to get a table at the book-six-months-ahead El Bulli in northern Spain (thanks to “persistence,” they said). But, boy, did they love Spring! “We’ll see you Tuesday,” they sang out to chef Daniel Rose as they left. “What do you want to eat?” he asked. They graciously said they’d leave it up to him.
On my brief acquaintance with the chef, that sounds typical of his unassuming generosity. Bemused by the media attention he’s been getting (see his blog), he was in and out of his kitchen being nice to his clients. François Simon, who writes restaurant reviews for Le Figaro, had recently written him up in glowing terms, speaking of his “sincerity, spirit and generosity,” all of which hit the nail on the head. In a subjective listing of the 20 “best” restaurants in Paris, Simon ranked Spring as “most improbable best.”
So here’s the deal: you go in, sit down and try a little amuse-bouche of something tasty while the waitress tells you what you’ll be eating. Everyone eats the same things (check ahead if you have “issues around” certain foods; the chef is reportedly very accommodating).
We began with a velouté of Jerusalem artichoke with foie gras, nice and hot (putting us one up on poor old Louis XIV, whose dinner table is said to have been so far from the kitchen that he and his fellow diners ate everything cold). It was also thumpingly good, with its little slivers of foie gras glistening in the center. The two ingredients spooned together like yin and yang, but nothing gets in the way of the four-square, earthy flavor of the humble topinambour, as the French call it. The combination struck the perfect note.
When the waitress announced the second course, my heart sank, because one of the two foods I do have issues around is mackerel. I try it regularly, but have never been able to put it away with pleasure. Until now. After Rose’s treatment – slow cooking and an accompaniment of Granny Smith apple slivers – it had lost all the oiliness I dislike. It was almost a religious experience.
Next came a hunk of spring lamb served with nothing but a couple of roasted Charlotte potatoes, both in a little lake of jus. It had been cooking for 24 hours, the chef told us matter-of-factly. The miracle, it seemed to me, was getting it to retain so much big sheep flavor. Has he got a source of older, stronger-flavored lamb – what in Britain they call “hogget,” an animal between weaning and first shearing?
By dessert time, I was feeling so contented with the food and conversation that I barely noticed the slow-cooked spiced apple, which still had plenty of apple flavor and looked a very pretty pink in its dish.
We left all aglow and not much poorer in our pockets, but enriched and happy to have been regaled like princes with true modesty by Daniel Rose. Catch him while you can.
Spring: 28, rue de la Tour d’Auvergne, 75009 Paris. Métro: Pigalle. Tel.: 01 45 96 05 72. Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner only. Fixed-priced menu (four courses, no choices): €36, not including wine.
© 2007 Paris Update
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