Down Below but High on Life

March 1, 2017By Heidi EllisonRestaurants
The basement dining room is cozy and attractive.

I would translate the word-playing name of the restaurant (V)ivre as “high (or drunk) on life,” a happy name for a place that cheers you up right away with a friendly greeting from the jovial owner, Caroline Savoy (daughter of renowned chef Guy), and a handsome interior with teal-blue walls, wooden bookshelves and lots of framed pictures.

We balked, however, when she tried to usher us down to the basement dining room and were dubious even after she assured us that we would like it. She was right. The ceiling was high enough to avoid claustrophobia yet it was still cozy and warm, with beautiful stone arches separating the different spaces.

We were further mollified by a lively glass of 2014 Jurançon Sec Cuvée Marie from Charles Hours.

The fish terrine served as an amuse-bouche


was a winner, but both Helen and I were taken aback by the unpleasantly strong acidic flavor of the lemon gel in the shellfish bouillon flavored with coriander and ginger in her


starter of crab ravioli. As she dug deeper into it, she found that the flavors came together nicely for one or two bites, but since there were only three or four bites in this small serving, there wasn’t much satisfaction to be had.

I fared much better with the roasted Cévennes


onion, red-onion bouillon and crunchy grilled buckwheat crumble. Unusual and delicious.

Helen won out with her main course of pigeon with sliced and puréed beets and pearl barley,


but once again not in terms of quantity. There was only one smallish chunk of pigeon, accompanied by a tasty croquette made with the bird’s giblets.

I had a rather more generous helping of poached lotte (monkfish) with sautéed


mushrooms, black rice and saffron-flavored sauce, served with a rather overpowering purée of Jerusalem artichokes.

The desserts we chose were intensely fruity,



one a medley of grapefruit in different forms – sections, sorbet and sauce – with a pannacotta base, the whole decorated with a teepee of meringue sticks. The other excellent dessert was all about orange: orange-blossom cake, orange marmalade with dried apricots, candied orange peel and orange ice cream.

The highlight of our meal, however, may have been the extra-fine 2015 Stéphane Ogier Côte du Rhône called Le Temps Est Venu, a steal at €30. Its time had come and it went fast.

I didn’t exactly feel high on life when I left (V)ivre, but I felt pretty good, most notably thanks to that wine.

It’s worth noting that the restaurant, located across the street from the Théâtre de la Michodière, offers a special pre-theater menu, plus different tasting menus with wine pairings.


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