I played hooky from French class last Thursday, ostensibly to spend time with the little sis before she leaves Paris, but more so because our friend Miss C had made lunch reservations at Bigarrade, a place she had heard much about and wanted to try. It was also Miss C’s last week in Paris before she jetted home and then to Bangladesh, and a good opportunity to hang out with her. And to be perfectly honest, since my French is still not at the level where I feel comfortable enough to converse through the phone, I had to make use of Miss C’s superior French at least once before she left!
So that afternoon, we found ourselves in an other undistinguished part of town to partake in the cheapest 2 star Michelin degustation deal in Paris. For E45, one gets 8 courses and for E65, 12 courses at Bigarrade. It is no surprise we went for the full works, as did most of the other 15 or so diners in the small dining room that afternoon. Little sis even sprung for the wine pairing, priced gently at E35 for 5-6 demi-pours (and several top-ups).
We munched on a precious cube of home made focaccia, with individual teacups of extra virgin olive oil for dipping while deciding whether to go all out or be modest. After that, we were served:
Deeped fried baby squid accompanied by a quarter of grilled lime. I initially described it as tempura, but the batter is in fact much more delicate, crumbling at the touch of our fingers.
A slightly spicy granita, with bitter and licorice notes from the raw cauliflower and anise to whet our appetites.
A pair of raw meats: the fresh anchovy is lightly seared, then topped with umeboshi and paired with half a grilled zucchini flower. The slice of beef is subjected to a stronger treatment, dressed in shallot oil evocative of Chinese cooking, and topped with a sweet raw clam. Both very tasty, but the pairing did not add much extra value to the parts.
A poached quail’s egg immersed in a chilled kombu and vinegar broth, reminiscent of onsen tamago.
Its rare I get to eat both squid and cuttlefish in the same meal. The cuttlefish is lightly pan fried to harden on one end, but still retained the soft raw texture on the other end. Spicy, bitter radish and very salty dried tuna fish eggs (their version of bottarga?) rounded the other flavor profiles to balance the natural sweetness of the protein. We could not for the life of us identify the vegetable base that anchored the sweet, starchy wheat-based green sauce.
The snapper was blow torched to give the fish that nice smoky flavor, with bits of soot artistically left on the plate to alert diners of the cooking method. Otherwise, this was a relatively unmemorable dish to me, with the savoriness of the ham underused.
We reach the end of appetizers with unctuous ankimo, not called foie gras of the sea for naught, done in a straightforward Japanese fashion, down to the ponzu dipping sauce and sprinkle of green onions.
The turbot marinated with shrimp paste was my favorite dish of the meal, the firm white flesh very subtly suffused with the funk of fermented shrimp paste, accompanied by a lone asparagus, a strip of semi-sour mango, crushed peanuts and a dollop of very mild goat’s cheese. The Thai influence hinted at but not too obvious, this was a delight to eat.
For our meat course, we were treated to a succulent medallion of seared lamb, the baby peas and a single, perfect gariguette strawberry evoking the lightness and freshness of Spring.
All too soon, it was the cheese course – Tome de brebis and crottin de chavignol. We liked the goat’s cheese so much I immediately bought a round at the fromagier for my poor husband who had to sit out of lunch.
Desserts followed: A pretty bowl of flower-topped cherry granita
A trio of chilled fruit/vegetable based desserts: cucumber, pineapple, mint, chlorophyll; curry, mango, cauliflower; beetroot, lemon cream, rhubarb. Beautiful to look at and very playful in terms of mixing flavors and textures. But not what I’ll usually eat.
Next, we had yet another 3 unconventional desserts. Strawberry ice cream atop a tamarind confiture; potato + caramel; meringue + coffee sauce. We were enamored by the boiled fingerling potato. But there was no identity crisis, the potato was indeed a dessert, that starch a good match for the thick caramel sauce and crunchy crumble.
The best desserts in my opinion tends to be the most traditional. And the dark flourless chocolate cake, adorned with matcha powder + raw edamame was so beautifully plated, ultra sinful and satisfying…
… as were the light and fluffy vanilla macarons that came with the bill, the smooth vanilla bean studded cream similar to the thick, soft ones at Pierre Herme.
Overall, it was a successful meal spanning more then 3 hours, with 2 other ladies who loved food. The room, bright and modern; the open kitchen, with the chance to catch chefs at work; and the service, prompt and courteous all contributed to the pleasure of eating at Bigarrade. Tastewise, the meal was very well executed technically with little missteps in terms of flavors and cooking. However, reviewing the menu, I don’t recall much fireworks or a sense of progression (from light to heavy and vice versa). Part of it can be attributed to the fact that being an Asian, I am well acquainted with the ingredients the kitchen uses, which reduces the surprise factor and inventiveness of the chef. The most risks were taken with the desserts, and there we had the most fun and irreverent creations, such as the potato. I hope to be more surprised the next time I’m back (and I will because the husband has requested a visit)!
106 Rue Nollet, 75017, Paris