I, like many other food enthusiasts pour a lot of energy into researching our meals, spending hours poring over guides, forums and blogs. One restaurant that had escaped all my research endeavors was L’Affriolé , a restaurant in the highly trafficked 7th arrondissement. In fact, our informant, P’s university professor whom he had reunited with during our trip to Chicago, was not even a frequent visitor to Paris but had gushed so eloquently about L’Affriolé that we just had to visit. If not for him, we would’ve missed this gem of a restaurant. So thanks Prof!
While the restaurant’s decor had a modern sheen to it, the welcome was traditionally gracious and warm, starting from the platter of radishes set on each table. We didn’t waste anytime dispensing of them, as well as the truffle butter that we slathered generously on warm, homemade French épi (bread shaped like a sheaf of wheat).
Onto the menu itself, an even split between traditional French dishes and some with elements of fusion, the kitchen incorporating non-Gallic spices/cooking methods to good measure. The croquettes, filled with salted cod and chorizo cubes were undoubtedly Spanish-inspired, and fantastic piping hot and dunked in the sweet/spicy rouille. A royale de champignon on the other hand, in its cream and mushroom glory, was all French.
The mains were generously portioned and flavored. Though I seldom order duck, my seared duck breast, set on an open squash ravioli was just perfect, the meat tinted light pink and juicy, the crust seasoned with just a hint of cumin and coriander, very Arabian nights.
The boys’ plates of roasted pork belly were delicious too, the slab of interlaced fats and meat slow-roasted to a quivering mass, the skin caramelized to a golden brown with the aid of a honey glaze. The flavors were reminiscent of a very decadent order of char siew. The side of cauliflower custard was so good P finished his without offering me a second bite. The fish that ZZ ate was likewise generously size and well-cooked, though we failed to identify the presence of sesame that had been advertised on the menu.
After a heavy plat, I was relieved to finish the meat with a light, fruity dessert. The poached pear did not disappoint, in fact it was cooked in much less sugar than I originally expected. The light cap of brule-ed meringue and base of buttery sable provided further textural constrasts and helped reduce the feeling of a sugar overload.
Our send-off was as genial as our welcome, with a box of homemade fleur d’orange scented marshmallows presented alongside our check. At 35E for 3 dishes, combined with the little freebies in the beginning and end and the good service, I thought L’Affriolé was an absolute gem. Apparently, so does Le Guide Michelin, which awarded it a bib gourmand!
L’Affriolé – 17 Rue Malar 75007 Paris