Yes, I guess I was just chiming in with my perceptions that Paris eating has changed in the last 15 years and the casual small plates sit at the bar kind of establishment maybe (ducks head) originated in California. When I lived full time in Bay Area our fave Sf restaurants were Bruce Cost Monsoon ( he had Ginger Club in Palo Alto that we loved) , Henry’s original Hunan restaurants (I’m also old) and used to enjoy Foreign Cinema, Range, Zuni, and just had dinner at Mourad in financial district. Burritos at La Taqueria are great. I live mainly in Santa Barbara now and we’ve got great Mexican, thai, Malaysian, Indian. Italian I make at home. I’m probably the worst person for this board since my favorite meal in Paris last May was Kubri. Anyway aren’t we lucky to be able to argue about Paris vs SF vs NYC food? Happy eating.
When we visited Chantoiseau in 2021 at John’s suggestion (he reviewed it in early 2020 and gave it a 7.5), I actually liked it quite a bit. My comments are here. There were just a few North African spices that seemed to suggest the cuisine was drifting in that direction. But the foie gras, the roasted langoustines and canard de Challans were superb.
Yes, that is precisely why I was quoting that recent article from The Guardian, I was assuming that was where the story came from (a bit like the one about English lawns being trimmed with nail scissors came from Astérix). It produced a little noise here at the time, aside from the British daily. In the ploutocratic hell that is Saint-Tropez, a 20% tip (a very unFrench practice btw) wouldn’t be unheard of. The artithmetics, as you say, are distinctly different in the US.
To @Annegrace : the tipping situation in France now really depends on where it’s happening. In most places it has remained pretty simple. In Paris it can make you scratch your head if you’re not French but basically tipping remains a weak practice in France. In places like Saint-Tropez or Monte-Carlo, I can’t even begin to think about it.
@onzieme, I’d like to know more about your concept of “precision and purity,” two words I’m not sure I have ever considered as advantageous to a meal. What I thought of when I read those words, I confess, were the words of the young chef, Erica, at Reyna last week. I asked her about the name of the restaurant, and she confirmed what I thought, which is that it is the Filipino word for “queen.” I couldn’t quite imagine that this young, modest woman was imagining herself as the “queen,” and indeed, she hastily added that she named the restaurant as a nod to her grandmother who had cooked for her when she was growing up and encouraged her love of food and cooking. Again, I was a step behind her…I asked her if the food she was cooking was from her grandmother’s recipes, and she laughed at me. “No, they are all from my imagination; I like to play with recipes and come up with food that is surprising and tastes good.” So, I think that is the opposite of “precision and purity,” but is a big part of the magic alchemy that I have been experiencing in Paris during my last several visits.
Wow, this post has really caused me to think about what you are saying. Trying to be brief in answering:
I think it’s commonly known these days that as a matter of physiology, people fall into different classes in what they taste. I’m most familiar with this with respect to wine, where I have been writing notes and comparing to written notes of others for well over forty years. There are some people whose tastes cause them to prefer powerful, relatively high alcohol, low acid wines often with a little residual sugar, and who seem unable to conceive of purity and precision as others taste it. The now-retired wine critic Robert Parker was in that class, and that’s why, for example, he never was able to understand red Burgundies, which are all about purity and precision. I’m not being negative on him, it’s all a matter of what our sensory organs tell us, and he was not sensitive to certain elements that many other people pick up.
Moving to cooking, I think that purity and precision are what the Japanese chefs who have come to France have taught us, and they have changed the way we consider and taste food. If you don’t get that from the food at, say, Alliance, then as a physiological matter I’d say you’re probably not able to understand/perceive it.
It goes beyond food and wine. This morning, while contemplating your post, I was listening to the great pianist Martha Argerich and it came to me that what separates her and, say, Murray Peraiha from so many other pianists is their precision and purity, yet there are plenty of fans of other pianists who play in a broader, more forceful but less precise style. À chacun son goût.
So it’s a matter of aesthetics and physiology, and as I said, not everyone is built to perceive it the same way.
After Los Angeles, Paris, while not inexpensive, did feel fairly priced and made me think that many of the California restaurants are way too expensive.
First, thanks much for the post. Very helpful. I particularly like where you used Japanese chefs in France to illustrate your point. I instantly grokked what you meant with that re: precision. But could you add a little more for the concept of “purity”, to the extent that it is distinct from “precision”? I think I might sort of understand it, but not quite sure that I do.
I would say that what I look for in a good meal is bold flavors and quality ingredients. I find artistic plates of subtle food a bit boring (and I know that’s my problem). Probably why I prefer Chinese food over Japanese and Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, North African/middle eastern, Indian food over most Western European cuisines (excluding Spain and Italy). Maybe it’s peasant food but it’s what I find most satisfying.
Purity and precision are closely related, and I don’t say that I always use them according to these definitions, but . . .
Precision is the way the ingredient is, very focused as opposed to muddied,
Purity is the ingredient at is purest state, e.g., not over- or underripe.
Okay, so I have been mulling this for several days, and I must say, I am still a bit stymied, but I think it is worth continuing to consider and go try Alliance when I am next in Paris (have not eaten there, so can’t comment on it). From your description, though, what comes to mind for me (I realize, not your bag) is Amarante. For Precision “ingredient…focused as opposed to muddied” and for Purity “ingredient at [its] purest state,” there is nowhere in Paris (maybe anywhere) that I have eaten that consistently feeds me amazing examples of meats, vegetables, chocolate (for examples), top quality, focused in their essences, and not over or under cooked (not sure I am talking about “ripe” here). But I think you are one of the people who don’t like this restaurant (correct me if my memory is off) and find the restaurant “sad.”
I’m not sure I have eaten at loads of the Japanese chef-in-Paris restaurants. I did eat at Montee years ago, and very much enjoyed my meal there. However, because of the set menu aspect, I have never been in a hurry to go back.
I think I am in line with what @Annegrace describes, though I would naturally add France to her short list of Western European cuisines. I do often find myself somewhat turned off by the pictures of exquisitely artistic plates posted, especially if they are at restaurants with set menus. But I think I lined up quite well with you, @onzieme, when it has come to the food at Jeanne Aimee, for example (though I have not, as expressed elsewhere been to their newly revamped set menu offering). I am pretty wild, however, about the intersting mélanges of cuisines, spices, etc. when done well. For example, I really loved my meal at Omar Dhiab, but again, I am not in a hurry to go back for another set menu.
When it comes to wine, I would say that I don’t know much, but know when I like a wine and when I don’t. Generally, I am a fan of red (and white) Burgundies for sure, though I am less apt to order red wines than I used to be because they sometimes trouble my sleep. Not always, and I still have no good understanding of when they do and when they don’t. I don’t know much about the wines you are tending to write about in your blog, but would be interested in trying more of them!