La Bigarrade is conceptually somewhere between L’Astrance, the “bistronomique” movement and Pierre Gagnaire. There is only one menu here every day, priced at a very friendly €65, hence the resemblance to Barbot’s concept. One doesn’t know what is served until one gets it, which is also similar to what happens at L’Astrance, but what really is different here, is the daily menu change. Whilst a Barbot menu will pretty much always include at least the foie gras/mushroom dish, and a shot as amuse, will follow a certain form, a meal here is never like another. The “bistronomiques” come to mind, as this is a very simple setting, in a not so posh area, with only 18 covers at most. Hence, one should book well in advance, as tables go as quickly as they are freed. Finally, Gagnaire’s influence is most prominent on the plate. Christophe Pele worked with the master, and likes to serve a number of little impressions, working with textures, contrasting flavours, temperatures and colours to make the dining experience a very entertaining and engaging one.
Wine-wise, we tried a very good white Loire wine as an apero, and then drank a fantastic 1997, Andre Beaufort Brut Polisy, which evolved and changed its character throughout the whole meal (for the better that is). Later on, we had a lovely St Joseph, whose producer and vintage I didn’t write down. To finish the evening, we were offered a few glasses of a stunning Greek ice wine. The wine list is not overpriced and features only natural wines, all very well selected as it seems.
To start the meal, and this seems to be the only common thing with all diners, one gets a focaccia with olive oil. This is pleasant, but not really that special. Good.
Next up were deep-fried moscardini, or little poulpes, with some grilled lemon. This was already a very enjoyable start. The meat’s texture was firm, and juicy, whilst the coating was deliciously crunchy. Such food just is great to eat, and is very good.
Next up was a little glass filled with herring roe, a granite made out of roquet and a clam. This was very bizarre, as the roquet’s bitterness overpowered the rest by far. Not good.
The following course was excellent though. An oyster was served with dashi jelly, black truffle and a little apple. A stunningly well-balanced, incredibly light dish, that simply worked. Apart from the great products, the interaction between the elements here was remarkable. The bonito’s nearly smoky flavour was given a slightly sweet/sour element by the crunchy apple, and the oyster provided a iodine kick, that made the whole thing come together. The truffle was beautiful, but didn’t cut through these delicate, yet powerful flavours. This was a beautiful marriage with the Champagne, which proved a very good partner throughout the whole meal. Excellent.
The next course came, and was another very good one: raw scallops, apple and celery. A simple combination that nearly always works. It was another very light, fresh dish, that just was very enjoyable to eat, as the seasoning was spot on, and the products of very fine quality. Such food: natural, direct, clean, spontaneous is simply great.
The next dish saw the largest langoustine I’ve ever eaten. This monster was perfectly cooked and had a beautiful texture. Not quite as good as those at the Square, ADPA or Hof van Cleve, but certainly much better than one would hope for in a 1* place. The accompanying elements (shallot compote, a little crustacean oil, spinach) worked beautiful, even if they were used like little touches, to add colour here or there. Excellent.
Moving on, next up was a rouget barbet served wit a shallot condiment and daikon radish. What was intriguing in this, and the subsequent fish courses, was the cooking of the protein. The fish was just seared on both sides, leaving it bleu, something I would never have imagined in France. However, to my great astonishment, it worked. With such good quality, the incredibly short contact with high-heat, and a long resting time resulted in a very pleasing unusual texture of the fish’s meat. Together with the vegetables, this was another great dish.
After this came a piece of lotte, which was cooked in a similar way. This type of fish would have been even less suited for such rare cooking I thought, but when I tried it, it worked again. Terrific, the first time I enjoyed a lotte, which tends to be very unpleasant in terms of texture. The burnt garlic condiment was a little reminiscent of Inaki Aizpitarte’s burnt aubergine cream, but went well with the fish and the radicchio, clam salad. Excellent.
We now moved on to the St. Joseph and a piece of lamb rack from the Lozere region, served with bottarga, Brussels sprouts and a little jus. Boy, this was another great plate! The lamb worked fantastically with the dried fish roe, which gave the meat a much more complex, rich flavour. Whilst the sprout leaves were more for colour, the little lemon condiment on the side lived things up. A great dish!
A little cheese is a must, and was of good quality.
The desserts were a little more shaky than the excellent savoury courses. The first set was bizarre. On the far left, one had a sweet broth with flowers, which tasted nearly “empty”, or thin or of not much. There was no distinguishable flavour, nor enough sweetness. In the middle, the little glass was filled with a mango sorbet, truffle and beet puree. The truffle was a preserved one, and thus tasted of absolutely nothing, only adding texture (not a very nice one though) to the cup. Otherwise, this was the best of the bunch, as the passionf-ruit/yoghurt cup was inedible, too sour. Not good.
However, the next little thing was outright delicious. A dacquoise sandwich housed a little praline, and a vanilla cream. Eaten like a normal sandwich, this was fun, delicious, and comfortable. Very good.
The next dessert, a Calvados sabayon, served with caramelised apple, was great. The sabayon was fantastic, and had just enough Calvados to be noticed, without becoming penetrant. The apple was just decadent in combination with the sabayon. Excellent.
The last bunch of desserts was a little bizarre again. The little chocolate cake in the front was pretty good, whilst the chocolate sauce with litchi was of a very unpleasant flavour. This was no better than the first dessert.
The food here tonight was fantastic. Apart from the little appetiser, and the 2 desserts, everything was excellent. Products were of great quality, cooking was highly interesting, unusual, clean, fresh, light, and a pure delight. This spontaneous, sketchy cooking is not only engaging, but also enjoyable for the diner, who gets confronted with combinations that might be questionable, but are at least interesting. I had a hugely enjoyable evening here, and will be very happy to return on a future trip, as this really is a gem in Paris, and Europe. A fantastic experience, which is unbelievably cheap too.