I am going to try and write this post without using any of the following words and phrases: “new wave bistronomy”, “inspired by his basque heritage”, “unintimidating decor”, “thwarting convention” or “raw culinary genius”.
If you have been anywhere near a French food magazine or blog space recently you have probably already guessed I’m about to write about Iñaki Aizpitarte and his bistro Chateaubriand...either that or you’re trying to figure out the Basque roots of Daniel Rose.
Chateaubriand was named 11th best restaurant in the world by this years S.Pelligrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant panel and I get it. I really really get it. My first night at the chilled bistro I undoubtedly my vocal expressions of joy caused my friends to uncomfortably shift in their seats and feign ignorance as to our relationship when plate after plate of sexy, creative and really smart food sauntered to our table. More correctly, it was sauntered to our table by a gillette (the collective noun for perfectly tended facial hair) of smooth, understated and nearly earnest front of house staff who could each talk knowledgeably of the ever changing menu and ideally priced wine list.
I’ve been back three times in the past couple of months and on each visit the fixe menu (50 Euro for 5 courses which changes daily) has prompted this same reaction from me. Usually by the time a series of amuse bouche have been served (drunken prawns, seared tuna, ceviche jus) I realise that to maintain ongoing friendships I may have to dine alone next time...or only with my equally amused friends from culinary school.
Aizitarte (who appears from my stalking online to have a penchant for leather and ‘bad boy’ themed photo shoots) has no formal training, having realised and committed to his culinary career relatively late for a chef. I feel this translates in the fresh, often raw (actually raw, not of raw emotion, that would be a little too much hyperbole despite my obvious persuasion towards this restaurant) food offerings at Chateaubriand which feel unconstrained by the stereotypes of classic French cuisine (of which I am becoming a certified expert at Le Cordon Bleu, be it happily, one knob of butter at a time).
The food at Chateaubriand focuses on divine produce, is clean in its construction and appears deceivingly simple in technique sometimes. Brittany cockles and razor clams, baby leek, herbs and Jerusalem artichoke crisps. Delicious.
Poached cod, just opaque, with baby vegetables and a cauliflower emulsion, so calm in flavour and colour that I nearly overlooked in before the final ribbon of taste reminded me it was also delicious.
The perfectly seared beef fillet hidden beneath a salad of both cooked and raw beets, radish and leaves, dressed in a beet and mustard seed jus is bright and bitey. Its always sad at this point when the course count tips in favour of the end and you can see other tables only starting out their menu. I would usually ask the waiter whether it is possible to take cheese and dessert to postpone the inevitable. It’s France, the answer is always yes.
As a culinary student, the pairings Aizitarte and his team plate are intimidating and exciting in equal measure. Red fruits, raspberry dust, fried basil and red fruit sponge send little punches all over your mouth which are then soothed by a rice flavoured ice cream and a semi-sweet biscuit crumble. The dish looks too amazing, perhaps a simple warning signal not to dine in white silk clothing?
All I can say is go to Chateaubriand, believe all the hype, wear something suitably French and aloof and make sure you have a good list of friends to go back with next time just in case you are as incapable of restraint as I am.
(Chateaubriand, 129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris, +33 (0) 1 4357 4595, Reservations necessary for 8pm sitting)