Thursday, June 23, 2011

Paris - Restaurant Kei

At the suggestion of a friend, my wife and I recently tried Restaurant Kei, a newly established restaurant in the premises that used to house the illustrious Gérard Besson. The 33-year old chef, Keisuke Kobayashi, trained for a decade in France, including spending seven years working for Alain Ducasse, and this excellent experience shows.

The food is French, the sensibility and presentation Japanese, a mixture that works most, but not all, of the time. The menu - six or eight courses, for 75 or 95 euros, as the case may be - is selected by the chef, with few choices for the diner. Only the meat course (pigeon or lamb chops the night we were there) and dessert (chocolate or meringue lattice with red fruits) are left to be decided. However, when you book a table, you are asked about any food allergies or other problems, and that is recorded and scrupulously honored.

We opted for the six-course menu. The first course, an avocado soup with caviar that was way under-seasoned, made us a bit nervous about what was to come.

Avocado Soup
The second course, however, made up for our disappointment with the soup. Smoked salmon with more than 10 vegetables, each perfectly cooked, bitter greens and an interesting sauce. Pretty, too.

Smoked Salmon with Vegetable Medley
Next was lobster for me, sea bass for my wife who is allergic to lobster. The lobster, served with tasteless summer truffles over a light purée of ratatouille, was fine, but the sea bass was amazing. Absolutely the crispiest skin ever (how does he do that?) atop perfectly succulent fish: among the best we've ever had.

Sea Bass and Lobster
For the meat course, we chose the pigeon, another triumph. My wife adores pigeon and orders it often. She ranked this among the best she's had. Perfectly cooked with a light, but tasty, jus.

The cheese was not routine. Cheeses are supplied by the well-respect Marie Quatrehomme and included a four-year-old cantal that has forever redefined this cheese for me, a perfect little rocamadour and a classic camembert that was just à point. The only choice we didn't like was the bleu des basques, which we found to be like an even more salty and less creamy version of roquefort.

Desserts were pretty but not great. The chocolate dessert consisted of a fairly boring mousse surrounded by a chocolate tuile, with various accompaniments. The red fruit vacherin was perfectly all right, but not sensational. I think the chef needs a pastry person or a serious rethinking of the final course, including the post dessert assortment and the home-made truffles that were no better than you can easily make at home.

Chocolate and Red Fruit Desserts

An Assortment of After-Desserts
All in all, an excellent meal, and a great value for 75 euros. This is a great start for the young chef, and we expect that he will get even better. In this regard, we were impressed to see the chef talking at length to a neighboring diner, who seemed to be a food critic, about what he is doing well and what could be improved.

Restaurant Kei, 5 rue Coq-Héron, 75008 Paris, Métro Les Halles, Sentier or Louve Rivoli.

Bobby Jay

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