French food is the cuisine of the new year. On a recent trip to Paris, I discovered that Parisian restaurants are producing exceptional dishes making brilliant use of technology while still keeping to the tenets of French cooking. With flavour bursting out all over, there is a freedom and playfulness in the dishes. We ate mostly at stylish bistros – gone are tablecloths, arrogant service and attitude in celebration of this neo-bistro movement.
Voted by Restaurant Magazine as one of the 50 best restaurants in the world, Le Chateaubriand took my breath away. The movie star-handsome chef from Basque Country, Inaki Aizpitarte, allows his imagination to create lusty, no-holds-barred dishes – all without any formal training. There was not a single similar taste throughout the five-course tasting menu and five amuse-bouche. His flavour pairings are inventive, exciting and sometimes just plain weird: raspberry juice to accompany seviche, shredded raw scallops with pomelo, and Jerusalem artichokes in a dessert. There is no end to his fevered imagination.
The incredible Agape Substance has Canadian connections. Part-owner Jean-Michel Centeno is the former owner of one of the first fine French restaurants in Toronto, Auberge Gavroche. Agape is small, with one table running down the centre and a few tables for two at the edges. They offer a tasting menu that varies depending on how much you want to spend, serving innovative, contemporary food that far exceeds your palate’s expectations.
The food from these restaurants is impossible to create at home, but here are two simpler recipes that we loved: