One of the many reasons I’ve always appreciated chef Frédéric Simonin is that he’s an old-fashioned cook who believes a chef’s place is in the kitchen and not in the pages of celebrity magazines or cameo photos on boxes of frozen food. I first discovered Simonin when he was working for the talented but stormy Michelin-starred chef Ghislaine Arabian at her long-gone restaurant, and had last sampled his cooking when he worked in the same kitchen after the space had become La Table de Joël Robuchon. Now he is out on his own in an eponymous restaurant with a stylish black and white decor by interior designer Maud Lesur, and based on a recent dinner there he seems to be thriving. His contemporary French cooking is light, politely inventive and full of flavor, as seen in starters like a delicate fresh pea soup and dressed crab with avocado purée and a light citrus gelée. Main courses were excellent too: impeccably tender squid with oven-roasted tomatoes, Niçoise olives, fresh basil and a light vinaigrette; and veal sweetbreads wrapped in wilted lettuce, glossed with a delicate sauce of pan juices and garnished with first-of-season morel mushrooms. For dessert there was a simple but sophisticated passion fruit caramel cream with a gossamer sauce anglaise, and a granité of aged rum. It’s pricey, but there is a €38 lunch menu, and the setting, the service and most of all the superb cooking warrant the hefty tabs.

25 rue Bayen, 17th, Fixed-price lunch €38, à la carte €70. Prices are per person without wine.

Originally published in the June 2010 issue of France Today

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