Painted lime green and accented with sleek modern lamps, chef Christophe Pelé’s shopfront restaurant La Bigarrade, on a slightly forlorn street in the Batignolles district, is the hot word-of-mouth address in Paris this spring. It’s not for everyone, since there is only a single set menu daily, none of the waiters speak English and service can be irritatingly mannered. But if you’re avid for a cutting-edge sample of contemporary French cooking, you should reserve right away—there are only seven tables and Paris food lovers are keeping them filled.

I arrived a little wary, on the heels of fulsome praise that described Pelé as a stylistic (if not actual) student of Spain’s Ferran Adrià and Britain’s Heston Blumenthal–somewhat surprising since he had cooked at Le Jardin, in the Hôtel Royal Monceau, for many years without causing much of a stir. I was quickly converted by a brilliantly conceived starter—a fat, diced oyster with sorrel puree, cubed fennel bulb and herring caviar. The rest of the tasting menu was equally stunning: John Dory carpaccio with bottarga (pressed tuna roe), Japanese seaweed and mango; roasted foie gras in red cabbage juice with cockles, cockle foam and lemon brioche; and steamed monkfish with curry-and-saffron bouillon and fine ribbons of chorizo. A cheese course was followed by an array of small desserts that included a tangy lemon cream with mandarin orange gelée and a miniature fresh fruit salad with fennel bulb, carrots and pears in passion fruit soup with fromage blanc ice cream.

106 rue Nollet, 17th, Prix-fixe €45 per person without wine

Originally published in the April 2008 issue of France Today

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