It’s always interesting when a chef goes out on his or her own for the first time after working in the kitchens of one or two (or a slew of) colleagues, so I was curious to discover chef Frédéric Duca’s new L’Instant d’Or. Duca has worked for a real rogue’s gallery of great chefs, including Gérard Passédat of Le Petit Nice in Marseille and the compulsively itinerant Michel del Burgo, and most recently with Hélène Darroze at her eponymous Left Bank table. On our arrival, things did not get off to a very auspicious start—the modern decor of Duca’s three small dining rooms is attractive but chilly, and the welcome offered a curious and rather archly unctuous pastiche of the good service expected in a restaurant so expensive. But when our first courses arrived, all was instantly well in the world. Plump langoustines in citrusy foam were served with girolle mushrooms and chestnut shavings, and a clever open raviolo filled with deeply flavored duxelles was topped with lardo di colonnata, and both were superb. Our main courses—butter-poached lobster on squid-ink tagliolini, and scallops with ham and delicate hazelnut wafers—were fascinating, simultaneously refined and rustic. Desserts by talented Japanese pastry chef Kiriko Nakamura were dramatically graphic, light and refreshing fruit-based compositions. Although the place isn’t cheap, prices are reasonable given the remarkably high caliber of Duca’s cooking.
36 ave George V, 8th, 01.47.23.46.78. Métro: George V.
Lunch menus €42–€49, dinner menu dégustation €98; à la carte €95 per person without wine.
Originally published in the May 2012 issue of France Today