After four years as chef at the New York City branch of Racines, the Parisian bistrot à vin that restaurateur Pierre Jancou founded in the passage des Panoramas in 2007, Marseille-born chef Frédéric Duca has returned to Paris and opened a fantastic bistro on the northern edge of the 17th arrondissement. It’s a great-looking spot with sand-coloured Moroccan tile floors that the chef laid himself, an antique pharmacy cabinet displaying contemporary ceramics from Brooklyn and Aix-en-Provence, and perfect lighting from ’50s-style spots.
“New York was a fantastic experience,” says Duca. “I learned so much there, so now my cuisine is a mash-up of Marseille, Paris (Duca won a Michelin star at his restaurant L’Instant d’Or in the French capital before leaving for the US) and New York.” His short menu – just three or four suggestions for entrées, mains and desserts – changes regularly but spins on what the chef describes as “authenticity and audacious associations”.
This phrase might sound vague – or even menacing – depending on your gastronomic point of view, but a recent dinner here was outstanding. In fact, it brought to mind the cooking of the late chef Michel del Burgo, under whom Duca did an apprenticeship at Taillevent in Paris. Duca’s style is very much his own, however, with a full-barrel love of a wide spectrum of potent textures and flavours.
Dining here a week after the restaurant opened, we sampled all three entrées, including a wonderfully earthy but delicate open tart topped with sautéed Roscoff onions and red mullet in a pinoli nut and olive vinaigrette, cuttlefish sautéed with chorizo and pickled lemon, and a tartare of veal and razor-shell clams with bergamot, tarragon and smoked ricotta cheese.
Next, we shared an order of delicate, homemade agnolotti filled with Parmesan cream and topped with transparent ribbons of lardo di Colonnata – a brilliant dish – and then tucked into yellow pollack with pumpkin, macadamia and spinach rissoles in a ruddy jus de favouilles (tiny crabs), and beef with parsnips, carrots and pickled citrus in a jus de daube.
This superb meal ended with just as much intrigue as it had begun, since the bay-leaf-infused panna cotta with cider jelly and Granny Smith apple sorbet was rustic but very sophisticated, as was the chocolate cream with cocoa crumble and tonka-bean ice cream.
Charming service and a short but very interesting wine list.
137 rue Cardinet,Paris 17th. Tel.+33 (0)1 45 79 91 48. Four-course prix-fixe menu €68, average à la carte €60. www.rooster-restaurant.com
From France Today magazine