29 September 2010

obligatory admiring post about: spring buvette, 75001

No, I haven't been to the restaurant upstairs. The friendly American couple (C and his wife E) I met outside informed me there was a three-month wait for reservations. This would be welcome news for liver transplants or space tourism; for a meal I have to profess I consider it a kind of insanity.*

Me and C. 
So it will come as welcome news that at 21h on a Saturday night in autumn, when my chef friend P and I left after sharing a delightful impromptu light meal with C and E, Spring Buvette still exuded a kind of prayerful, exclusive-hotel-lobby calm. Candles didn't flicker, wine didn't spill, and communal tables - which I'd expected to be kind of trough-like and lively - were still mostly empty.

So, yeah. You can get a table, and the staff - uniformly bilingual - are all pretty awesome. Part of me suspects that Daniel Rose's real secret to success - beyond the market menu, culinary ingenuity, etc. - is his fidelity to American customer service, which in Paris is considerably more scarce than great cuisine.

There are other Americanisms visible in Buvette's presentation. The big wine glasses are a treat**. The rear wall of half the restaurant is lined not with a standing bar but with two chairs and a teensy table that add significantly to the aforementioned hotel-feel. Also, it might have just been that night, but the place was chock full of Americans. I feel this might be due to the general appeal Rose's story has for American bloggers and American press in general. Chicago chef conquers Paris culinary scene! It's a kind of expat triumphalism, rendered all the more hysterical for the decades Americans have spent in quaking awe of French cuisine.

But: the wine, the wine, the wine. It's why I popped by that night, and why I'll invariably be back shortly after I receive my next paycheck. The Buvette list is absolutely crammed with serious grand-slam wines. So much so that I'm compelled to break my unofficial rule of only raving about one wine per post.

P and I began with a 2008 Chablis 1er Cru by Thomas Pico's Domaine de Pattes Loup -

- that was one of the most scintillatingly expressive wines of its type I've had in years. It was a serious high-toned sunburst of a Chablis. It reminded me - in a good way - of one of those show-off desserts wherein a pastry chef does 18 mind-bending variations on the flavor of lemon rind.

Later I leapt when Josh, Spring's brilliant San Franciscan*** wine director, mentioned he had a bottle of Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot's 2008 Beaune "La Lune" open.

It was kind of a rhubarb / manna from heaven effect. Extraordinarily clear, glowing red fruit. Perfect acid. Giboulot's estate is totally biodynamic since 1996, and and it's worth mentioning that his "Terre Burgondes," a Pinot Beurot-dominated Vin de Pays de Saint Marie-La-Blanche, is one of Spring Buvette's best deals on the bottle list.

To finish we shared a glass of ancient Domaine La Tour Vielle Banyuls so roasty leathery and gorgeous that even E, who doesn't drink, was inspired to take a sip.

What makes Josh's list so worthwhile, in my mind, is the attention paid to these glass pours. They're relatively cher, it's true - between the 5eu and 10eu range, mostly - but the fact is they're all wines that have clearly been chosen for impact, not just cost-effectiveness. It's rare to pay any less and still get a glass of wine that is actually experiential, one that won't get forgotten at the next wine bar. (Cf. my post about the difficulties of finding truly stunning wine by the glass.) And, frankly, I can think of no better way of responding to the absurdly high expectations of Spring's clientele than exceeding them with every sip.

*At my former workplace in LA we booked reservations one month out, no further. Our res lines blew up when they opened at 10am every morning with callers attempting to make a reservation for one month from that day. An army of executive assistants and imploring concierges had us on speed dial. I know the dynamics of it all. The problem with this sort of overwhelming demand is that a restaurant becomes a kind of theme park ride, wherein guests expect a hair-raising mind-blowing experience directly proportional to how much time they spent waiting in line. It's all a little vulgar to me.

**I have French friends who find American-style stemware kind of grandstanding and overblown (sorry), but to me there's something joyous about a glass you could stand sunflowers in. The knobbly little snifters that most Paris restaurants employ make me feel like a bear trying to drink from a thimble. 

***By which I mean to say that he's from San Francisco. Not that he's, like, a friar. 

Spring Buvette
6, rue Bailleul
75001 PARIS
Metro: Louvre-Rivoli or Chatelet
Tel: 01 45 96 05 72
No reservations

Related Links:

A profile of Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot at WineTerroirs
A profile of Domaine de Pattes Loup (in French) at VinsNatureEnNord
Meg Zimbeck on Spring Buvette

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