21 October 2010

guts & daring: le bal café, 75018

I mentioned it before, in my post on the 19eme's Quedubon: it takes guts and daring to open a great restaurant in an unlikely locale. Contrary to the rosy views of Paris and its dining scene held by those not living here, the City of Light can actually be pretty discouraging of innovation, deviation from the norm, newness in general. (This goes beyond the gastronomic; it is a kind of national attitudinal malaise that is too insidious and pervasive to go into here.) So I'm just dumbstuck with admiration at the courage of my friends Alice and Anselme, who've recently opened Le Bal Café, a St. John-inspired musuem café / restaurant just off the Place de Clichy, an area whose fame derives primarily from the plethora of sex clubs located just to the east. 

I passed by the other night with some friends after a concert, and was happy to see the Le Bal Café still half-full, even late in the evening. I imagine the place will fill up further once word gets out on how screamingly reasonable their prices are. 

A duck heart salad: 8eu, for instance.

The word phallic connotes a certain classic shape not represented here;  is there another word for things that resemble specific sections thereof? I don't know. 
We washed this down with a drenchingly great biodynamic 2008 Montlouis Sur Loire "Clos du Breuil" by François ChidaineChidaine has gone on record decrying the difficulties of the 2008 growing season - storm, mildew - but no related flaws were perceptible in the wine itself. It was all riverstones and apple and citrus peel, the oenological equivalent of autumn sunlight.  

 Both Anselme's wine list and Alice's menu are superlatively ambitious, considering the concept and the neighborhood. It's not that they're asking high prices - quite the opposite. It's that they're asking French diners to experiment with frankly British-inspired cuisine, and to do so - gasp - without the aid of formules (set menus, inescapable in Paris, which oblige you to eat and spend considerably more than you would otherwise like to, usually at great profit to the restaurant). 

I haven't yet visited the museum itself, Le Bal, which is dedicated to photography and the image-as-social-document. But I look forward to checking it out, since doing so will give me an excuse to revisit Alice's brilliant desserts. I didn't take a picture of the Eton Mess, but that's probably for the better: it's a cream / meringue / berry concoction that, true to it's name, looks like hell and tastes like heaven. 

6, Impasse de la Défense
75018 PARIS
Metro: Place de Clichy
Tel: 01 44 70 75 51

Related Links: 

More musueum dining: Mini Palais

A profile on François Chidaine @ TheWineDoctor
A François Chidaine tasting @ Jim'sLoire

Coverage of the current Le Bal exhibition at ArtDaily.org
Le Fooding on Le Bal Café

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