27 June 2012

overachievers: youpi & voilà, 75010

Exclamations are ridiculous words. We emit them in surprise or joy or horror with little forethought, and this spontaneity places them in an unmediated realm on the frontiers of thought and language. Things get onomatopeic and we seem to speak in cartoon speech bubbles.

Well, to the non-native listener, exclamations in a foreign language are even sillier. I don't know why on earth an ambitious restaurant in Paris would choose a name like Youpi & Voilà, which translates roughly to "Yippee and there-you-are." Most ambitious restaurants in Paris rely at least partly on Anglophone buckeroos, and you don't want that demographic to react like I initially did, which was to never mention the restaurant by name. (I have instructed friends to escort me to the guillotine if they ever hear me utter "youpi" or "zut" or "hop-la" without irony.)

I probably would have avoided the place entirely, if I hadn't popped by for a Gaillac wine tasting one day and realised that my friend Jean-Philippe Morice, formerly a server at Le Verre Volé, was running the dining room. Which makes sense, in retrospect, since Y&P's Gaillacois chef Patrice Gelbart also put in time with the same purple kingpins of the Canal Saint Martin. What Gelbart and Morice achieve together with the new venture - just a stone's throw from their former workplace, on the impressively obscure rue Viq d'Azir - shows great promise, and could indeed merit an exclamation or two, should they manage to reign in certain overachiever impulses in the kitchen.

The restaurant's motto is: "Cuisine Philanthropique," which I'm told refers to Gelbart's ambitions to do good by his artisanal suppliers and by his clients, paying the former more and charging the latter less. Setting aside for the moment the commonsensical reaction to that idea - business suicide ! - we might still suggest that possession of any kind of motto betrays a certain overweening aspect to a new restaurant.*

For all I could tell, what separates Gelbart's "Cuisine Philanthropique" from normal cuisine or cuisine méchant is the addition of one too many ingredients in each dish. In certain cases, two.

A glimmeringly fresh salad of sardine, pea shoots, and gently roasted peeled tomato had no need whatsoever for the kalamata olive tapenade component, which looked like it had crawled onto the plate, or been left there by a passing rodent. We all ate it separately, on bread.

Rouget atop house-made "ketchup," zucchini, and bufala mozzarella did nothing to overturn or complicate the general kitchen ground rule that forbids serving fish atop cheese. (An exception would be mozzarella with marinated white anchovy, which is delicious. Rouget is the opposite of anchovy - delicate, soft, nuanced - and provides no counterpoint to mozzarella, which should also possess these qualities.)

An otherwise silken and lovely noix de boeuf (the core of the filet mignon) was buried in accompaniments: polenta fries, shallots, chopped whelks, and raw peas. A bit more finessing might have united all these things; as it was, the peas were next to impossible to catch, rolling off one's fork and around the plate like free radical molecules, adding nothing.

At Y&P this general overmuchness is at once insanely frustrating and emminently forgivable. Frustrating, because several dishes would have been greatly improved by simple subtraction. I've read that Gelbart is self-taught, and this unfortunately shows slightly in the way simple things are self-consciously tarted up with unnecessary exotic ingredients, as though someone has attempted to wave a fine-dining magic wand over everything.

But it's forgiveable because the products Gelbart's using are all marvelous, and the actual cooking of each individual ingredient is pretty faultless. At 36€ for four composed, well-sourced plates, the menu upholds the restaurant's motto (if perhaps remaining a special-occasion-place for such as this writer). Furthermore the wine list is lean and mean, the service crisp (the time we went), the room spacious and warm... 

The wine list deserves special mention for its emphasis on the wines of Gaillac. I plan to discuss the Gaillac tasting held at the restaurant in a future post; for now all I'll say is that I recommend sticking to sparklers in general, and the wines of Domaine Plageoles in particular, when ordering wines from Gaillac.

But the night of our meal at Y&V was my visiting friend H's only night in Paris before she tramped off to Chablis, so we forgot about Gaillac and celebrated with a bottle of Alice et Olivier de Moor's 2010 Chablis "Bel Air et Clardy," a blend of the two eponymous parcels. 

My friend J and I remarked that because we see Alice and Olivier at tasting events around town so frequently, it rarely occurs to us to order their wine in restaurants - our loss, always, and something I intend to rectify in the wake of this stunning bottle of "Bel Air et Clardy." 

I learn from a recent excellent post over at Bertrand Celce's WineTerroirs blog that the de Moors were obliged to sort for botryitised grapes in this cuvée in 2010; whatever they left in has worked a kind of magic. There's a startlingly mimetic lavender nose, followed by a long, fine-grained, feminine palate, where the familiar minerality is balanced with a luminescent white fruit. It's beguiling in the same way as a record by Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, whose Paul Simon-esque voice and reverby, watercolour production bring a startling tenderness to his otherwise austere, pathic genre of lo-fi bedroom confessional.

In my estimation, wines like the 2010 "Bel Air et Clardy" place the de Moors alongside Thomas Pico as contemporary maestros of Chablis, every bit the equal of the celebrated and super-allocated Raveneau and Dauvissat, but at, for now, somewhat lower prices than these latter two domaines' wines. 

If the restaurant where we enjoyed that bottle of de Moor is not yet a masterpiece of its own genre, the intentions are perceptibly there. It shouldn't take longer than a vintage or two to work out the kinks. 

* Although this gives me a wonderful blog idea: motto contests for Paris restaurants. Wait, I thought of a winner in all categories: "Ce N'est Pas Possible."

Youpi et Voilà
8, rue Vicq d'Azir
75010 PARIS
Métro: Colonel Fabien
Tel: 01 83 89 12 63

Related Links:

Adoring the de Moors' Bourgogne Rouge at Autour d'Un Verre
Drinking the de Moors' various Aligotés at Christmastime

An unfortunate account of what sounds like a really off night at Youpi & Voilà @ HungryForParis
Bruno Verjus is incredibly excited about Youpi & Voilà @ FoodIntelligence
Phyllis Flick had mercifully less busy dishes at Youpi & Voilà, judging by the photos @ ParisNotebook
An underwhelmed and pretty underwhelming review of a lunch at Youpi & Voilà @ JohnTalbott, who I really ought to just stop reading. The guy doesn't even attempt to justify his opinions, he's like some oracular beard that says "good" or "no good" when pulled...

A terrific very recent post on a visit to Alice et Olivier de Moor @ WineTerroirs

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