I am often overwhelmed with choices which is why I was always bound to love Le Chateaubriand in Paris. The restaurant is headed up by Basque chef Inaki Aizpitarte and the menu is set with no choice or variation for the whole restaurant. Eat at Le Chateaubriand and you will be served whatever has inspired Aizpitarte that day. This creative control has garnered Le Chateaubriand a ranking of 40th in the top 50 restaurants in the world and a meal there is the talk of Paris.
John Dory fillet with baby carrots and almonds
For a fairly radical restaurant, both the name and decor of Le Chateaubriand is fairly traditional. Large french doors open up onto the street on warm nights and inside the ambience is cosy but bustling with black and white tiled floors, wooden bistro furniture and a large old bar in the front corner. The atmosphere is casual for such a highly regarded restaurant with no table linen and a simple photocopied piece of paper setting out the menu for that day.
To begin, an amuse bouche of one whole deep fried rouge, which as the name suggests, is a small red fish. This is served unadorned on the plate with the exception of a smudge of foie gras. The idea is to eat the fish whole, bones and all, which gives a slightly rough texture to the light flesh of the fish. Next up is an inspired ceviche. Large, thick slices of fish are ‘cooked’ in lemon juice and topped with slices of tomatoes and sizzling warm pieces of grilled octopus. This is almost the perfect dish for a hot August night in Paris and the lemon provides a tang that is tart but not bitter.
Following this, a thick fillet of pearly white John Dory or St Pierre served with baby carrots, almonds and blossoms. The carrots have a citrus flavour which is heightened by a citrus powder sprinkled on the dish while the fish is iridescent and so light that it flakes off the fork. I have to say that Aizpitarte has a way with fish that makes me weak at the knees.
Pigeon with beetroot and endive
It can’t all be brilliant of course and pigeon served with beetroot and endive salad fails to win me over. The bitter endive overwhelms the flavour of the pigeon and the pink pigeon flesh combined with the beetroot and deep burgundy endive has a strange appearance resulting in an all pink plate of food. I don’t care though as I am happy to see that Aizpitarte is still experimenting with new and different flavour combinations.
Back on track, Aizpitarte finishes with a wickedly enjoyable sort of deconstructed Eton mess. A bowl of fresh strawberries is served with huge pillows of meringue and clouds of whipped cream. Heavenly. If you are planning on visiting Paris you must get yourself a booking at Le Chateaubriand. Obviously your meal will be entirely different to mine given the daily menu changes but there are a few things that you will know. The food will be innovative, the atmosphere electric and the (all male) wait staff charming and incredibly good looking to boot. What’s more it is not often that you get to experience a restaurant ranked in the top 50 restaurants in the world for €45 per head. Aizparte is reported as saying that if a dish is not affordable, he takes it off the menu. All I can say is get there if you can.
Details: 129 Avenue Parmentier, Paris 11eme, 75011, France (Ph +33 1 43 57 4595) Metro: Goncourt
Damage: Pricey (but well worth it). €45 per head. €16 per head at lunch however the menu is apparently not as extensive or adventurous.
Gourmet Traveller Tips
I stayed at hip hotel Mama Shelter
, a Phillipe Starck designed wonder out in the 20th. Housed in a converted garage each room has a slick imac which you can watch DVDs on, TV or use the internet, there are Kiehls toiletries in the bathroom and basically it is designer heaven. Rooms from €89.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in two other great Parisian restaurants: L’Entredgu
or Mama Shelter