potagerdeparis

food diplomacy through the story of a meal

Archive for restaurants in paris

L’Enfant Terrible cooks at l’Agapé Substance

The Webster’s Dictionary defines an enfant terrible as an unusual person who is strikingly unorthodox, innovative, and/or avant-garde.  This was the experience of a multiple course meal at l’Agapé Substance in Paris during my trip there.

Having read about new restaurants in Paris to try, l’Agapé Substance was in the ‘hood and open for business.  The restaurant is located in the 6th and seats approximately 24 guests for a one-service dinner.  The long counter in the middle of the space butts up against the kitchen in an open plan.  The fully mirrored ceiling allows the services to coordinate the delivery of each plate.  This multi-course meal is also extraordinary theatre.  It was a mix of Hell’s Kitchen with a bit of Iron Chef.

I watched as L’Enfant Terrible composed, created, and crafted each and every plate that left his kitchen.  At the start of your meal you are shown a board of a possible 12 foods that may or may not be prepared for you.  If you have any allergies, likes/dislikes, speak now.  The staff is completely willing to modify the meal based on this information.  After sharing my food restrictions, they began to craft a meal that was innovative, creative, and nothing if not, memorable.

The courses came out in a blitz, but the intent and desire to push the envelope in cuisine and presentation were deeply crafted.  To start, I had hogweed two ways.  You ask, “what is hogweed?”  It looks like it would grow on the side of the 405 Freeway, however, it is a herbaceous perennial or biennial plant of the carrot and parsley family. The plant is common in herbaceous places, along roads, in hedges, meadows and woods, especially in mountain areas up to 2500 m of altitude. It prefers rich in nitrogen, moist soils.  They prepared it two ways, one in a cream that was briny and salty and then in a sponge that had the color of green tea.  This plate ends with the instruction to bite on the hogweed pod resting on the plate.

Following this course was a sublime crab dish with four small towers of crab about the size of two pencil erasers end-to-end.  They were enveloped by a lovely broth that had either asparagus and/or artichoke or just one.  The broth was put in the bowl at the table and poured out of a blood vial tube in a dramatic motion.  The flavor of the broth was spring.  Fresh, meaty, earthy, and green.  It complimented the sweetness of the crab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dish after dish, combinations, calculations, inspiration would be served.  A sea urchin was served next. I have seen this prepared so many ways on the Food Network, now it was my turn to taste.  I vowed that I would taste everything put in front of me, as who comes all this way to chicken out.  After the sea urchin, I had the second velouté of pumpkin in a week, however, the speck foam (speck’s origins at the intersection of two culinary worlds is reflected in its synthesis of salt-curing and cold smoking) on top was smoky and porky to balance out the natural sweetness of the pumpkin.  At each point during the meal, and at each plate, L’Enfant Terrible barked out his orders and demands from the sous chefs.  When he did not get exactly what he wanted and when he wanted it, he would pout and roll his eyes like a coddled child.

I was embarrassed for the chefs working with him, as his people skills were that of a school-yard bully who needs to get the shit kicked out of him.  But then I was in utter amazement of what he created and coaxed out of the ingredients in a very innovative and sublime manner as he spoke to the food.

Finally, after 5 plates, I needed to stop.  I had 5 more courses, but could not keep up  They allowed me to sit there through the entire service, watching the psychodrama in the kitchen, and then picking up with me with the cheese course and one of the three desserts.  I finished my meal with an ice cream made from flour (yes, farine).  The flour was toasted to take on a color and consistency of a crunchy topping.  It was nutty and had depth of flavor, yet light and not too sweet.  Who would have thought!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entire night was a wonderful treat to be able to experience the food, l’Enfant Terrible’s commitment to his vision, and to have a seat at the counter with which to watch the dramatic presentation.  For any foodie out there looking for a unique experience and some astonishingly creative cuisine, I highly recommend l’Agapé Substance.

Restaurant L’Agapé Substance
66, rue Mazarine
Paris ( 75006 ) METRO: Mabillon, Odéon, Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel
TEL: +33 1 43 29 33 83