I love small restaurants where you can see the chef cooking and where he does everything himself. The problem is often to find a place where the chef also has the time to really cook. But chef-owner, Daniel Rose, manages to pull it off at Spring, a postage stamp-size restaurant (only sixteen seats) in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. Daniel is an American who has been living in France for many years. You would be hard pressed to find anything non-French about his cooking (or his language — we actually spoke French to each other when discussing the food as it came more naturally).
I settled into my functional table and was offered an original assortment of wines by the glass while waiting for my Filipino friend who works for the UN. The owner chose a Muscadet Sèvres et Maine sur Lie for me — and then offered the rest of the bottle to finish off at no extra cost. Muscadet is not known for its sophisticated wine, but the 2005 Domaine de la Tourlaudière was a real joy, with lovely ripe melons yet enough acidity to keep it fresh.
Eating here is not for those who like choice, however. The menu (at €36 or about $50) is a set four-course dinner — with no variation. The advantage to this however is that it makes ordering the wine easy. We chose a lovely 2003 Bordeaux Supérieur from Clos Normandin. It was light and fruity — a classic young Bordeaux made with predominately Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
We started with a pumpkin soup with beets, chives, bacon and cream. Unlike so many pumpkin soups, this one was not too heavy — and the beet’s tanginess cut across the pumpkin’s sweetness in an unusual way. For our second dish, we had a cold lamb salad with potatoes, frisée greens, orange and foie gras. I found it a little under seasoned — more orange, less potatoes would have worked better — but when the right combinations were put together, it was a perfect mix (more, though for a summer’s day than a cold November evening).
The main dish was a guinea hen with turnips. This time it was close to perfection — the slightly bitter turnips balancing out the sweet taste of the guinea hen with a reduction sauce. Dessert was a slight miss with an apple tart which was just ordinary. Fortunately, Daniel had suggested a lovely Maury (a sweet wine from South West France) to liven up the dessert.
As with all new culinary years in Paris, there are highs and lows, even for the trendiest new places. For the highest highs, you can try your luck at Le Sensing. For a safe bet, go for 35 Ouest. For adventure and the most fun, I’d go for Spring.