Top Chef is as popular a television program in France as it is in the US, and as in the US, many contestants on France’s version of the show go on to open their own restaurants after all the media exposure. Such is the case for the Top Chef 2011 semifinalist, Pierre Sang Boyer, who just launched his first Paris restaurant.
Chef Boyer chose a more bohemian area of Paris, on rue Oberkampf, for his first go, though he’s done plenty of cooking at top restaurants throughout France and in London. The open seating—12 barstools with good views into into the long, narrow kitchen—shows he has nothing to hide. We chose one of the tables for two along the window, where we could see the action but still talk easily. You can also eat in the basement if you like the idea of dining among wine bottles.
There is no menu. We were asked if we have any food allergies and if we wanted the 30-euro wine pairings to go along with each of the six dishes. We went with the pairings, which was a fairly good value and a great way to sample many of their wines from France, Italy and Spain.
Each plate and wine was placed in front of us with no explanation. We were told to enjoy with no prejudices. Once we were nearly finished, we were clued into the wine varietal and ingredients in the dish, or at least some of them, which we often fought about after. Wasabi? In here? No! The waiter did admit that they change the dishes every day (and even up to the last minute before guests arrive), so sometimes ingredients fall out or change for later diners without notice.
We started with what we thought was a lovely pumpkin soup, but we couldn’t identify where the sweetness was coming from beyond the crème fraîche. It was revealed that we were also tasting kumquat and anise. What a fun surprise. A “Korean taco” followed—a nod to the chef’s origins, but with quite a twist. There was a crisp chip that held shrimp and salmon with a powerful cream of celery underneath. It was unique and refreshing.
Our next plate was a beautiful sea of ruby-red pureed beet root topped with smoked heron. A little drizzle of vinegar added some acidity and made for a divine dish. Ready for some meat, we moved to a tender, well cooked and totally satisfying beef on a bed of creamy polenta with tapioca beads. We had an option to get the special plate of the month, which was in the pheasant family, a cousin of duck. It came with salty jus in beautifully charred white-onion cups with pickled beets and slivered almonds. Another pleasure that was fun to eat and uncover.
As we were winding down, we received some young, almost soft Parmesan with a drizzling of yogurt berry sauce. I’m not sure I understood the benefit of the sauce. A simple honey may have been better, but there’s nothing simple or predictable about this place.
55, rue Oberkampf, 75011. No phone or reservations. Tues–Fri, noon–2:30 p.m.; 7 p.m.–10:30 p.m.; Sat–Sun, 7 p.m.–10:30 p.m.