BALMy Night

Pierrick Mathon is French, and his wife, Kanya, is from Thailand, so it is only natural that when they took over the mechanics shop that had been the historic Boeuf à la Mode (BALM) from 1792 to 1932, they composed a French menu that relies heavily on strong Asian notes, unique among Paris restaurants.

Peeking in from the narrow sidewalk tucked behind the Palais Royal, just steps from the Minister of Culture, passersby see dynamic modern art and natural stone walls enlivened by contemporary white furniture and lime green accents. Warm wood table and wall units add a welcoming touch that evokes the English definition of the name, something comforting and soothing. It looks so relaxing, yet fun and lively, you want to go in and join the diverse crowd that fills the three generous dining areas.

Inside, locals hang out at the long, brightly welcoming bar, savoring exotic cocktails that really do merit the encore round diners desire. Couples sit in true French fashion: tête-à-tête and oblivious to the world around them. Stylish young women sip drinks at the tables by the bar, a large group from the neighboring Minister of Culture jubilantly holds court at a long, oval table.

No matter how cool the place may be, what really matters is the food, and the chef clearly understands that, because the dishes come out of the kitchen bursting with flavor: Jerusalam artichoke playing the perfect counterpoint to perfectly grilled sea scallops, spice-laced crab chilled under a cucumber, mint jelly, sea bass balanced atop carrots prepared three different ways. It was all as light and refreshing as the decor, a gorgeous melody for the palate. And then there are the desserts, berries with champagne, vanilla ice cream, chestnut cream with mandarin sorbet and chocolate. The exotic flavors a symphonic end to a harmonious meal.

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