Gimme Shelter

An elegant hole in the wall is the Abri (shelter) restaurant, which used to be a sandwich shop and has kept a lovely unfinished washed-stone look, the kind of place you ask, from the outside, “Is this it or are they still working on it?” There’s no name on the entrance.

The chef is Katsuaki Okiyama, one of a growing number of Japanese chefs who have been wowing Paris lately with new ways of cooking old recipes, and always with some startling dash of beauty that makes a dish a work of art.

Inside the narrow dining area there are 20 small tables surrounding an open stainless steel kitchen. A sous-chef told us the ingredients are as close to “terroir” as possible, seasonal and often organic. The menu has two 4-course “formules,” one at 22 euros, the other at 32 euros. We chose the one at 22.

The Japanese waiter asked us to choose between fish (maigre) and meat (chicken) and everything else was a surprise. What wasn’t a surprise was that it was all delicious.

First course: a perfectly cooked miniature leek with a divine trace of pistou sauce squeezed along its length and a skin-thin petal of white radish on top. Next: a superb pumpkin soup, topped with a lavender and apple mousse that added mystery to a classic French recipe. For his plat, my dining partner had the maigre (croaker), a white fish served with a perfect cream sauce surrounded by small, various colored turnips.

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