© Thierry Richard
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Time Out says
Posted: Thu Feb 20 2014
You’d expect the cooking of France’s only Japanese chef with a Michelin star (two, to be precise) to be something a little out of the ordinary. But it’s not just what’s on the plate at Passage 53 that holds the attention. Shinichi Sato, who trained at l’Astrance in Paris and Mugaritz in Spain, has found the ideal space in which to showcase his talents, with this tiny space in one of Paris’s most charming locations – the eighteenth century glass-covered shopping mall Passage des Panoramas. Lined with vintage stamp and postcard vendors, studded with interesting food and drink offerings, the narrow, gleaming little walkway is a pure pleasure to browse along. You could miss number 53 if you weren’t looking for it – the white blinds are kept lowered and the signage hardly stands out. Once inside, understatement remains key. The tiny white-painted room, with its dark wooden staircase spiralling up to the glass-fronted kitchen full of gadgets, boasts just a handful of tables, and a single spray of blossom in a vase in the window does for decoration. This elegant Japanese minimalism extends to the crockery, which is eggshell-thin, in graceful shapes and surprising textures.
On our lunchtime visit there was a choice of two menus, the set (expensive) and the dégustation (eye-watering). The ledger-like wine list makes no concessions to slimmer wallets, either – this is unapologetically exclusive dining, as you might expect. That day’s treat was an enormous black truffle squatting in a glass container, which the waiter wafted under our noses – it could also be included in the dishes, for a price. But we stuck to the set menu, which was amply memorable.
First came a tiny amuse bouche of chilled pumpkin soup layered into an eggcup with fromage blanc and dusted with cinnamon – a sweet visual riff on an egg. The starter of oysters cooked with fennel and a green apple mousse was a piquant, sea-salty plate, a bright, punchy palate-cleanser. Then firm white sea bass fillet which rich roasted ceps in a dense jus and fine shavings of fresh cep, followed by well-cooked guinea fowl on a mound of barley risotto with roasted baby vegetables and fresh herbs. Classic French ingredients and methods are present here, but with a lightness of touch and instinct for novelty that makes each dish a talking point around the table, rather than just something to be chewed through. Dessert was another high point – a little pot of floral crème brûlée with a scoop of delicate honey sorbet and a flaming crown of amber sugar paper, flanked by a miniature tiramisu and a miniature chocolate fondant. The final sweet note was tiny, still-warm madeleines straight from their baking mould. A delight.