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With a menu of big, bold Argentinean flavours set in a light, bright space in the hip 11th arrondissement, Dune seems like a very promising proposition. It almost works, too, with flashes of brilliance that should earn it repeat visits from lovers of bold, heartfelt cooking – if they can overlook the hiccups.
Self-taught chef Matias Veleizan cut his teeth at La Pulpéria and the Marché des Enfants Rouges. Market-fresh produce and a way with big chunks of meat could therefore be expected (if not assumed), and they're certainly here in bucketloads. The menu is refreshed daily (and is vegan on Tuesday evenings, with Maylis Parisot in the kitchen), listing just one meat and one vegetarian main, then eight 'portions' of things like milk-fed lamb with citrus quinoa tabbouleh, asparagus with grapefuit and nuts, or ricotta with anchovies, cocoa and radicchio. Here's the first hiccup – once asked, the waiter describes these 'portions' as 'tapas' or 'two dishes equivalent to a starter'. Well, which? We tried a combination approach, one of us going straight for the meat main and the other trying two 'portions'. The faux filet with foie gras emulsion and sautéed vegetables was a filthy (in a good way), no-holds-barred success – all crisp seared exterior and blush pink within, the roaringly rich sauce tipping it just far enough over into outrageous. The two smaller dishes were also excellent, but far bigger than tapas and not suited to the two-as-a-starter equation, delivered in full sized bowls and one, a superbly dish of earthy octopus with riso venere (natural black rice), far larger than the other. The second of these was a light, modernist, Scandinavian scattering of citrus-spiked trout, artichokes and a horseradish-infused cream.
Well fed as we were, this was a strangely uneven experience – the menu clearly requires some further thought. At dessert, a bright crème de citron with a lemon and caviar crisp was sparky and fun – so it was a shame about the chocolate ganache, sadly over-warmed and split, which was sent back to the kitchen but remained on the bill. Overall, though, you want Dune to succeed despite these blips – from the fun tropical vibe to the fashionably organic wine list that's also available to take home from their wine boutique (but only two bottles from Argentina?), their heart – and most of the cooking – is indisputably in the right place.
|Transport:||Metro: Bastille, Bréguet-Sabin or Voltaire|
|Opening hours:||Mon 12noon-2pm; Tue-Sat 12noon-2pm, 7pm-2am (kitchen closes 10.30pm)|