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Alexander Lobrano’s Letter From Paris: Spring

Yesterday, it was with a mixture of excitement and apprehension that I met friends at the newly opened and much anticipated Spring, chef Daniel Rose’s superb looking restaurant in the rue Bailleul. I’ve missed Rose’s cooking ever since he closed his little place in the rue de la Tour d’Auvergne near me in the 9th arrondissement, and have been following the birth of the new place with keen interest.

In the Metro on the way to lunch, however, I couldn’t help but hoping that the food would be as good, or even better, than I remembered it. Well, let me stop right here and say that you should pick up the phone and book here immediately: Spring, 6 rue Bailleul, 1st, (33) 1-45-96-05-72. This place is going to be taken by storm and one of the best things about lunch yesterday was that I was able to make a dinner reservation in person for next week, which is when I’ll do a proper review.

Our lunch as privileged guinea pigs was sensational. Rose plans to build his lunch menu around bouillon with different garnishes (pigeon, grilled chicken, baby vegetables from Joel Thiebault), which you can then expand with a variety of small plates according to your appetite. As he explains, the bouillon is meant to be “restaurant,” or restorative, and also channel the fact that the original restaurants in Paris specialized in bouillon.

We started with melon with garlicky lomito (cured pork loin) and lime zest, a perfect summer palate teaser, and then ate smoked eel with gently pickled baby eggplant, flash grilled shrimp on a bed of baby fennel salad, trout with avocado slices and coriander flowers, and then the best bouillon I’ve ever had in my life–deep, ruddy, potent and profoundly soothing, with grilled chicken and tiny vegetables. Desserts were superb, too, including a brilliant preparation of raspberries in a light cool syrup of lemon verbena and white peaches, black cherries with fresh almonds (sublime combination), and a deconstructed lemon tart with chocolate shortbread crumbs. All told, it was damned good meal in a stunningly attractive space, and most of all, it was really fun, with a great soft soul soundtrack in the background, terrific wines–an Alsatian pinot noir (I was dubious about this one, but it was terrific) and an Austrian Gruner Vertliner, and the pleasure of watching the kitchen team work in their brand new open stainless steel kitchen.

A few weeks ago, Rose told me that he wanted to reboot Paris restaurants for the 21st century. Well, he has, and I can’t wait for dinner next Saturday night.

ALEXANDER LOBRANO was Gourmet magazine’s European correspondent from 1999 until its recent closing. Lobrano has written for almost every major food and travel magazine since he became an American in Paris in 1986. He is the author of “Hungry for Paris”  (Random House), his personal selection of the city’s 102 best  restaurants, which Alice Waters has called “a wonderful guide to eating in Paris.” Lobrano’s Letter from Paris runs every month in Everett Potter’s Travel Report. Visit his website, Hungry for Paris.

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