Letter from Paris: A Public Dinner Party at Verjus
By Alexander Lobrano
Unfortunately, I was never able to book a place at The Hidden Kitchen, the running series of private dinner parties cooked and hosted by the hugely talented Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian in their Paris apartment, because I travel so often and these meals were so popular you had to commit weeks ahead of time. Many of my favorite dining companions in Paris had raved about both the food and the hospitality at these meals, however, and so it was with intense curiosity that I went to Verjus, the restaurant the couple have just opened in a passage linking the rue de Richelieu and the Palais Royal for dinner the other night.
Arriving, I loved this dining room immediately, since it overlooks the Palais Royal and the Theatre du Palais Royal just across the street through huge picture windows, and mismatched flea-market chairs were stationed at smooth oak tables. Somehow it didn’t really feel like a restaurant, though, maybe because the atmosphere was so much more relaxed, and because it quickly became apparent that all of the usual role play incumbent in dining out had been rather refreshingly jettisoned. I was mulling this over, in fact, over a flute of very good Champagne before dinner when Bruno said, “This place doesn’t really feel like a restaurant.” I asked him why. “They’re not doing all of the formality and rites of a restaurant,” he said. “Instead it’s kind of like being at someone’s house.”
We decided to order the four-course 55 Euro menu–the other option at this dinner-only address is the 70 Euro six-course meal, and a bottle of Jurancon Sec instead of the 30 or 40 Euro wine-option. Our meal began when Braden arrived tableside with an amuse bouche–two baked baby beets lightly sprinkled with caraway seeds on bamboo skewers in a shallow glass dish filled with froathy buttermilk. What I liked best about this debut was that this trio of flavors–so unexpected in Paris, astutely referenced the cooking of Central Europe–Poland, Lithuania and beyond.