Alexander Lobrano’s Letter from Paris: Bones
Last summer I had the insane good luck of going somewhere I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d see in this lifetime: Tasmania, the stunningly beautiful island which looks like a piece of Australia that snapped off and floated 150 miles south. Flying down to Hobart, Tasmania’s largest city, from Sydney to meet my friends Peter and Mike for a week’s exploration of this heart-breakingly gorgeous place, I sat next to a chatty lady who poured a tiny bottle of gin into her orange juice and told me she’d moved to the island from Melbourne a year earlier for ‘private reasons.’ And when I didn’t touch that bait, she changed course and went on and on about the island’s wonderful food and wine. I had, to be sure, heard friends in Sydney rave about Luke Burgess at Les Garagistes, but nothing prepared for me for the unselfconscious and sinewy genuis of the head-to-tail farm-to-table ethos of brilliant little restaurants like Ethos or the wonderful Pigeon Hole Cafe, which served me one of the best caffe macchiato I’ve ever had. To wit, the best young Australian chefs not only source as carefully and locally as possible, they grow and make as much of what they serve as they possibly can, and its the pervasive seriousness of Tassie’s artisinal food culture that ultimately makes the island such a superb place to eat.
Curiously enough, I found myself replaying these summer meals as I walked through the snow near Place Leon Blum in the 11th arrondissement the other night on my way to Australian born chef James Henry’s new restaurant Bones. Following my trip down under, I had a keener understanding of exactly why I’d liked Henry’s cooking at Au Passage, where I’d first come across him after he’d moved on from a stint at Spring, so much–he’s a quintessentially Australian chef in terms of his relationship with the produce he uses and his cooking and hospitality style, which is warm, direct, and completely unpretentious.
James’s food is very nice, too. For all of the forearm tatoos, dude strut and punk-rock sound-track (fun!), Henry is a damned serious eye-on-the-ball chef, which is why his constantly evolving prix-fixe menu is a challenge he lives up to.