Our wonderful waiter at David Toutain recommends that we must try Restaurant Alliance , a new place across the other side of town that good friends are just getting going. So of course that’s where we are off to today. After a lovely walk along the Seine we head into the 5th to find it. It’s clear from the smell of fresh carpet and a super pristine interior that it is indeed very new.
The fit out at Alliance is gorgeous, modern and fresh with soft greys broken by the odd flash of soft yellow and they have the lighting spot on. Lovely warm light softly illuminates the walls, down lit from under the yellow dado rail and floating wide circle led pendants the only overhead lighting. My eye bags and I are pleased.
We are greeted at the door by Shawn Joyeux business partner with Chef Toshitaka Omiya “Toshi”. Shawn is friendly and the excitement of these guys having their own place is tangible. We are seated at a great table with a view of the main stage. The back of the restaurant is a huge glass window behind which Toshi works his magic.
We are able to have a great chat with Shawn where we discover that the restaurant has only been open for 6 weeks. Shawn and Toshi met in 2011 when they both worked at Agape. Now here they are living their dream, their own place, where Toshi can set free his creativity in the kitchen and where he and Shawn share the desire to make a “house” that is both their home and their customers home. A peaceful space where when friends visit, Toshi prepares for them, food that honours and respects the produce and its seasonality.
Having both worked their way through big houses they have deliberately kept this space small, twenty seats. They could have easily done the big long row of tables along the wall and fit many more bums on seats. But that’s very much not what it it’s about here. Shawn runs us through today’s seasonal menu and explains that they have developed relationships with growers that are specialists in each of the ingredients they use.
I adore that they roll with whatever is fresh and good, changing the menu accordingly. Today on the menu is an oyster that Toshi has found to be the best shellfish option available at the moment. Apparently, Toshi back from market with some stunning oysters, dug around to find he had some fennel in the fridge and started to play. Voila!… we find on our menu an oyster with a creamy fennel foam that is just incredible. Why, we ask each other, does everyone put an acidy vinaigrette on an oyster when creamy fennel just lets it sing?
On a couple of occasions through the meal Toshi brings dishes to the table himself. He has no English and when he arrived in France some years ago he had not a word of French either. His energy though is very present, proud and serious but wanting to really connect with his diners. Watching him in his fishbowl kitchen you can see that when he is preparing a plate he is “on” pulling a light down over a plate and fussing with a pair of stainless steel tweezers, he perfects every dish before it leaves the pass. I loved watching him dig through a bunch of oysters before he found just the right two to shuck and plate for us. I guess the cat gets fed well here! I also loved watching as the place filled up just how quickly he could move. Shawn says he’s a machine!
Today I also got another lovely insight. Toshi’s wife and two children came in and the pushchair was parked at an empty table for two at the back of the restaurant. The very serious chef came out from the kitchen smiling and ran a loose gentle hand down his tiny daughter’s cheek and lifted her chin to look at her. She looked up at him and for that little moment it seemed she was all that mattered. Then he was back to work, beautiful.
We certainly feel part of the family in this establishment today. It was wonderful to hear their story how scared but excited and passionate they feel.
We feel excited for these boys but certainly not scared, there is a really good feeling here and with what we experienced both in the atmosphere and what appeared on the table, it is very clear that these young men are only at the very beginning of an amazing journey. I feel very privileged to be a small part of their early story. I just hope we can get a table next time we come back…..maybe we should book now….. Darling do you think they are taking reservations for 2018?