We enjoyed a glorious slow morning walk down through the Trocadero to a perfectly timed view of the Eiffel Tower.
Silhouetted against the rising sun, soft lilac morning light framing the warm golden beginning of the sun right behind the tower. Many moments of enthralled wonderment later we continue on to meander through the 7th arrondissement to Rue Cler market street, famous as Julia child’s marketplace where my love encouraged me to let fly with a Julia impression… a bolshy “bonjour”. I quietly declined despite his loving enthusiasm, mainly because I know it’s really him who does it so well!
We wandered all morning till we found our luncheon spot for the day Pottoka. Tucked quietly in a side street off Rue Saint Dominique. We time our arrival perfectly as usual, getting pick of the tables, which in a very small space is brilliant. Pottoka is cleverly designed to enhance the small space available. Modern clean lines, decorated in soft greys and taupes and accented with muted but colourful modern artworks, it is an interesting departure from the historical heavily decorated romance of other restaurants we have visited so far. I really like that they have made one side of the restaurant high tables with stools and the other regular height, it seems to visually break the space up creating the illusion of more space. There is not a great deal to say about the space. It’s pleasantly simple, modern and modest. As we are about to discover this place is all about the food.
We have waitresses here rather than waiters which has not been a very common occurrence. I’m not sure if I’m imagining it, but I kind of think restauranting in Paris is a bit of a man’s world. Our girls are sweet and bring a suggestions board in English to help us. There are a range of options, the lunch menu, two or three course or a 5 course surprise menu. There is not a lot of debate this time, two dishes are standout. We order scallop and sea bream tartare for starter and piglet shoulder for main.
The place is beginning to fill up now with the Monday lunch crowd, and soon there is not a spot left. Almost everyone here is French, many look like they may be on a break from their job. There is much lively chat around us filling the space with a buoyant energy. Dishes start to arrive and is very clear that we are in for a really special treat.
The coquille Saint Jacques and sea bream tartare is reminiscent of a scallop. The small shallow brown bowl has the tartare formed into a neat cylinder just as the scallop meat in its shell would appear. A bright orange piquillos “pepper” couli is curled around one side of the scallop meat cleverly reminiscent of the roe. I just enjoy looking at the dish for a few moments, the small squares of raw scallop are like daubs in an impressionist painting in this piece of art on a plate. And it doesn’t just look pretty, it is delicious, every element on the plate complementing the other in perfect harmony.
It’s exciting to see other creations arriving at tables around us and watching the fascination and joy with which they are received. There is a very young man that is particularly focused, looking closely from all angles at everything that arrives; lifting his plate to smell and look closer and sometimes examining the bottom of a particularly pretty plate to check the manufacturer. He slowly tastes each element separately before finally digging into combined flavours. He is thoroughly enjoying himself. I wonder if he is perhaps an aspiring young cook or chef?
My daydreaming is interrupted most pleasantly by the arrival of our piglet shoulder. The plate is another masterpiece, creamy chestnut purée swept in circular striped smear around the plate reminds me of a Van Gogh moon, with a simple wedge of pumpkin and a perfectly formed cylinder of piglet shoulder meat placed on top. The meat is sitting on a little bed of shredded purple cabbage and glazed with an extraordinarily rich vinegar reduction. The meat is soft and tender and drenched in the reduction. Dragged through the creamy chestnuts the flavour evokes a wholesome warm and satisfying feeling.
Our dessert choice is easy, the menu calls it “crispy, creamy, foamy, chocolate, peanut ice-cream and smoked salt. How could you choose anything else? And it is exactly that. It tasted hot, cold, sweet, salty, chocolatey, peanutty, velvety, delicate, crunchy all at the same time. Divine.
Chef Sebastian grave’s creative energy is present on every plate. I love the approach he takes of continually changing the menu to present product that is seasonally at its peak. He also has a fantastic idea on the menu that I hope we will go back to try one day, it’s a degustation menu just for you.
“You want to live the culinary adventure that Patokka offers you? Let yourself go and Sebastian Grave will concoct a special just for you, just for your table. The menu is a starting point from which Sebastian Grave composes, invents, imagines and tells every night a story for each table interested in discovering his cuisine!”
What an exciting concept. I so love the idea of sitting back and letting the chef shine. I’m so glad I don’t feel the need to scour a menu for the foods I think I don’t like, or to tell the chef how he or she should cook my meat. The chef is the expert, he or she has sourced the produce to be prepared in the way they have imagined. As a creative I understand the passion and the pure knowing that comes when you get the impulse to create. When I create commissioned artwork I get the inspiration from the client but I would never be able to create good work if I let them get involved in the creative process, telling me how I ought to paint this or that. I remember reading an interview with Chef David Chang of Momofuku where he explained his uncompromising approach. He makes the food how he believes it should be done and if you don’t like that, get the fuck out! I kind of like that!
Daydreaming of when we could get back here next, we wander for a while in the cool fresh Paris winter afternoon. A perfect day.