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#31 Chambolle

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Posted 18 September 2011 - 03:11 PM

Agapé Substance for lunch.

I wake up around noon, still jet-lagged. Take care of some silliness. Next thing I know, it's well past 1pm.

Yow, what to do for lunch. Look in my French phone's contact list and the first thing that comes up is Agapé Substance. Hey, great idea! I google them. They serve til 2pm. I dial.

"Can you take 1 person for lunch at 2pm?"
"Oui, aucun probleme. Votre nom, monsieur.
"Chambo."
"Chambo?""
"Oui ! Chambo !"
"J'aime ton nom."
"Merci. Tell me, does 2.05pm also work for you?"
"Egalement !"
"Bon. A toute a l'heure.

I arrive at 2.10pm. There are 22 people who are already seated. I am taken to the open seat nearest the open kitchen on the left side of the communal table.

"Excusez-moi, excusez-moi, pardon, Excusez-moi, excusez-moi, pardon, Excusez-moi, excusez-moi, pardon."

Et voila, enfin, ma chaise !
But it's not a chair. It's a stool. A backless stool.

So let's address this right now. The place is tiny, as you know, and it ain't especially comfortable. You are pretty squeezed in in this joint. That A/C better be working well because it must get warm in the summer. I was nearest the kitchen and I even asked if they could crank up the A/C a tad. (They happily did.) Further, you don't come here to have a calm quiet meal or a private conversation or expect a sumptuous environment. It's all about modern. It's all about bowing down to a new vision of a restaurant. It's all about eating. And as I said, the concept is conviviality.

I select 4 plats pour 51 euros. I tell my wine guy that I want 2 glasses of wine with my meal. We're off.

La Berce. It's a green herb, served in two textures - one mousse-like, one spongy, along with a crackly thing. I've never heard the word berce before, nor has any of my French friends. I believe it to be cow-parsley. One texture is the size of a gumdrop. The other is the size of a medium marshmallow. (Check out this video. The first dish shown is a close enough cousin to what I had.)

Flavor? Not all that much. Texture? Eh.

Hmmm. I'm now wondering if this place is more style over substance ?

Le Tourteau. 6 cylinders of shredded crab in a shallow bowl. Picture 6 tall, thin thimbles standing at attention. Pictue a savory Stonehenge with geometric purity. A few morsels of red grapefruit strewn about. A pour of a room-temperature consommé from a test tube-like glass cylinder. Enough liquid to create a circle that coats 3/4 of the bottom of the bowl. Hence, not a lot, but enough. Perched atop each crab cylinder is a different green herb. (That video has a crab dish with a test tube pour but the crab is in one ugly pile, not my 6 cylinders)

Reasonable crab, not great. 6 nice bites. Herbs are definitely noticeable. A couple of them seem to overpower the crab. Was that on purpose? Hmmm.

Style over substance ? Hmmm.

I look around the room. It's a casually well-dressed, nicely-coiffed crowd aged between 30-50 for the most part. I'm now thinking that it is time to subtly establish that I'm a discriminating diner and that I'm not just some random, exhausted bozo who crawled out of bed and was willing to eat any which where. In order words, it's time to fool them. I ask my waiter/wine guy if I can see the bottle from which my glass of white wine came. (Somehow this glass of wine simply appeared before me without my noticing.) He's telling me that the wine is a chardonnay that comes from just south de la bourgonne et ... I gently interrupt and say "Yes. Yes. I recognize it as coming from the maconnais. I am interested in the grower." He raises his eyebrows in approval and says "Well done, monsieur. I'm impressed." He shows me the bottle. What chat about the grower. I complement him on his choice of wine. He graciously refills my glass. We're now bonding. Next, I ask my other server (multiple people seem to take care of you here) where the chef worked prior to here. He starts giving me a long story about umpteen years ago he worked at Arpege, Veyrat, Gagnaire, Mugaritz ... I gently interrupt and I say that I meant where did he work most recently, like in the last 2-3 years. He says Corton in New York. I say "Oh really. Interesting. You know, it just so happened that I ate at Corton myself a few days ago." He responds "Interesting. I'll pass that along to the chef." I ask for some bread.

Le Pain. Bread arrives promptly. A basket with two long (18"), skinny baguettes from Kayser. One heavily seeded, one not at all. Mini-ficelles. Very, very good. In addition, there's a third bread - a delicious pain de compagne from Christophe Vasseur. Two of my favorite bread guys. Nicely done. Now there is some substance over style. Bravo !

Les Beurres. Two butters on a great slate plate arrived 15 seconds later - one's a rich deep yellow color. The other has some green and reddish specks in it. Both are perfectly soft and super spreadable. Bravo. I didn't ask the origin details of the butter.

Les Champignons. It took just one look at this dish and I'm instantly a happy forager. Style and substance are before me. It smells nice. It looks earthy and lovely. Chanterelles, pleurotes et trompettes de la mort are all announced, among others. The plate was brought to me by Chef David. (From that point on, the chef will present and describe each of my plates - and we'll chat.) Imagine an aesthetic presentation of the sauteed shrooms, some colored leaves (think green, purple, a bit of brown - more autumn than summer), some hidden veggie/herby treasures lie under certain shrooms along with two mushroom-lookalike, crunchy, slightly sweet, crackerish things, not to mention those four of five small, bubbled, viscous puddles of a beigy-brown benoite urbaine sauce. I had never heard of this benoite urbaine stuff before. Nor, it seems, had most others here because, since my arrival, I noticed that the staff kept handing nearby diners a glass bowl filled with a bunch of wiry, skinny, branch-like benoite for smelling's sake. It smelled pretty delicate and earthy to me. (That video has a much uglier presentation of a similar dish.)

How was the dish? As Oliver Twist said: "Please sir, can I have some more!". It was a very reasonable portion size. The dish was very very good. Substantial substance backing up substantial style. Just the way it should be.

Le Poisson. A complicated set of off-white colored porcelain is headed Chambo's way. It's placed before me. Fingers grasp the cloche. Tick tock, tick tock. The drama builds. My mouth is watering. The cloche is removed et ...

La voila!

Hmmm ? It's just a lousy piece of fish, skin on. OK-sized. White. That's it ! I want my money back !

The chef speaks: "Le Merlan. Now we are focusing just on the product, in its purest and simplest form, marked only by the cooking. Enjoy."

That's just about as good as a nude piece of whiting can taste.

The off-white, raised pedestal-of-a-plate upon which sat the whiting is then removed for me by chef to reveal a hidden plate below that contains the accompaniments to the fish - Sweet potato, a white bean puree and something that I heard as "laroche" or "la roche" or "l'arroche". I can't figure out what it was. Help? It looked like a purple spinach leaf. (See the video - the purple leaf is there - other stuff shown has been modified) The accompaniments were good enough. I think that I would have preferred them with the fish.

La Viande. The off-black slate plate arrives. All the food on the plate is various shades of black except for a halved, almost-golden echalote de Champagne. The chef speaks: "Le Veau." Chambo looks at the plate, looks at the chef and looks at the plate again. While staring at the plate, nodding, Chambo speaks: "Veau ?". Chef speaks: "Oui, veau." Chambo lifts his head and looks at the chef: "D'accord, si tu le dis - Veau." We laugh for a second. Chef continues: "Veal, completely covered and cooked with black olives, puree d'augerbine brulee, sesame noir and black quinoa. Enjoy."

Style and substance. Pretty darn good. Very nicely cooked. Veal isn't my favorite but this was a very nice veal dish. I definitely saw textures in this dish that reminded me of Corton.

Dessert #1. Lavande, Glace a la farine de seigle (rye flour ice cream), and some slightly wavy, paper-thin biscuit of skim milk that bisects the ice cream scoop. Kinda weird.

Dessert #2. Fraise. Puree de persil. Meringue a la gingembre. Bright colors: strawberry red, green and white. It's pretty. Good style. Tastes good.

"L'addition, SVP."

The check was 69 euros (51 + 2 glasses of wine at 9 euros each).

If they are executing well (as they were today), they are serving 3* NYTimes food. It's very creative. If you have nice, friendly neighbors, it could be a lot of fun too.

I'm not sure how they count their plates. I received 4 plates and 2 desserts. I'm sure that they gave me an extra dessert. There is a very good chance that I got an extra savory too.

During my chat with Laurent outside, he asked me what magazine I was with? :lol: I said: "Who said that I was with a magazine?". He said: "You are with a newspaper?" :lol: :lol: I said: "Let's just keep it a mystery." We agreed.

Laurent tells good stories. He talked about a gentleman who reserves for his party of 24, brings his wine and cracks open bottles of Clos St Hune, DRC and finishes with verticals of d'Yquem for all. I gave Laurent my number and told him to be sure to buzz me if there is ever a spare seat for such proceedings. I inquired about corkage. Dinner is 99 euros. Dinner+Wine is 169 euros. It seems as though if you want to bring wine, then you can simply pay 169 and drink your wine, not theirs. I'd verify all that in advance if you are interested.

Laurent's final parting words, using both the French and English were the following: "N'oublie pas. C'est ta maison. It's your house. Treat it as such."

I plan to.

#32 Nancy S.

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Posted 18 September 2011 - 03:28 PM

Laurent said to us something similar to this: "N'oublie pas. C'est ta maison. It's your house. Treat it as such." However, he translation was slightly different -- he said this is your "home" and told us to come back often and soon. We will as well.

#33 Sneakeater

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Posted 18 September 2011 - 06:29 PM

At Hedone in London, not only does the table Nancy ate at still exist, but they'll point it out to you if you mention her name.
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#34 Chambolle

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Posted 18 September 2011 - 07:59 PM

Laurent said to us something similar to this: "N'oublie pas. C'est ta maison. It's your house. Treat it as such." However, he translation was slightly different -- he said this is your "home" and told us to come back often and soon. We will as well.

Nancy, that's wonderful !

Just imagine, maybe the next time that you go there, Chambo will be there, too. And maybe we will be lucky enough to be sitting next to each other.

Just think of our dinner conversation:

C: Nancy, welcome to my house.
N: No Chambo, welcome to my home.
C: No no, Nancy, welcome to my house.
N: No no no, Chambo, welcome to my home.
C: Nancy, why in the world do you think that this is your home, when I know that this place is my house?
N: Because Laurent told me it was!
C: But Laurent told me that it was mine! What exactly did Laurent say to you? Do you have a tape recording of it?

Things go downhill from here rapidly. Chambo and Nancy are now in a berce et tourteau food fight. They are now fencing with mini-ficelles.

Laurent attempts to come over to resolve the situation but, as we are both sitting very very very close to the kitchen in the new super-duper, exceptional VIP seating area, he has a lot of distance to cover. These special seats are reserved for the most special people in the world. They sit empty unless one of three people arrive: Chambo, Nancy or that guy who brings verticals of d'Yquem.

Listen - here comes Laurent "Excusez-moi, excusez-moi, pardon, Excusez-moi, excusez-moi, pardon, Excusez-moi, excusez-moi, pardon".

Uh oh, Laurent's here. Boy is he going to get an earful.

C: Laurent, tu m'as dis que c'etait ma maison.
N: Laurent, you told me it was my home.
C: Laurent, you told me it was my house.
L: Mes amis, my friends. Let's play nice. En fait, c'est notre maison. It's our house. It's our home.
C: Ohhhh. :unsure:
N: Ohhhh.
C: Okay. :blush:
N: Okay.
L: Voila! Je vous adore tous les deux! Nancy, I'll comp you some comté, okay? Chambo, I'll comp you corkage, kay?
N: Oui. :)
C: Oui.
N: He loves me more than you Chambo! He comped me first !
C: Negative. How much does that comté cost? My corkage is a cool 70 euros. Case closed.
N: He loves me more!
C: No, he loves me more!
L: Je vous aime egalement. Egalement. I love you both the same. Equally. No difference.
C: Laurent, are you sure you love her as much as me. But I speak French !!
L: Sorry Chambo. I said equally.
C: One last question. How exactly do you love us, Laurent? Is it equally in amount and equally in type of love. Are you talking about agapé love or eros love or what. Can you be a bit more specific. Can you elaborate a bit more for us? And while you are at, try to explain the name of this restaurant ...

#35 Chambolle

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Posted 18 September 2011 - 08:08 PM

... and something that I heard as "laroche" or "la roche" or "l'arroche". I can't figure out what it was. Help? It looked like a purple spinach leaf.

Mystery solved. Case closed. L'arroche is indeed a type of spinach - a mountain spinach.

#36 Nancy S.

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Posted 18 September 2011 - 10:31 PM

Laurent said to us something similar to this: "N'oublie pas. C'est ta maison. It's your house. Treat it as such." However, he translation was slightly different -- he said this is your "home" and told us to come back often and soon. We will as well.

Nancy, that's wonderful !

Just imagine, maybe the next time that you go there, Chambo will be there, too. And maybe we will be lucky enough to be sitting next to each other.

Just think of our dinner conversation:

C: Nancy, welcome to my house.
N: No Chambo, welcome to my home.
C: No no, Nancy, welcome to my house.
N: No no no, Chambo, welcome to my home.
C: Nancy, why in the world do you think that this is your home, when I know that this place is my house?
N: Because Laurent told me it was!
C: But Laurent told me that it was mine! What exactly did Laurent say to you? Do you have a tape recording of it?

Things go downhill from here rapidly. Chambo and Nancy are now in a berce et tourteau food fight. They are now fencing with mini-ficelles.

Laurent attempts to come over to resolve the situation but, as we are both sitting very very very close to the kitchen in the new super-duper, exceptional VIP seating area, he has a lot of distance to cover. These special seats are reserved for the most special people in the world. They sit empty unless one of three people arrive: Chambo, Nancy or that guy who brings verticals of d'Yquem.

Listen - here comes Laurent "Excusez-moi, excusez-moi, pardon, Excusez-moi, excusez-moi, pardon, Excusez-moi, excusez-moi, pardon".

Uh oh, Laurent's here. Boy is he going to get an earful.

C: Laurent, tu m'as dis que c'etait ma maison.
N: Laurent, you told me it was my home.
C: Laurent, you told me it was my house.
L: Mes amis, my friends. Let's play nice. En fait, c'est notre maison. It's our house. It's our home.
C: Ohhhh. :unsure:
N: Ohhhh.
C: Okay. :blush:
N: Okay.
L: Voila! Je vous adore tous les deux! Nancy, I'll comp you some comté, okay? Chambo, I'll comp you corkage, kay?
N: Oui. :)
C: Oui.
N: He loves me more than you Chambo! He comped me first !
C: Negative. How much does that comté cost? My corkage is a cool 70 euros. Case closed.
N: He loves me more!
C: No, he loves me more!
L: Je vous aime egalement. Egalement. I love you both the same. Equally. No difference.
C: Laurent, are you sure you love her as much as me. But I speak French !!
L: Sorry Chambo. I said equally.
C: One last question. How exactly do you love us, Laurent? Is it equally in amount and equally in type of love. Are you talking about agapé love or eros love or what. Can you be a bit more specific. Can you elaborate a bit more for us? And while you are at, try to explain the name of this restaurant ...

Ha! Actually, I would like to have dinner with you sometime, somewhere.

#37 Adrian

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Posted 18 September 2011 - 10:41 PM

I'm not convinced that Chambo is corporeal.

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#38 Sneakeater

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 04:16 AM

If any restaurateur ever tells me to treat his restaurant as my home, he's going to be very sorry.
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#39 Nancy S.

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 01:43 PM

If any restaurateur ever tells me to treat his restaurant as my home, he's going to be very sorry.

You should come to my home -- I treat it like a restaurant.

#40 Chambolle

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 06:35 PM

Alexander Lobrano writes in his review: "... we were seated at what's described on the restaurant's website as the 'VIP table,' which is a table for two in a niche directly across from the small, busy galley kitchen, a perch that provided a great show during our meal but not one that I would recommend on a warm night, since I would describe this restaurant as being nominally air-conditioned."

By the way, that 'VIP table' is back in business. :) They were using it as an "office" for a while but now they are supposedly seating diners there. At least sometimes.


Does agapé mean something different in French or does this guy have a high opinion of himself?

Since I never fully addressed this, let me do so right now, while it's on my mind.

The words agapé and agape.

In French and in English, agapé, as already discussed, is one of the four forms of love as distinguished by the Greeks. Usually referred to as "true love" or "pure love" and the ancient literature used the word to describe the feelings after a good meal (or so Laurent told me).

In French and in English, the origins of the word agape correspond to a certain type of communal feast or banquet, associated with ancient religious meals, especially the early Christians.

Best I can tell, agape evolved differently in each language.

In English-speaking countries today, most people have never heard of the word.

In France, the word les agapes brings images of large banquets, festivities and abundance to mind. Back on Nantucket when I asked my French friends about it, I received a lecture about the origins of free masonry in France, about the building of the cathedrals by the masons and other workers, about the festive group meals (simple food but in abundance) after the day's work was done, about how people ate and then sang all through the night, barely sleeping at all yet energized by the great spiritual work that they were undertaking. In other words, I received a lecture about les agapes du moyen-age.

Today, the French word agape is minimally used and it is not really used in singular form at all unless you are specifically referring to that ancient religious meal (not meals from the middle ages, but ancient meals of the very early Christians).

Today it's used in the plural form and it's often used ironically when describing the excesses of political parties or organizations.

For example: "they preach restraint, cutting back and sacrifice" or "they preach social justice", but have you ever been to one of their post-meeting dinners? It's crazily over-the-top. Les agapes du parti xxxx are out of control and inappropriate.

To summarize, there is no French word agapé with the accent aigu that relates to this concept of banquet or communal meal. Hence, we are dealing with a play on words. Agapé is a Greek word for love but most French probably don't know it and les agapes is this big communal banquet.

There you have it. Direct additional questions to your nearest free mason lodge.

Re the word substance, I ain't even gonna bother.

P.S. I would be quite happy to hear the thoughts of native French-speakers and be corrected on this very important topic.

#41 Sneakeater

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 06:47 PM

It was reported on Eater that they're opening a New York branch called Man Juice.
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#42 Chambolle

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Posted 04 November 2011 - 08:53 AM

Yep, I read that article too. They were debating what to name their first US-based restaurant.

They even did a quick marketing study.

Interestingly, the initial frontrunner Prometheus's Squirt failed to excite the focus group. It came second.

I still think that a French restaurant should stick with a French name.

For example: Jus d'homme or Nectar de la vie.

Both are reasonable names in my book.

#43 Sneakeater

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Posted 04 November 2011 - 02:42 PM

I have to agree with you. The French just has that certain je ne sais quoi.
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#44 Orik

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 02:47 AM

http://thepariskitch...ubstance-paris/

sandwiches that are large and filling and do not contain tuna or prawns