Daniel Rose, the American chef who rose international acclaim with his first-ever restaurant Spring, has had a terrible year. When I interviewed him last December (see article here), he was full of optimism about a new space near the Louvre:
We’ll add a lunch service so that people can come more spontaneously. And we’ll add more staff, which will allow me to do things that are a little more creative than answering the phone. The idea is to reduce the frustrations so that the joy which is already here can have room to express itself more fully. I may be dreaming, but I think there’s a way to have a restaurant with both happy cooks and happy customers. Doesn’t everyone want to have fun?
While he could see the fun at the end of the tunnel, Rose never anticipated that opening the new space would be easy. But he couldn’t have predicted the volume of red tape required to rebirth Spring in the classified center. Any new restaurant in Paris is required to provide access for the disabled. But the city permits few, if any, structural changes to its protected buildings. Figuring out what they were supposed to do wasn’t easy for Rose and his team of architects. The plans have just now been approved, and Rose is forecasting an opening in March 2010 – fourteen months after our interview.
In the intervening months, Rose has to some extent been a man without a country. He closed Spring, at least officially, in February 2009. After time off and traveling, he returned to Paris to find the new place nowhere near ready. With the old space still intact (unsold) and requests pouring in every day, he decided in May to reopen again. But like anyone who has already resigned from a job, his heart wasn’t entirely in it.
He changed the game over the summer – adding weekend lobster roll parties – and then closed up shop again. After more time off and traveling, Rose returned to Paris with renewed focus and has managed to push through the plans for the rue Bailleul restaurant. He’s also constructing a boutique around the corner at 52 rue de l’Arbre Sec. This shop is the pet project of Marie-Aude Mery (Rose’s co-chef and girlfriend), who has been tasting and buying a host of Spring-worthy products. Rose promises on his blog that the boutique will be open in November, selling honey, wine, charcuterie, hot chocolate, HOT DOGS, and other delicious necessities.
In the meantime, however, one problem has remained – the original restaurant space. Rose put it on the market just as the clouds of la Crise were gathering. Despite offering a free t-shirt with every restaurant purchase, he hasn’t managed to sell it. So he’s returned again to the rue de la Tour d’Auvergne, but this time under a new banner. For Table 28, his “rusti-chic” neighborhood place, Rose has ripped out the kitchen (“I can’t even boil water!”) and has installed a €5000 rotisserie grill. Dinner for now is Coucou de Rennes with potatoes au gratin (Rose is working on a new recipe that uses goose fat in place of cream) and veggies roasted on the rotisserie. Including dessert, prices run €29 for a 1/4 chicken portion and a 1/2 bird is €35. Don’t expect the program to stay the same, though – he’ll will be roasting a whole cochon de lait on Thursday night and who knows what after that. He’s also coming to the aid of lazy hosts by offering dinner pour emporter. Take out for four people (a chicken and sides) will run between €52-56. Table 28 will be open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday, with lunch service (sandwich de porcelet, anyone?) beginning shortly.
Anyone who wants to eat from the hand of Rose, however, should book a table now (call Fabian at 06 42 87 79 64). As soon as the concept and grill are running smoothly, Rose will turn his attention once again to urgent matters south at Spring, including what kind of snacks (beignets d‘huîtres?) should be offered in the basement wine bar on rue Bailleul.