I’ll admit it: I had low expectations for Passage 53. This newish restaurant inside the city’s oldest covered passageway has drawn very mixed reviews. A number of eaters who I trust have been disappointed here. Other palates had been pleased, but their measured compliments never moved me to pick up the phone.
Then my boyfriend, who wanted to celebrate a new job, asked to go. I’m not one to shy away from spending money on food, but the idea of shelling out €200 for mediocrity was honestly filling me with dread. Nevertheless, I made a same-day reservation and tried to keep an open mind.
It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Here’s why:
The product is impeccable. We expect this from a place that’s owned by Hugo Desnoyer, the butcher whose name is scribbled on source-savvy menus all across town. The butter is Bordier, the oysters Gillardeau, the veggies of course are Joël Thibault. These are the things that I will long for if ever I’m forced to leave France.
Star ingredients do not themselves make a meal. In other provenance-crazed restaurants (les Fines Gueules, Racines, Cou de Poule…) they turn in a solid and respectable performance. Under the direction of P53′s chef, they shine. Ballsy combos, complimented by near-perfect technique, coax the best from each element.
Take this dish, for example:
This is arguably the best veal in the capitol, paired with some of the best raw oyster in the world. In another restaurant, either element would likely stand on its own. Putting them together is a bold move – one that frankly doesn’t sound or look appealing – and the taste is shockingly good.
Another winning dish: a perfectly seared piece of calamari on a bed of almond and cauliflower cream with shaved flakes of raw cauliflower on top. It looks innocent (the all-white presentation) and tastes anything but.
For game nuts, there was a saddle of rabbit cooked sous-vide and presented with a civet of the meat in a dark chocolate sauce. It was a heady combination and visually stunning on the plate.
And speaking of chocolate, the demi-tarte that they presented with a scoop of very coffee ice cream had the thinnest crust I’ve ever seen in my life. I took a post-bite photo as evidence. Really, wow.
And that dessert wasn’t even my favorite. The pear ice cream with candied celery sort of blew my mind (again).
At dinner, there are dégustation menus at both €60 and €80. With four glasses (each) paired by Guillaume, including two coupes of Jacquesson, our tab climbed to €248. At that price, this isn’t an every day sort of place. But for a celebration? Absolutely.
In a nutshell: Hit Passage 53 for a special splurge, and you’ll be delighted by the controlled daring and near-perfect technique using France’s best ingredients.
> Reprinted with permission from The Girls’ Guide to Paris
> Read more trusted reviews for Passage 53 at Paris by Mouth