But have you ever been to a restaurant where food is systematically paired with bread? Well, thanks to Jean-Philippe de Tonnac, author of the compelling Dictionnaire universel du pain (a must-have reference for French-speaking breadophiles) whom I met in Paris last week and who recommended I try Maison Kayser's new restaurant in Bercy Village, I now have and I love the idea. The restaurant is so new that at the time of this writing, it isn't even listed on the Kayser website.
It is located 47, Cour Saint-Émilion in the 12th arrondissement. Prices are not cheap but considering the location, they aren't outrageous either: a lunch consisting of an appetizer plus an entrée or an entrée plus a dessert (I am not a dessert person so I picked the soup but the Kayser desserts are gorgeous) will set you back €14,90 (about $20) per person, tax and service included.
I took this picture of Kayser pastries at Europain as the Kayser bakeries seem to have a very strict policy against in-store photography. At the restaurant they reluctantly let me photograph what was in the plate in front of me when I told them I would blog about it but they clearly didn't like it. So I kept it to a minimum.
Among other offerings, the menu pairs "coeur de sucrine" (bib lettuce salad) with pain au levain, foie gras with fig bread (a classic), lamb tagine with olive bread, entrecôte Béarnaise with buckwheat pavé, etc. It doesn't make use of the full array of Kayser breads but I suspect the breads will change with the seasons. What I had was both light, tasty and fresh. Ironically though, the mushroom soup that I picked as an appetizer was supposed to be served with a slice of buckwheat pavé (garnished with slivers of smoked salmon) and it actually came with turmeric bread, the very same bread that also accompanied the main course (poached chicken breast and vegetables with horseradish sauce). I didn't even notice because we were too busy talking and by the time I did, it was too late. So if you go, make sure you get the "right bread" for your dish. It wasn't a big deal (I couldn't see myself complaining about fragrant turmeric bread studded with almonds, nuts and hazelnuts) but the whole idea was to try a new bread with each course and that didn't work as planned!
Still we had a most pleasant lunch. Of course it doesn't hurt that Maison Kayser is located in picturesque Cour Saint-Émilion, the center of the French wine trade in the 19th century and well into the 20th. The friend we were with had grown up in the Marais and has fond memories of coming to Bercy with her father to pick up small barrels of wine for family consumption (I too grew up in a family where wine was normally bought by the barrel and bottled at home but our barrels usually came straight from the producers and I never visited Bercy when I was a kid).
The neighborhood has grown on me though and Parc de Bercy has become one of my favorite spots for dreaming in the city. And now that it has a good bakery, I can even dream about living there, cooking my way through my favorite recipes and pairing them off with the whole gamut of Kayser breads...