On the last night of our 10 day trip to Paris (Sept. 22, 2011), we had our hotel reserve dinner at NEVA CUISINE, 2, rue de Berne, near the Gare St. Lazare. Although the hotel confirmed our reservation, when we got to the restaurant around 7:30 (half an hour early), it never made it on to their book. My guess is that the hotel screwed up, because the people who run this restaurant REALLY CARE.
Neva's kitchen is run by Chef Beatrice Gonsalez; her husband runs the front of the small house (seats maybe 30 or so), and Vanwick Tranchant handles the pastries and deserts. Beatrice and Vanwick opened this contemporary French restaurant a bit more than 2 months ago, after leaving the one-star they had worked at together (we did not get its name). We were lucky to get in since they have been consistently fully booked over the past few weeks.
While they provided us with a menu in English, and our waiter did a good job of explaining dishes to us in English, it sounded like almost all the patrons spoke French.
The menu is limited in scope, with 4 entrees, 4 plats and 5 deserts (one being the pastry chef's surprise of the day). But, it is not in any way limited in quality and imagination.
For 36E, you get an entree, a plat and desert. Or, 2 of the three for 29E. Some of the choices come with a well-deserved supplement of a few euros.
EVERYTHING WE ATE WAS WONDERFUL, and up to the quality of the best food we had in Paris on this trip (including Michellin 3-stars Le Bristol and Le Meurice, as well as smaller, more intimate places like Le Petit Verdot, Monjul, Josephine Chez Dumonet and Cristal de Sel).
We always share dishes, as we like to taste more things than either of us could finish. For entrees we had:
1. Oeuf de poule crustillant variation autour du choc-fleur, jus perte - This was a wonderfully presented egg wrapped in a delicate bird's nest (of potato?). The white was fully cooked, while the yolk remained runny. The cauliflower sauce and jus added just enough extra flavor to make the dish interestingly superb.
2. Raviolis de gambas, julienne de legumes, bouillon mousseaux du gingembre - Do not miss this entree! The ravioli were thick (whole wheat flour?) and shined with a fine coating of oil. They floated in a ginger flavored sauce that had thin slivers of beets as well as two carpaccio-thin slices of beet. The ginger sauce gave a sense of sweet and bitter, which balanced the flavor of the shrimp and the oil of the ravioli. We wanted to compete over who could lick the bowl.
For the main courses, or plats, we had:
3. Epaule d'agneau en pastilla, legumes glaces, jus aux epices - Delicate, shredded lamb, mildly spiced and reminiscent of a Moroccan bastilla, in filo dough so thin it seemed like only a single paper-thin layer. The flavor and texture worked well together, although it might have been better with just a little more jus. It was served with sticks of zucchin and carrots, with a parsely and chive topping in a flavorful vinaigrette. The acidity made a nice contrast to the lamb. My wife, who insists she does not like lamb, loved this dish, and I could not agree more.
4. Ris de veau crousti-fondant, Poelee de champignons de saisons - The sweebreads were browned on the outside just enough to provide a nice maillard tasted to enhance the umami sense of the dish, while delicately just barely cooked enough inside. They sat atop a vegetable puree (I suspect a bit of cauliflower given the while color), with perfectly cooked mushrooms providing the right balance of saltiness. We scraped the plates.
5. La Figue noire de "soillies", confit au cassis et framboise muse en sorbet fromage blanc - The figs were spiced with black pepper and star anise, which set off the cassis and framboise with style and elegance of taste. The sorbet's lack of sweetness provided great balance. This dish had flavors as good as, and as balanced as, the figs we had at Le Bristol.
6. La sphere chocolate "Manjari" destructuree facon "poire belle Helene - This was probably the best desert of the trip, and more pleasing than the chocolate manjari we had at Le Briston. It arrives as a perfect dark chocolate sphere topped with long, delicate stick of melted caramelized sugar. Then, Vanwick comes out an pours hot chocolate slowly on top, melting the top hemisphere of the chocolate ball. Inside, one finds ice cream, nuts (maybe pecans?) and a poached pear. The presentation was exciting, and the taste to die for.
After eating, we talked for a few minutes with Beatrice and Vanwick. They both seem to enjoy what they are doing, and it is reflected in the sophisticated food. We will not miss this in the future, although I suspect we will have no chance to get in next year without booking well in advance.