I have been perplexed by the rave reviews Ze Kitchen Gallerie receives from so many posters. We ate there a few years ago and were distinctly unimpressed. Were we unlucky? Was it an off night? Has it changed? A quick day trip to Paris gave me the opportunity to give it another go and to try and reconcile my experience with other posters.
I started with a marinaded tuna sashimi, with artichokes, asparagus and a kumquat sauce. The tuna was good; nice and “fatty”, and the artichoke and asparagus were fine. However, I found the kumquat sauce dominated the dish, it sort of jumped off the plate and hit you around the head, as it was so strong in comparison to the rest of the dish.
Next I tried the young rabbit, with thai style sauce (the real name is a lot longer). The dish consisted of two tender pieces of rabbit with a classic mustard glaze; a ball of rabbit meat, deep fried like a croquet; and a thai green curry sauce with peas, a spring onion and (I think) another leafy vegetable. Oddly the flavour of the thai green curry was so subtle it had almost disappeared - almost analogous to a homeopathic remedy where the active ingredient is so diluted only a molecule or two is present. My guess is it that t is a short cut thai green curry sauce, without a lot of the key ingredients that give it depth and balance. The dish appears to be a a east/west fusion, deconstructed green thai curry with peas instead of pea eggplants, and spring onions instead of thai aromatics. It was OK, but bland. However , the main issue I had with the dish was that the mustard coated rabbit simply didn’t work with the thai style sauce. The tastes simply jarred.
Two things strike me. First, does the kitchen really taste the food before it leaves the kitchen? The flavours of my two dishes were so out of balance that I couldn’t believe they had tasted them. If they do then their palates are clearly quite different to mine and I really don’t think my is that bad (as it seems to work in most restaurants). Second, I wonder if the reason the food appeals is because it has such big simple flavours. The contrast to the subtleties of traditional French cooking is refreshing for those that live in Paris, and equally a novelty for people who have not tried this style of food before.
My overall conclusion has not changed from my first visit, I don’t really think the cooking is that good. To be frank Paris has many better places than this, both traditional and innovative. If this is the best of “east/west fusion” in Paris then give it a miss and take the opportunity to try this food elsewhere - although I also think the east/west fusion stye has evolved a lot from where still ZKG is today.
Finally why did Michelin award it a star this year? My suspicion is that Michelin is very strong on traditional cuisine's, but less so on Asian influenced ones - their ratings of London Indian restaurants proves this point.