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Le Sergent Recruteur, Paris - 1 Michelin star

Rating: 91.
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Extraordinary (96-100)
Outstanding (93-95)
Very good to Excellent (89-92)
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Note: Chef Antonin Bonnet left Le Sergent Recruteur in May 2015

The first thing you notice when you enter Le Sergent Recruteur is the beautiful contemporary interior, designed by the Spanish designer Jaime Hayon. A restaurant design that won him the 2013 Wallpaper Magazine 'Best Fixer-Upper' award. Le Sergent Recruteur opened in October 2012 and just five months later the restaurant was bestowed with a Michelin star in the 2013 Michelin France guide. At the helm of the kitchen is Antonin Bonnet, an experienced chef who has trained at the legendary L'Oustau de Baumanière in Provence, Michel Bras and he even did a brief stint at Marco Pierre White's The Oak Roam in London. Before relocating to Paris, Bonnett was head chef at The Greenhouse in London.

Le Sergent Recruteur is located at the former site of La Taverne du Sergent Recruteur at 41 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile in Paris' 4th arrondissement. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday till Saturday. I had dinner at Le Sergent Recruteur with my husband on Tuesday 27 August 2013 and there was one tasting menu on offer, 11 courses for €145.

Our meal started with four amuse bouches, presented in two servings. The first two were fresh elderflower juice and crunchy carrots (from the restaurant's vegetable garden in Normandy) served with a carrot and mustard cream, the latter having a lovely touch of sharpness and elegant bitters in the aftertaste. Shortly after the other two arrived, a superb tomato and dashi soup that had a wonderful touch of piquancy, and a fresh and creamy, lactic cow's milk curd, served with sage oil and a sprinkling of salt.

After this excellent start we were served a crisp salad with a herb juice and lovage vinaigrette, a sharp and pure fennel green puree and a creamy courgette puree. Both the purees were very flavoursome. Different varieties and textures of beetroot and edible rose petals arrived next. The beetroot was of exceptional quality, wonderfully sweet, and the rose petals added a nice floral touch. A simple but delicious dish.

Third course was fresh and beautifully presented mackerel, served with a sharp prune vinegar sauce, fine brunoise-cut cucumber, a wonderfully creamy cucumber emulsion and garnished with sorrel leaves. A fabulously elegant dish with very precise and ultra-fresh flavours. This was followed by a delicious dish of succulent lobster (including the claw meat), covered with a thin slice of kohlrabi, complemented by a lovely lime and acacia honey sauce. Again a very elegant dish. Beautiful simplicity.

Next up were tender and very flavoursome small mussels, served with a light and velvetty pumpkin puree, a sublime spicy coconut foam and some tasty and fragrant thai basil leaves. Wonderful and harmonious flavours, the pumpkin soothed the heat of the spicy coconut foam beautifully. Great long aftertaste too.

Sixth course was a terrific dish of incredibly tasty squid, accompanied by squid ink pasta rolls, tomatoes, thinly sliced roasted garlic and some fresh tarragon leaves. At the bottom of the plate was this wonderful, smooth tomato and red pepper puree that had a great depth of flavour. Fortunately there was plenty of it. Excellent balance of sweet and bitter flavours and a nice touch of aniseed from the tarragon. Also loved how the garlic enhanced the tomato and red pepper.

Mixed warm buttered vegetables, such as mange tout, courgette, carrot, lettuce, fresh corn, served with some Pata Negra ham, followed. A very clever dish, light, attractive; the Pata Negra delivering the perfect touch of luxury.

On to the eight course. A excellent piece of seared bonito, served with artichoke barigoule sauce and thai basil. Harmonious, pure and intense flavours and well-seasoned too. Ninth course was pigeon, cabbage, pigeon jus and puree, and black currants. Beautifully cooked pigeon and lovely cabbage. The only let-down was the jus and the giblets puree. Both the jus and the puree were too acidic, the latter in a rather unpleasant way. The black currents added some sweetness but not enough to balance the acidity.

Dessert was served in two courses (oh, and there was a small cheesboard too). First an elegant pre-dessert of celery ice cream, accompanied by a red wine and port reduction, flavoured with ginger and cardomom, and a soft braised fig. The intensity of the ice cream was terrific and the reduction added a wonderful touch of spicy warmth. This was followed by a chocolate dessert (no photograph, unfortunately). Chocolate cream, chocolate crisps, chocolate crumble, with fresh red and white raspberries and a deliciously refreshing yoghurt ice cream. A really wonderful dessert with lovely full-bodied chocolate flavours and a hint of smokiness.

Last to be served (with our coffees) was a slice of gorgeous blackberry tart.

This was a splendid and generous meal that showcases Antonin Bonnet's experience and skill. The pigeon was a bit of let-down but all the other dishes completely made up for that. Stand outs were the baby squid and the mussels. Bonnet delivers original and harmonious dishes, each prepared with a limited number of exquisite, fresh ingredients. The cuisine at Le Sergent Recruteur excels in distinct and innovative flavour combinations. I was impressed to see how the expert use of herbs managed to really lift a number of dishes. Service was smooth and attentive. Those who think of Paris Michelin starred restaurants as old-fashioned and stuffy, really need to pay Le Sergent Recruteur a visit. This is a restaurant that presents the diner with  avant-garde food and has a decor to match. It very successfully manages to be modern and innovative, without losing respect for the classical rules of gastronomy and hospitality.

Posted 20-10-2013


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