Yam’Tcha, Paris, France

I called Yam’Tcha three weeks ago on a whim, not expecting to get a reservation because it is extremely difficult to book. The Saturday hours were also unclear from the Internet, so I was surprised when I managed to get a table for lunch on Saturday (opens at noon). I am particular interested in Yam’Tcha because it serves Franco-Chinois cuisine. These are my two favorite cuisines overall, so I was very interested to see how Chef Adeline Grattard combined them.

Arriving, I was seated comfortably on a “couch” of sorts: a bench that ran along the wall comfortably padded with cushions. The decor perfectly managed the elegant sophistication of a Michelin starred restaurant with the calming simplicity of a teahouse. I was informed that the 60€ lunch menu was not available on Saturday, so I had to get the 120€ full tasting menu (changes daily). I also elected to get the 40€ tea pairing because it’s highly recommended on the internet. The chef’s husband Chiwah is the tea expert.

Starter of light oolong from Taiwan

Sichuanese cucumber salad (tofu, sesame, Sichuan chili flakes) — Flavors were very Asian and familiar, a nice starter.

Sea bream tartare with citrus sauce Green tea from Jiangxi — The fish was fresh and texture was good, but something about the sauce wasn’t quite right for me.

Lobster soup, scallions Oolong from Taiwan — Very generous with lobster meat, kind of an upgrade of egg drop soup. I did not feel like the lobster was used to it’s full potential here.

Steamed turbot, squid, mussels, emulsion ‘fu yu’ (fermented bean curd), Chinese spinach Pu’er from Yunnan — The turbot was cooked nicely and the texture was good, but somehow the ‘fu yu’ or some unlisted ingredient didn’t pair well with the fish. However the ‘fu yu’ emulsion combined with the squid and mussels worked extremely well; that was the best bite of seafood I’ve had in Paris.

Scottish langoustine with coconut Marsala sauce, purple basil — Very reminiscent of Thai curry, it was tasty.

Fillet of veal with Shiitake mushrooms, cream of Shaoxing wine, black vinegar Oolong “rock” tea from Fujian — The sauce is apparently a favorite specialty of the chef, used in various dishes on the rotating menu. But I found it very familiar! The entire dish tasted quite similar to some pork dishes I make (e.g., Richard Olney’s pork chops with mustard cream and apples): the cream sauce traditionally calls for red wine but I usually use Shaoxing instead because I don’t have red wine on hand in the kitchen. This dish really gave me more confidence to go ahead with substitutions in the kitchen when I’m cooking French recipes. Experiment!

Bao (bun/brioche) with Stilton blue cheese filling and cherry Lighter Pu’er from Yunnan — The waiter asked if I wanted cheese before dessert and I was hesitating because I wasn’t sure if it was included in the menu (it is). But he said if I like cheese, this “cheese” is highly recommended. So I got the cheese, and a few minutes later, a bao is presented in front of me! When it was revealed that the inside of the bao contains cheese, I could not stop smiling. This is really what it means to combine French and Chinese cuisine! Before the meal had been “good food” but I wasn’t blown away, but this dish just elevated the entire meal to the ‘amazing’ category.

Two desserts side by side: Hazelnut ice cream over thin wafers sandwiching Physalis fruit / mirabelles with wine-flavored cubes Oolong from Guangzhou — The first dessert was the best I’ve had in Paris. The hazelnut paired very well with the Physalis, which I’m not sure I’ve eaten before but has an “Asian taste” to it. The tea was also my favorite, very fruity and with honey notes. The only tea in the pairing I wasn’t familiar with.

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Firstly, I do not think the tea pairing is worth it. It did not enhance the flavors of the food for me. I have also drunk all of the teas besides the last dessert tea in copious amounts at home, so the flavors were nothing new. I’d recommend it only if you haven’t tried a lot of Chinese teas before and want a guided tour of the most common types.

The food was very good. It is still primarily French in style (as it should be), using fresh French ingredients with a lean towards seafood. The Chinese influence was more clearly present in later dishes, but I would say there are clear Japanese and Thai components (e.g., the tartare and langoustine). The cooking was all done expertly and tasted great. However, aside from the bao, which I am in love with, the rest of the food did not bring the new dimension of taste that I was hoping to experience in a Franco-Chinois combination. The meal did give me the push to try to find these new combinations in my own kitchen.

It was a very pleasant meal in a uniquely designed restaurant. Before I decide whether it’s worth coming back though, I’m going to stuff my face with baos at boutique Yam’Tcha first.

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