The next time you are travelling with Eurostar, make sure to give its on board magazine a good thumb through. The multilingual Metropolitan not only plays a useful role in ironing out your travel boredom, but also acts as a virtual tour guide that shows you some exciting underground attractions and reliable information you need to know in the current fashion/food/art and culture scene.
In our case, we found Kei Kobayashi – a rising one Michelin-starred Japanese chef who has been unabashedly making his mark in the French culinary world. But why wouldn’t he? For the past seven years, he honed his knives under the roof of Alain Ducasse’s Plaza Athénée, supervised and taught by Jean-François Piège and Christophe Moret.
His very own chic and modern Parisian restaurant in the neighbourhood of Les Halles, near the Louvre, is the best testimony to his skills and success. The FT in UK once called this The vogue for Japanese chefs in French kitchens, where “in some of France’s most prestigious kitchens, Japanese chefs are at the helm“. Kobayashi, however, shed some new interesting light on this statement, claiming that he is paying tribute to the French cuisine as Kei, not a Japanese chef.
His star-studded CV, combined with the immaculate, exquisite and unoriginal finishing on the plates got our taste buds aroused enormously. We would be insane not to give it a go.
Service was impeccable and, much to our delight, the bread basket gave an ample supply of the whole-grain staple. Amuses-bouche from top to bottom: Frozen granites of red shiso // Smoked eel with cucumber // Yoghurt tartelette with Spanish sardine and red onion.
Kei has a knack for de-constructing expectations, leave you lost and puzzled in its elegantly styled surrounding and then return to pick you up with an unexpected satisfaction.
So, when step into Kei, it’s best to leave your imagination at the door and let the chef attend to your curious and already stimulated palate. You wouldn’t know what’s coming your way anyway. The restaurant serves a maximum 25 for lunch and another 25 for dinner per day, with a choice between a four-dishes menu or a degustation menu. The pressure is on them. You just sit back and relax.
The compositions of ingredients were far from banal. Dishes were dainty, delectable and aesthetically pleasing. The chef played with their flavours like they were his best bet. And he was right from the beginning till the end. His creation appeared completely unoriginal but the taste was a bullseye “tribute” to the French culinary spirit, treasuring and valuing the most natural quality of the food.
Next up: Artichoke beignet stuffed with ham, mascarpone and truffle // Garden of crunchy greens which included Ecosse smoked salmon, rocket mousse, emulsion of lemon, vinaigrette of tomato and black olive crumbles // Potato gnocchi, Iberico ham topped with parmesan foam.
Then the main, Galice beef with juice of roasted radish.
The salad was beyond impressive. And I can’t help but wonder if salad in the whole wide world tasted like that there probably wouldn’t be obesity. And many more children who love the green.
The potato gnocchi, on the other hand, disappeared within a milisecond once put in the mouth. Never have I had such palpable urge to ask for more.
Dessert was a whirlwind of fun. Ice coconut parfait with pineapple sorbet // Honey nougat with pistachio // Frozen kumquat with the gel of clementine.
This wasn’t Kei cooking. This was Kei crafting miniature pieces of delicate art. There’s a reason why people “always have a place for dessert”.
I took a bite of the nougat and was thrilled to find bits of pistachio inside. It’s porous and slightly sticky; while the kumquat and pineapple sorbet rounded off the meal perfectly with a refreshing and zingy after taste. Just the way I like it!
In return, our big blissful smile is the best testimony to Kei’s talent and culinary accomplishment. You go, Kei! In the most of Arnie’s fashion – we will be back.
With love x