Valentines in Paris

Everything that led up to the first sip of sake and the first mouthful of glorious food at ERH in Paris, was marinated in a thick coat of chaos.  As is the case with many of my Michelin-star stories, this one begins a year ago, when we booked Restaurant Kei for Valentines 2019 (a.k.a. ‘Love Month’, as it’s our anniversary too), in the IIe arrondissement.  That weekend kind of got sidelined because of plans in London on the Friday night, so we did a dinner at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester on Saturday night, followed by a night in a hotel.  It was also meant to be cheaper than a weekend in Paris, but boy did we get that wrong.   So, when I was thinking about Paris for Love Month 2020, and Kei quoted us a menu which would have cost over seven hundred Euros for two people WITHOUT DRINKS, I politely never replied to their email.

We ended up booking at ERH partly because as it was one Michelin star, not two, it was a helluva lot cheaper than Kei.  As it served up a fusion of French and Japanese food, it was the same kind of food, which really appealed to the The European.  It has also recently opened (only a couple of years old), and I am learning fast that the best fine-dining restaurants are the ones which are new on the block; fighting to get stars and throwing everything they have at curating that perfect experience.  We were sold. 

The weekend in Paris got off to an dismal start, with The European slipping on the cobbles in Montmatre and hurting her knee, and the family friend we were staying with being out all day, meaning we needed to stay out with our bags, fresh off the Eurostar that afternoon.  Therefore, we turned up at the elegant, minimal and modern ERH, carting a couple of small suitcases, with Her Highness hobbling in like she has one leg shorter than the other.

The team at ERH were of course consummate professionals, smoothly dealing with our unhinged entrance and my language deficiencies (a couple of servers were seamlessly switcharooed as soon as the penny dropped that I couldn’t speak a word of French beyond “merci”).  Though everything and everyone was as polished as that cobblestone which attacked The European, I loved the patches of quirk; the suited servers, booted in Converse.  There was a weird toilet at the back of the restaurant, with only a net to conceal you doing the deed.  We settled in and people-watched.  The room was very quiet; the crowd was very very young, very French and very stylish (and there we were, out of breath, limping and generally dishevelled).  A man next to me was wearing an actual beret.  In the table in the corner, a guy spent the whole meal gazing at his date with Zoolander’s ‘Blue Steel’ look. 

Most folks though were looking at the food.  One Valentine’s menu for all, seven courses.  Chef Patron Keita Kitamura was at work in silence in the open kitchen with his tiny brigade, creating some serious magic.  Truffled brioche was an epic start, before we were whisked along to scallop, horseradish and caviar (you got me at “caviar”).  Pike from Lac Léman was cocooned in spinach, and might well be the best fish I have every had (and Anne-Sophie Pic’s cod in champagne, served up in a hotel on those very shores, was pretty damn fine).  There was an oyster course that we both could have skipped (oysters inherently have no place on a plate), but then all was made well with foie gras raviolo with mango; I could have sworn I saw tears in The European’s yeuxes. 

All was silky smooth and a masterclass in cooking; the perfection punctuated with slight question marks – like those Converse and the toilet – which only served to make ERH brilliantly kooky, not crap.  A pigeon course was exquisite, but randomly followed with a stew of clams and mussels.  You got to choose your own sake cup with it as well.  I loved how the crepes were flambéed à la 1973.  They were bitter to the point of making my mouth resemble a cat’s arse, but served with the sweetest, most glorious caramel ice cream.  It was a match made in heaven.

All was carried along with an impeccable wine and sake pairing which got us nice and merry for the leg-saving Uber home (ironic as the car was so cramped it made my leg injury return).  The pairings were so perfectly on point, that The European even fell for the dessert wine (a sweet and silky plum sake).  We nursed that last drink, smiling in agreement that eating and drinking doesn’t come any better than this. 

As we left, and collected all out worldly possessions, the waiter came over and needlessly apologised for his lack of English.

Your English is better than my French”, I replied.

How was the menu?

Great but what was with the pigeon then the fish?

Yeah…. We’re trying things out”.

Exactly what I love about new openings going for the stars.  For how long should we all try?  Until.

Restaurant ERH is located on Rue Tiquetonne, very near Étienne Marcel station.  Two tasting menus and wine pairing came to a little under four hundred Euros.

  • Comfort factor: 9/10
  • Returnability factor: 10/10
  • Taste factor: 10/10
  • Lack of screaming kid factor: 10/10
  • Wow factor: 10/10

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