by Trish Deseine
Review: Akrame, October 2011
I recently had dinner with Xanthe Clay (The UK Telegraph’s food columnist) and have since developed a bit of a girl crush. Xanthe, to my mind, is a mix of all the good bits of Jane Austin’s Emma, Gwyneth Paltrow, Antony Bourdain, Elizabeth David and Dorothy Parker. I have never seen anyone with such beautiful manners so close to picking up their plate and licking it in a 5* hotel dining room (Hélène Darroze at The Connaught) This is all the more striking when you consider that, only moments before , it had been full to the brim with HARE SOUP , an unappealing dark brown gunge which turned out to be the most delicious dish of the meal.
But I have no need for enabling in that department, and the thing I brought away from time spent with Xanthe was her irrestistble positivity and cheerfulness , that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” -ness it is so easy to discard.
This is why, then, depressingly, there’s been radio silence here for almost 3 weeks. For nothing amazing (apart from a Mont Blanc accompanied by deeply unnecessary but very welcome rum and raisin ice cream at Philou) has happened food wise.
That was until yesterday, and lunch at eponymous Paris 16 ème restaurant, Akrame.
Akrame has worked with Gagnaire and Adria, and , it seems, taken away the precious foundation elements of their cooking, not the hypetastic gimmickry. I was a little worried; that said, at the sight of deconstructed chicken tacos as our first course, but all the others (7, 8 ?) were similar studies in smooth (many purées) depth and purity without distracting, tiresome trompe l’œil. Akrame plays brilliantly with temperature and texture, applying a light layering of usually 3, sometimes 4, tastes. With lots of tangy citrus notes and root veg sweetness. A lukewarm poached egg with wafer-sliced Paris mushrooms and a coffee/chicory crunchy powder was probably my favourite. Bringing back in two or three potent, earthy mouthfuls the primevalgueuleton of Paul Bert’s œufs au plat aux truffes. Salmon was cooked and served at 37.7°C (humm), giving it a moussy texture against the black popping quinoa shot with lemon fragments. As ever, I was on the lookout for ideas to use easily when entertaining at home. Two stood out, the parsnip, cinnamon and white truffle velouté and the ultra simple banana purée with milk chocolate sorbet and GRATED peanut.
Akrame, 19 rue Lauriston, Paris 16th. Open Monday to Friday. 01 40 67 11 16