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Now, let me start off with a disclaimer: I’m not belittling or minimizing allergies. As a physician and husband I know that peanut butter and wasps can kill. I’ve seen, indeed experienced, hives, urticaria and shortness to the point of stifling of breath.
That said: when my next table neighbor says “I’m allergic to tripes, pig’s feet or veal brains,” I cast my eyes heavens-ward. Likewise with Bambi, bunnies, horses and dogs. Those aren’t allergies – they’re aversions. But Americans, especially in French and Asian restaurants, think that it is more excusable to say “I’m allergic,” I think, than to say – “I don’t like X, Y or Z.”
And then, there are those, who when presented with confit de canard without the garlicky sarladaise potatoes, or veal liver without bacon, or kidneys without mustard – go ballistic. Unnh folks, chefs are trying something other than you had 50 years ago. At best consider it a temporary adversity.
These thoughts came to me last week as I was dining at the newest rendition of the Café Very, smack in the middle of the Tuileries. This place, which before its takeover was more likely thought of as an oasis for a quick Coke on a hot day, has surely changed under the influence of Gilles Choukroun.
Choukroun is the guy, you’ll recall, who first came to stardom near another park, the Luxembourg, at his innovative, delicious and sometimes breathtakingly fusiony Café des Delices. Then he moved on to the Angl’Opera where his food became even more edgy and while he became a poster boy for the “Le Fooding” folks, after two meals there, he lost me; it was too reminiscent of the 1960’s nouvelle cuisine excesses called “kiwis and ketchup” in my house. Indeed he even had a quirky catsup sauce on the scallop dish on the menu.
But with the Café Very, I think he’s returned towards center. While his name appears no where on the menu, his fingerprints are all over. For instance, on the tartare MBC (which we had to ask about – it stands for mango, basil & coriander), on a huge, long chicken spring roll with a side of basil sauce and a wonderfully spicily dressed pile of greens and a so-called gazpacho which was really a dense, terrifically spicy tomato salsa into which one dipped spicy radishes, with a rondelle of butter on a strip of bamboo aside it.
So back to my point. If you expect a classic gazpacho, or steak tartare, or spring roll, or slice of smoked salmon on a white plate at a Choukroun-influenced place, forget it. And if you get queasy just thinking of chefs cooking the most delicate of dishes in a swirl of goose fat or seeing someone tuck into a mound of tripes a la whatever, certainly don’t order them. But evoking allergies instead of aversions and adversities should no longer fly.
My only suggestion among places mentioned is:
Le Café Very
In the center of the Tuileries, on the Concorde side, 1st (Metro:Tuileries)
Open everyday, lunch until 10:30 PM
A la carte about 25-40 €
©2007 John A. Talbott