Photo of the Week


Paper (more precisely, papier mâché) tiger in the boutique of Marian Held Javal on Rue de l'Odéon in Paris. © Paris Update


Paris Update This Week’s Events

For full details about an event, click on the title to visit the official Web site (in English when available).

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Houda Benyamina’s Divines, winner of the Camera d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival 2016, preceded by a drinks party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, Oct. 28.

For Brassens fans
> The annual 22V'laGeorges Festival celebrates what would have been the great singer’s 95th birthday this year in his hometown of Sète. Through Oct. 29.

> Festival Cas d'Écoles: films about school, from Goodbye, Mister to Chips to Les 400 Coups. Forum des Images, Paris, through Nov. 18. 

Classic Danish films
> Festival of movies by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Nov. 6.

Cultures of the world onstage
> Music, dance, theater and ritual performances from around the world at the Festival de l'Imaginaire. Various locations, Paris, through Dec. 20.

Strange Happenings in St. Germain
> The exhibition Bizarro, with works by a number of artists, fills seven Left Bank galleries with “Bêtes de Scènes et Sacrés Monstres.” Don’t miss the Meta-perceptual Helmets by the Irish duo Cleary/Connolly
at the Librairie Alain Brieux, which allow the viewer to see forward and backward, for example, or the way a cyclops or horse would see. Various locations, Paris, through Oct. 30.

Contemporary arts festival
> The Festival d’Automne presents leading talents in art, dance, film, theater and more from around the world. Various venues, Paris, through Dec. 31.

Amazing gardens
> The popular Festival International des Jardins de Chaumont-sur-Loireis held annually in the park of the Château de Chaumont in Chaumont-sur-Loire, through Nov. 2.

Music & more in park bandstands
> Kiosques en Fête brings life to the bandstands in Paris’s parks with concerts, writing workshops, club meetings and even a square dance. Various locations, Paris, through Dec. 31.


Restaurants - Contemporary


Cristal du Sel

Crystal-Clear Memories

The smiling chefs keep an eye on the clientele and vice versa. Photo © Paris Update

“It is an adult’s duty to remember,” opines the central character in Anita Brookner’s Brief Lives, mourning the loss of “primal spontaneity” when children learn manners and how to manage sorrow and anger.

I love her books, in which small, tinkling voices awaken the basso profundo of life’s Big Questions, just as the deeper harmonics resonate inside you when you play a chord on the upper registers of a piano.

What has all this got to do with Le Cristal de Sel, you might ask? Not a lot, actually, except the exercise in memory that writing about a restaurant meal you had several days before entails. As your guide, it most definitely is my duty to remember where, what and how. Happily, in the case of this week’s restaurant, the memories are excellent.

As we walked into this blessedly smoke-free zone, we were greeted with smiles almost as wide as the hat of the immaculately kitted chef was tall. Le Cristal has been, our waiter told us, open just a month, which was something of a surprise, given that it was soon full, and people were being turned away (take heed and reserve). The grapevine must work pretty efficiently in this quiet but relatively affluent corner of Paris, only a stone’s throw from Stéphane Martin, reviewed here recently. The nearly all-white decor is a bit cold, but the view into the tiny kitchen enlivens the atmosphere and the diners add warmth, while the noise levels that might be expected in a room with so many hard surfaces subside when people begin tucking into Karil Lopez’s food.

Lopez has struck out on his own after five years working under two-starred Eric Fréchon at Le Bristol, and we should all be thankful for it. The day’s dishes are informally announced on chalkboards, which also list wines to pair them with. We started with a tin of tiny sardines from the house of Ramon Peña, billed on one Web site as “the most sought-after sardines in Spain.” As a lover of canned sardines, I shall certainly seek them out. They were served with butter made by a certain Monsieur Bordier, whose shop is in Saint Malo and is rightly famed. It had been mixed with something shrimpy and complemented the nutty sardines amazingly well. My freshly sautéed asparagus and chanterelle mushrooms in a jus de poulet (more poetic than “chicken juices”) was deeply satisfying, although the presentation in a cooking pot (cocotte) too large for the portion could be improved.

Next came a filet de canette aux épices, navets caramélisées, a plump breast of duckling with a peppery-citrusy sauce that set the taste buds jiving, alongside a fan of turnips which, while good, were upstaged by the spices and could have been better caramelized. I went for the poitrine de cochon à la plancha served with more tiny mushrooms and equally diminutive grenaille potatoes. The generous serving of belly pork had been cooked to a melting turn, real food for the soul on a chilly, rainy July evening.

We did not regret our choice of honeyed Mâcon Villages Thévenet 2001. Nor that of a glass of sweet Côtes de Gascogne, redolent of apricots, with the desserts: an old-fashioned raspberry financier, a pound-cake-like delight made with ground almonds and egg whites, served with vanilla ice cream; and roast apricots with almond cream, also with vanilla ice cream.

These two desserts epitomize the traditional cast to Lopez’s cuisine, which brilliantly soups up favorites from the cuisine bourgeoise cookbook. His evident pleasure at seeing his new venture running as sweetly as a fine-tuned engine was a picture I will happily return to see.

Richard Hesse

Le Cristal de Sel: 13, rue Mademoiselle, 75015 Paris. Métro: Commerce. Tel.: 01 42 50 35 29. A la carte: around €45. Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner.

Update July 1, 2009: As of today, in response to the drop in French value-added tax, Cristal de Sel is lowering the price of its fixed-price lunch menu (two courses) from €20 to €18. Individual dishes will go down in price by €1 or €2.

© 2007 Paris Update

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