Saturday, May 25, 2013
Restaurant Balm: A "must visit" destination for epicureans near the Louvre
One of the most frequent requests that I receive from friends, and even friends of friends, who are planning a trip to Paris is for a restaurant recommendation near the Louvre. Everyone, it seems, wants some insider's advice about where to dine after they've survived the crowds at the world's most visited museum. As my answer that I rarely eat in that part of town always proves to be a disappointment, Sara and I decided to check out a recently opened restaurant creating a quiet buzz among my foodie friends.
Located on a peaceful side street only a couple of steps away from the Palais Royal, Restaurant Balm is a haven of peace that combines natural elements, such as water trickling down a glass partition near the entrance and roughly hewn rocks enclosed in wire cages behind the bar, with oversized photographs by Marc Lagrange. The exposed limestone walls provide a harmonious backdrop to the curved tables nestled together like puzzle pieces for groups or separated for more intimate dining. Fluffy sheepskin rugs and cowhides tinted a mossy shade of green are scattered over the oak floor. Gazing around the spacious interior, Sara and I agreed to indulge in a three-course lunch so that we could linger for as long as possible.
After days of eating traditional French food while in Normandy, the more tantalizing modern options on the menu made it difficult to make a selection. Deliberating between the layered grilled vegetables, espuma burrata and tomarillo sorbet and the wild sea bream carpaccio with yuzu citrus and purple shiso, I was thankful when Sara said that she would take the carpaccio and offered to let me have a taste. While the subtle flavors of the starters were a delight, it was the Aberdeen Angus sirloin accompanied by potatoes with a garlic confit and nori puree that convinced me that I've found my restaurant near the Louvre. Normally, I only eat about half of my meat before passing the rest to Stéphane, but this was the most flavorful steak that I've eaten in France. I savored every single bite and even felt a pang of disappointment when I swallowed the last mouthful.
Feeling rather full after polishing off my steak, I wasn't sure that I would have a dessert until I spied two words on the menu that sealed the deal. "Calamansi sorbet". Incredulous that this citrus fruit that I hadn't tasted since we lived in the Philippines had made its way to a Parisian restaurant, I questioned the wife of owner-restaurateur Pierrick Mathon if the sorbet was made with real calamansi juice. When Kanya, who is from Thailand, graciously assured me that all of their sorbets are made from fresh ingredients, I knew that I had to try it. As the first spoonful of Calamansi sorbet melted in my mouth, memories of our expat posting in the Philippines flooded back into my mind. The unique citrusy flavor of Calamansi, which tastes something like a sour orange or a slightly sweeter lime, and grand cru chocolate was the perfect fusion of East and West.
With music playing softly in the background, floor to ceiling glass windows perfect for people watching and a welcoming vibe, Sara and I could have easily spent the entire afternoon at Restaurant Balm. If you would like to linger, be sure to sit at one of the higher tables because they're more comfortable than the lower tables with the couches and "wok" shaped chairs in front of the bar.
As an interesting historical side note, Restaurant Balm's name is an acronym that pays homage to the restaurant, "Bœuf à la Mode", that originally occupied the building from 1792 until 1936. With its elegant interior, refreshingly creative menu options and warm hospitality, I have every expectation that Restaurant Balm will experience the same longevity.
Prices range from 12-23 euros for starters, 24-35 euros for main courses and 12-16 euros for desserts. There are also tasting menus for 48 and 78 euros. A wide selection of wines is available and may be ordered by the glass or by the bottle.
Lunch is served from 12:00-3:00 pm Monday to Friday and dinner is served from 7:00 pm to midnight Monday to Saturday. Reservations are recommended.
Restaurant Balm, 6, rue de Valois, 75001. Tel : 01 42 60 38 81
What are other people saying about Restaurant Balm? Please click here to read the reviews on Trip Advisor.