A former sous-chef of Bernard Pacaud’s l’Ambroisie, a menu that costs far less than €100 and seafood-based cuisine of surprisingly high quality. Is this really the case, or have the Parisians become a little overexcited here?
The truth is, this little restaurant, seating a mere 20 people has started out as a one-man show. During the first months, Aki alone took care of the cooking, serving and washing up. However, as one can imagine, even in a relatively small restaurant, this is a little bit too much for one person to take on. Hence, he has since hired someone to help in the service, which makes dining here a more complete experience. The white, fairly sobre room is free of any unnecessary elements and lets you focus completely on the food that comes out of the small kitchen.
Here, Aki, who was Bernard Pacaud’s right-hand man for nearly 20 years creates a daily changing menu that is mainly focusing on seafood. The only choice you have as a diner is between a €40 or €58 version (at dinner, lunch is even cheaper). What comes out of the kitchen is quite frankly astonishing, given the prices and sobriety of the dining room.
At a similar price, one can only go to a few trendy winebars and little bistronomiques in Paris, which serve fairly tasty and often joyful food in equally simple surroundings. What differentiates La Table d’Aki from places such as Saturne, Le Verre Volé or Septime is the fact that he cooks resolutely product-driven. That essentially means that the food here is focused on produce of the highest quality, served in a simple and perhaps unfashionably classical manner.
It thus comes as no surprise that a starter of scallops is served with little else than a bit of cabbage and a white butter emulsion. Might sound boring, but the perfectly steamed scallops and the careful seasoning make this dish a beautiful start to a menu. The quality of the shellfish is such that even the most demanding eaters will doubtlessly agree with the praise that has been sung of this man’s food.
Even better however is a darne of turbot, which is lightly seasoned with a delicate spice mix and served with a single, large, caramelised white asparagus and a veal roasting jus. The dish is arguably one of the finest Aki cooks, and in season, turbot is on the menu fairly frequently. What makes it so convincing is the simple fact that the fish is of very high quality and perfectly cooked. Served on the bone, you get both the firm texture of the fish and the gelatinous element that make turbot so special. The spices are subtle, and merely add a bit of complexity to the fish, which makes it an even more composition.
The success of La Table d’Aki is more than deserved. This is a restaurant that serves simple, but most convincing food in the most bare of surroundings one can imagine in Paris. If the prices remain so friendly and the cooking stays at this level, diners are in for a real treat here.