Saturday, May 25, 2013

French, with a hint of the exotic

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all."
- Harriet van Horne
– Harriet van Horne

One generally eats well in France. In fact, I believe some would go so far as to say that French food is the best in the world. I'm not going to argue. French food is delicious.

But... I grew up in Asia. As a result, I also like my food with a tangy twist and a hint of the exotic. Not always so easy to find. So, imagine my surprise when I was recently treated to a meal at the new Restaurant Balm - a gastronomic experiment that mixes traditional French food with...wait for it... a hint of the exotic!

The modern-chic decor and the proximity to the Louvre alone make this place an appealing option. BUT, add a tantalizing amuse-bouche, a zesty entree, and a creamy mouth-watering main and you've got a sure-fire winner! (...and that doesn't even include dessert!)

Restaurant Balm opened its doors a short 5 months ago and has yet to see the mad rush of Parisian lunch-time diners. Why? Because so far, it's the area's best kept secret.

Designed to be that home away from home you escape to when you need that little bit of extra charm, Balm is the perfect place to dream away a rainy Parisian day. With floor to ceiling windows and a soon to be available terrace, it will also appeal to sun-seekers on those rare and precious sunny days.

Still on a sea-food kick from my recent mini-break in Normandy, I couldn't help but start with the wild Sea Bream carpaccio. Flavored ever so slightly with tiny squares of yuzu citrus and purple shiso peel and topped by thin slices of the aforementioned tangy citrus fruits, this light dish was the perfect treat to whet my appetite.

Next, I ordered the flash cooked langoustine with cuttlefish ink pasta, full of high expectations after my delightful starter - I was not disappointed. The pasta was perfectly cooked and flavored with a smooth and slightly frothy tomato sauce that went perfectly with my fluffy langoustines.  I couldn't wait to try desert. My mom, who is not generally a big meat eater had the Aberdeen Angus sirloins steak, and to my great surprise finished the whole thing. I understood why when she finally gave me a tiny bite - the incredibly high quality cut of meat was cooked to perfection.

As we perused the desert menu, my mom let out a tiny cry of surprise - they had calamansi sorbet! Because I was a toddler in the Philippines, I don't have any recollection of this supposedly remarkable little fruit. After confirming that the fruits had, in fact, been imported from Asia (never mind the carbon footprint), my mom was sold and hasn't been able to speak of anything else since. It's true that the fusion of slightly sour calamansi with dark, rich French chocolate made for a heavenly desert. I tried the strawberry almond tarte with aloe jelly, which was also amazing.

Two days later and my mouth is still watering from the memory... I can't wait to go back!

To read my mom's take on our culinary adventure and for more logistical details, click here.

Restaurant Balm
01 42 60 38 81
6, rue de Valois 75001 Paris
Lunch: Monday - Friday 12-3pm
Dinner: Monday - Saturday 7-Midnight