Unexpected. This is the word that immediately sprung to mind when I first encountered this small unassuming restaurant-cum-wine bar that quickly shot to the top of my list of favorite neighborhood dining spots some time back. Unexpected because of its unlikely location, its curious chef and the spectacular dishes served up for such a humble establishment. Such a restaurant might be more at home in the 9th or 10th arrondissements of Paris, yet has found itself nestled among the upmarket fashion boutiques and classic bistros of the well-heeled Sevres-Babylone neighborhood – luckily for me just steps from my 7th arrondissement apartment.
As the crowds grew, so did chef Sebastien Leroy’s ambitions, and what started as a few café-style tables scattered around boxes of wine for sale at a modest wine shop/restaurant at 60, rue du Cherche-Midi soon moved across the street, expanding not only the restaurant but adding a wine bar and converting the original wine shop into a casual place offering cold plates. Soon after the move, I had some good and some indifferent meals at the new spot – a rather cold place, with bare wooden tables, bad lighting, and walls plastered with bare boards. Now, at least and at last, the restaurants seems up to its old speed, offering super-inventive and healthy combos, with fish, meats, and poultry surrounded by an avalanche of seasonal fruits (yes!) and vegetables. Vibrant blood orange slices team up with all manner of root vegetables, and the delicate celery-root-like cerfeuil-tubereaux sits alongside a delicious serving of quail and a generous offering of wild mushrooms.
Like many of the most interesting new wave of chefs in Paris, Leroy does not have classic French culinary training. He spent his early career as a graphic designer and then as a set designer in films, before turning his long time passion for food into a fulltime occupation. However, his earthy roots as the son of farmers goes a long way in explaining his deep affinity for all things seasonal and wild (the translation for the restaurant’s name).
And true to its name, Leroy’s wild personal cooking style is punctuated with fresh herbs and edible flowers, sourced carefully from the likes of herbalist and professional forager Stéphane Meyer (also known as the Druid of Paris!).
My first meal there, in the restaurant’s original address, made quite an impression – an entrée of raw mackerel, green asparagus, toasted buckwheat and white nasturtium flowers was united by a vinegar dressing whose acidity was perfectly balanced. And herein lies what I love most about Leroy’s food, his understanding of acidity and how to make it bring a dish harmoniously together.
This perfect introduction was followed by a slow cooked pork dish served with a bright refreshing salad of raw thinly sliced cauliflower, radish, coriander, mint and punctuated with a vibrant miso dressing, a dish I immediately wanted to figure out how to recreate.
Most dishes seem to follow this formula, meat or fish, simply prepared and accompanied by one or two star vegetables, a scattering of fresh herbs, leaves and/or flowers, and a sauce with near perfect acidity every time to bring the dish coherently together – a rather ingenious blueprint I would say.
All three of the spots are dedicated to natural, organic and biodynamic wines from small, lesser known producers. The right balance of acidity, for Leroy, is just as important in the wines he sources as it is in each dish that he constructs. Since his early days of solo operation, Leroy works with a front of house who can knowledgeably talk you through the extensive wine selection and will happily make food pairing recommendations.
Sauvage | Modern French | 55 rue du Cherche-Midi | Paris 7 | Tel: +33 1 45 48 86 79 | Métro: Sèvres-Babylone, Rennes or Vaneau | Open Monday through Saturday
For more Paris restaurant reviews download the app!