It’s not often that I find myself dissecting a dish in a restaurant in hopes of discovering the secrets to its balance, charm and explosive flavors. But that is just what I spent a recent lunch at Restaurant Eels doing. Chef-owner Adrien Ferrand spent 2 years as head chef at William Ledeuil’s Kitchen Galerie Bis, so it is no surprise that he has honed his skills as a master of layering flavor, acidity and crunch, all punctuated with fragrant fresh herbs.
We began our meal with the restaurant’s signature dish of smoked eel, apple, licorice root and hazelnuts. Soothing soft pieces of smoked eel nestled into a sabayon-like foam, layered with bites and crunch from the tart apples and hazelnuts, showered in pretty pink oxalis petals, a well-deserving namesake dish that was both delicate yet bold all at the same time.
The starter of carrots, fromage blanc flavored with orange blossom, and grapefruit showed how Ferrand can take a few humble ingredients and infuse them with punch and character. The pungent turmeric bouillon was a clever device that elevated the dish above the ordinary. As with many of the dishes we sampled, what didn’t always seem obvious on paper turned out to be a harmonious combination of flavor and texture on the plate.
I can’t stop thinking about my fresh pasta main, the likes of which I have never had before. Springy, al dente fresh tagliolini was married up with a fireworks combination of sweet, tenderly cooked clams and razor clams, chamomile, delicately bitter confit of cedrat, (a large perfumed citrus fruit), and some kind of braised celery concoction. Here the sum was certainly greater than its parts, an astounding alliance of flavors that made for a surprising and altogether delightful and original take on a seafood pasta dish.
It would be hard to improve upon his “chou farci”, moist green cabbage leaves wrapped around tender shredded lamb seasoned with a magician’s touch. (It’s a dish my mother made regularly while growing up in the US Middle West in the 1950s. But sorry, mom, yours was never quite like this!) Like all of Ferrand’s dishes, a welcome bouquet of seasonal vegetables accompanied the stuffed cabbage, bright orange and yellow carrots, turnips and white radish, showered with a welcome garnish of refreshing, fresh cilantro.
The winter citrus dessert felt like a déjà vu, our carrot entrée reimagined into a sweet course, which gave the sense that the menu had not been considered in its entirety but rather as individual elements. The chocolate cream caramel to my mind was unsuccessful, with a rubbery marzipan-like chocolate topping swamped in what was described as banana marmalade but was more like an overly pungent, liquidy banana puree. A heavy and misguided end to an otherwise inspired meal.
The restaurant’s simple, refreshing, no-nonsense décor – bare wooden tables, comfortable woven chairs, attractive lighting, and golden exposed stone walls – reflect the place’s attitude: un-selfconscious, striving but not aggressive, pleasant service, and a clientele that clearly likes having a good time.
The wine list is brief, with a very golden, faintly sweet but appealing acidic white Cour Cheverny from the Loire Valley.
EELS | 27 rue d'Hauteville | Paris 10 | +33 1 42 28 80 20 | Métro: Bonne Nouvelle or Château d’Eau | Open Tuesday–Saturday. | €28 + €32 lunch menus, €59 decouverte menu (2 starters, 2 mains and dessert), à la carte 55-65€ | reservations essential.
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