After enduring the heaploads of buzz generated by Mama Shelter — Philip Starck’s uber-hip hotel — HiP Paris Correspondent Amy Thomas decided to stop by its new Alain Senderens restaurant to fill us in on the eagerly awaited French fare.
I arrived at Mama Shelter well before any of my friends. Simply said, it’s a schlep out to its 20th arrondisement location and none of us expats, despite priding ourselves on being locals now, realized how long it would take to get there. But waiting was fine with me; it gave me an excuse to saddle up to the Island Bar—a giant square about two-thirds into the dining room—enjoy an aperitif, and watch the parade of fashion and design devotees go by.
By the time everyone showed up, I already knew I liked the place. Our table was a cozy spot for six, with a cushy couch to accommodate three on one side and mismatched chairs on the other. As I made myself way too comfortable with the couch cushions (so much for sitting up straight at the dinner table), I scoped out the rest of the Philippe Starck-designed dining room—the chalkboard ceiling, foosball table, art books propping up cozy table lamps—and was just about to say exactly what came tumbling out of my friend’s mouth: “It’s so New York!”
Indeed, Mama Shelter feels very “downtown”; the closest I’ve come to it in Paris is Derriere. Owners Cyril Aouizerate and Serge and Jeremie Trigano obviously knew what they were doing when they plopped this hyper-cool hangout in one of Paris’ most up-and-coming areas. They also had the foresight to tap Alain Senderens—recognized as one of the founders of nouvelle cuisine—to create the menu.
I for one was very excited about the prospect of the “small but perfectly formed pizzas” I had read about on the web site. But, it turns out, they’re a lunchtime feature only. Just as well. The French classics featured on the dinner menu were served with a fresh approach and modern wit, and were just as fun to share.
Amy Thomas – Parmentier de Confit de Canard, Cocotte de lentilles
For entrées, there was a nice little cocotte de lentilles delivered in a mini cast iron pot and topped with a perfectly semi-soft egg The spicy leeks came as five simple rolls, served alongside a tangy vinaigrette d’herbes épaisse and the toast accompanying the simple green salad were topped with tapenade rather than the usual chèvre. Other kick-offs include charcuterie, fromage and foie gras but it’s better to save room for the plats.
Part of Senderens’ concept is to offer a family-style experience, which is a nice complement to the party atmosphere of Mama Shelter. Only one friend ordered the veggie lasagna, so she had a single-serving of the oven-toasted cheesy creation, served with a bowl of dressed mesclun. The parmentier de confit de canard, though, was a popular order so the deliciously salty, creamy decadent mélange was served in one giant, multi-serving dish and passed around the table. Lighter options included steamed salmon with lentils and the plat du jour, which, when we went on a Thursday, was a beautifully presented pintade fermière .
And, oui, we saved room for dessert. It was a relatively modest platter of fruit (a clementine, a kiwi cut in two and some grapes), coconut sorbet (served in a giant stainless cylinder), and four madeleines (nice and spongy) for 22 euros. We could have gone for a nightcap, grooving to the DJ’s old-school hip-hop, but after three hours of eating and drinking, we were ready to call it a night—and make our long way back to city center.
109, rue de Bagnolet, 75020
Métro: Porte de Bagnolet, Gambetta
- 52 Martinis’ write-up of the cocktails
- NYtimes’ The Moment blog review
- Guardian review of Mama Shelter Hotel