November 23, 2012
This was my second visit to Yam’Tcha, my follow-up reservation having been made on the spot after my first dinner. So my expectations were high for my return. Happily, it did not disappoint.
Yam’Tcha occupies a spot on a sweet little street in the 1st arrondissement – a street you might amble down if you like getting lost in Paris’ picturesque older streets, but one that most locals and tourists strolling down the busier Rue Faubourg St Honore would probably pass without seeing.
Inside, a couple dozen tables (including one perched over the tiny open kitchen) are attended by wait staff in suits. The welcome is warm and the space cheery, but what really stands out is how moderate the noise level is and how spacious the place feels – for a restaurant so small, I would have expected more noise and more elbow-to-elbow contact with my dining neighbors. Somehow, though, Yam’Tcha manages to pull off being both convivial and laid back, and my dining companion and I settled in happily for our meal.
As on our first visit, we chose the wine and tea pairing, which is exactly what it sounds like – with every course you have either a wine or a tea chosen to match. The cuisine at Yam’Tcha tends toward the delicate, and, as the name suggests, Japanese influences are present.
We started with a veloute accompanied by steamed doughy buns as our amuse bouche. These were followed by a foie gras with cabbage that was probably the lightest preparation of a foie gras I’ve ever had (which could be positive or negative depending on your tastes). The third course was really the star of the night – a “hot pot” of very tender Breton lobster, flavored with a delicate celery broth.
The contrast of the rich lobster and light salty broth was interesting on its own, but the small-diced, feather-light tofu and kernels of fresh corn took the flavor combination to a whole new level. Having fresh corn on a menu in Paris felt like a rare extravagance, and its sweet crunch was a perfect addition of texture to the dish.
A bass (bar de ligne) was the next course, accompanied by two large fresh oysters. The beef that followed was cooked rare, and its flavor was fairly mild, but red onions and vinegar reduction made for a beautiful early fall dish. Once the beef arrived, we were slightly relieved, as we were beginning to wonder how many courses there were going to be (Yam’Tcha offers no printed menus), and we wanted to save room for dessert.
We did forego the cheese offered, in favor of dessert only, which turned out to be a chocolate ice cream with raspberries and tuile and a sweet cream. The dessert was not quite as creative as the rest of the meal, but a very satisfying ending – a little bit rich, a little bit sweet, a little bit smooth, and a little bit of crunch from the burnt sugar tuile.
The chef (who is also the owner) is omnipresent and routinely pops out of the kitchen to chat with diners, especially as they’re arriving or leaving. Those we observed leaving looked content, and they should have been – Yam’Tcha’s food is precise, not at all heavy handed (fans of over seasoning will want to stay away), and fresh.
Fusion French/Japanese is probably not the right term to describe it – the chef seems to borrow equally from both traditions to craft unique dishes that are creative but not crazy, and very well balanced. You might want to consider making your next reservation on the spot.
4, rue Sauval, 75001
+33 (0)1 40 26 08 07
Métro: Châtelet – Les Halles, Louvre – Rivoli
Open: Closed on Sundays, Mondays and for lunch on Tuesdays
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- New York Times T Magazine’s favorite spots for Asian flavor in the French capital
Written by Krista Stein
Krista, a native of Philadelphia USA, lived in Paris for three years, continuing a tradition started by her grandmother (who lived and attended art school in Paris during the 1920s). Though now back in New York, Krista travels and eats regularly in France and elsewhere in the world. Her appreciation for food was sparked by growing up in a family where cooking everything from scratch was the norm, living on a farm as a child, and working in her family's restaurants as a young adult. She works as a Vice President in Marketing for American Express.