Step into Chocho’s buzzing dining room – with its young clientele and staff, hip hop soundtrack, eclectic interior and creative cuisine – and it would be tempting to declare it amongst the coolest restaurants in Paris right now. But that would do a disservice to the deeper ideals at the restaurant’s core.
At Chocho, the Franco-American chef Thomas Chisholm expresses a philosophy of life through daring and delicious food, unrestrained ambiance, and in the warm interaction of its staff and patrons. Even the restaurant’s name, chosen for its sound, and free of meaning, reflects pleasure and freedom. It’s a world away from the usual staid trappings of fine dining. The restaurant is playful; the food, bold. Yet there is also a sense of respect towards the ingredients, their producers and the guests who enter its doors. The food is as much for the eyes as it is the palate. So much has been repeated about the Top Chef alum’s Franco-American background and Catalan influences; but in Chocho, Chisolm has created an experience that bears his singular artistic imprint.
Thomas Chisholm: NY to France’s Top Chef, via Perpignan – An Artist is Born
Born in New York, Chisholm spent his childhood in Brooklyn where he showed an early interest in visual art, taking drawing lessons on scholarship at Pratt before arriving in France. He moved to the southern French city of Perpignan at the age of 14. The challenges of entering the French school system as an adolescent without reading or writing the language diverted his path to vocational school and the culinary arts. It was during his first internship at Chapon Fin that cooking as a means of expression, like visual art, clicked.
He went on to hone his skills with renowned chefs including Christophe Ducros, Sylvain Sendra, Thierry Marx and Atsushi Tanaka. Season 12 of France’s Top Chef catapulted Chisholm into the limelight. Though he didn’t win, the wider recognition helped lead to the opening of this, his first restaurant in Paris’s 10th arrondissement.
The Interior and Ambiance
The warm-hued décor, large central wooden table for guests and open kitchen make for a convivial atmosphere. Smaller tables to the sides allow for more intimate meals. There are decorative tiles and tableware designed by the artist and childhood friend Karla Sutra, inspired (like the name Chocho) by Dadaist works. The shelves are adorned with fermenting and preserving jars used in the kitchen, as aesthetically pleasing as they are useful. The joyful surroundings, boisterous soundtrack, and bold cooking reformulate what fine dining should be.
Chocho’s menu consists of small sharing plates. There is a reasonably priced (especially for the quality of the cooking) prix fixe lunch menu (€29 for 2 courses and €37 for 3). You can also order à la carte, or if you’re feeling adventurous at dinner and on the weekends, the 6-course tasting menu.
On our recent visit, the menu included dishes like oysters with ginger and preserved condiments; brioche with celeriac, tarama and bottarga; crispy chicken thighs with anchovies and braised sucrine; and blood orange granita with dill, tequila, and cold goat’s cheese mousse. There is also an extensive selection of excellent foreign and French biodynamic, organic and natural wines.
Our Take On The Food
The kitchen has a keen interest in syrups, vinegars and fermentation, meaning you will find strong flavors and unexpected ingredients. Standouts on our recent visit included a tart of chicken livers, kimchi and grilled bread crumbs. The kimchi and breadcrumbs added a surprising piquancy and crunch to the smooth richness of the liver.
The clam chowder had all the classic flavors you would expect, but executed with a refinement that is unmistakably French. Each ingredient retained a delicacy and distinctiveness so often lost in the thick, amorphous versions familiar to many Americans. The portobello mushroom with gorgonzola mousse was as delicious as it was dazzling to look at. The beautiful, flower-like presentation was a paradox to the bold composition of flavors and textures within and surrounding it.
Chocho succeeds in making accomplished, inventive gastronomy accessible to a wider audience, in a relaxed, welcoming setting. The extremes of acidity, bitterness, umami, smoky flavors and less common ingredients may not be for the pickiest of eaters. But for those visiting with an open spirit and adventurous palate, Chocho delights.
Chocho – 54 rue de Paradis, 75010 Paris
Website address: https://chocho.becsparisiens.fr/en/
Reservations are strongly recommended.
All photos courtesy of Antoine Motard.
- Read more about Chocho’s chef Thomas Chisholm at France Amérique.
- If you’re unsure of where to eat on your next visit to the City of Light, here are our picks for 5 restaurants to try on your next Paris trip.
- If you want to try cuisine from other renowned chefs like Mory Sacko in a fun setting, head over to Food Society, Paris.
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