La Table d’Aki
49, rue Vaneau, in the 7th Arrondissement.
01 45 44 43 48. Tues–Fri, lunch and dinner.
I first met Akihiro Horikoshi two weeks ago. Mr. French and I were walking up the rue Vaneau in the 7th Arrondissement when I noticed a change. For years I’d been simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by a restaurant with a charmingly old-fashioned facade featuring tatty curtains that were gray from centimeters of dust. The revolting curtains were gone! And inside we could see bright, modern, clean lines and a chef chopping studiously away behind a red screen. A brief glance revealed that La Crèmerie Chaude had been replaced by La Table d’Aki.
Something told me this place was going to be special, so I went in to take a card. It was 11 a.m., kitchen prep time. Aki put down his knife and walked over from the minuscule open kitchen where he’d been dicing away. A smile on his face, he proudly handed me a card. Upon skimming the menu, I noticed that every dish features fish. I asked if it was Japanese cuisine. “No,” he replied assuredly, “It’s French food. French food by a Japanese chef.”
There are only 16 seats, making reservations necessary, and we arranged them for the following week. At night it’s a fixed menu (no à la carte), transforming the evening into a culinary adventure. The meal started with rillettes de poisson, perfectly textured and popping with the flavors of fresh herbs. Then came an entrée of langoustines on a blanket of minutely diced mushrooms. A second entrée of Brittany sea scallops with braised endive hit the perfect note, the vegetable’s bitterness counterbalanced by a tangy-sweet orange sauce. The final savory course was turbot in a butter sauce with winter vegetables. Mr. French considered it a crescendo, and I tried in vain to identify the elegantly subtle flavors. Portions were small, arriving in perfect rhythm, so there was room for the mille-feuille and caramelized apples that arrived to complete the extraordinary meal.
Aki, I learned, is not a newbie to the world of haute cuisine, having spent more than two decades in the kitchen of L’Ambroisie. Dining in his two-months-young restaurant on a Friday night, we felt like privileged guests observing a member of the orchestra as he transforms into a confident soloist. The moment, like the food itself, was poetic.
Price check: Dinner menu: three courses for 38 euros; 5 courses for 58 euros.
In a nutshell: Take a date and enjoy extraordinary food that is satisfying yet light in a serene, intimate atmosphere.
If La Table d’Aki sounds good, you’ll also like L’Agrume:
15, rue des Fossés St.-Marcel, in the 5th.
01 43 31 86 48. Tues–Sat, lunch and dinner.