54, rue de Seine, in the 6th Arrondissement.
01 43 54 34 50. Lunch and dinner daily.
While Paris is home to many petits cafés and family-owned bistros, the city also has a growing number of restaurant groups in which one owner operates several establishments. There are the überchefs with multiple Paris restaurants, like Joel Robuchon, Guy Savoy and Alain Ducasse. Then there are the business-minded groups that own numerous brasseries, hotel restaurants and bars, such as the Costes brothers and Flo. Last but not least, we have the small but growing self-starters, like Juan Sanchez and Drew Harré, who just opened their fourth restaurant, Semilla.
Neither Sanchez nor Harré is French, but that hasn’t stopped their success in Paris with their beloved wine shop La Dernière Goutte, casual sandwich shop Cosi, and low-key Fish, la Boissonnerie. They’ve kept their expanding empire in the 6th—Semilla is located just across the street from Fish.
I arrived at Semilla on a rare warm, clear night, so the doors and windows were open, giving the clean white room an airy feeling. In the back, the kitchen is open and even has two stools at a little bar where you can have a front-row seat to all the not-so-behind-the-scenes cooking action.
The menu has an interesting mix of small plates, offering half portions and full portions for many ways to enjoy and share your meal. You can start with a selection from the “crudo” (raw) menu, like smoked salmon, daurade tartare or a cheese and charcuterie plate. We started in the “plancha” (grill) section with the must-have grilled shiitake mushrooms, lightly drizzled with toasted sesame oil. It was simple perfection, but with only four mushrooms to a plate, plan accordingly. Another top pick from the plancha menu: the potatoes in a light garlic confit. It’s a nice complement to pretty much anything you’ll eat, so grab an order and watch them disappear.
In the “au four” section, you’ll find oven-cooked gems like pork spare ribs, beautifully served in a cast-iron skillet with chunks of bright orange sweet potatoes and a touch of cinnamon and garlic. The fat left on the rib allowed the meat to keep its juice for a melts-in-your-mouth tenderness.
The maigre, or thin white fish, was enlivened with a pistou sauce using rocket, garlic and olive oil. Mushrooms in a hazelnut butter surrounding the dish added a nice nuttiness that complemented the soft fish.
Our first dessert plate arrived with four almond sponge cakes around a mound of vanilla ice cream. Our server poured a rich caramel sauce over everything in the bowl, and there was practically a fight to get our spoons in fast enough. We barely paid attention to the shortbread stacked with strawberries and drizzled with citrus crème, but we soon realized our mistake and equally enjoyed this updated rendition of strawberry shortcake.
In a nutshell: Semilla is a great spot for dining with friends and sharing plates of fresh, well-prepared ingredients in a casual environment.
Price check: Lunch menu: 19 euros; dinner: 30–50 euros.
If Semilla sounds good, you might also like Albion, run by the former Fish barman and chef. Read the review.
80, rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière, in the 10th.
01 42 46 02 44. Tues–Sat, noon–2 p.m. and 7–10 p.m.