43, rue des Petites Ecuries, in the 10th Arrondissement.
01 42 46 43 55. Mon–Fri, lunch and dinner.
It was with some trepidation that I ventured into Vivant Table to try Pierre Jancou’s recently updated Paris bistro. Vivant opened in April of 2011 to mostly rave reviews, but Girls’ Guide founder Doni Belau had a less-than-perfect experience when she dined there, with beyond poor service and inedible items on the plate. So I was curious to see where things would fall for me.
Jancou shut his eclectic bobo slip this summer and swapped out some tables and chairs, but luckily he kept the gorgeous tilework that covers the bright walls from floor to ceiling. The biggest update is in the kitchen. Jancou installed a new French-Japanese chef, Atsumi Sota, an alum of big-name French restaurants like Robuchon, Stella Maris and Toyo. There’s also a new wine bar next door, Vivant Cave, where you can slip in for a glass or a small bite from a limited menu.
Vivant Table’s menu is printed daily and offers a 55 euro dégustation menu (which includes three options for three of the courses) and a 70 euro carte blanche menu (a little bit of everything). You can select wine pairings with the menus or pick from the extensive list of natural wines running from 28 euros to just under 50.
Don’t expect any coddling or even any English spoken by the servers here. We received good advice on the wine pairings from our waitress, who spoke only French and was perfunctory in her duties, but certainly not warm and personable the way servers are in other countries.
We chose the dégustation menu because five courses sounded like enough, and it was. Our meal began with a cream of celery soup, which was warm with clean flavors, though the added piece of mozzarella and two capers left me a little confused about their purpose beyond adding something to cut up and fish out.
Next came the escargot, cooked in a light garlic broth enriched with a soft-boiled egg. Everything was well prepared but perhaps just a bit too subtle. My friend even asked for salt and pepper, which I’m sure ruffled the chef, but the dish needed it. The boudin noir may have been hoarding the bigger, more pronounced notes, with bolder flavors and toppings of octopus, green pepper and shaved Parmesan.
We all received a healthy piece of lotte (monkfish) on a bed of smoky lentils that would have made a salty, satisfying meal unto itself. The dish prepped me for the most exquisite pork I’ve had in Paris to date, carre de cochon ibérique. Jancou is keeping up his reputation for buying the best-sourced products in the area, as evidenced by this dish. The chop had a perfect golden sear on the outside, and was succulent and flavorful on the inside. A smattering of broccoli and white beans was served alongside the pork and a potato puree. It was divine. My friend equally enjoyed her thick, herb-encrusted lamb served with greens and potatoes.
The pork could have been my dessert, but my food high continued until the last plate with a miroir chocolat, which gets its name from the glassy, mirrorlike reflection on the surface of the chocolate. It was a beautiful small cake, covered in the shiny chocolate with pieces and swirls of ripe red fruit. The plate was a work of art, and returned to the kitchen without a morsel on it.
In a nutshell: Vivant Table serves upscale bistro fare using top-notch ingredients in a bobo-chic locale in the 10th.
Price check: Lunch menus are 25 and 45 euros each. For dinner, choose between the dégustation menu at 55 euros and the carte blanche menu at 70 euros.
If you like the sound of Vivant Table, you might also be interested in Spring. Read the review.
6, rue Bailleul, in the 1st. 01 45 96 05 72.
Dinner, Tues–Sat; lunch, Wed–Sat.