4, rue de l’Exposition, in the 7th Arrondissement.
01 45 51 88 38. Mon–Sun, lunch and dinner.
Last week I had a date with Kate, a friend who lives between Paris and Texas. Kate can cook and has a much better handle on Paris restaurants than I do, so I let her choose where we’d meet. She chose Abri, which didn’t have anything available for two weeks! Being a resourceful girl, I consulted my new best friend, Stéphane Jego, the chef at Chez l’Ami Jean, and faster than you can say “Euskara,” we had a table for two at Pottoka.
A pottoka is a wild pony from the Basque region, and the kitchens here are run by Sébastien Gravé, a man whose passion about all things Basque influences everything from the Bayonne rugby jersey on the wall to the piment d’Espelette that was on my plate. Fortunately, he is also a great chef with years of experience in the kitchens of Christian Constant.
Just around the corner from the Eiffel Tower, the bright modern bistro was full of locals sitting nearly shoulder to shoulder as they savored traditional Basque cuisine served with a decidedly contemporary twist. As I arrived, the businessmen two tables down actually held a moment of silence to appreciate their dessert.
Kate started with a tartare of shrimp and sea scallops in a mango coulis, while I opted for a Jerusalem artichoke and truffle cappuccino with lard-infused bread strips. Both were served with a savory ice cream that provided a lovely counterbalance to the rich, intense flavors of the dish.
Pottoka offers plenty of options for the carnivore, but we both stayed with fish, ordering a gorgeously prepared plate of sea scallops with truffle butter and a cod in bouillon with root vegetables. There was so much food we could not clean our plates, but that did not stop us from ordering dessert.
I had a vanilla mascarpone with pineapple and passion fruit sorbet, Kate the traditional gâteau basque. How did we like it? The meal was so good, the flavors so compelling, that I was able to write this review without looking at my notes, despite two and a half hours of girlish chatter (sorry Kate).
In a nutshell: This is Basque cuisine with a refreshingly light, modern twist. Beautifully prepared plates from an expert kitchen, in a small, bright restaurant.
Price check: 35 euros for a three-course meal, 55 euros for the tasting menu.
If you like the sound of Pottoka, you’ll really enjoy Chez l’Ami Jean. Read the review.
Chez l’Ami Jean
27, rue Malar, in the 7th Arrondissement. 01 47 05 86 89.
Tues–Sat, noon–2 p.m. and 7 p.m.–midnight.
Editor’s note: For a gourmet walking trip, check out our DIY downloadable Paris trips.