Shake n’ Smash
87, rue de Turbigo, in the 3rd Arrondissement. 01 42 72 30 76.
Open daily, 6 p.m.–2 a.m. (food served until 1:30 a.m.).
All too many Paris restaurants have the problem of being just about the food. Likewise, most Paris bars are just about the drinks and ambience. And plenty of Paris concert halls only care about the music. But what if you want the best of all three, and it’s cold and rainy out, so you don’t want to hop from place to place? Apéro, dinner and a show—why go all over town when Shake n’ Smash can give you everything at once?
What used to be a Corsican restaurant near République is now the hippest hangout in the Marais. Though the property has been in his family for decades, proprietor Jerome Susini has restyled the family place into Shake n’ Smash, a cocktail bar that’s not afraid of food, and a music venue that will let you relax. Cloaked in a Parisian idea of New York cool, Sn’S balances warm turquoise walls with delicate touches of leopard print in its comfy chairs and chaise longues. In fact, the whole place feels like the boudoir of someone’s eccentric, perennially single aunt, with lamps made out of lacy bustiers and chandeliers softened by white feathers. The atmosphere borders on gimmicky, but the vibe is so ultrahip and comfortable that you can’t help but lose yourself in the funky sensuality of the place.
With inventive cocktails and equally creative “mocktails,” the long, room-consuming bar aims to please and changes its drink menu with the seasons. I adore the Love Hina, a delicate, liquid flower-in-the-mouth consisting of sake, Saint-Germain, rose syrup and lime, or the Dernier Métro, a dangerously easy-to-drink mix of vodka, crushed ginger and raspberry purée. But this night I went with the Dandy, a winter dream come true, composed of whiskey, cherry liqueur, homemade vanilla syrup and spicy Jamaican bitters, all served in a chilled flask. Though it is a cold drink, the Dandy warms from within, which of course is the key to the perfect winter cocktail. The flask is fun, but I’d advise you to go for it only when accompanied by friends, lest you look like a loner at a bar drinking out of a flask (which takes the wacky aunt theme a little far).
For an appetizer I considered the foie gras on ginger bread, a previous winner in my book, but changed it up this time and ordered the crottin de chèvre roti. A warm and comforting ball of goat cheese, drizzled with honey and pine nuts, oozes with swirls of sweet, savory and nutty, just waiting to be smeared onto toasted seven-grain bread. As I took a bite it was clear: this is not bar food.
A casually hip bobo crowd gathered into the bar as I enjoyed my appetizer and as the band set up. Though Sn’S hosts DJs and bands ranging from acoustic and rock to electropop and funk a few times a week, tonight a blues and rock band called the Reckoners took the stage. They were fun and catchy, though not so loud that conversations were overpowered. I was shocked to see a group of five Parisians dancing, as though they had shaken off their chic and were enraptured by the music.
But I have to admit that I almost completely forgot about the music once my main plate arrived. In the past I have absolutely loved the Sn’S cannelloni, a nod to its Corsican roots and stuffed with fresh goat cheese and spinach, a dish that tastes like home. However, this night I chose the bocadillo, and did not regret it.
With fine, well-cooked strips of beef, sautéed onions and melted Comté stuffed into the equilibrium of a perfectly textured baguette, this is the closest you will ever come to finding a steak sandwich in Paris. You are also offered your choice of homemade sauces (I chose pepper sauce), but in my experience a four-ingredient dish made with high-quality products needs no such accessories. Now, I’m not given to superlatives, but the bocadillo held in its baguette hands the most absolutely tender, juicy and flavorful meat I’ve ever had. Combined with the crunchy/soft bread and the soft/sweet onions, this dish was utterly sublime.
I have to confess, like an ephemeral lover I’ve thought about this sandwich many times since I met it, and just writing about it makes me hungry.
But though the bocadillo left me full and satisfied, there was still one dish left to be conquered: the dessert du jour. Luckily for me, that day’s choice was a springy and light fusion of tarte citron and meringue. It was soft and gentle, just what I needed after the devastatingly brief love affair that was the bocadillo. But don’t be fooled by the citron/meringue’s demure looks. She packs a serious punch within her cushiony layers. A pillow of meringue floats atop a zingy layer of lemon custard, all resting on a slightly cake-like, spongy sweet crust. It was a well-played risk to subvert the traditional hard crust, transforming this simple dessert into a flirtatious heaven on a plate.
It’s a truly unique experience to have a fabulous meal while attending a free concert. Add to that Shake n’ Smash’s tasty drinks, and you might never want to leave.
In a nutshell: With dangerously yummy cocktails, delicious food and live music, Shake n’ Smash gives new meaning to “dinner and a show.”
Price check: Appetizers/small bites, €4–15; mains, €15–19; desserts, €9; cocktails, €12–14.
If you like the sound of Shake n’ Smash, you might also enjoy Paris–New York. Read the review.