I never ate at the first Spring, so I didn’t really have any preconceived notions about what the new Spring would be like. That’s not exactly true: I have met Daniel Rose, visited the boutique (which certainly represents the Spring ethos), and read plenty about the old Spring. But with the exception of a superb ceviche whipped up for the Paris by Mouth launch party, I had never eaten anything made by M. Rose until last Friday night.
I’m not going to give a play by play of the meal, though I could; describing food that looks and tastes this good is a pleasant exercise. What I’m going to do is tell you a few things that I liked about dinner at Spring.
First, the space. For me this is a strange place to start since, at the end of the day, I don’t really care what a place looks like if the food is good. The beautiful and costly renovation of the 16th century space on rue Bailleul has resulted in something totally modern while leaving most of the original architectural details in place.
The main floor features a sparkling kitchen which, metre carré for metre carré, occupies more surface than the dining room. But that’s only if you consider these two separate things which, in the case of Spring, they are not.
It isn’t an “open kitchen” so much as a dining room in a kitchen, or a kitchen with tables and chairs for 22. There is no proscenium arch, only apron. (And aprons – check out the tabliers that wine man Sofian and serveur Fabien are sporting!) This set up could easily turn into a situation where diners eat and watch with hushed reverance as their chef-god prepares plated miracles but the result here is welcoming, generous, and blissfully unpretentious. And that may be the real miracle.
Next, the wine. If you’d like to get an idea of what’s on the list at Spring, visit the boutique to see the stock that Josh Adler has thoughtfully curated. It’s no surprise that most of the bottles are organic or biodynamic and from small producers. What’s refreshing is that Josh is not afraid to include wines from beyond the Hexagon. International selections are difficult to find in chauvinist France, and it’s a joy for this lover of aromatic whites (I’m talking about myself, and my birthday is in October) to see German and Austrian bottles holding court with their Alsatian cousins. I can’t wait for the wine bar to open on the lower level.
Finally, and most importantly, the food: The word “light” is an overused one, I think, and while it’s true that the food at Spring is not heavy, “light” just doesn’t cut it. Neither do the words “simple” or “ingredient-driven”, even if they are at times accurate. I don’t go to a restaurant with a €64 menu to eat ingredients, I go to see what the chef does with the ingredients. The heirloom tomato under the slice of Saint de Luz tuna was sweet enough to eat plain, but gently smoked, its flavor was warmer and deeper. The humble eggplant was given four treatments, each very different: A fried baton, a tangy caviar, a slippery pickle, and a slow-cooked slice with an almost-burned crust and silky, melt-away interior.
Normally cool cucumbers showed their warm side through careful cooking that eliminated their water content and concentrated their flavor. The pigeon it supported compelled no small amount of finger licking.
Yes, the best ingredients are the starting point, the inspiration, but this is a chef-driven restaurant, one with a driven chef.
Spring 6 rue Bailleul, Paris 75001, +33 (0)1 45 96 05 72