The team from Racines has moved on to sleek new digs.
Saturne — an anagram for “natures” and also the Roman god of the harvest — offers a menu based on pristine ingredients, and an extensive selection of natural wines, much like Racines did. But gone is the funky charm and bad lighting of the passage des Panoramas. No, the only funk to be found in Saturne is in the bottles that line the glass-cased walls behind the long bar.
These stacks are presided over by sommelier Ewan McGregor Lemoigne. On my first visit there was a printed wine list, but the second time there was no list, and my experience echoed reports I had heard from friends.
“Qu’est-ce que vous voulez boire?”(What do you want to drink?)
“Uh… Qu’est-ce que vous conseillez?” (What do you recommend?)
“Qu’est-ce que vous voulez?” (What do you want?)
“Uh…Qu’est-ce que vous avez?” (What do you have?)
This Godot-like, circular conversation was eventually resolved with the arrival of a well-shaken carafe of red, light and young and gaseous. These wines sometimes remind me of small children who allowed to feed and dress themselves: Hyper and quirky and awkward until they settle down a little bit.
Speaking of youth, 20-something Sven Chartier is in charge of the kitchen. He offers two options: Four courses for €37 or six for €59. On my first visit, the bigger menu simply included all of the options from the smaller one, that is, both the lamb and the merlu (hake) and both cheese and dessert. There were four of us, and we ordered so that we could try everything. On my second visit, one of the first courses was entirely different. In other words, there isn’t a huge incentive to order the bigger menu unless you are very hungry, or hate to share.
I loved the late-season tomato mille-feuille with deep red jam countered by a fresh green slice and delicate pastry. Assertive mackerel was accompanied by thin grilled leeks, clean cucumbers, and herbs. What appeared to be an unfinished, unadorned assemblage of shaved champignons de Paris with tiny greens and herbs was more flavorful than I thought possible.
I could have eaten a second order of ittle red bouquets (a kind of Breton shrimp), cooked with a splash of whiskey and garnished only with their own tiny black eyes.
Pintade (guinea fowl) with crisp skin and rosy flesh was served simply, with flat beans and a squash purée.
The same beans accompanied a piece of daurade. The worst thing I could say about anything of Chartier’s dishes is that they sometimes border on boring. Chartier is obviously zealous about his ingredients, and I suspect that the dining room is mostly filled with fellow believers. But fish with steamed spinach and a few clams, no matter how fresh and perfectly cooked, will not convert any skeptics who are, let’s face it, paying good money to eat here.
I’ll be back, though, particularly for a seat at the bar, something that most Parisian wine bars don’t actually have.
Saturne 17 rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, Paris 75002 +33 (0)1 42 60 31 90, lunch and dinner mon-fri
Phyllis Flick adds Saturne to her Paris Notebook.
Bruno Verjus wants you to connaitre Saturne.
Read my write up of Saturne on Girls’ Guide to Paris.