Back in July I had a dessert at Vivant that I still think about: A slippery peach, juicy and fragrant, served well by a dollop of lightened mascarpone and crushed almonds. When I told Pierre Jancou how much I liked it, he immediately and ardently deflected all credit to the fruit, the grower, and the location of the orchard. I probably blushed.
Jancou was not in the house when I revisited Vivant a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll admit there was a certain lifeblood missing from the place, capably staffed all the same, but without the energy – sometimes cranky, sometimes ebullient – that he brings, the tattooed guardian of the cellar, stove and slicer in this painted bird shop.
(A century ago, the space was an urban aviary. Jancou unearthed the relic, dusted it off, and turned it into – what else? – a restaurant. It’s beautiful.)
There are still birds for sale here, of course. Chickens and ducks, pan-roasted and well-salted. They are accompanied by vegetables, many grown by produce muse Annie Bertin, that make me think I’ve been eating fakes most of my life.
I had the poulette with a mix of romanesco, varied turnips, and carrots, napped with a bright pan sauce. This is classic Jancou, and this dish was fine as ever, though the winner was the plump Challans duck leg, with seared cabbage and a hunk of crisp polenta with deep, toasted flavor.
This meal started, by the way, with an absurdly good burrata, exploded in a lavish bath of olive oil, with a few of the year’s last tomatoes. The cheese was billed as “ultra-frais”, which could have applied to the Beaujolais we drank. Like many natural wines, it needed a little time to settle down.
Relying on high heat, timing, and good seasoning, there’s nothing precious about the cooking here. Unless, of course, you’re talking about the price. That young hen cost a whopping 28 euros. Is it worth it? That’s for you to decide. For me, it is. Whether or not I can afford to eat here as often as I’d like, alas, is another question.
Vivant 43 rue des Petites-Ecuries, 75010 Paris, +33 (0)1 42 46 43 55