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.
(I love this room, 100 years ago an urban aviary, a relic unearthed, dusted off, and turned 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 guess I have. We all have.
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 food here. Unless, of course, you’re talking about the price. That young hen cost a whopping 28 euros, and the deceptively simple cooking style might leave some scratching there heads, wondering why. To paraphrase myself and a million others: It’s the ingredients, stupid. Is it worth it? That’s for you to decide. For me, it is, absolutely. 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
Read more about Vivant on Paris by Mouth.
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