DISPATCHES FROM PARIS: LE SERVAN

Friday, December 19, 2014

Of late, Parisian restaurants have shunned the kind of fussy service and florid interiors that once defined French dining. Yet even the most modern and creative new establishments seem to favor the multicourse tasting menu. In other words, there’s still a soupçon of rigidity.

Not at Le Servan, a neo-bistro in the 11th Arrondissement where the à la carte menu is serious but the experience is distinctly laid-back. “We really wanted to let people choose what and how they were eating,” said Tatiana Levha, its 30-year-old chef and co-owner.


Cuttlefish in ink and spicy cabbage at Le Servan. Photo courtesy of Edouard Sepulchre.

Ms. Levha, who was born in Manila and grew up in Paris, offers a succinct menu that she describes as “traditional French cuisine with a little Asian twist.” Each dish is tweaked daily: one day you might be served tête de veau with sorrel sauce; the next day it arrives with gribiche sauce, made with hard-boiled eggs.

With its, airy, contemporary décor, floor-to-ceiling windows, casual atmosphere and friendly service, Le Servan, which opened in April, did not go unnoticed by local food critics, bloggers and the general public. But what made it instantly popular was Ms. Levha’s résumé: She spent time at L’Arpège and L’Astrance, two venerable restaurants with three Michelin stars each.

That training was plentifully on display during a recent weekday dinner. One of the four appetizers on offer was “oeuf au plat,” a sunny-side-up egg surrounded by warm seasonal mushrooms atop a soft Cheddar cream sprinkled with duck jus. An entree of suckling lamb from Lozère, seared and then slow-cooked to perfection in an oven, was served on the bone and topped with an anchovy dressing; next to it was a mix of butter-blanched salicornia (a marine plant) and green beans, along with bits of vinegar-marinated cauliflower and tiny wedges of fresh Tahitian lime.

Dessert turned out to be a delightful surprise: It looked like a traditional Paris-Brest, but its taste was more complex, filled with a light butter cream laced with crunchy praline along with hazelnut paste and a hint of salt.

Ms. Levha said that she “wanted to open a place where people could have very good food at affordable prices,” which is exactly what Le Servan delivers. But stating that the dishes are “nothing complicated” might be false modesty; any intended simplicity is belied by outstanding skill and creativity.

Source.

Le Servan, 32, rue St.-Maur; 33-1-55-28-51-82; leservan.com. An average dinner for two, without drinks or tips, is about 90 euros, about $107 at $1.20 to the euro.

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