The rain has been unbelievable. Paris was submerged the other night, enveloped in a steady drizzle that penetrated everything, including my raincoat, as I walked down Boulevard St. Germain on my way to dinner at L’Itinéraire.
I gratefully pushed open the door into the entry where a young waiter greeted me warmly and offered to find me a towel. I think he actually would have; I’m sure I wasn’t the first bedraggled guest to walk through the door.
The universe of l’Itinéraire is a soothing and contemporary blend of cream and eggshell, with aged wood accents, and sculptures made of multi-colored wool that lend a homey feel. There is nothing homey, however, about the food, which is all artistry and color.
We were served an amuse bouche of coddled egg, with a lobster foam and tiny dice of smoked herring to honor the herring season, which is at its height. Then came mackerel marinated in a delicate blend of soy sauce, with a very feminine apple salad in the center, and shiny dots of pear compote decorating the edges, all garnished with chrysanthemum petals. My companion had a generously gorgeous tumble of thinly sliced vegetables with a bacon-flavored froth and shower of toasted almonds. The main courses of cuttlefish with sea urchin roe, dots of inky black sauce, and a bouquet of vegetables, and a slab of rosy duck breast with more lovely vegetables were delicious.
The real discovery at L’Itinéraire, though, was the vegetables. So many were Japanese, with names like komazuna, togan, and kabu, and all came from the garden of Mr. Asafumi Yamashita, gardener to the stars. He supplies just seven chefs in France with his wares; if he’s not happy with the way they are prepared, he walks away. There’s a waiting list of chefs to fill the gap.
Each vegetable was its own universe of flavor, not just contributing to the dishes they either garnished or carried, but making it the flavorful fantasy it was.
Chef Sylvain Sendra, owner of l’Itinéraire, has proven his worth in Mr. Yanashita’s eyes, happily for diners. I’ll return to his restaurant too!
L’Itinéraire, 5, rue Pontoise, Paris 5ème. 01.46.33.60.11