Why we liked understated restaurant near Champs Elysees

By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox

The front door of Le Chiberta

Years ago what first drew our attention to Le Chiberta (3 rue Arsène Houssaye,75008 Paris, France, +33 1 53 53 42 00, http://www.lechiberta.com, chiberta@guysavoy.com) was that it was a Guy Savoy restaurant (see Le Chiberta, a restaurant find near the Champs Elysees). The well known chef had a world class reputation thanks to his eponymous Paris restaurant. Le Chiberta’s location a stone’s throw away from the famous Champs Elysees was another plus.

The walls were decorated with modern art by French artists.

While the original restaurant opened in 1932 the current fine dining restaurant, owned by Guy Savoy and Thierry Belin, dated to 2004. The 200 square meter restaurant with 15 employees could accommodate 80 people. Under the direction of Stéphane Laruelle, executive chef, and Belin in the role of restaurant manager and sommelier, the restaurant delivered gourmet dining minus the luxury amenities of the top rated fine dining restaurants and their accompanying exorbitant prices.

A light course to stimulate our appetite

Subtle neutral colors dominated the room, beginning with wall to wall charcoal carpeting. Track lights from the high ceiling provided ample light in the windowless room. Decorative features included wine and champagne bottles, oil paintings, white tablecloth covered dining tables, and Michel Wilmotte dinnerware. The single stall bathroom was spotless. The contemporary decoration was by Jean-Michel Wilmotte with paintings by French artists. According to a restaurant representative, the name Chiberta is Basque, and refers to a place next to Biarritz.

Duck foie gras with sweet spices

During our most recent visit in the fall of 2018 to the one Michelin star venue our neighbors, a mostly middle-aged crowd, appeared to be having a business lunch. There was a three course Lunch Menu for 49 euros and a seven course Degustation Menu (Tasting Menu) for 110 euros. We liked that the meat and fish served were of French origin and the vegetables were organic. All of the dishes served were made from fresh (not frozen) ingredients. The restaurant offered WiFi, valet and taxi services.

Artichoke soup with a slice of black truffle, a favorite

Lunch began with Emmental cheese puffs, moist inside and with sesame and poppy seeds on top, and vintage champagne. Seaweed butter and a choice of two types of bread (whole wheat and crunchy white) arrived soon after the bubbly and bites. The courses were: Marbled duck foie gras with red wine and sweet spices; Velouté of artichoke and black truffle; Turbot from Normandy coasts natural salsify, stuffed razor clam, shellfish juice; Duo of veal roasted rump and glazed breast, pumpkin, chestnut, autumn mushrooms; Brie de Meaux cheese, mascarpone walnut; Pre-dessert exotic and coconut; and Crispy praline chocolate almond biscuit, chocolate-praline sauce.

Turbot with razor clams

The meal was served with Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage 2009 Extra Brut; Maury Mas Amiel Vintage Réserve 2012; Macon-Lugny 2016 Joseph Drouhin; Chateau Castera 2010 from Medoc; and Jurancon Ballet d’Octobre 2016 Domaine Cauhapé. More than once during the meal we commented on the smooth pairing.

Roasted veal rump and breast

We liked the lentils in the Jerusalem artichoke, they added texture to the dish. The turbot was lovingly prepared with the clams subtly accentuating the fish. The veal, served with mushrooms and pumpkin, was outstanding. We had no need of the pepper mill and sea salt with which it arrived. The creamy brie with mascarpone and truffles was the perfect transition to our first sweet dish, a mildly tart exotic fruit blend of mango, passion fruit and meringue we much enjoyed. The dessert proper was crispy and light. Cheese cake and fig and financiers were served with coffee. There were also chocolates caramels and chocolate nougat.

The chocolate desert

As soon as we entered several staff members approached to welcome us, take our wet coats and guide us to a cozy table for two in the rear dining room. They spoke English with fluency, translating dish descriptions with ease and providing an English language menu. As the hour advanced the dining room filled up yet we never lacked anything or found ourselves in search of a server. Somehow they were always table side at the perfect moment, friendly without being intrusive.

Stéphane Laruelle, executive chef, in the kitchen at the conclusion of our meal

Our attentive server and Thierry Belin, co-owner and manager

From arrival to departure the staff looked after us with a warm and detail-oriented attitude. Our seven course tasting menu with wine pairing was well prepared, artfully presented and delicious. Given the location, good service and gourmet meal it was an excellent value in a city of many choices. We would return with pleasure, especially if we were staying in or near that neighborhood.

A gluten free tasting in Paris

By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox

The seasonal holiday chestnut cake (not gluten free)

I have shopped in more bakeries in Paris, France than in any other city I have ever visited, but it wasn’t until my most recent stay that I noticed gluten-free products, mainly in restaurants and only a few. Eric Kayser (www.maison-kayser.com) bakeries stood out for their limited selection of gluten-free products. Having been to a handful of the company’s 240 bakeries in 27 countries and liked some of their products I wondered what the gluten-free line would be like.

The gluten free bread had sesame seeds on top and other seeds inside. 

We sampled three gluten-free items and several regular products at home, most from two locations on the rue Monge (14 rue monge, 8 rue monge) near the boulevard Saint Germain on the Left Bank. We liked all three of the gluten-free products: two loaves and one moist chocolate brownie cookie. They were Pain Mendiant San Gluten made with rice and buckwheat flour, apricots, raisins and apples (550 grams); Pain Aux Cereals San Gluten with sunflower and sesame seeds (600 grams); and Indecent Au Chocolat (90 grams). From the other products we liked the following especially: seasonal holiday chestnut cake, sesame seed and poppy seed baguette (by special order), and chocolate financier with chocolate chips.

The gluten free date and raisin loaf was a good match with foie gras pate

The gluten-free products were baked from 100 percent fresh ingredients at a dedicated location elsewhere in Paris (not where we picked them up). The ingredients were 90 percent organic for bread and 40 percent organic for gluten-free pastries, according to a company spokesperson.

The gluten free chocolate cookie was moist and chewy and had a rich chocolate flavor.

In addition to the flavor and texture we liked that the gluten-free loaves kept fresh for several days in contrast to regular baguettes, which generally go stale within a day. We enjoyed the fruit and nut loaf with duck foie gras and seeded loaf slices made a good base for avocado toasts. The chocolate brownie cookie was moist and had a deep rich chocolate flavor.

The seasonal chestnut cake, coated with a lightly sweet syrup, was moist like a rich pound cake

The chestnut cake kept fresh for several days and was a good accompaniment to coffee. We also paired it with loose leaf fragrant vanilla red tea at any hour of the day. It was important to wrap it in a plastic bag to keep it from drying out.

The gluten free bread was a good base for avocado toast

Staff were friendly and helpful at two of the three locations we visited. They were friendly and spoke English of their own accord when they heard us speaking English at the shop on the popular rue de Montorgueil on the Right Bank. Product information on the wrappers was listed in French and English. Kayser was a native of Alsace and the grandson and great-grandson of bakers. He owned most of the chain’s shops with the exception of those at train stations and airports.