Le Galopin, 34 Rue Saint Marthe (10th Arrondissement)
My husband and I went to Paris for the long weekend. I’ve been to Paris a number of times in the past and whilst the French are famed for their food, it always surprises me just how many mediocre restaurants there are in Paris. This time I decided to do some research before we went, using my favourite Paris food blog, Paris by Mouth. Armed with my research and recommendations from several close friends who have had recent stints in the city, we decided to plan to spend Saturday night in the 10th Arrondissement, in the vicinity of Canal Saint Martin (in the midst of resurgent popularity thanks to the movie Amélie).
Le Galopin is a tiny little restaurant on the corner of Place Saint Marthe, there can’t be more than 10 tables squeezed into the room, together with a corner bar and semi-open kitchen. It couldn’t seat more than 20 people at a push. There has been a bit of a buzz around this restaurant ever since it opened last year, headed by France Top Chef 2010 Winner Romain Tischenko (the French equivalent of Master Chef).
The concept at Le Galopin is a 7 course set menu that changes daily. The menu is scrawled on a page ripped from a school exercise book and tacked up by the door. For the princely sum of 44 Euro you are treated to an explosion of 7 fresh and inventive courses – 2 amuse bouches, 1 entrée, 2 plats (mains) and 2 desserts. Wines are also reasonably priced – I had a glass of pouilly fumé for 5.50 Euro and my husband had a Pinot Noir for 4.50 Euro and we then had a Corsican Muscat with dessert for 5 Euro a glass (this being France of course, wine is literally often cheaper than water and therefore it would be rude not to indulge!)
Our meal started with Bulots. In English I think the translation is “Whelks” (which I’ve not ever heard about anyone eating except my Grandmother when she was a kid, but there you go – you should try everything once). The bulots were delicately seasoned resting on a base of pureed cresson and topped with a foamy mi-mollette (a type of cheese) mousse. Even for a non shellfish fan, it was a tasty and novel start to our menu.
Next up was a mini Gazpacho-style cold summer soup, topped with fried crunchy spring onions and celery, each mouthful bursting with fish roe, which made for an inventive and surprising edge to the dish. (Note – the picture below is of my half eaten soup – it was so delicious I dived in before taking a snap and so you can’t see the crunchy topping any more – apologies!)
For our entrée we were presented with a fillet of Cod, perfectly seasoned with rock salt and freshly milled black pepper, accompanied by creamy burrata, crunchy radishes and silvers of crisp fresh cucumber and apple, pulled together in a vinaigrette that complemented the delicate flavour of the fish exquisitely.
Continuing with the fish theme, our first plat was a perfectly cooked fillet of Brill (a white-fleshed fish, similar to Turbot), beautifully seasoned and accompanied by sauce vierge (literally “virgin sauce”, but actually a sublime combination of olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and basil), mini squash and a zingy herb salad. The whole thing came together to create a beautifully fresh summer flavour. The kitchen here has certainly perfected the knack of cooking fish.
Our second main was a fillet of veal, cooked pink and accompanied by peppery rocket, mild spinach, mini girolles mushrooms and cresson puree. The veal was a clever choice to complement the fish – satisfying and flavourful, yet not overpowering so as to detract from the delicate freshness of the fish courses.
Any restaurant which serves two desserts must get a thumbs up and Le Galopin certainly didn’t disappoint. First up was a chestnut cake, served with raspberry and lemon sorbets and a foamy cream. This was essentially a playful twist on a traditional sponge pudding and ice-cream that worked well – sticking to a tried and tested concept, but with unusual flavours – the rich caremelly flavour of chestnut paired well with the freshness of the fruit sorbets.
Hot on its heels came the final course and perhaps the most clever of flavour pairings in my opinion- coffee granita, cocoa granita and a slice of coconut terrine, scattered with crushed meringue-style biscuits and popcorn. Individually these components all felt somewhat at sea, but if you heaped a little bit of each one together on a spoon, the melange of flavours was divine – sweetness from the chocolatey granita, with a rich slightly bitter, yet salty kick from the coffee and popcorn, together with the crunch of the biscuits – yum! The honeyed apricot taste of the Muscat slipped down a treat with this.
Finishing up with a très French esprèss and I was a very satisfied little Plum.
Dinner for two: 7 course set menu, 4 glasses of wine and 1 coffee – 112 Euro
Value Barometer: 7/10
Ambiance: Date night that’s a bit hip and rough around the edges
Food: Creative and playful twist on modern bistro fare
Go if: You want to feel like a local in the know
Don’t go if: You’re a picky eater
Getting there: Metro Colonel Fabien (line 2)
Phone: +33 1 42 06 05 03 (reservations recommended)
Also in the area: Arrive early for an apéritif at Le Sardine to watch the local hipsters socialise in picture perfect Place Saint Marthe
You may also like: Le Gaigne and L’Accolade (reviews to follow)