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Monday
Feb022009

Table des Oliviers



La Table des Oliviers
38 rue Laugier, 17th
M° Ternes or Pereire
Tel 01 47 63 85 51

www.latabledesoliviers.fr

Review and photos by Dave Guilford

I knew I was in for a treat when I was invited to dinner at Thierry Olivier's restaurant, La Table des Oliviers. I was invited by foodies who'd been several times and treated the restaurant as one of those rare Paris finds: a true gourmet experience at an affordable price.

Nestled in the 17th a few short blocks from the shopping of Avenue des Ternes, La Table is one of those secret spots that you almost have to be local to know about. Customers are greeted with a smile and treated as friends because, in fact, many are. The intimate setting evokes a feeling of inclusion, as though invited to the chef's home for a Sunday meal. The decor could be described as Mediterranean, and the understated lighting is perfect for a romantic rendez-vous.

Their eclectic aperitif menu boasts several signature concoctions, most notably the Rinquinquin, and all their individual drinks are priced between 6 and 9 Euro. Diners are provided with fresh baked bread rounds and tapenade to munch on while deciding on dinner.

The menu is divided into a la carte and menu formule. While the items on the à la carte menu are all reasonably priced, the menu formule is just too jam-packed with delicacies for 32 Euro to risk deviating from it on your first couple of visits. The price includes an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. I did momentarily consider the calf's sweetbreads with truffle juice and wild mushrooms fricassee from the a la carte menu, until my wife informed me that if I dared consume something so barbaric in her presence, I could take up permanent residence in the penalty box. C'est la vie.

Three of the selections from the appetizer menu were absolute standouts. The seared ahi tuna, encrusted with sesame seeds and served with a tartar of avocado, was almost enough food to be an entree. Any lover of sushi or sashimi would be remiss not to try it. I had the pumpkin soup with scallops and rouille sauce. The scallops tasted as though they were lightly sauteed before going into the soup, and were very sweet and tender. The grilled eggplant with tomato, Parmesan, and chorizo was a beautiful presentation, and provided a surprising kick to the taste buds.

I was with a large party, so nearly every entree on the menu formule was ordered at my table. The scallops were a special of the evening and, judging by the size of them, were harvested downstream of the nuclear plant in Normandy. Enormous and succulent, they were sauteed and lightly sauced, and had to be cut into fourths to be politely consumed. The beef fondant is a steak lover's dream, simmered in red wine for six hours before being served. Both seafood dishes were excellent, my favorite of the two being the Dourade.

For my entree, I ordered the fillet of duck (rare), with a wild mushroom fricassee. I was wholly unprepared for the complexity of the dish. First, if I were blindfolded when served, I would have guessed it was tournedos of beef. The duck was cooked to perfection, moist, and accompanied by a balsamic vinegar-based sauce that was both subtle and full-bodied. Coming from Louisiana, I'm no stranger to duck. This was simply the best duck I've ever eaten. Period. It will be a struggle for me to order something else on my next visit.

La Table's wine list is extensive, and we enjoyed both reds and whites with our meal. I didn't select the wines so I didn't pay much attention to the labels, but they were both excellent.

Dessert was certainly enjoyable but, after a superlative meal, is allowed to be anticlimactic. I had the rum baba, and it reminded me of the rum cakes of the Caribbean and my hometown, New Orleans. The big surprise for me was the almond sorbet on top, whose flavor took me a few moments to identify. What I now wish I'd ordered was the molten chocolate cake, though I doubt I could have finished it.

In conclusion, La Table des Oliviers is not one of those Paris spots that arranges three scallops in an ornate pattern on a plate and then presents you with a bill for 150 Euro. If you're going to eat here, you'd better come hungry. Thierry Olivier is a magician in la cuisine, and you can tell he loves his work.

The restaurant is on the small side, and doesn't have outside seating, so reservations are a must. They are open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 12:30-2:30, and open for dinner from 7:30-11:00. They are closed on Sunday. Their website offers online reservations and is available in both French and English. The dress is Paris casual.


Dave Guilford, 39, lives in the 16th with his wife, two sons, his mother, and two dogs. Most recently from New Orleans, where he lived for seven years, Dave is a freelance writer and longtime expat. In addition to his years in the States, he has lived in the Far East, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands, and is now happy to call Paris home. Dave has written for newspapers and magazines, and has a passion for travel. A longtime Secrets of Paris fan, Dave is proud to call himself a member of Heather's Posse.

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