In Which Our Young Hero Clarence Learns of Subtlety and Grace: Our Evening at Yam’Tcha

About a year ago B and I decided to play with fire and mess with our then excellent friendship by dipping our toe into the world of romance. Best. Decision. Ever. Suddenly I’m one of those obnoxious people that gives relationship advice like this:

“Well, you know, when it’s right, it’s right.”

“Well, why don’t you focus on your friendship first, and your relationship second.”

Basically the kind of platitudes that only the ridiculously lucky can administer, ones that more or less amount to saying “Meet someone awesome and then you won’t have any relationship problems!”  I’m an obnoxious friend to have these days.

Anyway, this week we were celebrating the year that has passed since we made the fateful decision to totally mess up our friendship.  Since “celebrating” is synonymous with “eating something amazing,” we had made reservations the requisite six years ago that it takes to get into Yam’Tcha (4 Rue Sauval 75001 Paris, Métro Les Halles). B had to make reservations before we started dating, before we came to Paris, in fact, before the beginning of time. I jest, but we did make our reservations well over three months ago, so you might want to make sure that you really to keep someone around if you intend to make an evening Yam’Tcha into a date.

The location: Just off of Les Halles, Yam’Tcha is tucked onto a small street.  Inside, muted colors contrast with the gorgeous, centuries-old rough-hewn wood beam ceiling (why oh why do I live in a 400 year old building but lack one of these amazing ceilings?!). The concept: Chef Adeline Grattard serves an elegant fusion of Chinese and French food alongside expert tea pairings made by Chiwah Chan. The staff is warm and friendly, and able to use a staggering amount of interesting adjectives to describe the various notes in wine and tea. The menu is a set five course tasting menu that changes nightly, the only thing you select is whether or not you want tea pairings, wine pairings, or a mix of the two (we selected the latter).

Oh, what lovely, elegant, subtle food this is! Yam’Tcha serves the type of cuisine that forces your palate to rise to the occasion, to think about delicate scents and reconcile flavors you might not have imagined so harmoniously inhabiting a dish. The wine and tea pairings were equally sensitive and often transformed the experience of eating a particular course. This restaurant is absolutely worth all the fuss surrounding it (and apparently, this year, a Michelin star! Aren’t we fancy?).

So what did we eat?  Well, we began with an aperitif of quince-infused champagne and an amuse-bouche of corn velouté with fresh herbs and tender cubes of tofu.  Even Indiana agreed that it was the best corn he’d had on this Continent:

Our first course was an other-worldly sweet asparagus and cured sheets of beef, dressed in a slightly spicy peanut vinaigrette.

Served with the house buns, which are everything I’ve ever wanted the consistency of a pork bun to be…Should Yam’Tcha stuff these little guys with barbequed pork anytime soon, I’ll be the first in line.

Second course was Mozambique shrimp and scallops, served with heavenly straw mushrooms and a light citrusey sauce that was punctuated by the presence of lemon parsley faux-caviar.  It was my first experience with faux-caviar in real life (Top Chef really makes you blasé about these things, doesn’t it?) and it was fantastic. They exploded in your mouth with this tangy punch.

The fish course was black cod (do we call it sablefish in English??) served over a bed of black soybeans and bean sprouts. It was perfectly prepared. I recall saying that I believe that if I ate that dish every single day I would likely live forever. If not forever, I would certainly live out the remainder of my days a happy woman.

Next up was a cured pork belly seasoned with little more than black pepper, served with some of the sweetest, most succulent eggplant imaginable. We’re talking an Ur-vegetable preparation here, the kind of thing that makes all future eggplant ingestion seem bleak and disappointing. I wasn’t quite as crazy about the pork belly, but B tells me I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. Fair enough.

Dessert was an exquisite combination of fresh strawberries and mango, topped with mint, ginger confit, and a fromage frais that I would happily eat by the gallon. It was topped with a tea wafer, which perfectly echoed with jasmine tea that it was paired with. If a dessert ever sung “It’s Spring!”,  this was it.

It was a lovely night.

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