4 Rue Sauval,
Phone: +33 1 40 26 08 07
If you’ve spent time traveling abroad, I’m sure you’ve realized it isn’t exactly the easiest thing to make dinner reservations on your own, what with country codes and different time zones. Never mind foreign countries with languages that are foreign to you, too. And it’s even harder to get a table at a hot restaurant where prime time tables are scarce. If you don’t speak the language, you have to rely on your hotel’s concierge to do the negotiating for you. (And if you rented a flat, villa, apartment, or chateau, well, it’s even more impossible.)
According to the food blog, Eater, a reservation at Yam’Tcha is one of the “Eleven Toughest Reservations in the World.” (It’s in such esteemed company as Noma, Tickets and The Fat Duck.) Truth be told, one of the reasons it’s so difficult is that there are only twenty seats at this jewel box-sized spot, trimmed with white stone walls, wood beam ceilings, and blonde wood tables. There’s a teeny tiny kitchen near the entrance where you can spy the chef Adeline Grattard meticulously slaving over the night’s meal. I use the word “slaving” intentionally because the unique Franco-Chinois cooking at Yam’Tcha is so delicate and precise. (She trained at the highly esteemed L’Astrance before heading to Hong Kong.) I mean French and Chinese is not a genre of fusion you come across often. What makes it so successful is that this is a labor of love for Grattard and her husband, resident Tea Guru, Chiwah, who pairs teas from around the world with his wife’s cooking.
Yam’Tcha’s set menu is the perfect opportunity to give up control and spend a few hours getting pampered here (and I mean that in a culinary sense). How many restaurants do you know offer not only a wine, but also a tea pairing with every course? I opted for the wine and tea pairing, so I could sample the scope of the wine list, too. Now, I’ve never thought of Chinese food as delicate, but the marriage of French technique with Chinese flavors makes for something utterly original. We started with an elegant Oolong Tea and plush, Smoked Tofu tucked inside Fried Wonton Wrappers, accompanied by a sweet dipping sauce. Then came an aged Six-Year-Old Black Tea that tasted like nothing I’ve ever sampled before, alongside classic Steamed Buns and a not-so-classic Mousse of Mushrooms divinely paired with Seared Foie Gras and Chive Flowers. I loved a meaty hunk of Seared Tuna, as juicy as any beef I’ve had, anointed with Seaweed Sauce, Ground Berries and Radish, and a milky Fish Soup, piled with Mussels, Turbot, Oysters, Swiss Chard, Cilantro and Salted Cabbage.
Ever had Roasted Blue Tea? Me neither, but it’s worth fighting for a reservation at Yam’Tcha, if only to have a glass of this steaming drink, made with dried blue flowers and served in handmade ceramics, or the Rock Tea, which actually grows on ocean rocks. One of my favorite dishes was the Guinea Fowl, partnered with Wild Asparagus and a Spinach Jus that I would eat on just about anything. For dessert, Grattard dreams up a Sorrel Sorbet with Rhubarb Confit, and Vanilla Creme with Gariguette Strawberries, Frais de Bois (my favorite!), and Passion Fruit Seeds. Both are nearly as good as the savories, proving that Grattard is a seasoned, skilled chef through and through. I think the highest compliment you can pay a chef is returning on your next trip. Would I return on my next trip to Paris with only a few sacred meals to spare? 100%.