Thursday, September 10, 2009
Nuxis - Sexus, Nexus, Plexus in Montparnasse
Fresh on the heels of an excellent meal at La Dinee, Co. and I chose to start off the famous French rentrée with a Saturday night visit to Nuxis, a few blocks south from the heart of Montparnasse. Reserved easily on the Thursday night before our Saturday visit, it’s probably the case that many Parisians are either suffering the effects of the recession or else are still in the process of waking up from their days lulling on the beach. Let’s face it, our tans are fading—live with it. Me, I’ve never let anything as consequential as a global recession stand in the way of a good meal. And so off to Nuxis we went, with great anticipation based on my online research.
To say that our dinner at Nuxis got off to an ominous start would be an understatement. Arriving around 8:15 p.m., we were the first customers of the evening and chose a corner table next to the street-side window. We were quickly served a mise en bouche consisting of cappuccino de betrave avec huile de noisette (a beet cappuccino with peanut oil (see photo). I’ve said it a million times – 2009: year of the beet. This was an excellent ‘how do you do’. But as I implied, things were touch and go from the start, as in as soon as the mise en bouche touched our lips, the owner/chef Thierry Curiale (see photo) was gone, darting by the window on his way to somewhere, but definitely not the Nuxis kitchen (later we learned it was a visit to the pharmacy).
Next, while perusing the single-page carte (also displayed on those ever-present chalkboard slates that Parisian restaurateurs are so fond of) and pondering the three-course menu—set at the recession-proof price of 28€—an elderly woman entered and was seated at the table at the end of our row, her motorcycle parked on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. From the start, it was obvious that something was askew with this woman—her sanity, her sobriety, her Frenchness—whatever, her presence quickly disconcerted everyone in the room: me, Co. and our waitress (‘nexus’?). The waitress seemed pleasant enough, albeit sporting the air of someone who was pulled off the street five minutes before opening hour and told, ‘voila, now you’re a waitress.’ And for all we knew, this was her first day on the job. At any rate, she really seemed discombobulated by the woman, who kept drawing her attention with questions and incoherent mutterings. We were up for a red wine from the south, so I chose a Languedoc-Roussillon variety. By the time our entrees arrived, our wine still had not. Our waitress explained that as the owner was still not back, she could not locate the wine. I selected another Languedoc, which again went searched and missing. Just about the time that the situation started to get rather uncomfortable, Monsieur Curiale frantically arrived at our table and informed us of the ‘rupture’ (one of my least favorite French words, right up there with ‘greve’)—the two wines had not been delivered and were currently unavailable. We opted for a south-western Mas Karolina 2007 (29 euros)and were off and running with the entrées.
I’m sorry to say I can’t remember Co’s entrée, which suggests that it wasn’t that memorable; nonetheless, let’s just leave it at our mutual agreement that my preparation of avocado, tomato, and apple (fraicheur d’avocat et de pink lady a l’huile de colza grillèe, gomasio Bio) won round one. For the main dishes, my choice was Dos de cabillaud au four, gambas thym/citronelle, risotto fondant, émulsion de beurre blanc (grilled cod with an accompanying large shrimp enveloped in thyme and citronella in a risotto and white butter foam – ‘plexus’?). This struck me as both a simple and complex dish, if that makes any sense. One of those dishes that grew tastier with each bite. Co. selected the magret de canard rôti, sauce a la orange et cointreau, compote de patates douces aux herbes de garrigue, which sounds a lot better than it turned out. Not to say that it wasn’t a well-prepared dish – several thin slices of slightly cooked duck with potatoes, a dish that was dependable, but without much originality. For desserts, I went chocolate (ganache au chocoat en robe de tuiles craquantes, marmelade d’ananas aux fruits de la passion), Co. went crème onctueuse (à la fève tonka, streusel nature, granite dórange et tuile carambar) and these were as good as they sound. We both ended up pretty satisfied – ‘sexus’? To cap off the evening, a nice gesture from Monsieur Curiale who offered us a café on the house with a little patisserie to make up for the wine snafu. As Co. put it, “It’s not a lot, but it means a lot.” By the time our check arrived—and you certainly can’t beat the price /quality formula here (85 euros for two 3-course meals and wine, are you kidding me?)—everybody seemed pretty happy: us; the waitress, whose demeanor and service clearly improved as the evening progressed; an amiable group of young friends of the owner. Even the elderly mumbler (sporting a Freeman 1999 coat and, according to our waitress, a heavily besotted breath) had eased calmly into her dinner.
So, to sum up. I was somewhat disappointed with the Nuxis experience, but not discouraged. Although the restaurant lacked some originality, the dishes were carefully prepared and personal, and there were enough hints along the way to suggest that further visits are definitely warranted. Already, I notice from the Nuxis website that the menu has changed since our visit last weekend. An interesting array of dishes despite the limited choices (three options per course). Whether or not Nuxis would have been Henry Miller’s cup of tea, I have no idea. But I’m sure he would have been impressed by Monsieur Curiale's decision to forego his career as Orange marketing director to pursue his childhood dream of owning his own (orange-colored) restaurant. We'll be back.
129, rue du château
tel: 33 1 43 27 32 56
Note: All images except the betrave mise en bouche from
the HPRG website.