Saturday, October 16, 2010
Yam 'Tcha - Singin' In the Rain
First things first, and most importantly: the food at Yam ‘Tcha is great. Diminutive co-owner (with husband Chiwah) Adeline Grattard, via L’Astrance and Hong Kong, prepares creative, delicate, and sometimes sublime Asian/French fused dishes in the open kitchen just to the right of the entrance of her storefront restaurant Yam ‘Tcha. This was a dinner Co. and I were looking forward to for 1-1/2 months, the lead time necessary to luck out with a reservation, once they start accepting them more than a month in advance. For good reason – you could barely cram 20 diners into the two tiny rooms that comprise the restaurant, along with the aforementioned tiny kitchen up front, a tea bar, and a phone booth-sized bathroom.
The size of Yam ‘Tcha, or lack thereof, may have been one reason why our eagerly anticipated evening got off to a rocky start. Arriving 15 minutes in advance of our reservation, not wanting to put the latest wave of transport strikes to more of a test than necessary and not all that enthusiastic about loitering around Les Halles in the pouring rain, we were ready for food, drink, and drying off. Unfortunately,
we got none of the above. We were brusquely informed that the staff wasn’t yet ready or appropriately dressed and were duly sent back out into the pouring rain. Not that it was my responsibility or anything, but I did my best to defend this action to Co., who was shall I say a bit hot under the collar, as we took a glass at the bar of a nearby restaurant. My arguments, though, were pretty hollow. I mean, it was already after 8 p.m. when we arrived, and I’ve already seen girls get dressed, so what would have been the problem with sitting us at a table with a warming glass of tea on the house? At more than 200 euros for the meal, let’s face it, they could afford it.
As for the meal, you know the drill. Prix fixe menus at 85 euros a pop, consisting of two entrées, two plates, a cheese dish, and dessert, all chosen by Adeline for the evening. However, you do have a choice when it comes to drink – a selection of different wines (40€ per person), teas (30€ per person), or wines/teas (40€ per person) for each plate. None of these sounded like an appetizing deal for me, so I asked for the wine menu and selected a 2007 Langedoc for 40€. But you can’t get too far without tea at Yam ‘Tcha (literally, ‘drink tea’; Chiwah is purportedly an expert, and one staff member spent the entire evening preparing various herbal concoctions at the bar to my right). Thus, we were started off with a Chinese variety that did nothing to soothe my sour mood. I admit, I am not a connoisseur or enthusiast of tea, and our free cup of tea tasted to me like the usual tea served at any typical Chinatown venue. Tea was followed by an amuse bouche consisting of a subtle bowlful of bright green cresson soup, in which a succulent oyster was floating along with some lardons. Along with the wine, I was feeling better already.
Doing the little things wrong, part 2. As our cresson soup was served the server promised that I would not leave without a listing of the offerings for the evening, after I delicately explained how I have difficulty remembering the complicated descriptions of the various plates. It is nice to be able to relax without having to scrawl what turns out to be unreadable gibberish on paper in preparation of my review. Well, as it turns out, what with all the drink and good food, and the opportunity to compliment Adeline as we moved toward the exit, I ended up leaving without that list. This is something the staff should not have allowed to happen, after promising that this would indeed be delivered. But then, despite their apparent attentiveness and concern, there was just something that was not quite genuine about the staff. So without the details on paper or remaining in my memory banks, what you end up with is an expurgated, incomplete description of the various courses. Here goes.
- Coquille St. Jacques (2 large sized, succulent scallops), algue, emulsion, pomme de Terre cuites partiellement
- Foie gras (poached), tomate, sauce sucrée, calamars – a definite highlight
- Dorade, delicately sitting on a bed of steamed Asian vegetables
- Veau (Co.) / tofu (me) served on a mound of brilliantly cooked aubergines (vapeur, 2 sauces de soja, gingembre, poive de Szechuan)
- Cheesecake + figue + fruits (gingembre, framboise), served with a bowl of ananas + ?
Pretty vague, I realize, but then the menu changes every night, so you’re not going to get this anyway. I’ve included some photos of dishes previously uploaded online, so you get the general flavor.
Although the evening got off to a damp start, we were warm, satisfied, and tipsy by the end of the dinner, and who can ask for more? Yam ‘Tcha’s prices have distinctly increased since receiving Michelin star #1, so don’t believe those 45-65€ ranges you see at other sites. If you go with one of the special wine/tea tastings and throw in coffee at the end, you can expect to pay more than 300€ for two (if that’s a turnoff, you might want to try the more affordable lunch). Opting instead for the bottle and no café, we checked out with a reasonable 212€ tab. Those extra 2€, by the way, were charged for the couple glasses of mineral water Co. asked for along the way, part 3 of how to get the little things wrong.
So there you have it. Yam ‘Tcha gets the big thing – the food – more than right. But those little customer relationship details are enough to keep me from having any great yearning to return anytime soon.
4 rue Sauval
tel. 01 40 26 08 07