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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Le Servan - In With A Bang, Out With A Whimper

The nondescript facade of Le Servan, a converted coffee bar in the animated 11th belies a terrific, popular bistro, where Co. and I enjoyed an Indian summer Friday night dinner.  Sisters Katia and Tatiana Levha's hotspot features an ever-changing daily menu with Asian/French flair and the two sport hefty pedigrees in their kitchen bios.  Like nearly all the Parisian neo-bistrots, this one is small, but not as small as the 20-seater claimed on other sites.  One diner-like booth, several square tables, and a 4-seater bar can cram at least 30 for each of the two nightly servings.  The original hand-painted ceilings left intact, some mirrors, and a lot of windows facing the busy intersection of Chemin Vert and St. Maur, the atmosphere is anything but stuffy, and as long as you are able to let the din of a heavy contingent of high-volume American hipsters, gays, and twangy young coeds, you'll be able to concentrate on the food, which bears attention.

No fixed menu this time, instead you can pick from among four categories, zakouski (Greek, don't ask me why other than I guess it's hipper to say zakouski than mise en bouche), entrees, plats, and desserts.  Hedonistic splurgers if anything, we tackled each category, starting off with a bang (yes, the one in this post's title) - Asian-infused miniature shrimps with curry leaves (?) in a sauce reminiscence of Tonkatsu sauce, and a plate of soft, grilled peppers, salted and rolled in olive oil and cumin.  These were fiercely good - I could have taken two or three more helpings of each, along with Servan's excellent bread and wine - a reasonably priced Le Phacomochère (a coarse, spicy La Sorga Languedoc 37€), and this would have been one of my best meals of the year.  I'm really curious how another zakouski option - bulots and piments - was conjured.

Zakouski 1: tiny shrimps, 9€ (click to enlarge this or any of the other photos you see here)

Zakouski 2: peppers, 6€ - you eat these with your fingers, no one will mind

If the starters were superb, the entrees were excellent, a ceviche de lieu jaune (my favorite) and a calamar, pea pods, and cucumber dish.

Calamar, pea pods, cucumber 13€

Ceviche de lieu jaune, red onions, cucumber and red berries 12€

If the starters were superb, the entrees were excellent, the plats were pretty good - canard and lotte, both heavy on the cauliflower, respectively, below.

Canard, 24€

Lotte, 25€

If the starters were superb, etc. etc., the shared dessert was a disappointment - a tarte with red fruits was certainly tasty, but fairly pedestrian.  I forgot to take a photo, which I guess is telling - it looked okay, I just wasn't motivated enough to think about shooting it.  And yes, sports fans, we have a common mathematical trend which characterizes many of the bistrots I write about at this site - the negative correlation, characterized by a steady downward slope from initial to final dishes.  Don't get me wrong, at Le Servan, everything was good, just more so at the beginning.  In with a bang, out with a whimper.  Nonetheless, I really liked this place and will definitely be returning.  Apparently, according to our amiable waitress, the loud American bavard is pretty typical at Le Servan during weekends, so you've been warned.

32 rue St. Maur
75011 Paris
tel: 01 55 28 51 82
Advice: reserve about one week in advance, especially for Friday or Saturday nights.

Looking out Le Servan's window on a nice Friday evening

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