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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Neige d'été -Mono no aware in action

The Japanese aesthetical concept of mono no aware, literally translates as the bittersweet awareness of the transience of things, signifying a sad, fleeting beauty that is conspicuous in traditional Japanese cultural expressions.  And it is no surprise that this notion kept coming to mind during last Saturday evening's dinner at Co.'s latest Paris discovery, Neige d'ete, itself translated, for the uninformed, as 'summer snow.'  Nice - it was a summery, mid-June evening, and our long journey to the 15th paid off big-time with a surprisingly fresh, original, and refreshing meal.  Hideki Nishi's restaurant is austere beyond belief - no sign on the facade, and no embellishments on the whitewashed walls, save some understated chandeliers and white, linen curtains.  The restaurant's name evokes a winter flower that blooms in the summer in France, once again suggesting the ephemeral nature of things.  An overly attentive staff of black-clad Japanese servers were as understated as the decor.  The fleeting nature of things further personified by the virtual wine list, brought to the table on an iPad.

But the food is where the real action is at Neige d'été.  As le Fooding guide observed, "vegetables from Annie Bertin, fish from the Etel auction, lobsters from Vincent Doucet…).  The more things change, the more they stay the same - another fixed price, fixed options menu , respectably priced at 70€ per person.  There was a second option priced at 90€ that included a special cut of beef, but Co. and I slummed it and went with option 1, which looked like this:

70 euro menu, page 1  (click to enlarge)  

70 euro menu, page 2  - missing from the top is dish 4, couchon (click to enlarge)

No skimping on extras either - the meal started off with two well-appointed mises-en-bouche, as seen below.

Something is missing - the pain d'epice, the least interesting of the trio which I impulsively ingested prior to shooting, but right off the bat, it was apparent that something good was happening here Mrs. Jones

Mise en bouche 2 - a simple gazpacho

This salmon with flowers, resting on a croustillant base, takes the prize as the most beautifully prepared dish I've had all year.

Another exquisite dish, the obligatory - for Paris in May/June - white asparagus dish - didn't reach the pinnacle of the salmon, but still tasty

This Saint-Pierre fish and rice was a most original take on paella

Co.'s couchon

... and my couchon alternative, pintade

Desert 1 - hit the spot

Desert 2 - the also obligatory - on Paris menus May/June - panna cotta.  Sorry, I know it's summertime and you're supposed to eat refreshing fruit and all, but panna cotta isn't my thing.

More extras, just in case two deserts weren't enough - and these weren't throwaway patisseries, either, these were really good.

Somewhat difficult to get to and a bit on the pricy side, true - wines starting at around 40€ - you can expect to close in on the 200€ mark for two - but Neige d'été, although currently not all the buzz, will probably garner quite a bit pretty soon.   So reserve while you can.

Opining on mono no aware, the designer Jaitra noted that the Japanese ideal sees beauty . . .as
an experience of the heart and soul, a feeling for and appreciation of objects or artwork—most commonly nature or the depiction of—in a pristine, untouched state.  That's not a bad way of characterizing the philosophy behind Neige d'été.

Just a little gift on the way out the door - a plastic bag holding two sugar cookies.

Two for the road

Neige d'été
12 rue de l'Amiral Roussin
75015 Paris
tel: 01 42 73 66 66

Read more about mono no aware in my new book, People and Products:

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