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Friday, May 6, 2016

Maloka - You Say Oka, I Say Maloka

I've got another good one for you, just don't ask me what it's name is.  The card says 'Maloka,' the bill says 'Maloka,' the website says "Maloka' and 'Oka' and the facade used to read 'Oka' but now shows 'Maloka.'  The server said 'Maloka.'  I'm going with 'Maloka.'  Maloka used to be Oka, okay?  Oka will soon be Oka again, but in another location (rue Berthollet in the 5th, starting next September), as a higher priced gastronomic Franco-Brasilian establishment (80 euros per person for 20 small tasting dishes).  Until then, you'll have to settle for (and continue to do so since it's not going away according to our server) the
'alma Brasileira' on rue de la Tour d'Auvergne in the 9th (36 euro menu for five courses).

The old facade
If you have followed the evolution of Daniel Rose's now famous Spring restaurant, you probably know that Maloka is situated at Spring's birthplace before the latter outgrew its success and moved to a roomier locale.  I never did get to Spring in those early years, but I did have a deja vu experience as I sat at our corner front table in Maloka.  Yes, I've been here before.  Indeed, it's a small world (but, in the words of the immortal Stephen Wright, I wouldn't want to paint it).  For about five minutes in early 2012, the setting used to house the mediocre La Vitrine, which Co. and I did visit.  I didn't care much for La Vitrine, but I really like Maloka, and I hope it doesn't disappear once Oka the sequel takes off.

As I've already sort of suggested, this is another one of those small 16-seater Paris restaurants that we all have come to love, if we ever are lucky enough to reserve in time - several prospective patrons were turned away at the door of Maloka during our Friday evening dinner which, because of a second serving, commenced at the ungodly early hour of 7 pm.  True, I remember eating dinner at 5 pm when I lived in the States (and then a post-dinner dinner when I was starving around 10 pm), but by European standards, 7 pm is pretty early.  On the other hand, the earlier hour meant we weren't rushed to finish to make way for the second service (a lousy policy that in the past ruined a perfectly excellent dinner at La Servan and a recent meal at Hero) .  Maloka is that kind of place - genial servers, good atmosphere, and as far as the food goes, some nice original flavors and ingredients.  This isn't a Brazilian restaurant per se - instead, carico chef Raphaël Rego infuses French dishes with Brazilian accents, such as guava, corn cream sauce, palm heart emulsion, verbana jus, cilantro, and feijao (puréed black beans). Not exactly your typical Parisian.

Here's what mine and Co's dishes looked like for our visit, offerings which are sure to change nightly according to chef Rego's inspiration:

A great start with four amuses bouche, topped off with a delicate pure sugar cane wafer

A rich coconut emulsion

This ceviche and wild flowers is a good example of the Delboeuf illusion in practice

Maigre fish, emulsion, and puree of patate douce

More fish for me as a meat alternative - cabillaud and black bean puree

Co's copious beef dish - definitely not an example of Delbouef

Stupendous dessert with fresh basilic

Whatever you call the restaurant - it's not Spring, it's not La Vitrine, and it's no longer Oka, this was a terrific meal for 36 euros per person plus another 36 euros for a bottle of a Brazilian cabernet (Aurora Reserva).


28 rue de la Tour d'Auvergne
75009 Paris
useless website, don't bother
tel. 01 45 23 99 13
closed Sunday & Monday; open for lunch on Saturday

seen on the way to Maloka

still on the way to Maloka

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