Septime

Septime

When I go out to eat, it’s usually not with the intention of writing about a place. I go out to eat to have a good time with friends and enjoy the food. (And perhaps a little wine.) But I found that whenever I don’t expect it, I hit on a place that merits talking about. Septime

But then again, I don’t even normally order soup in restaurants. So what do I know?

So why did I order the soup? Because I really wanted the poitrine du cochon / carrotte /choux pointu, and thought it wouldn’t be prudent to order the lamb appetizer as a first course, especially because a few months back I vowed to eat more vegetables. And I was so glad I did.

Septime

The crispy caramelized pork belly strip was excellent, one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while. There was a swoop of carrot puree and a delicate touch of vegetables scattered loosely around it all that lightened things up and provided me with part of my daily dose of légumes.

It was funny because there was some famous chef—or chefs, dining in the restaurant and others were buzzing around them, including other customers, staff members stopping by for a chat, and other guests who looked to me to be vaguely notable (were they critics?) who were walking around taking pictures. Am I’m sitting there, across from Dorie Greenspan and said – somewhat jokingly – to her, “It’s funny because you’re the most famous person in this room!”

Septime

Of course, being the definition of modesty, she waved me away. Then went back to craning her neck to see who the famous chefs were.

For dessert we split a plate of excellent..two really perfect slices – of French cheese, which were absolutely spot-on ripe and so good, it made me realize that how many times I sometimes take French cheese for granted. The slice of Reblochon was oozy-ripe, along with a pungent slice of tomme, both of which the waiter told us they got at a small shop just up the street, so it’s nice to know they’re supporting the neighborhood. When you taste cheeses like these, that’s the spark the French like, proving you don’t need to jazz things up or mess with food all that much. You just need to get good ingredients and serve them properly. Bingo.

Septime coffee machine Septime

The other dessert was Riz au lait vanille / Caramel lacté / Passion, a fluffy mound of rice pudding aerated with whipped cream, a puddle of milky caramel and a neat oval of passion fruit sorbet that was nice and tangy, surely intended to offset the caramel and rice pudding and add a definitive punctuation mark to the meal.

The interior is Scandinavian modern, another break from the French traditional look. There’s a lot of wood and hard surfaces – like dining in a Danish barnhouse – but one filled with friendly and handsome servers who are French. However because of all the hard surfaces it got a little noisy at lunch, so I’d imagine at dinner it gets even more so. Perhaps they’ll throw down a few flokati rugs to soften things up. And happily, there was no food served on rectangular pieces of slate, one the most enervating habits of the modern crop of restaurants in Paris. I can’t tell you how excruciating it is to watch waiters lean over and try to pry the flat slabs of slate from a flat tabletop when you’re done eating.

So I appreciated a chef who thinks about the entire dining experience, including how the serving staff will be working when planning a menu and choosing dinnerware. Everything was plain white, plates (round, not square – thanks) and bowls, which were the right backdrop for highlighting the food. You don’t need anything else.

What appealed to me even more about Septime is that the cooks are actually cooking, not just coming up with tricks and trends (like slate “plates” and jam jars) to obscure the fact that they don’t know what they’re doing, or that their ingredients aren’t good enough to be presented on their own without some sort of fuss and fanfare. Chef Bertrand Grébaut doesn’t seem to want to (or need to) resort to any culinary tricks; he’s just using good ingredients sensibly. And his presentations are beautiful.

At lunch, the prices are a pleasant surprise. You can have either a 2-course or 3-course menu, priced at €21 and €26, respectively (see Update, below), and each includes a glass of white or red wine or a bottle of water. We had glasses of natural wine, an Aligoté from Burgundy. Dinner is à la carte. Septime is serving bottles of house-filtered still and sparkling water, which is nice to see restaurants starting to do in Paris.


Septime
80, rue de Charonne (11th)
Tél: 01 43 67 38 29



Update (November 2012): The menus have changed in price, and there are now ‘carte blanche’ fixed menus at lunch and dinner. While you can choose à la carte at lunch, at dinner, there is only the fixed option (appx €50/dinner) – although they will ask you at the start if there are any foods you don’t like and will do their best to comply. The food is still excellent, if not better than when I first went. And there is now a small wine bar on an adjacent street, and a raw seafood bar, Clamato (no reservations) just next door, that they’ve opened.



Related Links

Paris Restaurant Archives

Two Delicious Dining Guides to Paris

Les tomates

French Menu Translation

Septime (Paris by Mouth)

40 comments

  • The pork belly is exactly what I would hve gone for! Every last scrap of food in this post looks delicious! If I ever go to Paris I really won’t know where to start – in a good way!

  • Everything looks so refreshing to me! A meal to be enjoyed surely. But the name of the place certainly is curious isn’t it?

  • The soup may have been missing a certain je ne sais quoi, but wow, does it look good.

    Just read in your newsletter you will actually be more or less in my neck of the woods (well, a thousand miles away, but that’s considered local in this part of the world) in Sydney, at the exact time I will be in the US. Crushed! Have a wonderful time – the food there is excellent, and the coffee culture, which they got from New Zealand when our coffee roasters took it there, second only to ours. Oh, and maybe Italy’s. I suppose. I will just have to hope someone invites you to New Zealand one day – I would if I had the money!

  • I loved having lunch with you yesterday. Can’t wait to see you again and can’t wait to go back to Septime. As I look at your gorgeous pictures (kind of redundant, since your pix are always gorgeous), I’m struck again by how elegant the food was without being fussy. There’s something so wonderful about being able to have food this beautiful and this thoughtful in a place that’s elbows-on-the-table comfortable. A great afternoon. xoD

  • I completely agree about fruit in soup but it sure does look pretty…
    The French are so about presentation sometimes without the substance but not here clearly.
    What a deal on the price!
    My impression is most French/Parisians order a first and a main and skip dessert but I could be wrong.
    I’d love to know what you think David.

  • That cheese looks and sounds delicious, did you happen to catch the name of the cheese shop? Not that Paris is short on excellent cheese shops.

  • I love reading about a fabulous French lunch while having my first cup of coffee in the morning. What a pleasant way to start my day–dreaming about being in France!

  • This restaurant looks pretty good. It’s a shame i’m so far from it:)

  • …a dream – dinning with David and Dorie, my two favorite chefs and wonderful writers!!! It deosn’t get any better!

  • parisbreakfasts: Most people were eating the cheese for dessert, I think. I liked the way we were able to split the small plate of cheese and one dessert, so it was more like a 4 course meal but was reasonable portions. The waiters were super nice and they were happy to not rush us and understood completely.

    Dorie: Yes, it was a lovely place. I hope it stays as it is. I would love to live in that courtyard behind the restaurant!

    Naina: It’s an épicerie and it’s just up the street (toward the Charonne métro station) from Septime. I don’t know why we didn’t go there, but I had a bunch of stuff to do and long was blissfully long (!) but we both had to get back to work : )

  • aaaah; this is EXACTLY how I like things done too! THANKS a million for pointing out all the important and all the nasty bits of dining in Paris…. I so agree with every word you wrote; and I’m humming with pleasure!
    I hope this brings this wonderful place a big boost and I shall add this resto right now to my list of places to ‘work’ when eating in Paris.
    THANK YOU

  • Very excited by this review as it is where I’ve booked my 3 year wedding anniversary dinner!

  • That cheese looks amazing.

  • Well even though you weren’t crazy about the soup, it is one of the most beautiful looking dishes I’ve seen in a while. What an amazing colour! Too bad the flavours didn’t live up to the aesthetic appeal.
    PS thanks for your newsletter, I always enjoy getting it!

  • Pork belly. It’s interesting to see how the French have rapidly adopted American cuisine complete with chrysanthemum greens, which I detest.

    The pork scene in the US is quickly coming to an end based on my observation of the proliferation of BBQ joints and chefs with pig parts tattooed all over their arms.

    À mon avis, that soup is a culinary risk that backfired.

    Salut!

  • Really interesting restaurant, David. Thanks for sharing it. You know, that soup might have been a little misconceived but I kind of like it when a talented chef – as this one clearly is – takes a chance on something. Sometimes it might not work, but I will always go back to a place where I know that the chef is stretching for new things. I recently ate in two restaurants in Copenhagen. One, Relais, run by an ex-Noma chef served up a whole, braised and part blackened onion which was inedible, but the rest of the meal was brilliant. I’ll definitely return. The other, Geist, run by a TV chef, served up a veal ‘tartare’ which was simply ground veal scattered artlessly on the plate, atop an awfully bitter cream. Don’t think so!

  • Only David would call a thick slice of bacon garnished with three threads of cabbage and four leaves of mesclun a significant effort to eat his légumes., ha!

  • Lucky you to be dining with Dorie!

  • This place looks FAB! need to go here when I come to Paris!

  • That soup looks. . .odd. I’m wondering what the sesame seeds are adding to the dish,and imagining getting one of those big sprigs of herb stuck in my teeth. Overall, it looks like it was conceived for the visuals but I wonder if anyone in the kitchen actually sat down and ate a bowl as it is presented to the customer, rather than just the component parts. Pork belly looks delectable, though.

  • Everything else sounds great, I bet the soup was a fluke. That cheese looks wonderful, it’s great to hear they’re supporting neighboring cheese shops. Any pictures of dessert?

    Kelly up there asked about the name, I know in Spanish ‘septimo’ means ‘seventh’, could mean the same in Fench.

    Thanks for sharing David!

  • I loved Dorie’s comment about Septime being an “elbows on the table” kind of place. What a wonderful description!

    Food looks so good and I think I could suffer through that soup!

  • Just tried it last week and thought it was so exciting -almost want to describe the food as a relief (tuna with an oyster foam, gnocci on a pea purée…)! Just good ingredients with something a little different to jazz it up – thought whole place was great – service adorable my only negative was that it is the noise level but that’s because I’m a grumpy middleaged lawyer from NY – if I was a cool website designer it wouldn’t have bothered me…

  • gail: Yes, the noise level is something they’re likely going to have to address. It’s a problem when you have a lot of wood, glass and hard surfaces. Interestingly, in Paris, people really keep their voices down in restaurants and they rarely play music (thank goodness!) – and Septime was no exception, but it’s something they will likely deal with in the future.

    Kelly + Giovani: The name comes from the main character in a French comedy, Le Grand Restaurant, from the 1960s.

    Catherineap + Michael: Yes, that’s one of the things you get when you take chances as a chef and cook; some things work, some don’t. The soup was fine, it just didn’t need those chunks of fruit in it and I mentioned that to the waiter. (In France, as you may know, telling someone your opinion isn’t considered complaining – as it might be elsewhere.) But perhaps others liked them in there. It wasn’t bad, but I would have left them off or added something like salted strips of lemon or fruit, or something sharper rather than chunks of juicy-ripe fruit.

    It’s when people do “new” things just for the sake of saying they’re doing something “new” that has become tiresome. Those are the people (I think) that are relying on putting food in jars that don’t belong in a jar (Tiramisù, for example, can go in a jar…) and same with the slate plates: charcuterie is fine on slate, but steak frites? not so much…

  • Ah Bertrand Grebaut, of L’Agape…the food there was so good. Glad to hear he opened something that I can afford :)
    Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the review.

  • Great review!

    I went to Septime about 2 weeks ago. It’s a must if you love food :-)

    http://ermadkunst.blogspot.com/2011/07/septime.html

  • explain natural wine please…
    yes septime is delicious…
    lt

  • I was in Paris in May when you were doing your Paris-Lausanne trip and had been complaining to my sister and friend that we wouldn’t be able to see you – even from afar. Coming back to our hotel one afternoon, who do we see leaving her apartment but Dorie Greenspan! I was speechless – sort of – but managed to blabber on to her about how I had bought copies of her cookbook for myself & friends for Christmas presents. [I had given your book, The Sweet Life in Paris as gifts the prior year. :-)] And now I read that the two of you are dining about Paris! Too much! Keep up these fabulous blogs! They nourish my foodie wanderlust! Thank you!

  • Hi David! I am a long time stalker of your site! I love reading everything and anything you write! A long time ago you wrote a post about Gavottes crepe dentelles. As with everything I read here I just had to try it but was never able to find it at any of the gourmet shops in NYC. One lucky day I was fortunate to order a bowl of sorbet for dessert and there it was in it’s glorious gold foil! I was so excited and addicted however I still couldn’t find it in any of the shops. That was a long time ago but guess what?! I recently found it in the most oddest of places, the Hong Kong Chinese Supermarket in the Asian neighborhood of Flushing NY! Of course I passed over the small box of 15 and got the large tin of 120! Now I am in dentelle heaven and it’s all mine!

  • I just read another review of Septime, I think in Les assiettes du Chef, Chantal’s blog; what amazed me is the price here, very reasonable I thought!
    Can say what you want about the French, they have created some awesome cheeses!!

  • One hour till lunch… I am thinking it was a mistake to come in here hungry! As a pork belly enthusiast, I might have to visit Paris just to taste that dish. Thanks for the lovely post, David! :-)

  • David, what is the green garnishing the soup? Is it purslane?

  • Nice photos of the Shangri-La in Paris from twitter. It’s fun to see food tortured in this way! Hope the taste was as good as it looks. Seems like a special occasion. How did the ten-day experiment turn out? Well, I hope!

    Makes up for the lack of dessert pictures here at Septime. Thanks for sharing!

  • This place sounds great. I had two restaurant meals in Paris at my last visit. One at Terminus Nord, one at Vivant. TN was a disappointment. Horrible service, and the food was boring. There was nothing wrong with it. The oysters were fresh and plump and delicious. The sausages in the choucroute were excellent. Beyond that, everything else was just so unremarkable. Most of these old guard bistros and brasseries are coasting on their reputations, resting on the laurels of past glories. They just aren’t trying very hard at all.

    The meal at Vivant was as starkly opposite as possible. It renewed my love for French restaurants. It belied the notion that all French cooking is stodgy and frozen. I think it’s unfortunate though that these restaurants are still somewhat “underground.” There’s no real reason why all French bistros can’t serve this kind of fare. There’s nothing out of this world there in terms of ingredients (foie gras is ubiquitous in France for example) or technique. There is no high tech wizardy, just true passion and love for good food. Maybe that’s really what’s missing in all those mediocre elsewheres. I can’t wait to go back and further explore and participate in this French revival.

    @Douglas – The French have been eating poitrine de porc, in fact have been eating the entire pig, happily and unremarkably, for as long as there have been pigs, and French people, in France. Which, last time I checked, was for a long long time before there was even such thing as an America, let alone American Cuisine.

  • Simon: I think what he meant is that the French have adopted to the American-style of garnishing with various elements, since yes, the French have been eating pork belly for a long time.

    Sorry to hear about your meal at Terminus Nord, but those restaurants have been going downhill over the last few years and I think they’re nearly hitting the bottom. It’s such a shame – and most seem to be more interested in making money rather than serving good, fresh fare. (Although you’re right – the oysters are good and that’s what I always get.)

    It would be great if those bistros in that chain did a total overhaul and just started re-creating and making excellent French bistro fare. Because they’re owned by a large company, I don’t know if they are capable of making that change, but I would go back. I know people are always asking me about good bistros and I’d love to be able to recommend them. Vivant is pretty great (as is Septime) but they are in a different price category and there’s a reluctance to spend money in restaurants by a certain segment of the population here. (As it is elsewhere.) But it’s nice to see restaurants like this offer a good-value lunch and to offer cooking that’s so accomplished at the same time, which proves it can be done.

    Carolyn: I really liked L’Abeille. It was quite an experience and of all the pricier places I’ve eaten at in Paris, this was certainly one of the best ones. But it is a big, long meal. Wish I’d worn looser pants! ; )

  • Okay, I admit to the fact that I have never eaten pork belly, but what is the big deal? Isn’t it just super thick bacon? It looks rubbery and gelantinous and not very texturally appealing.

  • About the name “Septime”: it may refer to the french movie “Le Grand Restaurant” starring the great Louis de Funès. The name of his character is Monsieur Septime.
    Great movie if you ask me but then again I am a die-hard De Funès fan.
    In any case, some of the scenes are really worth watching….

  • any place with that serious of a espresso machine i consider cool. all kidding aside, good job on praising the new chefs in town

  • any place with that serious of a espresso machine i consider cool. all kidding aside, good job on praising the new chefs in town.
    I also love the machine they got at Vivante.

  • Hi David,
    I’m a fan of your restaurant reviews but I live in England, so unfortunately I’ve never been to any. I am currently here on a last minute 2day visit to paris. Septime looked incredible in your blog and so I called up and of course they were fully booked. But, incredible, In the afternoon yesterday, they called back!!! My friend and I had the chef’s dinner and it was the most fantastic meal, ever. The best thing ever was the gnocchi, it was sprinkled with dandelion petals and leaves, on a bed of polenta and cream and cheese. The cheese was so subtle and creamy, I asked what it was and it was guda. It was thanks to you that we got to try such wonderful cuisine at such a good price. Thank you.
    Maria