Le Servan

Le Servan Paris chocolate caramel tart

I’m not always in agreement with those that say dining out in Paris is expensive. For example, last week I found myself with a rare moment of free time at lunch, and I pinged a neighbor, who unfortunately replied that he was out of town, like the rest of Paris in the summer. So I decided to go to Le Servan by myself, a restaurant I’d been hearing a lot about. And since it’s “hot”, I figured lunch would be the perfect time to go. And I was right. Although it filled after I got there, I managed to get there during the “sweet spot”, and grab a stool at the counter, where I had a terrific lunch for €23, all by my lonesome.

If you think about it, that’s three courses of food made with fresh ingredients, prepared by a highly competent staff. The price includes tax and tip, which in the states, would mean that about one-third of that total would be earmarked for those extras, and the meal itself would cost roughly €15. Yikes. Of course, one often adds a glass of wine – I had a nice Vouvray for €6 – so my meal deal clocked in at €29. But either way, I can’t imagine getting a meal like I had in, say…New York, London, or San Francisco. Because I liked it so much, I went back the next day with Romain.

aargh

Unfortunately the next day didn’t start off very well. Like, at all. But as Gloria Gaynor famously said — or sang — “I will survive.” (Although she didn’t sing it in French.) But good food, and wine, heals a lot – although not all – and it was nice to get a particularly bad taste from the morning affairs out of our mouths.

Two glasses of surprisingly inky rosé from the Loire did the trick. They were deeply colored, with the slightly maderized (sherry-like) taste that one often finds in natural wines, which have been left to their own devices.

Le Servan Paris restaurant-2

Romain didn’t believe me when I told him that the day before, I’d ordered tête de veau (yup, veal head), which was served atop a nice mound of tiny raw turnips, crescents of raw celery, and a few uneventful fava beans, perhaps due to the fact that it was the end of their season. On my advice, Romain ordered it, and the crusty disk came on a bed of braised leeks with a dab of concentrated eggplant emulsion. It’s nice to see a chef not afraid to take something to the point of croustillance (crustiness), which highlights the especially meltingly tender meat on the inside.

Le Servan Paris restaurant-3

I was têted out, so my first course was mussels with corn and shiso with tiny dill fronds scattered here and there, providing nice little éclats (sparks) of flavor. It was excellent, but I read a while back that David Chang was irked when people took photos in restaurants, and since he was sitting behind my back, I was so nervous that I ended up with this:

Le Servan Paris restaurant-4

Which was too bad, because it was and especially beautiful bowlful of food. (On the way out, I asked the chef/owner if I could take a picture of the kitchen, where all this lovely food was made, and it was declined. But I guess cooks and restaurant owners need to be wary these days of people snapping pictures as they never know where they’re going to end up. Since we’d been hearing “Non” all morning elsewhere, I was used to it, and wasn’t particularly bothered.) However you don’t get to see the kitchen. Or my mussels with corn and shiso. (At least not clearly.)

Le Servan Paris restaurant-5

However the baguettes caught my eye, and I apologize, but I just had to take a shot of them, too. But really – when a baguette is this good, why keep it to myself?

Le Servan Paris restaurant-8

Lest anyone think I get special treatment when dining out, two other tables were sent out bowls heaped with cockles, bathed in what smelled like an incredibly succulent sauce, with aromatic basil and red chiles. One was David Chang, and the other was the designer of the restaurant’s logo who were sitting next to us, who kindly offered us a taste. They were outstanding. So it’s true that there are some things that money can’t buy.

The roasted chicken I had the previous day came with roasted and raw carrots. The raw carrot coins scattered on top weren’t necessary because the roasted carrots were marvelously sweet and savory. The moist chicken came with a dab of spicy apricot puree, which was a pleasant surprise, as one doesn’t come across fiery or lively condiments very often in Paris restaurants. (The chef, Tatiana Levha, is part French, part Filipino.) So much so, that Le Fooding noted that diners at Le Servan should expect a meal featuring “Shocking pairings!

Le Servan Paris restaurant-7

We both liked our plates of lieu jaune (pollack), which came with a pile of braised fennel, carrots, roasted potatoes, and a remarkably potent green herb sauce tucked underneath.

Le Servan Paris restaurant-9

Desserts were spot-on, too. Because I had an apricot tart waiting for me at home, the day I was by myself, I went with the cheese course, which they told me was Comté. I like Comté cheese just fine, but was happy that the course was actually a towering pile of greens with a mustardy dressing and thinly shaved cheese strewn over the top.

When we were dining à deux, our superb chocolate tart (shown at the top of the post) came with a layer of thick caramel and a cushion of dark chocolate, melded together over a crust baked just the way I like it; dark and crumbly, almost like graham cracker crust. In fact, as I was leaving, I poked my head in the kitchen to ask the chef what kind of flour they used in the crust, and she said wheat flour. Although I don’t think it’s an option, it was worth going just for the dessert.

Le Servan Paris restaurant

But I’m going back for the whole she-bang. Not just to get a better look at those mussels with corn and shiso, but to see what other shocking – or as I’d say – inventive pairings, the chef has up her sleeve. And will watch my back the next time I do.



Le Servan
32, rue Saint-Maur (11th)
Tél: 01 55 28 51 82

Métro: Saint-Maur, Voltaire, Saint-Ambroise

57 comments

  • Sweetcorn in Paris? I thought the French considered corn, like parsnips, only suitable for animal feed. Nice to see they’re keeping an open mind!
    And now I really want a proper baguette right this minute….

  • That is indeed excellent value! That chocolate tart… and that baguette.. yum!

  • Le Servan is on my wish list! Thanks for posting this.

  • What is the white flaky stuff on the tart? Is it coconut? It looks delicious!

  • Although everything looks top-notch, I can’t stop thinking about that bread. I’m craving bread so badly right now!!!

    Your experience(s) reminds me of my life in Madrid, and the places I had several-course meals for under $20. Still, nothing was as fancy as Le Servan.

  • Gretchen: It was finely grated white chocolate – mostly likely don’t with a rasp-style zester.

    Hazel: A number of the younger chefs are using ingredients that are less-familiar (or less-used), and even though it’s rare to see fresh corn on a menu in Paris, it was excellent. Although some might say – shocking! ; )

  • this looks like such a wonderful place! everything simply yet perfectly prepared. that tart just looks out of this world.
    surprisingly my eyes are going to the knife in the bottom picture…any idea what brand?

  • Wow – all looks delicious! David – your mussels picture looks better than any careful attempt I would have made! Is it usual for you to be surrounded by other foodie celebrities whilst out for a casual lunch?!

  • Hope your day got better! I’m going to take the Rose’ recommendations & try one today. Rare Vineyards was the (random) choice, I hope it goes well.

    I’ve been reading thru your archive for the past week & really enjoying it. Followed a vinaigrette process to good results, shallots & dijon with red wine vinegar, dill, olive oil. I even got lucky that the dijon was the recommended Maille brand. It stood up well to kale, lettuce & celery leaf salad with red onion, feta & walnuts. All leafy parts courtesy the “free” farmers market of the garden. (I never knew celery flavor could be so much better than the watery grocery store staple!)

    Tonight, roasted chicken leg quarters with caramelized shallots. With sweet & sour onions… I can’t find the original name now, it may have been all the way back to 2007 there, but they sounded good! If Wintery.

    Next week I’ll figure out how to attack the “too much” zucchini, that is starting to come in.

    Thank you!

  • I understand the hesitation as well as general annoyance with taking pictures at restaurants but when I look up restaurants that is the second thing I want to see after the menu! So I commend all the brave souls that defiantly whip out their iPhones and DSLRs and take one for the team.

    And I must agree that after looking at a lot of restaurants in Paris’ set course lunch/dinners its definitely a lot more affordable than NY.

  • Darn! I was staying at a friends only blocks away and walked right by. This always happens to me – I find out about things after I’m back.

  • I thought the $ shot was the tarte au chocolate…..mais non! I was reaching for a slab of butter when the baguette appeared! Light and airy with a crisp crust….perfection in every bite. As Maurice Chevalier use to sing “Ah yes, I remember it well!”

  • David: any idea what brand the knife is on the last photo of your post?
    It looks very beautiful.
    Merci pour l’info si tu t’en souviens !

  • Everything looks absolutely fabulous…… but my God, what is happening with your fingernails?! But I still love your postings and will keep visiting often.

  • What amazing sounding dishes! Still chuckling at that unfortunately blurry photo of your first course :)

  • ” I can’t imagine getting a meal like I had in, say…New York, London, or San Francisco.”
    I can’t imagine having (ok, I have attempted…) a three-course meal in the states. As good as the food may be, portions are a tad too big. While I’ve found that in France, portion are right on, and I leave the restaurant satiated, not overstuffed or with a ginormous doggy bag.

    • I’ve thought about that a lot (portion size, etc) because a lot of Americans come to Paris, and after eating out for a couple of days, they are completely full and are usually craving just a salad (or some vegetables at least). It’s a curious paradox because in restaurants in America, the food is rather copious – so I wonder why people get so full in Paris? Could be all the between meal snacking on pastries? ; )

  • O.T. but, David, there’s been much written in the US news re: the Fait Maison law that just went into effect in France. I’m dying to hear your take on it. Thanks! Love your witty but soulful posts.

  • Love this post, funny and true! Recently returned from traveling in France, and I feel delicious food is actually more expensive in SF. Tax and tip already included makes such a difference. And bread, wine, and a lot of produce seemed to cost much less in France. But how I wish I was still in Paris so I could try Le Servan. Looks scrumptious!

    • There are certainly places in all price points in Paris, and elsewhere. But a lot of the “gasto-bistros” that sprung up over the last few decades have 3-course meals for €35 which, if you deduct the 25% for tax/tip that’s included in the price, most of those places are a deal. Wine is generally less-expensive in France than in the US, too.

  • Looks lovely, although I’d die of being starstruck at seeing either you or David Chang! Putting this place on my list. I hope yours and Romain’s day improved after such a lovely meal.

  • I came across your website last week and I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs. One of my biggest pet peeves are cooks/chefs with dirty finger nails. I’m sorry but I can’t get over how filthy yours are in the photo.

    • Those aren’t my hands or fingernails in the photo. (If I had two hands on my head, I wouldn’t have been able to take the picture.) They are the hands of someone who works full time with heavy construction materials, which I would imagine are pretty difficult to keep as spotless are mine are.

  • Laughing at the comment on the fingernails. Who’d look at anything else when there are tarts and breads to be drooled over? Anyway, it struck me that this place might be lovely for adults, but where does one go with a family–one with young boys, but ones who really do enjoy a good meal, beautifully presented. (they love to be treated like little kings, even if their parents are on a budget). Is there a eater’s guide to Paris for us? I need to explore a lot more..

  • That chocolate tart looks exquisite!!

  • The photo of the tart at Le Servan looks absolutely delicious…the photo of you, head in hands looks dreadful! Hope the rest of your \ the day was much more cheerful!
    I’ll be going over all your writings taking notes of restaurants etc for our visit in Sept/Oct.
    Merci for your very informative blogs…much appreciated. Diane/Western Australia

  • I’d love to get the recipe for that delicious-looking dessert! :)

  • New to your website and love love each one! Going to Paris again in June and the “have to” list is g r o w i n g thanks to you!

  • Anyone that is familiar with your “looks” would know that those hands/dirty fingernails did not belong to you. If one looks closely, there is hair on that head!

  • What a lovely post! I want to go and eat there now, but alas will have to wait until I’m in Paris again. Your photos are lovely and I can’t think of a better tribute to a chef or restaurant than to share them with others. Thanks for doing that. I am transported around the world to Paris today because of you. Merci!

  • Been really enjoying your writing, recipes, recommendations and humor David. Took your advice on several Parisian restaurants in May and was not disappointed. Le Servan looks like another winner. I rarely comment but I just have to bite the hook on the fingernail comment. What a lovely way for a new reader to introduce herself. Those hands look entirely normal to me. Guess my pet peeve is the hygiene fixation in our OCD world. Write on.

  • I’ve never been to one of David Chang’s restaurants, though I did like his turn in Tremé. But really, who cares what he thinks about food photos? Please, snap away, your photos are terrific.

  • White chocolate snowflakes… Too pretty not to copy! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • The bread, the bread!!! Oh, just to have the bread! But the bowl of cockles looked pretty inviting also. Here in NYC, we have “Restaurant Week” twice a year, where one can get a really decent three course meal at many of our best restaurants for $25.00 for lunch and $38.00 for dinner. Plus wine and tip, it’s still a great deal. My friends and I save our money all year for these wonderful splurges at places we normally couldn’t afford on any regular basis. It’s on now through August 15th. See NYCGO.com for details.

  • How could we locate that “surprisingly inky rose”? Thanks!

  • Lisa – about that flatware: there is a small shop that sells dishes and flatware for restaurants in the Marais on the Rue de Rivoli (possibly R. Saint Antoine) before you get to Bastille. I can never remember what it’s called, but it’s on the same side of the street as BHV. I’m pretty sure I saw those knives there. Either way, it’s a great place to stock up on things like ramekins and such at an inexpensive price.

  • Hi David, I sympathize with feeling rushed to get a photo and coming up short. I’ve followed your comments on technical stuff and equipment with interest, both me and my daughter enjoy photographing food. My question for you is, do you use your same DSLR when you are out at a restaurant? I use a good quality point and shoot that is silent, and very fast to get a shot; it seems that a DSLR would be noisier and therefore not as discreet. . I am always in manual mode, I find it the most reliable to get a good fast shot before someone insists on eating…oh well. I love my DSLR, but I wonder what you think.
    As far as Mr. Chang is concerned, his income level and position may prevent him from appreciating how special, and sometimes rare, great food that justifies a photo is for a lot of us.

  • I’m glad I read the “comments,” because I, too, was put off by the fingernails. Happy to hear those in the photograph are not your fingernails, and yours are impeccably clean.

  • Lovely post and photographs. Comment about the fingernails is a hoot. Me, I assumed the nails were stained with blood from the morning. How obliging of Mr. Chang and friend to share. In my world, you are equally known as he. You recognized him — did he recognize you?

  • David Chang also takes the occasional food photo so there’s no shame! He also touted Tatiana Lehva as an up and coming chef so yay for the Filipinos (though only partly)! Definitely one to bookmark for when I find the courage to fly from Sydney to Paris.

  • Unless you are David, put your camera down and look at the food. Really look at it. Inhale the aromas.
    Enjoy your meal.

    And, remember, to keep your camera tucked away inside art museums and concert halls.

  • I am intrigued that photo taking is not welcome… In Paris and throughout our travels in France last fall, photographing beautifully prepared food, and alas pastries, was an obsession. At one point in Paris sitting very cozily next to a young Chinese couple (non-English speaking) we both agreed and understood that we each wanted photos of the others dishes! I am grateful we didn’t encounter resistance.

    With respect to the price, NYC during restaurant week is the only time one can eat all the phenomenal offerings at a prix fixe lunch for just $25. Dinner is typically the same menu but more expensive. There are prix fixe lunch menus the rest of the year in many places, but the offerings aren’t quite as nice. And it’s happening right now!! Add in tolls and parking and it’s a real steal…. :-0

    The tart looks fabulous, but I am still happily elbow deep in cherries!

  • First of all, that photo, even with face covered, doesn’t look at all like you. those hands aren’t even shaped like yours. I know some people who work on cars who don’t have very pretty fingernails, either. :^)

    I read the Chang thing about no photos, and it mainly applies to his tiny resto. So it would be very easy to interfere with some other diners’ peace, quiet, and enjoyment of their meal in a small place. Elsewhere, people who use flashes are the worst offenders. Like they say in the article you linked to, if you don’t know how to take a picture without using a flash, don’t take a picture!

    That sounds like a lovely place to take our adult children next year. Bookmarking.

  • I had to laugh about that thing with the dirty nails… I believe Dave’s fingers are slimmer, longer and sexier. =)

    Cockles and a nice crusty bread… ending with a luscious chocolate tart… now I’m hungry and it’s past midnight here.

  • Hi David. I just wanted to say that I am almost finished reading the newest book (Paris Kitchen) and I love it. It is very easy to read and the directions are simple. You make it all look so easy. I like to read a book all the way through first then attempt the recipies.

    I have been “hooked” on Paris since 1990 when I went for the first time. I have not made the leap to living there but I do visit once a year (sometimes 2 if it is a good year). I will visit again this September and I hope to visit some of your favourite places this time around.

    Thanks for the great work. Maybe there is another book in the making……??
    A plus tard, Danielle

  • Hello David,
    I just bought your book My Paris Kitchen, and I was reading the recipe for the Buche de Noel, and one of the ingredients is a sugar syrup made with orange liqueur. However, you don’t say where to use the syrup. Am I correct in assuming you sprinkle that on the cake before adding the filling and rolling it up?
    I am enjoying your cookbook, and the stories. Thanks!
    Gail

    Yes, the syrup is brushed on the cake, which was omitted by the printer. (More info here.) – enjoy the cake! -dl

  • Rainbow cake: http://topy.tv/v/W4aj

  • We had dinner on Friday night at Le Servan. It has been on my list since its opening since we live down the street. The food was delicious – piegon roti dans”jus de sang” and lovely wine pairings. The only thing that’s unfortunate about the restaurant are the acoustics – it was excessively loud, so much that we could barely hear each other talk.

    • That could be a deal breaker for us. Darn.

    • Restaurant in Paris, in general, have been getting louder. Some are starting to play music (to be more “hip”) although people are talking in louder voices than they used to, perhaps because they are used to bellowing into their cell phones. Also restaurants these days are using a lot more tile and glass, which isn’t very acoustic-friendly.

  • David – As always – beautiful pictures, great writing… I would love the chocolate tart recipe. Any chance on getting that?

  • Was the chocolate tart similar to the recipe you posted a few years ago — chocolate caramel tartlets except for the crust?

  • I love these all dishes & all look delicious, definitely I visit this. Thanks for this post.

  • I experienced that feeling of fullness at a Ducasse cooking class after eating a rather light meal. But the complexity and balance of flavors made up for quantity and was deeply satisfying. I was surprised.

  • I think the problem with restos in the US is they give you too much food, and then you overeat and take the rest home. You were full before you quit eating.

    I never order an appetizer anymore because it’s just way too much food. I like the French quantities better, and you don’t take anything home to molder away in the fridge. And you can enjoy an appy because you’re not going to get a mountain of an entree.

  • Paris is full of many great deals for lunch, that’s why I launched my Blog ;-)

    Soon in English, I make the promise here..