Dessance

Dessence restaurant in Paris

Like Espai Sucre in Barcelona, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to eat at Dessance, in Paris. It’s not that I don’t love dessert (which is a good thing because I think it’s a little late to change careers…), but because the idea of an all-dessert menu – or as Dessance calls it, a meal featuring cuisine du sucré – just didn’t appeal to me.

When I went to Espai Sucre years back, I made sure to stop at a local tapas bar beforehand and fill up on savory foods to prepare/steel myself for the multi-course sweet extravaganza. But instead, I found myself dining on food that skirted the line between sweet and savory, featuring lots of herbs, grains, (there may even been some meat), and vegetables. Nothing was overly sweet, even the desserts. It was a completely satisfying meal and experience, and I was glad I overcame my reluctance to eat there.

Desssance in Paris follows the same pattern and concept: A set menu with multiple courses, the savory courses borrowing a bit from the pastry pantry, with the chef skillfully guiding diners all the way though the meal, culminating in full-on desserts.

Dessance restaurant in Paris

At Dessance you can certainly go the all-dessert route, but I was interested in trying both, salé/sucré. There are two savory/sweet menus to choose from, as well as drink pairings, avec or sans alcohol, which includes herbal infusions, elixirs, and fruit juices, or wines and whiskey. Oddly, when the server at the counter, where I was dining, was taking my order, he asked if I liked whiskey. And seemed very excited when I replied that yes, I do. Although I had chosen the pairing without alcohol, I was hoping to be offered a shot. I wasn’t drinking because it was lunch, but a belt of whiskey is always welcome. (And sometimes, necessary.)

The chef/pastry chef/owner, Christophe Boucher, worked at some pretty fancy places in Paris, Ledoyen and Grand Véfour, before moving out on his own, into a modern loft-like space in the Marais on a somewhat austere street that connects the lively part of the neighborhood, the one with internationally known shops and the Place des Vosges, with the “happening” Upper Marais, featuring shops selling upscale sneakers and €95 socks, and cafés with insouciant les hipsters. Passers-by (visitors and locals) press their faces against the glass façade, trying to get a glimpse of what’s going on. You can practically see the wheels in their heads spinning, as they try to figure out if Dessance is a standard café or restaurant, or what the heck is going on in there?

Dessance restaurant in Paris

Well, that’s hard to say. But the friendly staff, and obviously happy chef, work the counter and dining room, clipping herbs from their roots, zesting unusual citrus, like yuzu and combava (kaffir lime), and pairing meats and fish with everything from stone fruit puree to perky little berries.

While you can order individual desserts, I recommend having a meal and go with one of the dégustations and wine or drink pairings, for the uniqueness of the experience. Although during the afternoon, you’re welcome to come and just have dessert à la carte, which comes with several mignardises (sweet bites), so you can get a taste of what’s on offer.

Dessance restaurant in Paris

Like most experimental food, not everything is a hit. A starter of mustard leaf sorbet that was paired with mirabelle plums and smoked cheese (shown up above) tasted – well…like a frozen puree of mustard leaves. But a grated carrot sorbet with pea puree and pea shoots was excellent. And I loved the ripe strawberries with parsley ice cream and fruit leather that led the way to the final course. And lest you think you’re going to leave Dessance hungry, finales like blocks of chocolate praline with caramel nuages (clouds) will send you on your sweet way, with a smile.

Dessance
74, rue des Archives (3rd)
Tél: 01 42 77 23 62
Métro: Arts et Métiers, Rambuteau, Filles du Calvaire

Hours: Open on Wednesday and Thursday from 2pm to 11pm, Friday and Saturday, from Noon until Midnight, and Sunday, Noon until 11pm. (Reservations suggestions.)


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30 comments

  • January 8, 2015 2:38pm

    These are the most marvelous desserts/savory desserts?!? that I’ve ever seen. I’ve been to France, but was a poor student when I visited and spent the whole trip site seeing and didn’t really bother to eat! What a mistake. I can see that now. That first picture in particular is fantastic. Stunning visual appeal! And that last picture, wow, I’d even have trouble sharing that one with my 2-year-old…..and she’s pretty cute =)

  • ClaireD
    January 8, 2015 3:02pm

    You had me hooked with that first photo! When I was in Paris this past May, I gorged on the fabulous strawberries in every market where I could find them. I was transported back to my American childhood in the 50s, before strawberries were bred into huge bulbs of no flavor. I’m coming back this May and have already marked this place on my list. Thank you, David!!

  • January 8, 2015 4:54pm

    I’ve been to some restaurants where I’ve gotten a dish that’s “not a hit”, as you called it. Honest feedback helps the restaurant caliber their menus to the taste of their patrons, and helps the costumer trust the places they visit. I applaud your honesty.

  • sillygirl
    January 8, 2015 4:55pm

    I am so glad you “sacrifice” yourself to keep us all up-to-date on these wonderful eateries in Paris!
    I read an article about the name “kaffir” lime – a push to change the name since kaffir is a derogatory term? Have you heard anything about that in Europe?

  • January 8, 2015 5:04pm
    David Lebovitz

    Angel: I think it’s okay if restaurants have a few goofs. No one can be perfect and when you’re experimenting, there are bound to be a few duds. That said, no one wants to pay for a meal that isn’t good – but I am interested in food that tastes handmade. The food here is obviously the work of someone very conscious of what he’s doing. And perhaps others like that sorbet – it might just be me!

    Laura: One thing that I’ve always wanted was not necessarily to go a 3-star restaurant and have a whole meal, since I’ve just wanted to try dessert. Dessance is an opportunity to do that : )

    sillygirl: There is some movement to change the name of those limes in English. A friend who is a master gardener said that all plants should be called by their Latin names, universally. Sometimes, I think that’s a good idea.

  • cath
    January 8, 2015 6:05pm

    I’d go desserts all the way! The plates sure look pretty…

  • January 8, 2015 6:57pm

    Oh, my! As a sweet freak I can’t imagine a more tempting restaurant. There goes my wallet.
    We used to go to the buffet night at the California Cullinary Academy in San Francisco. I’d skim a few bits of gravlax, the occasional crustacean, and dive straight into the 30 foot table of elaborate, well manicured sweeties. Grand cakes covered with marzipan, Linzertorts, babas soaked in Gran Marnier, fluffy puff pastries. — If I am a very good girl and go to heaven, I will land flat in the middle of a table filled with this stuff.
    So this is on my bucket list, right after the Louvre. Wow!

  • Pam
    January 8, 2015 7:05pm

    Yum David thank you. I am so sorry about the current troubles in Paris, my sympathy. xxoo.

  • Elise
    January 8, 2015 7:31pm

    I’m looking forward to trying this when I’m in Paris next month. Do you have an idea of how much the set menu costs? I’m hoping it’s less than the socks…

  • January 8, 2015 7:49pm

    I always wonder why no one thinks to open a place like this here in Dubai – we have one of the world’s highest rates of diabetes!!! The closest thing we have here to this concept is the dessert bar within STAY by Yannick Alleno, and so it’s part of a restaurant and not a stand-alone venue. I think that there is money to be made within this “space” if restaurateurs know how to manage and package it – you need to be experimental but not so much so that you end up alienating the average customer. But really, the reason why I couldn’t help but comment is that the photo at the top of the page reminded me of a shot that I’d once taken of a similar creation at STAY. It’s a pity that the last French (and quite talented) pastry chef that worked there, Kevin Lacote, is no longer here – one of my birdies tells me that he has moved on to sweeter pastures in Paris…

  • shelley
    January 8, 2015 8:14pm

    I was gonna ask about that last photo before you said it included smoked cheese. I first thought, ‘are those little sponges in that dish?’ ;-)

    Those pea shoots are adorable

  • January 8, 2015 8:39pm

    since I’m not a dessert person (OK, I confessed it…), I gorged myself on those absolutely heavenly photos – the pix alone made it a delight to read… I quite like the idea a ‘spicy’ desserts and I also wondered where the Whisky came into the picture – did I miss something?
    I am subscribing to the comments all the same because I find them often prizeless and as wonderful as your posts. Thank You SWEET David.
    JE SUIS CHARLIE!

  • January 8, 2015 8:51pm

    Those plates are absolutely gorgeous!

  • Kat
    January 8, 2015 9:14pm

    Caramel nuages??!!!
    I’m excited about this concept. Are they chewy like a marshmallow or more like a torrone? Are they more sweet or more burnt-sugar in flavor? I need info, man!

  • cybele
    January 8, 2015 9:29pm

    Je suis Charlie, aussi.

  • Louise Yenovkian
    January 8, 2015 9:45pm

    Stunningly beautiful desserts! I am a dessert person and opt for savory second. This is right up my alley. I find them to be works of art and your pictures capture the essence of that along with your descriptions. I just ordered the Take the Cake handmade pie totes from Paris that you had posted a week ago. They will make wonderful gifts. Thank you! Live the life of Paris! Je suis Charlie!

  • Debbie
    January 9, 2015 12:23am

    We walked by yesterday and planned on eating there tonight. Then I saw this review. I was fearful it was going to be too sweet – but you can choose almost any combination of “salt” or savory dishes and sweeter dishes. In the savory courses, the sweetness comes from caramelized onions, etc. And the sweet courses are incredible.

    Do choose the beverage pairing. And I recommend sitting at the counter. You get to watch the chef(s) create the dishes, and it’s a treat to watch the art happen. It’s not a budget place to go – but you can choose how many courses you want to fit your wallet and tummy.

  • January 9, 2015 10:36am
    David Lebovitz

    Elise: The prices are on their website, which is linked to in the post. You can get a multi-course dégustation, or just come for a dessert (although not likely at prime mealtimes!)

    Debbie: Glad you liked it. Even through they call it “cuisine sucré,” the food isn’t sweet, but uses elements of the pastry pantry. I did like the drink pairing as well.

    Kat: They were similar to very soft caramel marshmallows. I loved the idea and they were lovely with the cake.

    Kiki: There was no whisky with my pairing, because I went with the no-alcohol one. I just thought it was amusing that the counter fellow asked me if I liked whisky, but I didn’t order (or get) any.

    Sweet Stuff: I always thought it was curious that there were no places to go in Paris for “just dessert” in the evening. There are some (few) ice cream places, but almost none of the pastry shops are open late for a slice of cake or dessert. I think it may be because they might need restaurant permits if people are sitting down and eating, so I’m not sure. But most of the bakeries are sold-out and closed by 8pm. I think there are some opportunities here in Paris (like Dubai!) for some casual places for dessert that are open in the evening.

  • Mary
    January 10, 2015 1:18am

    David,
    Thinking of you, your friends, family and everyone in France. Our hearts are with you!
    Mary

  • Nicolette
    January 10, 2015 3:22am

    While I know your blog is primarily about food experiences which I avidly look forward to reading, I also appreciate your take on life. In the past few days, I am heartbroken to see what is happening in Paris and especially in the Marais neighborhood which when I was a student provided me with my pastrami on rye bread fix. A treat for this New Yorker. Even then, there was always a fear of bombs. My thoughts are with all Parisians. I stand in solidarity with the citizens of France.

  • Bella
    January 10, 2015 5:23am

    David
    I love your blog, I buy your books and I cook your food.
    But today I just wanted to say that you, the residents of Paris and the citizens of France are in my thoughts. Ugliness amid beauty is heartbreaking ~ but beauty will prevail.
    Bella in Oz.

  • Diane
    January 10, 2015 9:35am

    Dear David,

    What a heartbreaking week. Sending healing thoughts to you and Paris from the SF Bay Area. Individuals like yourself help make the world a better place. Thank you for providing peace and comfort through your writings, recipes and genuine good will.

    May peace and kindness prevail over the horror.

  • January 10, 2015 6:48pm

    An all-dessert menu sounds like my kind of restaurant! Thanks for sharing about it; sounds like a great place to try “experimental foods” :)

  • January 10, 2015 8:06pm

    This strawberry and chocolates are my favorite David. Thank you so much. !

  • In Irma's Kitchen
    January 10, 2015 11:36pm

    David; you and all the good citizens of Paris are in my thoughts and prayers.
    I know you will continue on as that is the only way to show terrorists they are not going to win.
    Be safe
    ISM

  • Sidney
    January 11, 2015 2:15am

    This might be of interest. You improve your vocabulary whilst donating rice to the World Food Programme. Productive procrastination?

  • Sidney
    January 11, 2015 2:19am

    Oh! :#)
    The link:
    http://fr.freerice.com/#/vocabulaire-fran%C3%A7ais/907922
    As you will see there is English, Italian and Spanish as well as French.

  • Dena, Canada
    January 12, 2015 8:08am

    just wondering what happened to your links page? I really liked that feature of your blog. Thanks, Dena

    • January 12, 2015 10:01am
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Dena: We’re moving the site toward a “responsive” design, so it’s mobile-friendly, since so many people are reading the site on mobile devices. In order to improve performance and speed, we’re looking at what people are reading and the Links page had few readers. So we’re thinking of phasing it out since we’re steamlining things. However thanks for your comment and I’ll let my web developers know and see if it can be reincorporated. Thanks!

  • Dena, Canada
    January 13, 2015 8:17am

    Hi David,
    Thanks for your reply. I love reading your blog – and – for what it’s worth – I found your links page a great supplement to your blog. It introduced me to voices I would never have found any other way – maybe I was the only one using it… but I regularly came to your site – and went to the links page – when I wanted to distract myself with the guilty pleasure of reading food blogs – and you did not have anything new posted. Thank you again for your blog – I’ve learned so much by reading it… and I don’t think it is an overstatement to say my life has been improved by your writing – as I eat better now :-) Dena