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.
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?
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.
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.
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.)