Is Paris turning into Brooklyn? Alexander Lobrano on the Paris dining scene

Is Paris turning into Brooklyn? Alexander Lobrano on the Paris dining scene
Alexander Lobrano collects over a hundred of his favorite Paris restaurants in "Hungry for Paris." (Courtesy of Random House)

Paris-based food writer Alexander Lobrano was in town recently, making the rounds with a copy of the newly published second edition of his book "Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City's 109 Best Restaurants" in hand, as well as his new "Hungry for France: Adventures for the Cook & Food Lover."

So we thought we'd ask the obviously hungry man some questions, beginning with whether he thinks Paris is turning into a hipster-y Brooklyn.


"That's a certain strata of Paris," Lobrano answered.

"But I think the international food community is transcending geography or nationality. All the chefs know each other and know what's going on in Barcelona or Copenhagen. Now it's more about cuisine d'auteur or individual cooking style rather than national ones."

Every September, when everyone comes back from their vacations, a slew of new restaurants opens in Paris — and this year they've been brilliant, says Lobrano.

"The culinary talent pool in Paris has gone international. We have bushels of Japanese chefs especially." And while America and England have moved on, "the Japanese still worship at the altar of Gallic culinary superiority. And so all these young Japanese come to Paris, do apprenticeships and then stay on to open restaurants."

Lobrano cites a a new place called Restaurant Pages near the Arc de Triomphe with Ryuji Teshima, a Japanese chef who trained at Senderens in Paris. There’s another Japanese restaurant he likes called Neige d’été — the name means summer snow — from chef Hideki Nishi. 

“But there’s also a brilliant young Mexican woman, Beatriz Gonzales, who has opened two restaurants in Paris, Neva Cuisine and Coretta (in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife). And some Australians are working in Paris too.

"The new generation of chefs is shaking up Paris in a delicious way. The cooking style is what I call cuisine angelique. It's like angels are cooking this food. It's so innocent and sincere."

Another of his favorites is Porte 12. The chef there is Vincent Crépel, a Frenchman who worked in Singapore under Andre Chiang. "He's a perfect example of cuisine angelique because he'll do something like on a bed of bean sprouts and rice water with shaved cauliflower and shavings of a really funky Swiss cheese. It's all white and it has no precedent in terms of what French cooking was before."

Lobrano is not just talking about expat chefs who have opened terrific new bistros, but about the young French chefs too. He says that the French economy has been so bad that many chefs have gone abroad to work and been exposed to other kitchens and other ways of doing things. "If you look, for example, at Frenchie, the hugely popular bistro: Gregory Marchand worked in London and in New York."

He has yet another example, the chef Tatiana Levha, who is French-born, but of Filipino and Russian ancestry. Her restaurant is called Le Servan and her food is fascinating. "She does zakuski [Russian appetizers], but then she'll do cockles with bird's eye peppers, coriander and Filipino fish sauce."

Also, be sure to check Alexander Lobrano's blog for updated information on the Paris restaurant scene.

Follow @sirenevirbila for more on food and wine.