Over a rainy-day brunch, a food writer from New York and I subjected our métier to a bit of soul searching about the impact we can have on a new restaurant. Too much attention can entirely overwhelm some of these fragile places. With the first wave of good reviews, it often becomes very difficult to land a reservation, which leads to soaring expectations that might not be met by a kitchen straining to keep up with a sudden gust of celebrity. The place I had in mind as we chatted is L’Agrume, a very sweet little restaurant in a remote corner of the 5th arrondissement where chef Franck Marchesi-Grandi (ex-Plaza Athénée and Dessirier in Paris, Le Bernardin in New York and most recently L’Agapa in Perros-Guirec) is cooking his heart out in the small open kitchen of a pleasant, if simply decorated, shopfront space near Les Gobelins.

When sampling it a few weeks ago, the first surprise was the exceptionally charming reception by Marchesi-Grandi’s wife Karine Perrin; the next a good glass of chilled white, a Picpoul, for €3; and then things got even better when the first dish of our five-course €35 tasting menu arrived, a generous serving of first-rate crabmeat dressed with lime zest, basil, and matchsticks of Granny Smith apple. Next, a delicious brick-colored rouget (red mullet) soup served at the table over fine raw slices of the same fish garnished with green onion, followed by sea bass with salsify and duckling breast with red-beet slaw, both excellent. I was a bit underwhelmed by the desserts—panna cotta with strawberry puree and chocolate mousse in a bath of Get 27 mint liqueur, but otherwise it was an exceptionally good meal. I’ve already been back twice, and I’m looking forward to going again. That is, of course, if I can ever get a reservation…

15 rue des Fossés Saint Marcel, 5th,, Métro: Les Gobelins or Censier-Daubenton. Lunch menu €16; five-course tasting menu €35; à la carte €35. Prices are per person without wine.

Originally published in the April 2010 issue of France Today

Alexander Lobrano’s book Hungry for Paris is published by Random House. Find Hungry for Paris and more in our bookstore.

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