As his first name hints, chef Sven Chartier is French with some Swedish roots, and the Nordic nudity of his cooking at the blindingly successful new bistrot à vins, Saturne, raises some questions about the direction of new-wave bistrot cooking. To wit, when does simplicity become too simple? Chartier, who formerly worked at the popular Parisian bistrot Les Racines, is undoubtedly a good cook, but after several meals here, I’ve occasionally found his style too plain. A salad of raw shrimp, sardines, nasturtium flowers, wild fennel and other herbs, for example, was pleasant, but more of an exercise in composition than cooking. So should you go? Yes—the space, a handsomely renovated 19th-century atelier, is gorgeous in its glass-roofed, blonde-wood Scandinavian way; sommelier Ewen Lemoigne oversees a great list of organic and biodynamic wines; and when the food’s good, it’s very good, like a perfectly cooked chunk of Challans duckling with a side slaw of red beets.

17 rue Notre Dame des Victoires, Paris 2nd, Lunch menu €35, dinner menu €60 per person, without wine

Originally published in the November 2010 issue of France Today

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Alexander Lobrano’s book Hungry for Paris is published by Random House. Find Hungry for Paris and more in the France Today Bookstore.

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