At about 5 a.m. in the heart of Valencia, Spain I woke up to find the light on my phone blinking. “Holy smokes!” I thought as I received five new emails within an hour after having just fallen asleep. It turns out they were all from my mother and the slew of emails was a by-product of her excitement after touching base with a good friend from high school. Their discussions led to talks about travels and to the new restaurant of their other classmate’s daughters in Paris called Le Servan.
Paris was now on the horizon as I read the email. But to the amusement of my mother and her friend, Le Servan was the last meal we did in fact have in Paris. An occurrence she came to realize in that same email thread through my brother’s Facebook check-in. But lunch here almost did not happen. Luck was on our side that afternoon as hours before our departure we somehow found ourselves within walking distance of the 11th arrondissement with some time to kill.
Lunch too did not require a reservation, and for a three course set menu during our visit, we couldn’t believe it only set us back 23 €. Additional options for à la carte were available, so in addition to the set menu, we opted for a bowl of whelks. These crustaceans were an absolute delight. Fresh as can be, nicely firm and served with chilli mayonnaise and dill. It felt almost scandinavian if it were not for that subtle hit of heat.
The set menu gave us options for differing dishes and to start, rich crunchy veal heads were wonderfully juxtaposed by the bright light flavours of coriander and celery. A mackerel salad too was nicely put together with generous amounts of mackerel, greens similar to the veal head dish, nuts, a bit of heat from peppers and a vinegar based dressing.
Mains found the both of us gravitating towards the octopus tentacle perhaps due in part to its playful aesthetics. But the perfect execution of the protein yielded a charred and crunchy crust yet a very tender consistency to the octopus meat. Which was all complimented and balanced by the flavours of the bitter greens, hearty potato accompaniment and pumpkin sauce leaving us with a yearning for more yet a satisfaction for what we had just consumed.
To end, figs served with ice cream was a wonderful autumn dessert, but was thoroughly outshone by the classic French dessert consisting of meringue floating on top of caramel and crème anglaise (also known as île flottante). It was another dish of pure sublimity – not overly sweet, light and cloud-like as the meringue vaporized in our mouths.
A disciple of Alain Passard once claimed that spending time in his kitchen was “a vaccine against mediocrity”. That statement could not be truer for the chef of Le Servan, Tatiana Levha, as one can easily see the legend’s influence on her. Starting with superb ingredients and ending with flawless execution. Ostensibly simple food and perfection of this kind is not easily attainable. And her cuisine is very much her own with Asian influences that simply cannot be learned but cultivated through birth or assimilation. Our only regret about Le Servan is not visiting twice. When we visit Paris again, you bet your ass Le Servan will not be an afterthought.
To view pictures of our meal in its entirety, please click here.
Thanks for reading and happy eating,
Carla and Sonny