Une table sud-africaine sacrée restaurant de l’année

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La première édition des World Restaurant Awards, présentée par Antoine de Caunes, a récompensé lundi soir au Palais Brongniart le Wolfgat, situé sur une plage en Afrique du Sud. 17 autres prix ont été décernés, dont le meilleur chef sans tatouage à Alain Ducasse et le compte Instagram de l’année à Alain Passard.

Costumes et robes de soirée étaient de sortie ce lundi au Palais Brongniart (Paris IIe). Les World Restaurant Awards (WRA), nouveau palmarès gastronomique lancé par IMG, déjà à l’origine du festival Taste, en partenariat avec Joe Warwick et Andrea Petrini, organisaient en grande pompe (tapis rouge, photocall et champagne) leur première remise de prix devant un parterre de chefs (Alex Atala, Hélène Darroze, Dan Barber, Clare Smyth…) et «d’influenceurs» internationaux. La cérémonie, entièrement en anglais, était présentée par Antoine de Caunes, prodigue en boutades lancées dans un accent frenchie.

Contrairement aux World’s 50 Best Restaurants ou à La Liste, les WRA ne se présentent pas comme un classement, mais comme un palmarès supposé célébrer «l’excellence, l’intégrité et la diversité de la scène culinaire mondiale». Dix-huit prix – plus ou moins originaux – ont été distribués lundi soir. Le dernier, et le plus attendu, était celui du «Restaurant de l’année». Il revient au Wolfgat, table confidentielle de 20 couverts située dans un coin reculé d’Afrique du Sud, qui repart aussi avec le prix de la destination «off-map» (en dehors des sentiers battus).

Le chef du restaurant, Kobus Van der Merwe, un ancien journaliste qui n’a commencé à cuisiner qu’à 30 ans, pousse à l’extrême le concept des produits locaux (moules, huîtres, plantes et herbes aromatiques poussant dans les dunes, plantes indigènes…) et fabrique lui-même son pain et son beurre. Le Wolfgat – dont le personnel, pour la plupart féminin, n’a aucune formation officielle – a ouvert ses portes il y a deux ans dans une maison de pêcheurs vieille de 130 ans, près du site de la grotte de Wolfgat, sur la plage idyllique de Paternoster, à 150 km du Cap sur la côte ouest. Le menu dégustation de sept plats y coûte l’équivalent de 53 euros.

Passard, Ducasse, la Mère Brazier et le Clarence primés

Alain Ducasse sacré du meilleur «chef sans tatouage».
Alain Ducasse sacré du meilleur «chef sans tatouage». Dominique Charriau/Getty Images for IMG

36 pays étaient en lice, 10 repartent avec un prix, parmi lesquels «nouveauté de l’année» (Inua à Tokyo), «spécialité maison» (Lido 84 sur le lac de Garde pour ses pâtes cacio e pepe cuites en vessie de porc), «sans réservation» (Mocoto à Sao Paulo), «atmosphère de l’année» (Vespertine à Los Angeles), «cuisine sans pincettes» (Bo.Lan à Bangkok)…

Cinq Français ont aussi été honorés: le Clarence (Paris VIIIe), prix de «l’approche originale» ; la Mère Brazier (Lyon), meilleur «classique intemporel» ; Alain Ducasse, «chef sans tatouage» et Alain Passard, meilleur «compte Instagram».

Deux initiatives solidaires ont enfin été saluées: le Refettorio de Massimo Bottura et Lara Gilmore, qui lutte contre le gaspillage alimentaire et l’exclusion (catégorie «approche éthique»), et le Refugee Food Festival, qui permet à des chefs-cuisiniers réfugiés de cuisiner dans les restaurants qui les accueillent (catégorie «événement de l’année»).

Les votes ont été effectués par un jury composé de 100 membres, avec une parité hommes-femmes, composé de chefs célèbres tels que Elena Arzak, Alex Atala, Massimo Bottura, David Chang, Hélène Darroze, et René Redzepi ainsi que des journalistes et «influenceurs».

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La Maison d’huîtres Amélie ouvre un restaurant à la Madeleine

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LA CRITIQUE D’EMMANUEL RUBIN – Décor raté, ambiance pathétique, prix à marée haute… La qualité est certes là, le travail d’écailler minutieux mais les recettes se partagent entre l’inédit et le perché.

Par où commencer? Fallait-il d’ailleurs mettre un cœur brisé? Quelques mois après son triste Grand Café, Fauchon offre ses murs historiques à une table «huîtrophile» orchestrée par la Maison Amélie (Marennes Oléron). Et de s’interroger sur les olibrius à la manœuvre. Leur décor est raté à tenter un come-back du bling en 2019, l’ambiance est pathétique à déposer des touristes mondialisés comme en transit, les prix vous coupent l’appétit avant même la première coquille et les huîtres luttent comme elles peuvent aussi loin de leur bassin que proches d’un showroom. La qualité est certes là, le travail d’écailler minutieux mais les recettes se partagent entre l’inédit (d’une marinade gin tonic) et le perché (à la mousse choco). Même servies dans leur plus simple appareil, les huîtres s’abîment à jouer les brise-glace d’assiette sur-givrée. La fine de claire vire au cocktail frappé dans cette idée d’une huître pour joueur du PSG. Un cœur généreux!

Avec qui? Un superficiel.

Une, deux, trois assiettes… 6 huîtres Amélie Élite: charnues, élégantes mais malheureusement servies trop glacées. Huître panée, émulsion de boutargue: jolie technique. Huîtres aux agrumes italiens, mousse chocolat au siphon: ne fallait-il pas s’abstenir?

Service? Débutants un peu gauches.

L’addition? Tempétueuse! Entre 80 et 100 €.

Quelle table? Le comptoir, au déjeuner. La 5 et ses voisines, au dîner. Terrasse attendue aux premiers soleils.

Amélie. 24-26, place de la Madeleine (VIIIe). Tél.: 01 40 07 90 06. Horaires: Tlj sf dim. Métro: Madeleine.

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Men killed in Winnipeg restaurant shot each other at the same time, police say

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Victims of a double homicide in downtown Winnipeg earlier this week were members of the same street gang, and shot and killed each other, police say.

Anthony Brian Cromastey, 30, and Rodney Albert Kirton, 25, died after opening fire on each other inside Johnny G’s, a popular late-night restaurant and pub on Main Street, around 1:30 a.m. CT Wednesday.

« The investigation has determined the deceased males died as a result of simultaneous gunshots to each other, » said a Winnipeg police spokesperson, Const. Rob Carver, on Friday.

Carver said both handguns have been recovered.

Investigators used surveillance video and witness accounts to conclude guns were fired at the same time, said Carver. 

« So the two individuals were basically in a gunfight in a public restaurant and shot each other fatally on the spot, » he said.

A simultaneous double homicide is « incredibly rare, » Carver said. The police spokesperson said he was unaware of one ever happening in Canada before. 

« We did a bit of research and it looks like it’s happened in the [United] States once or twice,  » he said. 

About a dozen people were in the restaurant at the time, with many running out and flagging down a police cruiser that happened to be passing nearby. 

A female server was hurt by a ricochet bullet and sent to hospital where she was treated for a non-life-threatening injury and released.

Carver said he’s surprised there weren’t more casualties because there were a lot of bullets flying.

Both men known to justice system: police

Cromastey and Kirton were members of the same street gang, but Carver wouldn’t say its name.

« I never announce the gang. I’m not going to give any gang the publicity. »

Criminal records show both men were familiar with the justice system.

Cromastey breached a bail order in 2013. At the time, he was not allowed to possess a cellphone. Kirton served time in jail twice for possessing drugs and was banned from possessing firearms. 

Immediately after the shooting Wednesday, another man at the scene assaulted Kirton, police said. An 18-year-old was charged with assault for that attack.

« Kirton was still alive when the assault took place, » Carver said, noting he and Cromastey were rushed to hospital in serious condition where they died shortly afterward.

Their deaths are the city’s fourth and fifth homicides of the year.

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The Hottest New Streetwear Brand Is Actually a Restaurant

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It’s a balmy day in early October, and the crowd of 20-somethings dressed in their best logo-clad T-shirts and sweatshirts is taking up space on Noho’s Lafayette Street. A new limited-edition Nike collaboration had been announced on Instagram the day before, and these hypebeasts are lined up to get a piece of it.

“I AM THIRSTING AT THESE SNACKS,” commented one enthusiastic follower on the post.

“Dying!! NEED immediately!!!”

“How I do get a pair? I don’t live in NYC.”

The item they’re there to claim? A pair of Air Force 1 sneakers done up in the signature pink-and-green color scheme and cursive logo of…a matcha tea shop.

Since Cha Cha Matcha opened its first location in New York three years ago, the Japanese-inspired tea shop has attracted a loyal customer base of models, influencers, and fashion designers with its $5 lattes and millennial-pink cups. It was one of those frequent customers, designer Virgil Abloh of streetwear brand Off-White, who orchestrated the Nike collaboration last fall. The move was so successful that the shop followed up with limited-edition T-shirts and hoodies designed by Abloh himself, timed to the launch of its Los Angeles shop in December.

“I’ve never wanted merch this bad in my life tbh,” wrote a follower on the exclusive drop.

It’s been cool to wear restaurant merchandise since the Hard Rock Cafe’s heyday, but this marriage of streetwear and food is new. In the last year alone, KFC launched a collaboration with Nigo, the legendary Japanese streetwear designer; Mission Chinese tapped a Yeezy designer (Lauren Devine) for its casual skate-inspired merch; Los Angeles’ Sqirl, famed for its thick-cut ricotta toast, teamed up with small skate brand Brain Dead on a jar of jam. Dover Street Market sold the fruit spread next to a T-shirt with a bagel for a logo from Palace, a British skate brand.

As fashion weeks unfold around the globe this month, luxury fashion houses will be showcasing their big bets on the next trends from London to Paris. But for a certain crowd Stateside, white lace-up Vans made in collaboration with Los Angeles hot spot Jon and Vinny’s carry more cache than any chunky Balenciaga sneaker.

So, how did we get here?

Streetwear 1

Photo by Chelsie Craig

From the Kith x Sadelle’s capsule collection.

“We have a lot of people from the fashion industry that come to the restaurant, and that we are friendly with,” says Sant Ambroeus creative director Alireza Niroomand. Not only has he had a hand in turning the restaurant into the go-to spot for fashion-related meetings in New York, but Niroomand was also one of the first to see collaborations with trending brands like Superga, Oliver Peoples, and Italian windbreaker company K-Way as a natural “organic” fit.

“I never sit at my desk and think, Oh, we should collaborate with these people,” Niroomand says. “It’s never forced.” Neighbors and regulars of the Lafayette Street location come to eat, they get to chatting, and boom, skateboarder Mark Gonzales has his own Sant Ambroeus x Supreme deck. Morgan Collett, cofounder of vibey skate-surf brand Saturday’s NYC, swings by for an espresso, and bada bing! a $125 limited-edition pink crewneck sweatshirt is born.

For the restaurant, this isn’t about diversifying its revenue stream. “It’s definitely not a monetary thing,” Niroomand says. Rather, the association with the right and relevant fashion labels “elevates the restaurant’s brand in the world that we live in right now, especially with the downtown crowd. It gives it a ‘cool factor.’”

And it’s not just upscale restaurants that are tapping into the moment. The tactic has worked just as well for larger mass-market food brands like White Castle (Telfar Clemens) and Coca-Cola (Bathing Ape). Buzzy salad chain Sweetgreen, meanwhile, has been using merch designed by labels like Cult Gaia and Deerdana to make its fast-casual veg-forward meals more fashionable. It started with T-shirts and tote bags featuring punny phrases like “Beets don’t kale my vibe”—a reference to a more explicit lyric from rapper Kendrick Lamar. Then last October, Sweetgreen dropped “Burrata 2020” merch, which was a spoof of Balenciaga’s own Bernie Sanders’ campaign spoof.

“We’re a company that celebrates healthy food,” said Sweetgreen cofounder Nicolas Jammet.
“We use these fun fashion and music references to engage people even more and create that connection. It’s changing the cultural paradigm of what food is cool, and what people want to associate themselves with.”

And increasingly, what people want to associate themselves with is restaurants.

Streetwear 3

Photo by Chelsie Craig

Pizzaslime’s Erewhon “drip.”

“If you’re aware of this great spot and you’re repping it, people give a silent nod,” said Matthew Hwang, cofounder of Pizzaslime, a creative agency that aims to make instant “micromerch” in response to trending pop culture topics. “You’re part of a smaller, niche group that knows about this food or place.”

Pizzaslime started as a music blog and eventually made a name for itself with celebrity-related products, like the “Drake Tears” mug that went viral in 2014. Now many of its best sellers revolve around food. In November, Pizzaslime collaborated with Jon and Vinny’s on a plate of fusilli T-shirt. Just this week, the creative agency made merch for an L.A. pop-up event with New York’s much-hyped slice joint Prince Street Pizza. One of its most popular items so far, though, was an unofficial sweatsuit promoting L.A.’s favorite fancy health food store, Erewhon.

In April, Kanye West tweeted the photo of someone wearing sweats (purportedly a Yeezy prototype) with the caption, “Grocery story drip Erewhon drip laundry day drip airport drip.” The timing was sweet: Pizzaslime had just dropped their own swag the month before: black and gray Champion sweatsuits with the store’s name written in big orange letters.

The sweats sold out almost instantly, with orders shipping all the way to Paris. “Do these people even know what Erewhon is?” wondered Nicholas Santiago, the agency’s other half, of his international customers. “Or is the hype that big?”

Perhaps no one understands hype better than Ronnie Fieg, founder of the popular streetwear brand Kith, who’s created limited-edition shirts and hoodies in collaboration with Major Food Group’s swanky Red Sauce restaurant Carbone and upscale Jewish deli Sadelle’s—two Manhattan spots he frequents. But he’s just as likely to tap into his own 1990s nostalgia, as he did with the California Milk Processor Board, when he put his spin on the Got Milk? milk mustaches campaign.

But in a climate where labels have to justify their brick-and-mortar existence in an increasingly digital world, he’s also figured out how to use food as a valuable, and often exclusive, IRL experience to get people in the door. Kith Treats, the brand’s in-house cereal/ice cream/milkshake bar, serves 20-something different flavors and toppings curated by everyone from LeBron James to, again, Virgil Abloh.

Sure, the sugary treats are all made up of ingredients you can get at the grocery store for half the price—a bowl of The Don, a mix of Cap’n Crunch and coconut flakes curated by streetwear designer Don C, runs you $6.50. And yet all the cool kids wearing Off-White on their backs are willing to shell out in order to spoon their snack out of a disposable Kith-branded bowl.

As Fieg well knows: “It’s all about what you’re willing to wait in line for, right?”

Emilia Petrarca is a fashion news writer at New York Magazine’s The Cut, and the proud owner of a Ferrara Bakery “Holy Cannoli” T-shirt.

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Get the Likeminded Objects Look Behind This One-of-a-Kind Hudson Restaurant | Healthyish

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This story is part of the Healthyish 22, the people changing the way we think about wellness. Meet them all here.

Does your mirror have a face on it? Or what about your seat cushions—do they resemble more a stylish slab of terrazzo than, well, a seat cushion? In Elise McMahon’s world, you’ll find all that and a neon sign that looks like a giant piece of bacon. Welcome to her brain, where furniture and housewares aren’t sleek and standoffish but a little wacky, warm, and certainly inviting.

Through her furniture and design company LikemindedObjects, McMahon has been the design force behind some of our favorite Healthyish restaurants, including the newly redesigned Lil’ Deb’s Oasis in Hudson, New York. Here she takes us through some of her favorite pieces at the restaurant, which you can purchase at likemindedobjects.com (hint, hint).

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Le chef d’un restaurant parisien remporte MasterChef au Brésil

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Rafael Gomes, co-propriétaire d’Itacoa (Paris IIe) avec le rugbyman Casey Laulala, est sorti vainqueur d’un télécrochet culinaire destiné aux chefs brésiliens.

Ses pão de queijo – petits pains au fromage façonnés avec de la farine de tapioca – font courir les aficionados, qui se pressent dans son micro restaurant chaleureux de la rue Saint-Denis (IIe). Le chef brésilien Rafael Gomes, qui a inauguré Itacoa au printemps dernier, vient de remporter le télécrochet culinaire MasterChef Professionnel Brésil 2018, l’équivalent de notre Top Chef. Le Carioca s’est imposé parmi 80.000 inscrits, 26 sélectionnés et 14 chefs en compétition. Au terme de deux mois d’épreuve, il a gagné avec un menu «sans frontières», lors d’une finale diffusée en direct le 11 décembre devant des millions de téléspectateurs sur la chaîne brésilienne Band. Il repart avec 200.000 reais (environ 47.000€) et une cuisine équipée par Tramontina.

Rafael Gomes avait quitté très jeune le Brésil pour travailler aux quatre coins du globe, avant de poser ses valises à Paris il y a presque quatre ans. Il n’avait eu depuis que peu d’occasions de se rendre dans son pays natal. «C’était un vrai challenge de retourner dans mon pays où je n’étais absolument pas connu pour me confronter à des chefs qui avaient déjà leur public» détaille le vainqueur.

Un hommage à son Brésil natal

Itacoa (Paris IIe).
Itacoa (Paris IIe). Edouard Nguyen

À 34 ans, le chef globe-trotter s’est principalement formé aux États-Unis (Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park) avant de bourlinguer en Alaska, en Asie et en Amérique Latine. Il a ensuite rejoint le chef argentin Mauro Colagreco, deux étoiles au Mirazur (Menton). Ce dernier, après l’avoir fait travailler dans sa brigade pendant quelques années, lui confie en 2015 les cuisines de Grand Cœur (Paris IVe). Restaurant où il restera jusqu’à ouvrir Itacoa avec son associé Casey Laulala, joueur de rugby néo-zélandais, ancien du Racing.

Itacoa est ouvert au brunch (jus de fruits pressé à froid, café de spécialité, granola), au déjeuner et au dîner (vins nature), avec des recettes saines, de saison, qui mêlent les influences (truite de Banka fumée, petit épeautre de Haute-Provence, radis japonais, curry de Madras, burrata des Pouilles, gingembre…) et les clins d’oeil auriverde (açaï bowl). On s’y installe, porté par une B.O. de surfeurs, sur des tables hautes dans un décor tout en long mêlant étagères végétalisées, cagettes remplies de fruits et légumes, et beaucoup de bois brut. Un petit morceau de Brésil au coeur de la capitale.

Itacoa. 185, rue Saint-Denis (IIe). Tél.: 09 50 48 35 78. Tlj sf dim. (dîn.), lun. et mar. Carte: 20-40 €.

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Fire damages popular Portuguese restaurant in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood – Montreal

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Ma Poule Mouillée, a popular Portuguese rotisserie on Rachel Street in Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, sustained significant damage after a fire Friday night.

Ian Ritchie, chief of operations with the Montreal Fire Department, said the one-alarm blaze started inside a kitchen hood.

READ MORE: NDG restaurant destroyed by fire, arson squad investigating

Ritchie said the fire spread to the chimney and then the roof, forcing firefighters to open up the walls on the second floor in order to tackle the blaze.

There were people eating inside the restaurant at the time, but the building was safely evacuated.

WATCH: What’s the plan for burned down Ristorante Linguini?






A family living on the second floor of the two-storey building has been relocated.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Le Clarence élu meilleur «grand restaurant» de Paris

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Le site d’information spécialisé Atabula remet au goût du jour le classement du guide Kléber créé en 1965. La table de Christophe Pelé devance Epicure au Bristol et le Grand Restaurant de Jean-François Piège.

Encore un classement. Mais cette fois, il s’agit d’une réédition. Le site d’information spécialisé dans la gastronomie Atabula a décidé de relancer le «Classement des quatorze Grands de Paris», créé par le guide Kléber en 1965. À l’époque, sept critiques gastronomiques classaient «selon leur coeur» les meilleures tables du guide, alors principal concurrent du Michelin.

Reprenant la formule en 2018, Atabula a rassemblé un jury de critiques issus de plusieurs médias: Marie Aline (M Le Monde), Emmanuel Rubin (Le Figaro), Thibault Danancher (Le Point), Gilles Pudlowski (blog Les Pieds dans le plat, auteur des guides Pudlo Paris et ex-critique gastronomique du Point), Rémi Dechambre (Le Parisien), Philippe Toinard (rédacteur en chef de 180°C et journaliste pour BFM Paris) et Franck Pinay-Rabaroust (Atabula).

Sept jurés auxquels le site gastronomique a soumis une liste de trente restaurants à classer, issus des deux principaux guides hexagonaux: Michelin et Gault & Millau (des tables auréolées de 2 ou 3 étoiles Michelin ou de 4 ou 5 toques Gault & Millau). Chacun a accordé 10 point à son premier choix puis 9 au second et ainsi de suite. Les tables ex aequo ont été départagées par le nombre de récurrences dans le panel.

Le Clarence de Christophe Pelé remporte les suffrages avec 38 points. Arrivent ensuite Éric Fréchon à l’Épicure du Bristol avec 33 points et Le Grand Restaurant de Jean-François Piège avec 31 points. Guy Savoy, fraîchement réélu par La Liste meilleur restaurant du monde, n’arrive que 7e avec 24 points.

Installé dans l’hôtel particulier Dillon (VIIIe) depuis 2016, Christophe Pelé reçoit dans un cadre à l’ancienne (escalier en marbre, salons en cascade). Travaillant les produits du marché selon son inspiration; il allie hardiment les saveurs terre et mer.

Le «Classement des Grands de Paris»

1. Le Clarence (VIIIe): 38 points.

2. Épicure à l’hôtel Bristol (VIIIe): 33 points.

3. Le Grand Restaurant de Jean-François Piège (VIIIe): 31 points.

4. L’Arpège (VIIIe): 31 points.

5. Pierre Gagnaire: 29 points.

6. Alléno Paris (VIIIe): 28 points.

7. Guy Savoy (VIe): 24 points.

8. L’Astrance (XVIe): 21 points

9. Le Cinq à l’hôtel George V (VIIIe): 19 points.

10. La Tour d’Argent (Ve): 19 points.

11. David Toutain (VIIe): 18 points.

12. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée (VIIIe): 17 points.

13. Taillevent (VIIIe): 15 points.

14. L’Ambroisie (IVe): 12 points.

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Le rideau s’ouvre sur le restaurant du théâtre Marigny

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LA CRITIQUE D’EMMANUEL RUBIN – Après cinq ans de travaux de rénovation, Marigny rouvre ses porte avec une brasserie de 120 couverts.

Ce Paris des gilets d’or se chercherait une table sur Mars, la Lune, Jupiter que les Costes s’empresseraient encore à l’accueillir. Pour l’heure, en son Carré Champs-Élysées, Marigny s’offre une renaissance. C’est au revers du théâtre que l’on retrouve la brasserie en son gratin. Une rare véranda lui concède un balcon au jardin étoffant une salle qui, elle, rapplique à faire décor et réplique ses habituels velours et banquettes aux fausses pierres d’un artefact de petit palais. Sans trouver à s’en plaindre, la suite de l’intrigue coule dans ses conventions avec, dans l’ordre d’apparition, la serveuse balancée en moderne môme Crevette, le beau linge dans sa comédie et cette carte de comestibles troupés, distrayante et transformiste à passer, sous le vernis, du bourgeois au popu, de l’exotique au très snob sans autre repartie que l’aussi vite avalé, aussi vite oublié. Addition nettement plus mémorable.

» LIRE AUSSI – Les nouvelles tables du Triangle d’or

Avec qui? Marie-Agnès «Peau d’âne» Gillot (croisée).

Une, deux, trois assiettes… Œufs mimosa: plaisant alibi. Cuisses de grenouilles en persillade: sans grand ressort mais donnant le change. Oublions les fraises et framboises (18 €) en décembre et donc tarte fine (buvarde) aux pommes (sapides).

Service? Starlette un poil speedée.

L’addition? Pas loin de virer «darmaniene», entre 75 et 95 €.

Quelle table? La banquette de l’alcôve Harcourt sous  les regards très présents d’Arletty, Blier, Fernandel, l’Indonésie, Niney…

Restaurant du Théâtre Marigny. 10 bis, av. des Champs-Élysées (VIIIe). Tél.:  01 86 64 06 40. Tlj. Métro:Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau.

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Discovering the Diversity of Atlanta’s Restaurant

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At 8:30 in the morning on January 3, 2018, I was standing in a high school classroom—a room I once took Spanish in—staring at four freshman, four sophomores, four juniors, and four seniors. It was my first day of a monthlong trip to Atlanta, the longest stint I’d spent back home since the summer of 2006. Launching into a monologue about what this creative writing class was all about, I was thrilled by the sheer amount of knowledge I had to give to these 16 lucky children. This rules…for them, I thought. Twelve minutes later I was through all my material. It was 8:42. The class ended at 10:15. By 10:30 I was back in my car, questioning many of my decisions: asking to teach a year earlier, re-asking via email on a day I especially hated New York, getting my bluff called, saying yes, and then actually showing up. By no stretch of the imagination had that morning gone well. And then there was that whole “Atlanta expert” farce I sensed was starting to unravel as I talked to the students—the reality that with every passing year living in Brooklyn, I was becoming less comfortable talking about the city that raised me.

I’d returned to the car to briefly hide, but then I realized I was actually done for the day. I could leave, without getting in trouble. And, to be honest, I was exhausted. So, on day one of the new job, I was going to go take a nap at 11:15 a.m. A role model, yes. Yes, I was.

atlanta 01

Photo by Emma Fishman

Driving on I-285 through downtown Atlanta

My mother’s house, the site of my January bed, is in south Atlanta. It’s in a part of the metropolitan area, Jonesboro, that I’ve spent over a decade going out of my way to learn nothing about. Because it’s not my Atlanta. My first home, in the majority black southwest Atlanta, was always the constant: the place that never stopped raising me, feeding me, teaching me.

Heading home there was a car accident on the highway, creating a traffic jam. Realizing I’d never taken side streets from my current location and in no hurry whatsoever, I put my phone’s maps on the “avoid highways” setting. It felt silly to use GPS in my hometown, but now that I was taking the street, I needed it.

Driving down Jonesboro Road, only a few miles from my mother’s house, I passed restaurants with signs in a variety of languages. It wasn’t just a handful of places between two stoplights; this was a legitimate corridor.

Witnessing this, I was reminded of the reality of the highway. Such is the case with most of life’s efficiencies, the trade-off for speed was ignorance. And on this drive I realized the need to get from point A to B as quickly and mindlessly as possible was partially responsible for my increasingly disingenuous relationship with my hometown. Taking only the highway keeps you in the dark, by passing over neighborhoods, homes, people, and other cultures. You miss things: the stuff you didn’t know, or the stuff you simply don’t want to see.

Almost home, I drove under a sign for Nam Dae Mun Farmers Market that I’d seen off the highway for years. I knew it to be a farmers’ market of sorts, but because it was one exit before my mother’s house—an exit already equipped with a grocery store—it was nothing more than a place out of the way.

atlanta nam dae mun farmers marke

Photo by Emma Fishman

Sampling at Nam Dae Mun Farmers Market

I pulled over and walked in, and five minutes later I was Mary Tyler Moore, smiling and throwing my hat in the air. Because I was surrounded by everything and everyone. The market has South Korean ties, but this was not simply a massive Korean grocery store. This was as international as I’d seen (or heard) a single establishment in some time, Atlanta or otherwise. There was a Nigerian couple arguing over whether they should get the $1.49 white yam or the $2.49 Ghana yam. And actually knowing the difference. There was a man staring at a box of rambutan, a Koosh-ball-looking thing I did not know existed. And there was aisle 10, which advertised itself as the home of “Jamaican Seasoning, Colombian Seasoning, Indian Seasoning, Jamaican Food, Colombian Food, Canned Fish, Indian Food.”

I was in paradise, and I wasn’t even hungry. Catching myself in all this excitement, I paused to realize that something about me had just changed.

The longer I’ve lived in New York City, the more I—like many others—have prided myself on finding gems within the boroughs. You know, Uzbek food in Rego Park, Senegalese food in Harlem, Russian food in Brighton Beach. Why was I so curious and adventurous up North but once back at home the polar opposite?

After Shazaming two K-pop music videos that were playing in the market’s restaurant, Eat More Korean, I walked out, pondering that question. It didn’t take long to get to the answer, and I couldn’t tell if it was a source of embarrassment or pride. Or a little of both.

My Atlanta, which aligns with much of the history of Atlanta, is black and white. I grew up in southwest Atlanta, a historically black part of town, and eventually went to school from fifth through 12th grades at the Paideia School near Emory University in a more white part of town. It’s also the South, so there’s, you know, hundreds of years of fraught history between black people and white people. The two groups were all I saw and all I knew, so that became all that was. And while that could create tension, it did not feel complicated. There was nothing more than us and them.

Atlanta has long been thought of as a black city, so much so that it’s been dubbed Black Mecca on numerous occasions. And I’m one of many people who never want Atlanta to stop being (or thought of) as a black city. I love our black mayors, I love our black people, I love our black style and sound.

Ever since the Olympics came to town in 1996, the city has marketed itself as an international city. And not just because of the airport but because of the “melting pot” that Atlanta was becoming. I knew that, and the data supported it, with the Asian and Latino populations growing at a rapid pace between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.

Yet I still thought of Atlanta as a two-horse town: black and white. Because when you only acknowledge a place as this or that, both sides get a sizable slice of the pie. But when you add other groups to the mix, just by way of basic math, your share—and your perceived importance—decreases. For the first time I was conflicted about what I wanted from my once and hopefully future home, the place that emboldened my grandparents, raised my mother’s entire generation, and gave me a proud black foundation to stand on.

So on this day, I finally stopped pretending no one else lived in Atlanta. And with that, I had places to see. Streets to take instead of highways. And the best way I knew how to learn more: Eat.

My first stop was the Burmese restaurant Royal Myanmar Cuisine, which closed a few months after my visit. I let out a laugh as I pulled up: This place was so Atlanta, not least because it’s in the same strip mall as the famed strip club Strokers. There was something oddly calming about eating mote hin gar—the national dish of Myanmar, a delicious fish soup that intimidated me at first with its reddish-orange hue—as people were beginning to daytime file into Strokers for any number of reasons (most likely the many televisions).

A few days later, right after finishing my first week of classes (which felt like a month), my friend John recommended Mamak, a Malaysian restaurant, and Woo Nam Jeong Stone Bowl House, a Korean restaurant, both located on Buford Highway, the well-known international corridor. Growing up, what I knew about Buford Highway was that it was where everyone else lived. I understood that to mean Asian and Latino, nothing more. Because it didn’t fit my convenient binary, I treated it like it wasn’t Atlanta.

atlanta mamack

Photo by Emma Fishman

Curried chicken in puff pastry at Mamak

When I walked into Mamak, there were only two people dining, an Asian man and woman. I didn’t know what to order, so I eavesdropped, perhaps overly assuming that they did. I was partially correct: The woman’s parents were from Malaysia, and she was explaining the dishes to the man, who was Japanese-American and knew nothing of the cuisine. Listening to that unfold, it reminded me of how long I’d exercised a catchall to diversity among people of Asian descent and Latin descent in Atlanta. Did I do it in New York? Again, no. But at home, still, yes.

I sat in the back of the restaurant, closest to the kitchen, which proved to be an accidental stroke of genius. Every time an order was ready, the server would walk right by me, and more often than not, a whiff of curry found a way to hover, a welcome surprise each time.

By the time I made it to Stone Bowl, I was already full by way of half an order of laksa, a delicious coconut-milk curry. But the energy in the restaurant gave me another wind, with groups chatting enthusiastically over banchan, a change from the quieter Mamak. I ordered the bibimbap, rice crisping on the edges of the hot bowl, and finished the entire thing.

During my third week of teaching, I’d finally become a teacher. And as it is with small schools, everyone has six jobs, so my days of leaving right after class were no more. On one of those long days, I hung around until after basketball practice to talk to two students, as well as to do my biannual check to see if they’ve hung my jersey in the rafters. Then I drove to a restaurant I’d seen written up, Miller Union, to take a friend out as a thank-you for speaking to my class. All I knew about this restaurant was that the chef, Steven Satterfield, had recently won a James Beard Award. I felt like I was eating at the best Southern restaurant in Manhattan, which I mean as a compliment.

atlanta miller union

Photo by Emma Fishman

Mussels and chorizo in squash seed broth at Miller Union

Toward the end of that week, my same friend John demanded that I go with him to We Suki Suki in east Atlanta, which is part of a food hall called the Global Grub Collective (also home to a place that makes sushi burritos—a thing that I now know exists).

Hours after utterly destroying a banh mi at We Suki Suki, I turned my “avoid highways” mode back on. I pulled up a map of the city’s best restaurants on my phone to see if I was going to pass by one en route. Looking at the map, I realized something I’d overlooked in my newfound glee: There wasn’t a single place below Interstate 20—meaning on the south side of town. Yes, expert recommendations had expanded my horizons about pockets of the city that I’d never explored, but the part of Atlanta I knew the best was widely ignored. Instead of dipping back into my old arsenal of soul food and more soul food, I just started driving. It’s a freeing feeling to take right turns simply because you want to know what’s to the right.

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Photo by Emma Fishman

We Suki Suki’s vegan pho with tofu and mushrooms

After half an hour I ended up at Jamrock South.

When I left Atlanta at 18, I thought I knew all the different types of black people. And then I went to college and was surrounded by black folk who were not the black people I grew up around, who were descendants of American slavery. I met first-and second-generation people from Ethiopia and Haiti and Jamaica and Nigeria, which exposed me to the different ways we were all raised, as well as the similarities of our life experiences that come from being black. One of those differences was the food that was put on a pedestal.

I didn’t know anything about beef patties until I made it to New York. Goat? Not really high on the food chain. At Jamrock I had both. Did the restaurant stop me in my tracks with flavors I’d never experienced? No. But I was happy to see a diversity of tastes on the southside just as there was on the northside, coupled with the added flair of Instagram flyers advertising parties like “#BDE: A Monthly Soiree.” West Indian cuisine and culture weren’t something I could enjoy only when I left Atlanta. It was at Jamrock. And the more I looked, it was all around me.

atlanta jamrock shake

Photo by Emma Fishman

Billy Ellis at Jamrock South

Nine months after my teaching gig, I was back in Atlanta for a music festival. I missed my students, some of whom were in college now, some of whom I owed an email to, all of whom I thought about often. I also missed having a car and driving around exploring.

Over the past year I’d grown to love Peruvian food, thanks to my girlfriend, whose family is Peruvian. Until this day, driving around town, I’d never considered Peruvian food in Atlanta. On Yelp, I typed in “Peruvian,” and there was a restaurant, Las Brasas, less than a mile away in Decatur, where, as they say, it’s greater.

I was excited to eat but also to report back to my girlfriend. Sure, it was just one restaurant. But running through my heart was this: Yes, Atlanta is my city, the black capital of America, but it could also be her city too. And wouldn’t you know it, one day our children could see themselves represented throughout this city.

I didn’t say all that in the text. I just sent a photo of a bowl of arroz chaufa, a fried rice dish, with the text “It’s lit.” I boxed most of it up and took it home. That evening I made a plate of the chaufa for my mom, who had had Peruvian food once with my girlfriend’s family. I was running out the door as she took her first bite.

“Ooh, yes.”

I always felt like I was waiting on my city to catch up to me. But in reality, I just needed to catch up to Atlanta. All of Atlanta.

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