Le Cristal De Sel: Great Food Alone Is Not Enough

Restaurant le Cristal De Sel

13 rue de mademoiselle Paris 75015

Each restaurant experience seemed to have a lesson for us this trip, a glimpse into the delicate formula that creates a great meal.  Many restaurants deliver great food but ignore enough other key elements such that the overall experience, the meal itself loses of the great taste in each of the plates when you look back at it.

Cristal De Sel, located just past the end of Rue de Commerce, is another example of the fine bistros that have opened in the 15e as many young chefs who worked at 2 and 3 star restaurants go out on their own to achieve their visions. Cristal De Sel has a very talented chef in Karil Lopez who trained at Hotel de Bristol.  Some the finest cooking that we enjoyed over this two-week trip.  Several of his dishes were over the top delicious, wonderful, light delicately nuanced and flavor forward with a commitment to what is the marketplace and fresh.

My meal began with what was described as a cream of pumpkin soup.  That did not do it justice.  By filtering out the fibrous elements of the pumpkin it became almost a rich vegetable bullion (it retained all of the flavor) laced with crisply sautéed chanterelles.  If that wasn’t enough a healthy spoonful of herbed marscapone anchored the dish with a few toasted almonds on top.  All three of us who ordered it gave it a wow.

Pot-Au-Feu is a dish I have stayed away from for fear of heavy overcooked meats, brown ill-defined sauces and limp vegetables. The pot-au-feu is considered to be their signature dish so we ordered 3. Again the fine hand of the chef shined.  Presented in a round cast iron dish, his rendition had an almost Asian feel with thinly sliced pieces of braised beef (brisket?) in a light beef stock with plenty of herbs and winter vegetables (leeks, carrots, turnips, parsnips, etc.).   All that was missing was udon.

Other dishes at the table were all enjoyed including lobster ravioli and crispy prawns with coriander and tandoori spicing.  Everyone was happy.

We shared two desserts, a financier (almond cake) with a raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream.

We enjoyed our wine selections, a Bourgogne Aligote for the white (our go to in restaurants) and a Morgon for the red, both priced at or about 30 euro.
Total for 5 people 217 euro.  Not bad at all.

So what could possibly go wrong with this picture?

Our waiter although well-intentioned mumbled the dish descriptions and did not know many of them.  He was not prepared well at all.  Then when we asked for a menu we were told there was none and to look at the blackboard.  I for one have lousy eyes so this was meaningless to me.  It was a real struggle to order and as 3/5 of our table was French, language was not the issue.

I forgot to mention the amuse.  A puree of pea shoots accompanied by what seemed to be tortilla chips.  The chips seemed out of place but not bad.  Here was the stunner.  As we picked up our coast there sitting out on the bar in plain sight was an open bag of commercial tortilla chips. We were really surprised at that level of sloppiness in the front of the house.  I know that this stuff happens but it mars the evening and takes away all of the magic created in the food to see those chips.

My solution for enjoying this restaurant is to go back for lunch.  They have an 18-euro prix fixe and I will bet the food will be great.  Dinner for me is more than just good food. As this trip really showed, service is too big a part of the picture to be ignored and at lunch it does not matter as much.

An easy 10 minute walk past La Motte Piquet Grenelle down rue de commerce to the end.  Turn left and look for Rue De Mademoiselle.

Have you enjoyed other up and coming restaurants in Paris?  Let me know.

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