What is a restaurant? Should it provide us with something greater than the a good meal? Can the moments become transformative, engaging, entertaining and warm? When does it become an experience, transporting you out of a sweltering Paris afternoon for hours into a curated alternate reality? A feast for the senses……
Shabour means broken in Hebrew. Yet nothing about this restuarnt is. A Michelin star recipient located near rue Reamur in the second, it one of three Parisian establishments owned by the Machneyuda group of Jerusalem. And a very successful restaurant it is, for you must book this meal three weeks in advance to the day.
The atmosphere appears quiet at first but quickly reveals itself to run with the precision of a small military unit. Grouped around a small food prep area and kitchen, the ever shifting team of cooks finish plates with a deft hand, tweezers seem to be everywhere. Its a group effort, one cook sliding in and out of the moment, one serving, the chef sometimes pouring water and always watching over it all intently. There is no formality here yet all is choreographed.
The cooking here is squarely located the intersection of world culture as seen through the eyes of its Israeli chef and ownership. As of writing, they are serving a 6 course lunch (64euro) called La Voyagette, highlighting the recipes of our beloved grandmothers (all from the staff). Flavors abound from Israel, Iran, Cuba, Romania and of course, France. Mexico pops up in the use of Nopal. Basque country in a Pimente D’Espelete Harisa, which was magnificent over a sous vide rectangle of beef tongue. Lobster is served over a Italian Sepia risotto surrounded by a perfect bisque. A Persian burnt rice foam dances over an Israeli shashuka reduction.
The afternoon moves at an easy pace, with time to absorb each course but never slow. Conversation flows effortlessly but not too intimately with the team who are personable and engaging. As only one meal is served and you have no idea what each course is until it arrives; you try to guess as each is prepared in front of you. And while I could quibble with an individual taste or two as sometimes a flavor in a dish got lost, these are minor foibles.
I elected to enjoy a wine pairing as well (47 euro). Highlights were a 2013 Tour Gallus Muscadet, surprising aged melon de bourgonne, lush yet wonderfully acidic and the honey apricot refreshingly bitter 2009 Chateau Henye Tokai for dessert. 6 pours. The som was knowledgeable and very helpful.
As part of the grandmother theme, the meal was served in an array of vintage Limoges plates, turn of the century accessories and silverware. As you can see in these photos, it was perfect ’art de table’, a visual show that complimented the food intuitively. Even the water glass that looked like and might have been a Kiddish cup was out of the ordinary.
Dessert was mercifully light, a Turkish baked brioche with a melilot herbal ice cream and an all you can eat platter of impeccable tahini shortbread bites, apricots and cherries. It was there for you to enjoy with mint tea or Turkish coffee. It was generous. Abundant. Graceful.
As the meal closed we engaged in a conversation with our neighbors, one of whom as it turned out worked dinners there, yet came in for lunch that day because it was his wife’s birthday. Seriously, how often does that happen? And why, because he loved the team. And they loved him back. He had been working there three months.
This restaurant struck so many personal chords with me; the son of Holocaust survivors from Austria and Poland. A man who has lived in Israel and who has been lucky enough to return to Europe for a second life with my family. It was the culmination of so many journeys. Seeing the color of the wallls, a reason why they chose the space with its the powerful resemblance to Jerusalem stone, hearing the Hebrew comfortably sprinkled throughout the Saturday afternoon and feeling the pride of the ownership, I witnessed the return of modern Jewish culture to Paris. A long way from the falafels served to tourists en masse on the Rue de Rosiers, as good as they are.
It felt great.
We left with a small gift. Two loaves of house baked bread formed around a rosemary branch. L’Chaim we toasted. And Shabbat Shalom.
Shabour. 19 Rue Saint Saveur, 75002 Paris. Lunch and Dinner served every day except Sunday. https://www.restaurantshabour.com