Passage 53

Just off Boulevard Montmartre, in Paris’ oldest covered passageway sits Passage 53, the recently turned 2-Michelin star restaurant which opened in April of 2009. The narrow walkway of quirky shops and classic bistro quickly leads you to a non-descript front door, something you wouldn’t recognize during your average stroll in Paris.

As you open the door, you’re faced with a small narrow restaurant holding 20 covers. We were seated in the middle of the restaurant giving us a full view of the restaurant interiors which can be described as a mix of old (low ceilings, wooden beams and floor tiles) and new (modern furnishings and leather seats) -which should not be considered as an introduction to the food.

I found the floor plan of the restaurant very odd. A cook kept on coming down the squeaky stairs to give the dishes to the waiters and as they were very old, every time you heard a noise on the stairs, you knew food was coming and the anticipation killed me when it did not come to the table – a bit like when your dog knows you’re coming to give it food as you scoop out dog food from the bag. 

Guillaume Guedj, manager, roams the dining room. He happens to be also part owner of the restaurant and is the son-in-law of renowned butcher Hugo Desnoyer (who supplies meat to an impressive roster of top-tier Parisian restaurants including Passage 53). There’s a choice of 2 menus: a 3-course menu déjeuner at €60 and the €110 menu dégustation. Sitting down at the table, the service was a bit slow and with 1 wine menu roaming the room, we decided no longer to drink wine and just have sparkling water. I overheard the waiter explain the menu about how it was up to the Chef’s creativity but we were not given this same service nor were we asked about our choices for the meal as the restaurant automatically thought we were going to follow the  menu dégustation
– something I still hold a grudge against. 

Headed by Chef Shinichi Sato (who himself previously held stints at Pierre Gagnaire and L’Astrance – both 3-Michelin star restaurants in Paris) as well as Mugaritz in San Sebastian. The restaurant previews modern French cuisine through the eyes of the Japanese chef. Expect forward-thinking and refined cuisine with French ingredients from popular producers (Desnoyer, Thiébault, Bordier…). 

Colorful presentation on the table (Chagall)

Beurre demi-sel et beurre de piment d’espelette de la Maison Bordier (St. Malo): Lightly salted butter and Piment d’Espelette (Pepper) butter, paired with a Laguiole knife

Déclinaison de Carotte: Carrot mousse and at the bottom a surprise of Cream of carrot. 

Foie gras, Gelée de mini concombre, batonnets de Pomme Verte et Fenouil Sauvage: Foie gras, jelly of cucumber and Wild fennel. Beautifully presented but I felt the cucumber jelly gave me a weird chill with the foie gras. Perhaps, it could have been paired with something more sweet to enhance the texture and flavor of the foie gras. 

Huitre de l’Ile de Héron, Espuma de Haddock fumé, Caviar Abroga, Compoté de Pommes. This was one of my favorites of the meal: Oyster, Espuma of smoked Haddock, Caviar and Mashed apple. A beautiful dish with a burst of flavors. 

Assiette blanche: calamar légèrement saisie, creme de choufleur et émincé de choufleur frais. A house specialty of Grilled Squid and Cauliflower and a play on ‘White on White’. Lightly touching flames, it remained tender and still had a bouncy texture which provided a great pairing to the shavings of crunchy cauliflower and its purée.

Filet de Turbot, Mini poireaux, fleur de courgette, réduction de jus de coquillages et algue sauvage: Turbot with baby leek and a reduction of clams and wild seaweed. It could have used a tad more salt and I felt that though the fish was tender and not dry, it was overpowered by the variety of leaves and herbs on the dish. 

Entremet: Foie gras de canard roti, fraises sauvages, petit jus acidulée de rhubarbe chaud. Roasted foie gras served with strawberry and a hot rhubarb soup providing a transition to the meat dishes. A great palate cleanser as it as buttery but also sweet. 

Pintade de Bresse, Girolles, Crème de Mascarpone et Raifort, Coulis de Citron Roti: Guinea fowl from Bresse, Girolles mushrooms, Cream of Horseradish and Mascarpone cheese and Coulis of Roasted lemon. The guinea fowl was perfectly cooked with a crispy skin though I felt that the Coulis of lemon was too sour for the dish. 

Entrecote fumé, mini artichaut poivrade légèrement frit, Pommes de terre roti, Réduction de beurre d’anchois et romarin: Smoked beef, fried artichokes, roasted potatoes and anchovy butter. The meat was perfectly seared, tender and juicy and went surprisingly well with the salted butter. 

Desserts: Made me feel like a child in a candy store as they all arrived at once. On a side note, I appreciated their group arrival because it did not make it seem like a 15-course lunch and the variety of desserts gave me the impression that there was a bit for everyone’s liking.  

Pamplemousse frais et sorbet: Fresh grapefruit which was not sour and grapefruit sorbet

Fraise, crème de citronelle et crumble, gelée de Vervenne. My favorite out of the desserts – Strawberry, lemongrass cream and crumble giving it a crunchy and gelatinous texture. 

Cerise, fromage blanc et lait d’amandes: Cherry, White cheese and Almond milk

Pêche melba revisité: Melba peach revisited

Tartelette de chocolat noir, pointe de marmelade à l’orange: chocolate tart that was deeply rich but not overpowering but a perfect ending to the meal. 

I was fairly surprised with the meal – from the finesse of Chef Sato’s creations to the atmosphere of the restaurant. Though I must admit that it was disconcerting when pedestrians stopped to look inside the restaurant and scrutinize what was being eaten as if we were animals in a zoo. Compared to other 1-star and 2-star Michelin restaurants, I had the ending to my meal in Passage 53, and it is not always evident as to what to serve to clients and how you want to serve it. 

If finesse is what you’re looking for then finesse you will find in Chef Sato’s cooking. 

Passage 53

Address: 53 passage des Panoramas, 75002
Metro: Grands Boulevards (Ligne 8 et 9)
Closed: Sunday, Monday
Telephone: 01 42 33 04 35

One Response to “Passage 53”
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  1. […] two times I went to Passage des Panoramas, only good things happened: L’Arbre a Canelle and Passage 53. My third visit in this landmark passageway still did not fail to please me. This time, I paid a […]

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