Criminally good nouveau French
Claim to fame: Cuisine bourgeouise with a facelift
Reason to go: Rediscovering the classics
Look out for: The tête de veau bonus, served with the pot-au-feu
La Bourse et La Vie, a wordplay on the phrase “your money or your life” has nothing to do with daylight robbery. Au contraire! The restaurant’s reasonably priced menu will most certainly not leave you with an empty wallet. What’s more, its signature pot-au-feu is genuinely fortifying. The bistro takes its name from the nearby stock exchange, La Bourse, and belongs to American Chef Daniel Rose who landed in Paris, hijacked a woman’s heart and fell in love with French cuisine, in which order we don’t know, but he settled here and he begat a trend, fueling a revolution of sorts; cooking French-inspired fare, focusing on sourcing only the finest seasonal ingredients.
Rose’s first “stickup” was Spring, a 16-seat bistro where he spearheaded a less sauce-heavy movement of hyper-seasonality and produce-driven cuisine. Now he’s taking a stab at the grand tradition of cuisine bourgeoise. Instead of intricate creativity and experiments, as with his previous resto-incarnation, the short à la carte menu at La Bourse et La Vie is armed with some high caliber French classics in sleek new bullet casings. Perhaps aiming at a younger generation, maybe at an international audience, definitely taking Paris’ gourmets as hostages.
Contrary to what the Beatles sang, happiness is not a warm gun, happiness is Rose’s famous veal pot-au-feu. It comes in a copper pan, with an obligatory beef bone surrounded by pristinely cooked vegetables of artisan quality, a far cry from the un-artisan mush that usually accompanies this dish. The rifle-sized, marrow-packed piece of ossein pokes through a clear and refined bouillon that is unconventionally topped with a bundle of fresh herbs. This is a rare restaurant find as pot-au-feu is customarily a home cooked, rustic comfort-thing with Sunday dinner-flavors. Chef Rose analyzes all the parts then assembles them with flair and light-handed spirit. His version also begins with a crispy tête de veau (boiled cow’s head) cake, adorned with sauce gribiche; a bonus offering for you to soak up the broth with. It’s a perfect way to update this legendary dish.
That dear crudité staple leeks vinaigrette gets a similarly subtle remake. Normally, the vegetable is boiled to a pulp, not so in this case – skinnier leeks, cooked quicker, crowned with a smattering of the world’s finest hazelnuts from Piedmont. Bam!
Rose is the Masked Caper of carefully restored classic dishes, he makes them feel so obviously natural that you could easily be fooled into believing they’ve always been presented this way. Chocolate mousse is conventionally served as a naked scoop on a plate, it’s simply sprinkled with crunchy cacao nibs, a maneuver that displays the chef’s conservative creativity. He’s not going to risk things by adding frilly ingredients and sauces. Rose has mastered the art of surreptitiously adding small gestures that gently engineer the codes and DNA of time-honored French cuisine.
La Bourse et La Vie is a very small, sober and clean restaurant in shades of gun metal grey, with spherical Italian lamps and refurbished early modernist features. It’s an intimate, distinctly and confidently Parisian space for jazzy conversations and stolen gastronomic moments.