The Holy Grail of artisanal ingredients
Claim to fame: A produce obsessed, self-taught chef on a quest for a new simplicity
Reason to go: Exceptional ingredients, meticulously sourced and not served elsewhere
Look out for: House-made caviars
It’s not surprising that a man who has dedicated his life to the pleasures of food and drink would make a terrific restaurateur. Bruno Verjus was a writer, critic, blogger and winemaker before he donned a toque and opened Table, a very hands-on operation where he cooks, hosts and serves everything himself, albeit with the help of a small staff. When the weekend comes around he shuts shop and travels the neighboring countryside, searching for precious foods and forging yet stronger bonds with his beloved purveyors. Verjus’ philosophy is fairly direct but still complex; only the finest ingredients will pass through his kitchen. A common idea that many chefs aspire to, but one that Verjus takes to the next level, preferring animals plucked from the wild and vegetables that seem serenaded by chirping angels.
Verjus’ scallops are so fresh and alive they actually quiver, his oysters are rare and in limited supply; Pousse en Clair and Pied du cheval de Cancale are real connoisseur-bait. Farmed meat, such as beef and poultry, is sourced from carefully vetted artisans. A labor of love, to be sure, but cooking with style and flair involves more than just fine ingredients, Chef Verjus imposes his creative techniques in a mild and supportive manner, going to great lengths not to ruin the characteristics of the inestimable edibles. Experiments with various types of raw fish roe result in textural caviar-sensations that perfectly compliment cooked fish or vegetables. His famous seawater-cured egg yolk has a pleasant firmness and just the right amount of salinity to further enhance the flavor. When needed, Verjus is not shy about introducing spices such as extraordinary vanilla or chili paste, but he does so with a light hand. In a “reversed ceviche” he takes slices of raw sea bream and massages them with olive oil, thus creating a protective shield before gently applying a splash of citrusy acidity. Typically, an aggressive ceviche-marinade might ruin the fine fish flesh, not so in this case where it simply becomes a fragrant vehicle for its delicate aromas and textures. It takes a true vegetable whisperer to discover a new gnocchi-making technique that results in very light and airy potato pillows instead of the traditional, chewy kind. Verjus puts the focus firmly on the tuber’s intense flavors, it’s a unique type of gnocchi that will surely see copycats in the near future.
Having dinner at Table can be like going to the tailor; you can expect lengthy conversations about flavors and ingredients, and Verjus is happy to measure up whole grilled fish, roasted capon or chicken to your specifications. His regular fan base is grand and trusting, letting the competent “couturier de cuisine” stitch stylish meals out of quality ingredients and humble techniques.