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Paris report: Vivant, L'Office

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Someday I’ll report on a Paris restaurant that’s never gotten a mention on Chowhound (Buffalo Grill, anyone?). But for today, I’m still firmly on the me-too bandwagon.

Lunch at Vivant
Was really looking forward to this meal. Maybe a bit too much…loved the feel of the room (who doesn’t?) and settled in to perusing the carte. I was with a pescatarian, so the starters of foie, escargots and…octopus and chorizo, maybe?...weren’t of much interest to her. Maybe I’d had too much foie over the weekend, but they weren’t to me either. So on to the mains. She opted for the daurade with mushroom “ravioles” and I for the roast duck breast with beetroot and turnips. Amuse-bouche of a really nice “velouté de céréales” (Millet? Barley? Spelt?), mozzarella di bufala and capers. Colleague was very happy with dorade, but as I’d met her for the first time a scant 15 minutes before lunch I felt uncomfortable asking her for a taste to verify. :o) The duck was…probably the best four bites of duck I have ever had. I wish there’d been more. Vastly disappointed in beetroot and turnips, which were slightly undercooked and unpleasantly bitter. Desserts: miniscule miroir de chocolat for colleague. She was happy. Miniscule tarte de pignons de pin for me. I was happy. Pastry crust was truly excellent. With no water, one glass of quite nice Syrah from the Ardèche and one coffee: 75 euros. I’ve never, ever complained about portion sizes at any restaurant…but I did feel a tiny bit cheated with this one. Glad I went, but would have a hard time paying that price again.

Dinner at L’Office
Booked at ungodly hour of 7.30 in light of my train back to Brussels. In retrospect, a good thing, as I was starving after Vivant. Cordial welcome by owner Charles Campagnon; I sat at the bar and chatted with him through most of the meal. Definitely a neighbourhood feel to it; one party stepped outside mid-meal for a cigarette break and Campagnon strolled over to the door and handed their bottle of wine out to them. :o) Starter: cauliflower velouté (cream: cauliflower ratio of 1:1, I believe) with seared scallop and pancetta crisp. Certainly not breaking into new flavour-combination territory, but everything well executed and absolutely succulent. Paired beautifully with a slightly oxidised 2009 Rijckaert “vieilles vignes” vin de Jura. Main: quasi de veau (no idea what the English term for this cut is) with raw/cooked beetroot, a citrus jus and little bâtonnets-beignets of sushi rice and Emmenthal. A nice plate of food (with about 3x the protein of lunch); veal well cooked, beets showing the deep sweetness that those at lunch lacked. Sole misstep – those weird bâtonnets, which needed to be a lot crispier. Drank a VDP Languedoc whose name is escaping me but which as a Cinsault was lighter and livelier than your average Languedoc. Ended with a nicely curated cheese plate – marc de Bourgogne, 18-month-aged Comté and bleu des Causses – and another glass of that fantastic Jura, which was magnificent with the Comté and better than it had any right to be with the others. With great bread, no water and a comped Calva: 54 euros. Loved it.

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  1. thanks for the report. acc. to P.Well's French : English food glossary, a 'quasi de veau' is a standing rump. 'rump steak' seems to appear on many French menus, almost never on americain ones.

    1. on the French language 'yelp' site, someone who had lunch there last month said they wished for a little more on the plate and a little less on the bill. was the no-reservation wine bar adjacent, run by Vivant's owner, in full operation ?

      does l'Office like Vivant feature non-sulphured "living" (vivant) wines ? some of them are oxidised as a result, like the one you had and enjoyed. cheers.

      11 Replies
      1. re: moto

        Re oxidation at Vivant: I think that all of the (8-10?) different wines by the glass we had & that I tasted at our table last week showed some oxidation. Most of them, in a good, or at least interesting and enjoyable way. But a couple were right up to the edge. This led to a discussion of the difference between "oxidized" and, what's that other term, meaning in essence something like "acceptable/anticipated touch of oxidation"? Anyway, we had a 21:15 reservation for four; it was a great time and we will long remember the lovely walk back to the apartment in the sweet wet early morning air. -- Jake

        1. re: Jake Dear

          An interesting essay on oxidation: http://www.imbibemagazine.com/Oxidize...

          We recently enjoyed a complex white Jasnieres showing some oxidation at Saturne, a Jean-Pierre Robinot L'Ange Vin from Le Loir. This type of wine does require some "approaching". Definitely a food wine rather than a sipping wine.

          1. re: mangeur

            Yes, Robinot is a champion of nicely controlled oxidation. I adore his work. He makes perfect food wines with a wonderful balance of oxidation, efferverscence, sugar and acidity. I tried them at Racines for the first time, when Jancou was managing it.

            1. re: Jake Dear

              The term is "oxydatif", "oxidative", and means "oxydation ménagée" (controlled oxidation). I really love these wines. They're probably my favorite.

              Maderised is exactly synonymous but is used by people who do not like oxidation.
              However, in the past, bottles of "madérisé" white wine were kept in every kitchen as cooking condiments. One extremely interesting use of oxidative wines is in cooking. I would be interested to know if they contain aroma precursors, like Sauternes, which would explain their fantastic taste-enhancing qualities.

              Shaoxing rice wine, which is an extreme example of oxidation, is a wonderful cooking ingredient.

              1. re: Ptipois

                I've seem "maderised" used positively - in English often mostly fr fortified wines - but also in French for describing (very) old reds. .

                1. re: vielleanglaise

                  Right but the most frequent use of "madérisé" in French is for white wines (with the use I described above).

                  1. re: Ptipois

                    I see. I just thought it might be the adjective meaning an "acceptable/anticipated touch of oxidation"? referred to in the above post.

                    1. re: vielleanglaise

                      It has some neutrality, I guess. I've heard it used in a positive sense and in that case it is synonymous of oxidative, or in a negative sense by people who wouldn't admit that oxidation in wine could ever be a pleasant thing. These people, for one thing, would not understand the use of "oxidative".

                      When you like oxidative wines, it sort of grows on you and your palate becomes more tolerant of the taste. I started by liking light savagnins and now I love even extremely oxidised wines like Zhejiang rice wine, which some others might call rotgut.

            2. re: moto

              From looking at the carte de vins, I don't think non-sulphured wines represent a particular principle at L'Office.

              Interestingly, from what I've read of Rijckaert, his cotes du Jura wines have generally been made in a NON-oxidative style, so this bottling is perhaps an outlier. Nonetheless, it was absolutely delicious, with mushroom and fruits secs on the nose and that delicious Sherry-like spread across the tongue. Could easily have spent the entire evening sniffing and sipping this one.

              1. re: Kelly

                Mushroom, fruits secs and of course sherry-like tones are unmistakable marks of oxidation. Think vin jaune and savagnin, a variety that lends itself wonderfully to oxidation.

            3. l also felt the portions at Vivant were a mite 'precious'
              The wine tastings were of the Septime, Saturne, new wines with significant oxidation which l surprisingly like, including a Sicilian one that is already ordered and waiting for me in the States.
              As mangeur mentions, Robinot, to whom she introduced me is one of the best IMHO.
              The word we were told the planned oxidation wines are called is oxidative.
              To me maderised is over the top oxidation and considered gone.
              When Jura wines are produced using savignin grapes there is a almost natural slide to oxidation, not in planned wines as chateau-chalon or vin jaune, but even seen in a simple specific varietal bottling of it or as, for example, a macvin.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                Quite right about Jura wines. Some grape varietals oxidize better than others, and savagnin is one of them. Another one is petit-manseng, found in jurançon moelleux, which oxidizes naturally with age and develops powerful black truffle tones.

              2. I had lunch at Vivant last Friday. The owner kept flitting in to preen. The mains were memorable, the rest wasn't. I won't though forget though the waiter wearing grimy espadrilles pushing his mineral water on me. Jancou, his employees, and, I know this is a faux pas, clientele, need to get over themselves. At 75 euros per person, it was steep.

                4 Replies
                1. re: vielleanglaise

                  Not encouraging to hear, but thanks. Did the 75 € include any drinks other than the agua mineral ?

                  1. re: moto

                    Yes, I was being disingenious, 150 euros includes 4 glasses of wine. But I swear the beautiful people present (I ate there at the tail end of fashion week) got double the amount in their 15 euro a pop glasses than me and the ball n chain.
                    I've eaten at Astrance for less.

                    1. re: vielleanglaise

                      Whether you have a good or bad experience, I always like your takes.
                      Ball n chain, t'es un chic type.

                      1. re: Parigi

                        The ball n chain, trouble n strife, her indoors, the main squeeze, ma blonde, is the most wonderful, loving, dining or lunching companion you could come across.

                2. As a lover of both, I'm sorry if anything was off, it has not been for me, under the current or prior chefs, I've been delighted by it all and paid nothing like the numbers given.