In Italian and in Spanish, cena means dinner but don’t be misled, this new restaurant “Cèna” in the 8 th arrondissement has nothing Italian or Spanish about it. It is the pure produce of French cuisine with Pascal Barbot, the 49 year old chef of l’Astrance (closed for a few months), as head chef. An unpretentious bistrot for approximately 40 guests and a small kitchen visible from the street. The decor is sober with wood, no tablecloth and fine white Bernardaud plates. I went there with a friend from Scotland who is as great a glutton as I am, and we had a fabulous dinner.
As we arrived early, we were the first to walk into the place and the young staff welcomed us with such enthusiasm that we immediately felt happy. Dimitri, the head waiter, is a great chatter and he is accustomed to seeing new customers since Cèna changed chef last October and has been the object of a huge buzz since. We immediately ordered what he suggested, oysters with an interesting combination of grapefruit and chilli pepper juice. The oyster looses some of its Breton identity on the way but it is delicious. We then ordered a tiny tartare “boeuf au couteau” with pear which was extraordinary and I had the “Fricassée de champignons” which is in season. I was disappointed not to find any ceps which I love, but have to admit the girolles and other trumpets of death and hedgehog mushrooms were excellent.
We then followed with an out-of-this-world roasted pigeon with slightly caramelized scorsonère (black salsifi) and lieu jaune in coco milk sauce which my friend liked. Cheese and a passion fruit and orange vacherin completed this great and very efficiently served dinner. The sommelier was not pushy and helped us select a great Marsannay from Pataille which was deep and smooth and worked well with both fish and meat.
When the restaurant started getting full, the noise level went up but every customer seemed friendly and SO happy to be there. There is no snobbism about the place and the waiters and waitresses are all adorable and friendly. Our neighbors started asking what we had picked and everyone was leering into the other’s plate to see what they were missing. I wondered if we should have picked the Legine, this rare fish which you find in the Antarctic at 600 m below sea level or the côte de veau? I had not felt so happy after dining in a restaurant for a long time. And on our way out, we congratulated Pascal Barbot who was working in the kitchen and he seemed almost surprised.
The menu changes regularly and for lunch you have very affordable prices. Dinner was 100€ and lunch menus are 39€ and 48€. Cèna, 23 rue Treilhard, 01 40742080
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