Written by Siân Lathrop & Lucia Bell-Epstein
Photography by Lucia Bell-Epstein
Siân – Sunday, March 6th. 6pm.
We are flying over the Atlantic, on our way to Paris from New York City. It’s the first time we have been since the world shut down in 2020. Over the course of the next month, Lucia and I will interview Chefs, restaurateurs and creatives about their experience in the Paris food scene. What you are reading are excerpts from these travels – snapshots of a month in France.
Our plane food arrives and it is terrible. Lucia’s bread is better than mine so I steal her dinner roll. Off to a good start.
Siân – Monday, March 7th. 2 PM.
We meet up with Simonez Wolf – a stylist and restaurateur from Paris who moved to NYC for 18 years before making his way back to France during the pandemic. Lucien and Mia from STP connected us.
He is about to open a business in Paris, a Banh Mi shop called “Tâm Banh Mi”, named after his mother. The physical space isn’t open yet, so we can’t meet him there (although after hearing what he plans to serve I will most definitely be back as soon as it is open).
Instead, he suggests The Dreaming Man, a third wave coffee shop opened by Yuichiro Sugiyama and his partner Yui Matsuzaki. It’s the antithesis of the classic Parisian sidewalk espresso, the place serves acidic Danish roasted coffee, pour overs and Japanese style patisserie to go. I remark on this as we sit outside waiting for our drinks. Simonez laughs, “Parisians want to walk with their coffees now, not just sit sipping for hours.”
He is right. In recent years the French Bistro/Brasserie has had somewhat of a renaissance in New York. Old haunts have become incredibly trendy once again. Think Lucien on a Friday night, Buvette on a Sunday morning, and Balthazar almost always. In Paris, however, restaurant goers are moving away from the classic French Fare. There’s a NewYorkification of the coffee scene, and the tweezer-style plating found in the highest end restaurants has been interrupted by a new wave of casual, approachable food. Basque style small plates and natural wine reign here.
Simonez has his own opinions on the predominant sharing / tapas style menus. “It’s boring.” I am taken aback by his honesty. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool and I really love some of those places, but at some point it all turned into the same thing.” Simonez has been back in Paris for a little under two years, and craves the food he left behind in New York. He misses the multiculturalism of the scene, and the wide availability of fast casual food.
Simonez plans on serving the classics while also trying out new sandwiches – all while relying on locally sourced and seasonal produce. When we meet him, he’s in the midst of deciding on the perfect bread for the sandwich. “I’m looking for something soft, but not too soft.” It’s a delicate balance.