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Oh yes, do go to Abri

Barely a couple of weeks following its opening, Nico’s brother suggested that we met for lunch at “a sandwicherie near Poissonnière”. It was all rather mysterious and upon arrival, I was confused by the name City Café Sandwich but something clicked – I have just glanced through a café-bistrot recommendation a few days earlier and this was the place! Gourmet sandwicherie on Mondays and Saturdays, and restaurant serving fixed-menus from Tuesday to Friday, there is already quite a buzz surrounding this venture by Japanese chef Katsuaki “Katsy” Okiyama, formerly of Robuchon and l’Agapé.

Despite arriving at noon (it opens on Saturday at 12.30pm, although many articles I’ve seen stated Saturday opening hour at 10am or noon), a queue has started gathering outside Abri and when it came to our turn to be seated, there simply wasn’t a table available for 5 pax. There were only a couple of potential tables for 5-6, except they have been split to accommodate groups of 3-4. The rest which remained were tables for two.

I stood outside, hungry (you would too if you could smell what was cooking!), and disappointed to see other people walking in and getting tables while we were turned away. Unless we wanted a sandwich take-out. We declined and went elsewhere, but it stayed in my mind that we need to be back here some day. Given Beejay and Jane were visiting, Frédéric and I decided we would take them out for a treat and try to book in for the fixed-menu meal. Calling 10 days in advance, we scored a reservation for Friday lunch (no luck for Thursday nor Friday dinners – and there’s no reservation on sandwich days).

Lunchtime menu is set at €22 and consists of 4 courses: 2 starters, 1 meat or fish, and 1 dessert. Our first starter was a plate of fresh marinated mackerel square, sitting atop shredded cucumbers, capped with semi-transparent kombu over cucumber matchstick and red daikon (my guess, could be wrong), and garnished with baby mints. Each bite was succulent, just at the right acidity, but never overpowering the taste of the mackerel. Cucumber gives the dish a touch of crunch. We were indeed off on a good start.

The table was swiftly cleared and a spoon appeared on each of our setting. For our second starter, we were served velouté of pumpkin with grilled pumpkin seed and foam of roasted coffee in a small charcoal-coloured bowl. The marriage between pumpkin and coffee was surprising (to us) and totally won us over too. Then came a fresh minty aftertaste. Unable to figure out what it was – Frédéric took a stab at bergamote – we consulted the staff and found out it was Mexican terragon. See those little yellow petals in the bowl? That’s the Mexican terragon, decorative and fragrant! We all learned something new that afternoon.

Next up were the main dishes, with a choice of meat or fish. Three among us have opted for fish, and were served with pollack (lieu jaune which initially had me very confused as my limited French translated to “yellow place”… definitely-cannot-be-right-here-and-I-need-Google-translate!) which has been pan-seared and served with Chinese greens (bok-choy and kai-lan) and florets of cauliflower. The fish was delicately cooked but since I was stealing a bite from Frédéric’s plate, I never quite figured out the sauce/foam it came in.

In the name of le fooding, of course I went for the meat option. We cannot leave something untested here, can we? It came with the sides of baby new potato, artichoke and kai-lan. Oh my, on the first bite into my slice of meat, I thought I’ve been served crispy roast pork instead of chicken. That was just how crispy and well roasted the skin was. Beejay and I nicknamed it “siu yok gai”! Delicious, delicious, delicious. I have no other way to describe it except delicious. Writing this, I wish I have some right now…

Our meal was completed with a sweet course and on the plate, we found tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream and sticky caramel sauce. It was decadent, and one of the best tarte tatin I’ve had yet. All of us were even furiously scraping every bit of caramel possible from the plate, prompting me to comment “shall we just use our fingers and then lick it?”. I then spied our neighbouring table served with chocolate fondant and immediately thought, why were we not getting some of that too!?? I guess they think it was rude not to give everyone at the table the same thing but honestly, we would VERY happily share two tarte tatins and two chocolate fondants between us.

Personally, location-wise, Abri is a little far for me to get to but I’d quite happily make the trek across town to eat here, time permitting. The service was quick, discreet and efficient, although it was not always easy for me to understand the description of the dish (French language + Japanese accent + Malaysian ear = confusing combination). The food was impeccably dished and tasty to boot. While the price is not prohibitively expensive, the portions were on the meager side. Someone who shall not be named needed snack that evening while waiting for dinner. (Note: not me!) Perhaps that won’t be the case with the supposedly generously-stacked sandwiches or the 2-additional-course dinner?

Anyone wants to go with me on a sandwich day and/or 6-course dinner sometime?

92 rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière, 75010 Paris
Métro: Poissonnière
Tel: +33 1 83 97 00 00
Monday and Saturday: Gourmet sandwich + drink at €13
Tuesday to Friday: 4-course lunch at €22, 6-course dinner at €38.50

Category: Food & Drink, Paris

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8 scribbles & notes

  1. Chloé says:

    how would it rank compared to les papilles? (to have a better idea :P)

    • Lil says:

      we’re talking apples and oranges here, hard to compare. les papilles is more home-comfort food style in my opinion and copious in quantity for sure in comparison (double the amount of food!), whereas abri has “cleaner” taste palate (ie dishes are not creamy, there are often citrusy/minty fresh feel) with clever use of asian and french ingredients.

      probably apt to say les papilles makes great winter dining whereas abri for now is more summery.

  2. medca says:

    okie…i am coming….booohoo…sigh…one day lil….one day hehehe
    and it does look very delicious ne!!!

  3. medca says:

    that can be arrange…we shall see ;) got my postcard lil?

    • Lil says:

      yay just got it yesterday, thanks! and good thing we have concierge in the building since you addressed the card by just first names and no surname. there are tons of people living in the same building!

  4. sila says:

    jommmm!!! one day, yes? :)

    • Lil says:

      yes! and hopefully toastivore by then would be open to tasting something else, because even bread in paris would not be quite the same…

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