01 of 06
Serving Fresh, Delicate French Dishes From Chef Jean-François Piège
In Paris, French gastronomic restaurants that offer both reasonable set-price menus and ambitious, beautifully presented dishes are surprisingly uncommon. But celebrated chef Jean-François Piège and his wife Elodie offer precisely that at their tiny, intimate French bistro, Clover.
Opened in 2014, the restaurant boasts a tiny dining area seating 10 or 12 people at full hilt, and a cheerfully bustling open kitchen. With a focus on fresh, inventive flavors and textures, local and seasonal ingredients and eye-opening, gorgeous platings, Clover is a newer address in the capital that's already firmly established in gastronomic circles.
And luckily for those of us with modest to mid-range budgets, it's now possible to sample Piège's inventive, acclaimed cuisine for far less than at his two other restaurants in the capital, the brasserie-style Thoumieux and the much more formal, double Michelin-starred Restaurant Jean-François Piège.
Read related: Best Budget French Restaurants in... Paris
I recently had the pleasure of lunching with a friend at Clover. Scroll down and click through for details and pictures of the menu, our meal, and for my overall impressions.
Practical Information, Location & How to Reserve:
- Address: 5 rue Perronet, 7th arrondissement
- Metro: Rue du Bac, Mabillon or St-Germain-des-Pres
- Tel: +33 (0)1 75 50 00 05 (phone reservations recommended for non-French speakers)
- Visit the official website to reserve online
- E-mail reservations and inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Payment: Cash and all major credit cards are accepted
- Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm for lunch (open until 2:30 on Saturdays), and from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm for dinner
- Menu: French gastronomic with an emphasis on seasonal and organic vegetables and meats; fixed-price menus for lunch; menus and a la carte at dinner
- Dress code: None enforced, but business casual is recommended (avoid jeans and t-shirts and sneakers)
Our Arrival: A Casual Affair
My friend and I arrived for lunch during a bustling Saturday service, and were seated at a small, middle table wedged between other diners. The restaurant, with its cheerful modern decor in wood, steel, and white tile, strikes a nice balance between contemporary, chic bistro and slightly countrified kitchen. A long line of tables against the wall leads toward the kitchen in the back.
The place is admittedly not for the claustrophobic or the crowd shy: you have to be comfortable having neighbors at elbow-length distance or less, and there's preciously little space to maneuver, or get up, for that matter.
Yet as soon as the fixed-price lunch menus arrived, we both forgot the tight conditions, and looked forward instead to the meal ahead. I opted for the 45-Euro, six-course full lunch menu, while my friend opted for the 35-Euro menu, offering only one fewer course (Please note: these prices were accurate at the time of publication, but may change at any time). This seemed very reasonable to me for fare of this caliber and level of artistry.
SEE NEXT: A Fresh Start: Mackerel With Herb EmulsionContinue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
A Fresh Start to the Meal: Mackerel with Herb Emulsion
Our friendly and well-informed servers, who both spoke impeccable English, soon brought out a first dish: a sashimi-like arrangement of fresh mackerel from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, accompanied by an emulsion of herbs, as well as jerusalem artichoke, a whitish root vegetable that was once a wartime staple and has become popular again in recent years.
Although mackerel has never been one of my preferred varieties of fish, here it was perfectly marinated and fresh, and the herbal emulsion added some necessary dimension and kick to the dish. We accompanied it with a glass of white wine from Bergerac.
SEE NEXT PAGE: Asparagus Soup with Tarragon and Chopped HazelnutsContinue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
Asparagus Soup with Tarragon and Chopped Hazelnuts
Our palates awakened but far from sated, we hungrily awaited the next dish: a delicate yet intensely flavorful asparagus velouté with mounds of tarragon emulsion, chopped hazelnuts and crunchy breadcrumbs.
The pleasure was as much in the presentation as it was in the flavors: the server carefully poured the warm velouté over the emulsion and the hazelnuts. The crusty baguette left in a basket on the table proved the perfect accompaniment.
This was a delicious dish, and one of my favorites of the meal. Of course, as an almost full-time vegetarian, it perhaps shouldn't come as a surprise that a dish focused on fresh seasonal vegetables won me over.
Read related: Best Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in Paris
SEE NEXT COURSE: Fresh Scallop Seared on Hot "Parisian Limestone"Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
Course #3: Fresh Scallop Seared on Parisian Limestone
Next up in my own six-course menu-- my friend had opted out and so skipped a course-- was perhaps the most inventive and avant-garde dish on offer: a whole fresh scallop seared, at the table, on a burning-hot, coal-black slab of "Parisian limestone". When I asked the server to decrypt the term for me, she explained that the stone was actually sourced from the Parisian region, and so was a nod to the restaurant's home city. While this might seem like a pretention that inspires a good eye roll, I think the concept worked: I was intrigued, and the presentation was simply pretty.
I love scallops, especially when perfectly cooked. Seeing me struggle a bit, the neighbor to my left showed me how to properly turn it over and dislodge it from the rather unwieldy shell. While not exactly a generous portion, it was delicious. And amusing to behold.
SEE NEXT COURSE: Yellow Place With Wild Garlic and Shellfish; Lamb With Couscous and VegetablesContinue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
The Mains: Yellow Place With Wild Garlic; Lamb With Couscous
We had finally arrived at the main course portion of the meal: For me, a filet of yellow place with wild garlic, coques (an unidentified shellfish) and buttery new potatoes (see pic on page 1 of this slideshow). My friend, meanwhile, had opted for the Moroccan-style lamb with couscous, chickpeas and vegetables.
Although she admitted that lamb in general is a bit strong for her tastes, she reported that the meat was quite tender and the vegetables delicious. This was probably the most straightforward and classic dish on the menu-- and the only one that was identifiably inspired by a culinary tradition other than French.
The yellow place, meanwhile, was buttery and tender and perfectly seasoned, and the new potatoes were a lovely, if basic, accompaniment (sometimes, tradition is just the ticket). I'm always impressed when the native flavors of fish are allowed to come through, without excess seasoning or garnish-- and this was definitely the case here.
I wasn't a huge fan of the c...oques punctuating the dish, but they did taste fresh: I'm simply not much of a shellfish person.
SEE THE DESSERT COURSE: Fresh grapefruit with Breton sable butter biscuits and Earl Grey ice creamContinue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
Sweet Endings: Fresh grapefruit with Breton biscuits and Earl Grey ice cream
After our four and five courses, respectively, my friend and I were sated but not quite full, so the arrival of dessert was a welcome treat.
One of the most creative and interesting dishes of the meal, the dish was chunks of fresh pink grapefruit and some sort of candied citrus, sprinkled with pieces of Breton sable butter and poppyseed biscuits, and-- here's the real gourmet coup in my book- a delicate mound of ice cream strongly flavored with Earl Grey tea. Intensely fresh, acidic and surprisingly not very sweet, it was a success in that it completely surprised my palate. It's the sort of rare dessert that you're not sure you love at first bite, but by the end you want more of it.
No proper French lunch would be complete without a good espresso to finish off the affair, so we ordered some-- and were delighted to find that it came accompanied with a delightfully warm, soft chocolate-chip cookie that didn't scrimp on the chocolate. It was probably the best I'd ever... had in Paris-- the American-style cookie is not, generally speaking, a French forte. All in all, this was a wonderful way to finish a meal that impressed me for its artfulness, fresh flavors, surprising textures, and simple but excellent ingredients.
Read related: Best Chocolate Makers and Shops in Paris
My Bottom Line?
Clover is an address that any gourmet visitor should consider trying-- especially for those on limited budgets who want to experience the creative power of some of the city's best chefs.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.