Taking over a restaurant that was founded by another chef is always a delicate challenge for the incoming talent, since a certain part of the clientele will inevitably be flustered by the idea of finding a new bird in another one’s nest. That’s why the owner of the Hotel Thoumieux, in the 7th arrondissement on the Left Bank, made a very shrewd choice when he recruited Sylvestre Wahid, 40, a Franco-Pakistani, for the job. The amiable Wahid initially trained with chef Thierry Marx and was then taken under the wing of Alain Ducasse, who dispatched him to New York City as sous-chef at his now-closed restaurant at the Essex House hotel. Wahid’s next stop was as chef at the legendary L’Oustau de Baumanière in Provence, and now he has his own kitchen for the first time.
“I’m delighted to be in Paris and to have my own restaurant,” says Wahid, whose precise and very pleasant cooking was clearly influenced by his stint in Provence. The subtle southern French axis of Wahid’s cooking also distinguishes him from the post-modern creativity of Jean-François Piège, who previously helmed this popular table, which boasts an atmosphere that resembles a supper-club in Las Vegas or Miami during the 1950s, which is created by low lighting and the slightly camp retro décor of interior designer India Mahdavi.
Among Wahid’s best dishes are a starter of oysters with smoked beef and caviar; dressed crab with avocado, broccoli and flying-fish eggs; and a rack of baby lamb and aubergine seasoned with cumin, potato purée and freshly pressed herb jus. The dessert to try is the lemon tart with a chocolate crust, and the wine list tilts towards Provence and the Languedoc-Roussillon with a variety of well-chosen and fairly priced bottles from these regions.
79 rue Saint-dominique, Paris 7th. Tel: +33 1 47 05 79 00. Open daily for lunch & dinner. Prix-fixe menus €120, €185 & €210. Average à la carte €160. www.thoumieux.fr
From France Today magazine