Getting a reservation to Septime is near impossible. The online reservation is an exercise in false hope. The dates on the calendar seem like they’re open, but really they click through to a waitlist. And the waitlist never seems to move. So I guess the silver lining about the pandemic is that only a portion of the world’s population can actually come to Septime, which means tables are easier to come by. I was planning a trip to Paris in September, so I started looking for bookings in the summer. I had no trouble getting a table. It felt really good being able to click on a date and get an actual reservation. What a difference two years makes. Last time I went to Septime, all I ended up with was a tote bag from their wine bar. This time I left with memories of the most amazing dinner.
Septime is ranked 24th on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Restaurants on this list tend to be very high-minded and ultra-luxe in nature, but Septime has more of an informal bistro vibe. They also place much more emphasis on vegetables. In fact, the majority of the dishes in the tasting featured vegetables, which I found very interesting, since other tasting menus progress to more and more meat plates. Septime really does do fantastic things with vegetables. This isn’t like salad and carrot sticks that they’re serving. They’re simmering in rich brown butter or pureed into a wonderfully luxurious sabayon soup. Septime is manipulating the crap out of these vegetables to their most optimal state. In many instances, these veggies are more decadent than a piece of steak in a lot of places. So you are not left feeling hungry. Desserts are not their strongest suits, they feel more like palate cleansers at the end of a meal, but otherwise I have no complaints. It’s a pain to get the reservation, but it’s so worth the effort. And when you’re there, get the wine pairing while you’re at it.
The meal started out in a pretty traditional manner. We were served some flat bread with a fragrant olive oil, along with some tomato, sweet corn and marigold jelly. The cherry tomatoes were sundried and sweet.
Along came the first wine pour–a muscat wine from Greece. First impression was that it was dry and flowery. It was paired with a raw white tuna with radish, sour cream and elderflower. A pesto made with turnip roots was placed on top. Septime does vegetables very well, and raw fish is another strong suit. The tuna was fantastic.
Then came a delicate sake that was just the thing needed to cut through the rich and robust flavor of the most impressive soup, made with sabayon, miso, artichoke and pumpkin seed. Visually it looked like a mole, but not as intense and salty, of course, because, after all, this is a soup. It had depth and layers, it had flavor, it had creativity.
Then came a riesling from Alsace. You could taste the citrus, minerals and salt in this wine. Again, it was a good accompaniment for the fennel in brown butter. As much as I try, I cannot fully embrace fennel and all the licorice flavors that come with it. But here, I couldn’t taste any of that sharpness, it was almost as if I were eating a muted radish. I suppose simmering something in brown butter can do that to you, everything succumbs to the fat. It was extremely rich.
The next course was another standout. It was a wonderful bowl of coco beans and smoked trout eggs with watercress and scallion, flavors reminiscent of the best baked potato. It was paired with a savignin with a nutty and rounded flavor profile.
The final course–the only meat course–arrived, a dry aged rack of pork served alongside grilled octopus with sage and chipotle sauce. It was paired with a pinot grigio from Italy. It was very herbal and aromatic, light and silky with some tannins. The pork tasted pretty traditional in nature, akin to a fleshy, juicy pork chop that you would eat in an American restaurant.
The dessert wine resembled a young chardonnay. I inhaled the glass and it smelled like raisins. Along came a buttermilk ice cream with honey and buckwheat, a cream caramel with fig and fig leaf oil, and frozen watermelon slices with hibiscus. The desserts lacked the dazzle factor of beautifully shellacked orbs of cream and cakes. They were consistent with the theme here of featuring grains and vegetables in a plain-mannered fashion. While dinner ended on a more muted note, the overall meal deserved thundering applause.
80 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris, France
+33 1 43 67 38 29
Online bookings here.