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Image 1: This place is a good example of the "casual dining trend", which began after the credit crunch in 2008, when many young chefs left their jobs and began cooking modern food in a casual environment. While most of these chefs remain unknowns, a few struck lucky and have climbed the dizzy heights of international fame. Inaki Aizpitarte is a case in point.
Image 2: Really, it’s just an ordinary-looking bistro that you could find anywhere in Paris. God knows how it managed to get into the World's 50 Best list, ranking even higher than every Michelin 3-star place in Paris! (I guess that's why the World's 50 Best isn’t respected list among French chefs.)
Image 3: Our visit coincided with a hot and humid Summer day. And – would you believe it? – there was no air conditioning in one of the "best" restaurants in World! We had to go outside between every course, just to get some fresh air!
Image 4: There’s only one set menu here, so everyone has the same five courses. Well, I guess it makes it easy for the kitchen!
Image 5: To start, a warm buttery puff, then…
Image 6: …our first course. Nothing too fancy to look at, just a piece of raw bonito with green pea. But the pea's subtle sweetness beautifully complemented the sashimi's delicate rawness, and the pozu vinaigrette dressing gave an extra boost to the flavour. Simple but delicious. A very good start to our meal - even though we were covered in sweat!
Image 7: Another simple-looking course - spinach salad.
Image 8: Hidden beneath the leaves was Burrata cheese (a mix of fresh mozzarella and cream), topped with Vendace roe, also known as "golden caviar". Interesting!
Image 9: One of us had asked for a menu without cheese. It would have been easy for them to simply remove the cheese from the salad, but – instead – they did something imaginative and different – a course of white asparagus. As it wasn't an expensive restaurant, we really appreciated the extra effort.
Image 10: Then, the best course of the meal - line-caught pollock with tiny balls of roasted potato and baby onion, dressed with a garlicky sour cream.
Image 11: It had been slow-cooked at 45°C, and precisely timed to produce an amazing texture - crispy skin with moist and juicy flakes. Superb!
Image 12: The main course - Beef & Carrot!
Image 13: There was a lovely charcoal aroma from these perfectly-seasoned slices of medium-rare grilled rum steak. The meat was tender with a strong flavour, nicely paried with the rooty-rawness of the carrot and the tangy-sweetness of the red wine jelly. Another great course!
Image 14: And now, on to dessert…a bowl of Crème Chantilly...
Image 15: ... with fresh strawberries and dried pineapple. It was news to me that strawberry and pineapple could make such a good marriage. And, at the bottom of this lovely fruity dessert, was popping candy that gave us a sparkling surprise! Cool!
Image 16: This large piece of sweet pastry covered our final course, which was...
Image 17: …another fruity dessert, consisting of lemon mousse, fresh and dehydrated raspberry, and mint garnish. Everything about this dessert was spot-on - from colour, through texture, to flavour! Conclusion? Well, yes, it was good value for money. And yes, it offered delicious and modern food.
Image 18: What’s more, the service was friendly. But none of this makes it any different from many other bistros in Paris. And the main decoration in the place is this blackboard showing a list of winemakers. Sorry. For me, the World's 50Best has got this one completely wrong! And remember – there’s NO AIR CONDITIONING! All I can say is, if you decided to go - just avoid going in the summer, that’s all. I’m still sweating!