Le Sergent Recruteur: New kid on the block

You better start learning the name of Antonin Bonnet by heart because you will need it in the future whenever the discussion about the best chefs of Paris is popping up (as it does so often). Bonnet is a bald and bold guy who’s reigning the pots and pans at „Le Sergent Recruteur“, and after only a couple of months he already shows a Jedi-like confidence and scores of stunning skills.

You’ll find him behind the windows of an open showcase kitchen in the back of a cream-colored, sober dining room, head down, concentrating on his craft. He rarely glances into the tiny restaurant situated somewhere in the buzzing chaos of highly picturesque Ile Saint-Louis, in the heart of the city that is. Bonnet is a hard working guy, obviously, and you’ll find that spirit dressed upon the many plates to come.

Two Michelin-stars in no time

At first sight, it’s just another neo-resto-bistro offering a reduced no-choice menu to let the culinary ideas (and a smart business plan) shine brightly. But then the meal starts, and when you go for the whole thing of eight or nine courses, Bonnet’s higher ambitions show up and you will clearly detect the will of that guy to be not at all satisfied with the two Michelin-stars he has achieved in practically no time.

A former student and co-worker of the great Michel Bras, a traveller to Asia and a cook in London, Bonnet delivers excellent products turned into simple, yet eclectic, clean, yet soulful food. If there was a master plan for how French food should be nowadays – Bonnet would be close to that magic formula.

Better than fusion

His food breathes tradition and is radically modern at the same time. It is built on the basics but explores new frontiers, Asian twists, odd spices, strange herbs. Still, I wouldn’t call it fusion. It’s better than that. It really is his, Bonnet’s approach, he’s the new kid on the block, creating new things for the world – and, quite frankly, there aren’t many chefs in Paris who deserve such high praise at this time.

When we had our long lunch at „Le Sergent Recruteur“ recently, it instantly turned into a feast made of perfectly portioned courses that looked, to begin with, strikingly beautiful without exception. A puree made of kabocha, a Japanese squash, combined with mussels, set an early highlight, a simple sensation clearly situated on the three-star-side.

Food for foodies

Bonnet’s version of riz de veau, sweatbread, was as excellent as the generous slice of a St-Pierre-fillet served on a stunning cauliflower puree. There were strips of marvellous, marinated steak, there were great morsels made of mackerel and limes, small dishes displaying celery and quinoa. And yes, there were also two or three ideas that didn’t work out at all like that tasteless spinach cream with onions and truffles and a worthless ice cream made of beetroot. But overall? You sit. You eat. You’re happy.

Beware: This is food for foodies. Inexperienced eaters – like the unhappy American couple next to us – will sit clueless and fear every new dish still to come. For advanced diners though, „Le Sergent Recruteur“ will jump the ranks. And once the service will be able to fully keep up with the quality of the kitchen (and once the cutlery will be changed between the courses, not too much to ask!) this will count among the top addresses in Paris. „Worth a detour“, as they say at Michelin’s when they talk about their three-star-restaurants.

Photo: © MAP