Dining: Second Spring

  • Charlotte Druckman

In 2006, Daniel Rose, a young chef from Chicago, opened a tiny restaurant on the fringes of Paris and took the original gourmands—the French—by storm. His bare-bones establishment, Spring, offered a mere 16 seats, and Le Figaro soon named them the toughest to book in the city. For the next three years, Rose produced thoughtful, ingredient-driven haute cuisine in a kitchen too small to even have a freezer. Then he closed up shop.

"The notion of changing restaurants when the thing was chugging along comfortably with evenings reserved six months in advance and hundreds of people on a waiting list came from asking a single question," Rose says. "How can we make Spring a better experience?"

By last July, after seemingly endless delays—and countless posts on foodie blogs fretting over its slow progress—Spring was back in business. Previously located in the shabby-chic 9th arrondissement, the restaurant now resides on a small, well-hidden street in the center of town, not far from both the Chanel headquarters and Samaritaine, the famous department store, which is being converted into a luxury hotel. This latest address—a 17th-century townhouse—offers 10 times more space than the former one and accommodates 22 diners. Rose gutted the building to allow for a sleek exposed kitchen in the dining room and, downstairs, a walk-in wine bar serving small plates. The subbasement, discovered during the renovation, has been transformed into a vaulted wine cellar.

"It is full of neat little details that remind us of its long past and at the same time offers a glimpse into the future," Rose says. As for the food, the goal "is to create something spontaneous and immediate that is balanced and beautiful."

Rose still eschews menus and invents his three-course lunches and five-course dinners daily, guided by the produce available, the weather, and his mood. He is still booked solid: Acquiring one of the coveted kitchen-side chairs requires a reservation at least a month in advance. And new dishes, such as lunchtime’s modern version of the 19th-century bouillon—a rich broth ladled around ingredients that change daily—continue to make food lovers swoon.

The cooking shows greater complexity, a development that the mostly self-taught Rose attributes to his co-chef and girlfriend, Marie-Aude Mery, a veteran of Michelin-starred kitchens. A meal at the new Spring might begin with a palate-teasing puree of eggplant with baby gray shrimp and pomegranate seeds, followed by more substantial dishes, such as gratinée of sweetbreads wrapped in chard and served with warm and cold crayfish and smoked tomato, or duck prepared in a broth with turnips and pickled radish, accompanied by a smaller piece of the bird cooked with apricot. 

Around the corner from his restaurant, Rose has also opened Spring Boutique, a shop offering a large selection of charcuterie, cheeses, sandwiches, and snacks. The staff will happily pack a picnic hamper or help select ingredients, such as foie gras, lobster, and specialty poultry, allowing the mood of the customer to dictate the dishes that follow.

Spring, +33.1.45.96.05.72, www.springparis.fr

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