Prized by Parisian gastronomes, the Rue Mont-Thabor, a small street parallel to Saint-Honoré and two steps from the Jardin des Tuileries and the Place Vendôme, houses a formidable density of quality restaurants. It is in this very Parisian landscape that the three founders of the Experimental Group – Romée de Goriainoff, Pierre-Charles Cros, and Olivier Bon – chose to open a new restaurant in collaboration with Assaf Granit and Uri Navon, two of the most famous Israeli chefs.
Emblematic figures in the renewal of Israeli cuisine, Assaf and Uri first came onto the scene with their restaurant in Machne-Yehuda, the great Jerusalem market. Their approach is simple: with precision, prepare dishes that are tasty, energetic, colorful, and inventive, and that bring life back to this cosmopolitan and joyful gastronomy, born from the adaptation of every tradition brought from the diaspora. What soon followed were: yodale, wine bar, The Culinary Workshop and Talbiye, in Jerusalem, and then the award winning restaurants Palomar and the Barbary, in London. Head chef of Balagan will be Dan Yosha, a young talent from Machne-Yehuda in Jerusalem.
It is on the ground floor of the Renaissance Paris Vendôme hotel, at the corner of the Rues d’Alger and du Mont-Thabor, and only a few steps from Colette and the fashion boutiques of the Rue Saint-Honoré, where they will open their first Parisian restaurant – Balagan – a Hebrew name meaning “Joyful Bazar.” It is a name that rings like a show and says a great deal about Assaf Granit’s will to shake up the habits of the capital’s foodies in a décor custom-designed by Dorothée Meilichzon.
The Parisian designer was inspired by the graphic forms of the Rue de Rivoli and Tuileries (arcades, streetlights, borders), a range of Mediterranean references (sandstone, ceramics, ochre, green tapestries), and the welcoming and emblematic blue of Assaf Granit’s restaurants. Together, she imagined a joyful fantasy surrounding the counter of a long, open kitchen. Matt colors, triangular shapes, unfinished wood, copper and brass, the silky touch of stone, and the brilliance of enameled ceramics…the rich profusion of spaces accompanied by impressive service consoles seem to announce the equally rich cuisine being devised under the gaze of all, a luminous gastronomy echoed by the sun-shaped mirrors designed by Alexandre Girard.
A collection of playful Meze, Levantine Shish Barak, wood-grilled eggplant, sautéed calamari, grilled veal sweetbreads, Moroccan-Israeli artichoke ragout, festive Mansaf lamb, Jerusalem-style sea bass, couscous, Gormeh Sabzi. At all hours of the day, residents and tourists come with delight to immerse themselves in this inviting bazar of flavors originating from the amazing culinary richness of the Middle East.
There is no doubt that the cosmopolitan Epicureans will take up residence in this new Eldorado, conceived for the pleasure of the senses, spilling even into the bar – an adjoining boudoir with surprising English accents – where the menu offers unprecedented creations such as the Algue Colada (Paratti cachaça infused with wakama and green coriander seeds, coconut, and lime and pineapple juice) or the Tomu (pisco infused with pink berries, yellow chartreuse, Saint Germain liqueur, pressed lime juice, Ginger Ale, and cardamom bitters), a reminder that the Experimental Group’s bartenders are among the greatest masters of the Parisian cocktail.