Thursday, January 16, 2014

Rougui Dia Rules the Kitchen at Le Vraymonde

I first brought you news of Rougui Dia when I launched the Entrée to Black Paris blog in September 2010. At that time, Chef Dia was head chef at Petrossian, an exclusive restaurant in the tony 7th arrondissement. She had recently published her story in a book called Le Chef est une Femme and was already thinking about moving on to a place where she would have complete creative control over the dishes emerging from the kitchen.

Chef Rougui Dia

Fast forward to February 2013. The press announced that Chef Dia was indeed moving onward and upward. She had accepted the position of head chef at the restaurant of the soon-to-be-opened Buddha Bar Hotel in an even more posh neighborhood - that of the fashion district of the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in the 8th arrondissement. Neighboring institutions and establishments include the U.S. Embassy, the British Embassy, and numerous fashion boutiques such as Hermès, Lancôme, Valentino, and Yves Saint Laurent.

The restaurant is called Le Vraymonde. In operation since June 2013, its name is a play on the French words le vrai monde ("the real world"). It is a trendy place with a seating capacity of 85, and it showcases a series of lounges in which customers can drink and dine. The walls are adorned with shades of imperial gold yellow, crimson red, and dark orange under a black lacquered ceiling lit by clusters of hand-made glass Chinese lanterns. Oversized round mirrors create subtle illusions of perspective. Each salon opens onto a beautiful and peaceful courtyard that is open for lunch and dinner from April to October.

Le Vraymonde dining room

Chef Dia's accomplishments stem from her attention to detail, her emphasis on fresh, high quality local and international products, and her constant reinvention of traditional dishes through her quest for new flavors. She describes her menu as follows:

Each dish is conceived as a new destination; a desire to share and discover. My first priority is to showcase each ingredient without denaturing or distorting it, while offering a voyage filled with flavors and aromas to the diner.

The menu evolves constantly. Chef Dia proposes eight first courses, eight main dishes, and eight desserts each day.

Tom and I dined at Le Vraymonde last Friday evening and we found that the descriptions of the sumptuous decor did not prepare us adequately for the atmosphere that we were invited to enter. Huge round mirrors on either side of the room projected the tables and walls into infinity - we felt as though we were dining in a never ending cavern of luxury.

For the starter, Tom ordered a Salade de papaye verte et mangue façon Thaï, which was a generous portion of julienned carrot and green papaya in a slightly sour sauce. I ordered Soupe carotte au lait de coco - a creamy carrot and coconut-milk soup drizzled with lime oil.

Gambas de Madagascar, cromesquis de champignons, riz vénéré

Tom chose Gambas de Madagascar, cromesquis de champignons, riz vénéré as his main course and received five jumbo shrimp and a mushroom croquette resting on a bed of black rice cooked al dente. I selected Poulet au caramel et carottes sautées à la menthe, a plate of caramelized chicken in a slightly sweet sauce served with baby carrots and turnips cooked soft, a small hot pepper, and portions of fresh lime. We both selected white wine to accompany our dishes and were thoroughly satisfied with our choices.

Desserts at Le Vraymonde are the realm of pastry chef Guy Darcel. From the eight choices on the menu, Tom ordered Baba au chocolate et whisky japonais, lait de coco aux perles du Japon. Flavored with dark chocolate and doused with Japanese whisky, it was a unique take on the traditional baba (yeast cake). I did not order dessert, but because our server could not bear to see me with an empty plate, he brought me two complimentary canelés – a classic mini-cake from Bordeaux (not on the menu).

We were greeted warmly by everyone that we encountered, including the doorman at the entrance to the hotel, and the service was outstanding from the moment that we entered the restaurant to the time that we claimed our coats to leave. The prices on the menu reflect the restaurant's location in the upscale neighborhood near La Madeleine church, but we felt that the food and the experience were worth it. We will definitely return!

Read a complete review of our dining experience on Monday, January 20 in the Paris Insights restaurant review.

All images courtesy of Laurent Guyot Communications.


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