We just returned from a place we tried to get into last year, but it was fully booked, so we planned ahead this time and I'm glad we did. Ze Kitchen Galerie might sound a bit déclassé, but I can assure you it's not. This place lived up to our expectations, which were high based on numerous recommendations.
It's certainly not a large venue, but even in a fairly small space they manage not to make it feel crowded. There are 2 tasting menu options (6 or 8 courses) but we opted for a lighter meal, and though I feared that tasting menu-sized portions would require at least another course or two, I was wrong.
We were quickly given the obligatory amuse bouche, in this case a spoon with raw salmon belly over dollops of citrus sauce and a creme sauce. My wife had their signature spaghettoni to start, a perfectly cooked pasta with cheese, pistou, and a variety of fresh herbs including dill, basil, sage, etc, which was delicious (this dish changes seasonally, often including octopus or squid). I had tartare of tuna, which sort of takes sushi to a new level for me-- 4 small cuts of tuna belly and a small portion of actual tartare, all served on a plate that had a playful and intricate arrangement of drops of different sauces, some citrus, some savoury, some rich and buttery, all interesting and each one bringing out different nuances in the fish, and also leaves of fresh herbs that had a similar effect to the sauces, as well as a few tiny cubes of different types of orange. This was a superlative dish with beautiful presentation; I've never seen anything like it, though given the almost incestuous nature of itinerant kitchen staffs, I suppose there must be other restaurants doing something similar. In any event, this was a great way to start the evening.
For mains, my wife had a perfectly executed duck breast, with a bit of foie gras, roasted turnips, braised lemongrass (we think), and a fabulous cherry sauce artfully drizzled over parts of the plate; eye candy. I had the fish special, which was monkfish, though in all honesty I would have immediately identified it as lobster tail, because it looked just like medallions of that. It was served with 3 different sauces arranged in different locations on the plate, some tiny fish eggs (neither sturgeon nor lumpfish, though almost that small) that were very flavourful, tiny leaves of different herbs, and remarkable split deep-fried baby squash flowers, both the wide-open flower and the embryonic vegetable attached. Again, the presentation was beautiful, and the flavours exceeded the visual impact.
Dessert was fresh poached rhubarb, with wild strawberries and intense rhubarb sorbet, as well as a chocolate and pistachio tart with white chocolate ice cream, rich and unfortunately too much so for me to finish, though I loved the flavours.
A glass each of 2007 Huet Vouvray Le Haut Lieu to start, and a bottle of very tasty NV Lenoble Champagne Brut Rosé to accompany the meal was about perfect on a muggy and intermittently sunny and cloudy Paris evening, followed by a walk home along the Seine, all of which contributed to a near-perfect Paris evening. Salut!