Cafe Salle Pleyel: Listen Up

The room is modern in a deco kind of way; cool in a zen way; and relaxing in every way – the tables are far enough apart that you don’t have to whisper secrets and the chairs are so comfortable that a friend of mine wanted to buy one along with her coffee.

And the menu is signature Helene – light, funny, smart and appealing.  (Here’s la belle Helene)


For the Cafe Salle Pleyel, Helene (whom I’m sooooooo lucky to have as a friend), created the menu with her Guest Chef for the year, Sonia Ezgulian.  (I love that the restaurant has a Guest Chef just way an orchestra has a Guest Conductor.)  Sonia, the former restaurant critic for Paris-Match, chef of her own restaurant in Lyon and a prolific and very good cookbook author, comes to Paris once a week to change the menu. 

All the dishes at Pleyel are cooked either on a plancha or in a wok and every week there are different gremolatas and fleur-de-sels set on the table, so you can season whatever you want as you want.  It’s a great idea.  (Last week, the gremolata was hazelnut, orange and cilantro and the fleur-de-sel was mixed with candied ginger.)

While the Cafe, which serves lunch Monday through Friday and dinner on concert evenings, has only been open a little over a month, there’s already a signature can’t-take-it-off-the-menu dish:  Le Cafe Salle Pleyel Burger.  Although it looks like a great all-American cheeseburger, a rarity in this town, it’s actually got a secret ingredient:  chopped cepes (porcini mushrooms), which make the meat seem even meatier.  The burger comes with housemade pickles, confited tomatoes, salad and more of those delicious mushrooms.  (This picture comes, with permission, from Caroline Mignot’s terrific blog.)


It’s hard to pass up the burger, but then neither is it easy to ingore the wasabi-marinated vegetables cooked on the plancha and served with a sparkling little herb salad.  And how can you give up the mango-pain d’epices croque for the caramelized baked apple filled with dried fruits and nuts?  Oh, just go with friends and share – it’s the only way to have it all.

And speaking of friends, when you see Helene, say “hi” for me.

Dorie Greenspan