Come here for the ambiance, small plates and wine. Don’t let the beautiful waiters and waitresses make you feel bad for not ordering the large plates. (Hey – I’ll have you know I tried raw fish for the first time – it was a success!) Stay for the stunning, secret speakeasy called LA MINA. It’s basically a cave-turned bar, which means it can get chilly. But it would be a great hideaway to escape from the summer heat.
Walking down the streets of Le Marais will make you feel like a princess from a faraway land. Narrow, crooked streets meet you at every turn, and you get the feeling you could run into Belle, with her nose in a book, at any moment. As we passed by some of my favorite places, like Le Marche Les Enfants Rouge (the oldest covered market in Paris) and the cocktail bar Le Mary Celeste, I knew Carbon was going to be good. What I didn’t know was that it was going to thrust me into a mash-up of childhood fantasies, including a meal fit for “The Little Mermaid,” and the hottest Kurt Cobain look-alike waiter I’ve ever seen. (If you’re keeping track, that’s two Disney princess references, and one for the god of grunge.) As you can see, this restaurant got me all worked up, and my brain was misfiring from the stimuli.
I will leave you with the restaurant description to get you in the mood: “Carbon is an ode to nature, a place where the most ancestral cooking technique in the world, fire, encounters the products of land and sea in their extreme nudity.”
Like, now my loins are on fire.
Money Score: Okay
At this restaurant, you’re meant to share. The good part of that is you can get a bunch of small plates, and sample a number of dishes, which we did. The pretentious part is that the hot waiter will be annoyed with you for not ordering the more expensive, larger plates. Those are meant for four people, and come out to about $25 per person, which is a pretty good value for the food and experience. But, as a party of two without the appetites of lumberjacks, it just wasn’t practical. Sorry, Kurt. (You’re still hot.)
Consciousness Score: Okay
France doesn’t seem to highlight this aspect of their food. That may be because France has always been known for its terroir, and doesn’t need to import much. The default is that you’re eating local. And, “after all, this is France, and a dinner here is never second best.” Yep, I just quoted Beauty and Beast. That said, I do wish there was clearer communication about the sourcing of their ingredients. Is the food certified organic? In a multinational neighborhood like the Marais, people want to know where their food is coming from, even if it’s implied that it’s French. Come on, your produce likes to show off its extreme nudity, so why so shy about where it comes from?
‘All the Feels’ Score: Good
This is where Carbon excels. From the waxy candles, wild flowers, and mixture of textures—wood, leather, stone—it’s definitely a-see-and-be-seen kind of place. Just ask the Instagram-famous crowd that likes to pose among the tall white candles in wine bottles lining the wall down to the bar. It’s here where the space-time continuum opens up, as the restaurant goes from an urban garden vibe to Phantom of the Opera in just a few steps. The ambiance was loud but put me in the mood for beautiful food and even more beautiful people. Thankfully, there are mirrors all around the restaurant to spy on the attractive waiters and waitresses. Oh, and they speak superb English, which is perfect for when you forget who you are, and how to pronounce words, in the face of such crushing hotness.
Let me start by saying the presentation of this food is ridiculous (in a good way). It’s a 100 percent Flounder-approved mermaid princess feast. Here’s what we ordered:
Wine: Domaine de La Vielle Julienne (2014 Cotes-du-rhone)
This red blend was delicious, and we each had two glasses. I could have had an entire river.
Bonito, kohlrabi, pear, burnt lemon
I’ll admit, I’ve always been a little afraid of eating raw fish. But once I dove in, it was delightful. (Yay for taking a new food challenge!) Light and refreshing without a hint of fishiness. The pear and lemon brightened it up with a bit of tartness. I just hope I wasn’t actually eating Flounder.
St. Jacques scallops, pontoise cabbage, chestnuts
I mean, just look at this dish. I have never seen a more artful presentation of something I’m supposed to eat. And, as it turns out, it tastes even better than it looks. The crispy cabbage had the taste of a parsnip, and the sweet-potato-like puree danced in my mouth. It took all my power not to burst into a rendition of “Under the Sea” when this came out.
Carotte, miel, piment
Can a carrot be dessert? Because this almost tricked me into thinking it can. The honey glaze made these carrots sweet and decadent, but since they have beta-carotene, basically it was a health food at the same time. Our favorite dish of the night.
Jerusalem artichoke, trevise, hazelnut, apple
I have another question: Did you know artichokes could taste like baked potatoes? Clearly the flavors of food are not constrained by reality at Carbon because this challenged my taste buds to re-evaluate everything they know. The hazelnuts added a playful crunch and the apple flavor pushed this over the edge of delicious.
Always fresh, always delicious. Probably the number one reason I moved to France. Also, cheese and wine.
Total Bill: $104* (divided by 2—$52 each)
*In France, you round up to the nearest dollar for tip