Eating “Cru” in Paris (Restaurant Review)

A little over a year ago, I ate a delicious “raw thai” soup at a Santa Fe café/restaurant called Body. It was a thick cold soup with two of my favorite ingredients: coconut milk and avocado. What impressed me even more about this soup is that it was completely raw. Since then I’ve been intrigued by the so-called “raw food movement” and those who call themselves “raw foodists.”

According to Alison Bryce in this NPR article, “Raw foodists eat by the theory that when food is cooked over 112 degrees, it loses its living enzymes.” Shes goes on to explain that such people usually fit into two groups: those that eat meat, eggs and dairy; and those who eat only vegetables, fruits and nuts. Also, this type of diet generally favors unprocessed, organic foods.

I love all kinds of food (and all kinds of cooking), so I think it’d be hard to convince me to go 100% raw. I, however, can understand why it might be advantageous: enzymes can be positive little beings and help digest food and absorb important nutrients. Apparently, eating raw protein can also give more immediate energy. Plus, I’d be fun to get creative and challenge myself to make appetizing dishes, without a flame.

Since I’ve been increasingly curious about raw food, I was more than game to try the Parisian restaurant, Cru (whose name means “raw” in French). I first and foremost liked this restaurant/wine bar for its idyllic location – on a quiet street in the Marais (Village Saint Paul). Looking out the window from our table, we could see the remains of the oldest city wall in Paris (built in the early 13th century by Philippe-Auguste, king of France).

Inside the restaurant walls, the dim lighting and sparse décor gave a fresh, modern atmosphere. I loved the real glasses and water pitcher that mimicked plastic picnic ware and the roll of green cloth napkins that you tore off like paper towels. This gave a fun, casual feeling to an otherwise upscale restaurant.

Pure raw foodists may not appreciate Cru, but for me (who wouldn’t touch raw fish until just a couple years ago) it was a nice balance between raw and cooked. The two first-course dishes we chose especially impressed me: a “cuit/cru de fenouil” and a “ceviche de mulet aux agrumes.” In the first, I was delighted that raw and cooked fennel were served on the same plate – I still remember how finely sliced and crispy the cold vegetable was, and how the warm one melted in my mouth. How diverse a single vegetable can be! Ceviche is a traditional Central/South American dish prepared with raw fish and citrus juice. Like I said, I’m hard to convince when it comes to raw fish, but I absolutely loved this – the perfection was in the marinade.

For the main course, we took scallops (they proposed both raw and cooked versions, the latter of which were complete with white truffle oil) and daurade (sea bream) with sweet potato fries. Actually, you could choose your side from a variety of propositions.

White wine: Petit Chablis, Domaine Bernard Defaix 2009.

We were thoroughly content with our experience, despite a few rough edges. The first two items I spotted on the menu (and really wanted) weren’t available (calamari and tiramisu au Speculoose – that sounded too good). Since the menus were on paper, and seemed like they were easily printable, I would have reprinted them since so many enticing items were unavailable. Or, at least I would have informed customers upon seating. Also, the credit card machine didn’t work that evening and we were confused about the ordering process (the waitress wanted to take all the accompaniments at the end, instead of as each person ordered – that’s fine, but I shouldn’t feel silly for not knowing).

Now I’m curious to know if there are other “raw food” restaurants in Paris. I don’t know that the movement has caught on here like it has in parts of the States, but I’m keen to find out…

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