"The evolving Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Semilla -- Restaurant Review

Unmarked restaurant, hopefully they'll get a sign soon

Address: 54 rue de Seine, 75006
Nearest transport: Mabillon (10)
Est ouvert tous les jours: du lundi au samedi: 12:30-14:30 déjeuner, 14:30-19h diner et brunch. Dimanche: brunch de 12h30 à 16h puis supper à partir de 19h "pièce du boucher"justqu'`a 22h
Reservations: recommended
Telephone: 01 43 54 34 50

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  3.5 - Star.................................................. (Prix-fixe menu)...............................................2 - Bell

Typically every month we meet up with a good friend to explore or retry a new restaurants. So, on May 1,  we decided to try Semilla.  Semilla has only been open for a month, and is the new restaurant venture of Miami born Juan Sanchez and New Zealander Drew Harre.  I've been to their restaurant Fish La Boissonnerie and liked it immensely and was extremely excited to try this new restaurant close to their restaurant  Fish La Boissonnerie.

Interior of restaurant

The restaurant is not marked. We took a guess and figured that the unmarked restaurant had to be Semilla; fortunately, we were right.  It's a quite spacious restaurant. It almost felt like you were in a loft because of all the exposed piping and air-conditioning vent. I liked it, it had a lot of character.

Water dispensing machine

We were hoping to be able to eat earlier, so we met at noon.  We were the first one in the restaurant.  We asked if we could have a menu. The maitre'd said, "absolutely not, we would have to wait until 12:30" exactly, no less, no more. All part of the rigid french experience (but in fairness, the menus are printed each day and were only brought to the restaurant at 12:30).  So, while we waited they asked if we wanted water, flat or with gas. They had their own dispenser that makes sparkling water free of charge, so we opted for that, very green.

Chef's in the open kitchen

The Kitchen is quite open and exposed. I love that you can see them preparing the food and checking to see that they're not using pre-packaged food "a la Metro" (a sort of Costco of prepared foods for restaurants). Fortunately, we did not see any.

Chef's Luncheon

As we waited, we saw at least 10-young chefs preparing their lunch. In France, the Chefs prepare and eat their lunch before opening the restaurant to the public.  I was amazed how fast they ate, maybe 15-minutes tops.

Finally 12:30 pm arrived. We got our menu which was freshly printed on a sheet of paper. What struck me first and foremost was the price, 19 euros for the formule lunch which consisted of an entrée (the 1 and only 1 entrée contained 3 items, so no choice, an interesting concept), and a plat. Desserts were extra at 8 euros, so for all 3-courses 27 euros, with cheese there is a supplementary cost of 2 euros extra. Not bad.

Within 15-minutes the restaurant quickly started packing in. It was a holiday (May 1), but people were coming. And, what I found even more interesting, was the number of couples who brought babies in their strollers.

First course "L'assiette de trois entrees:" which consisted of a velouté champignons crème (mushroom soup), muffin chataîgne (chestnut muffin), and a "queue de veau vinaigrette" (veal tail). I liked the entrées in this order: (1) the soup was creamy, tasty and delicious, (2) the muffin was moist and light, you could tell it was made with a lot of egg whites to give it a nice soft texture as well as the moistness. One friend commented it was a bit on the salty side, but I loved it. And, (3) the veau, which we all commented that it tasted like tuna. It was like a deconstructed meat, egg-salad with a "citrusy" side.  So, with the first course we were off to a good start.

Then we got our plats: They had 3 choices offered, and so the 3 of us each chose a different one.  One got the Maigre, fondue de blette, champignon de Paris, buerre noisette. A fish. The presentation was very, very odd. It was literally covered in greens. If you didn't know any better, it looked like a green salad. Remember the commercial, "where's the beef?"my first question was, "where's the fish?. We finally found the fish, at the bottom of the forest. Despite the weird presentation, we all tasted this dish, and it was very moist and delicious.

Next we had the Involtini aubergines, chèvres frais, basilic. The only "lacto-vegetarian" dish on the menu. It was good. The eggplant had a nice taste and the chèvre wasn't overwhelming. I liked it, but my friend thought it was just average, saved only by the wilted basil it was resting on.

I had the Pintade, crème de cèleri, jus de rôti (guinea fowl). There were two pieces of fowl.  One  like a pale chicken breast, while the other looked like a guinea fowl leg that was definitely confit'd.  The breast was either steamed or sous vide. It was extremely moist, but absolutely tasteless. As for the confit'd leg, I was expecting that it would at least have a little more flavor, but it too was bland. I mixed some of the greens (Italian flat parsley and dill) and put a piece on each bite, it made a world of difference. It gave it some depth.   We all agreed, although this dish was cooked well, it lacked flavor.

Onto the desserts. Two of us had the Crèmeux guanaja, confit de kumquat, streuzel. At first I thought guanaja was some type of fruit, but turns out it's an island off Honduras that lends its name to a special blend of chocolate. This was very chocolaty and creamy with chocolate streuzel sprinkled on top, on a bed of a soft syrup-soaked cake with dashes of salt. I loved this dessert, I thought it was excellent, whereas one of us commented it was just OK.

The other dessert was the Soupe d'agrumes, glace Pamplemouse which was like a simple fresh fruit cocktail with only citrus (mostly grapefruit) which my citrus loving friend enjoyed.

We had an opportunity to speak to one of the owners Drew Harre. He told us parts of the menu changes daily, and the whole menu changes weekly. Admittedly, they're still tweaking the menu and he considers the restaurant a "work in progress." We had some friends that had gone the week prior and had the blanket de veau and said it was excellent. But unfortunately, they did not have it on the menu.

In summary, It's amazing that the restaurant has only been open for a month. They had some very strong dishes as well as some dishes that could use a little work.  While it's true they still have some tweaking, as Drew states, it's  a work in progress, I'm confident they'll come up with a winning formula "à tout de suite". I would definitely go back.

For the 3 of we paid 123€ with 2-glasses of sancere and a bottle of
Gueule de Loup.


  1. hello Randy, I suggest you try a small resto in the Marché des Enfants Rouges.It's Versant Vin and the Argentinian chef is wasted there but I didn't say that!Maybe Steve knows it as it is a minute away from the flat.e.homan@hotmail.fr

  2. Went back last week. The entrées were still excellent. I'm still having a few issues with their plats. Had their fish and it was extremely sour with way to many leafs, once again!

  3. A total disaster. After 90 minutes we were told that an error had been made and our main course had not yet been started. For the next 40 minutes we were told that our dishes would arrive in 5 minutes (or sometimes 10 minutes). After 40 minute we became tired of the misinformation. We talked to the "manager" who projected the same "couldn't care less attitude." We left.

  4. I would've done the same thing and left. The last time I was there was in June and had issues with some of their dishes and not service. But my philosophy is dining should be about the whole experience. That's why I won't go back to Frenchys, even though the food is good, their aattitude is horrible! Sorry you had a bad experience. I'd send a note to Drew one of the owners.