Like all Brazilians who emigrate to Marin County, CA, Rio-born Rafael Gomes’ first job was pizza delivery. From there he cooked at Sam’s Anchor Café, a Tiburon tradition, where Margaritas, guacamole and chips, hamburgers and fried fish, were savored on the sun-bathed deck, with it’s expansive views of the San Francisco Bay, littered with sailboats, and the magic city beyond.
Now with a little experience under his belt, he moved to New York and earned his stripes at two of Danny Meyer’s great New York restaurants: the Gramercy Tavern and 11 Madison Park.
And now Rafael is in charge of the kitchen at 2-star chef Mauro Colagreco’s (Mirazur in Menton) new Paris restaurant. He is creating a delightful dining experience at affordable prices, in a 17th century building in the Marais.
I was joined by my friends Chris aka Pierre and Elaine Brothers on a quiet weekday during the Christmas season.
After being seated and ordering a bottle of Chablis we were served pain a partager, a rosemary scented bread that follows Mauro’s Argentine/Italian grandmother’s recipe that we dipped in olive oil infused with Menton lemons and ginger-each of those unique flavors bursts through individually, and lingers. (Available at 25 euros) An aha moment.
Each day Chef Gomes prepares a menu at 23 euros for two courses or 30 euros for three inspired by the market and his whims. Today it was pork sausages with white beans, velouté of cauliflower and pearls of tapioca with verveine sorbet.
But we decided to order a la carte and share. For starters a terrine of chicken and wild mushrooms, surrounded by a salad of fennel, tarragon and orange sections.
Even better was the fricassée of wild mushrooms, featuring trompettes de la mort and pleurotes (in a cream of parmesan, topped by a poached egg that we sopped up with crunchy bread- a meal in itself
On to main courses that for Pierre was the sausage special, for me tender shoulder of lamb with shallots, dates and carrots in a black sesame sauce that recalled the Maghreb.
Elaine chose the catch of the day-roast sea bass with red cabbage and a sauce of yogurt and cassis.
And inspired by our enthusiasm Chef Gomes sent out buttery suckling pig, underneath a crackling sombrero, with polenta chips.
As wonderful as Pierre’s tapioca was, we all were blown away by the a creamy white chocolate,vanilla ice cream and passion fruit.
The Grand Coeur is in my quartier, so I’ll be back- often.
Grand Coeur • 41 rue de Temple • 75004
Open daily for lunch and dinner.