NESTLED in a picturesque corner of Xintiandi, the newly opened Paris Bleu Bistro Club & French Modern Cuisine offers a series of innovative twists on the culinary conventions of French cuisine. Chef Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex, who boasts two Michelin stars, is using the venue to fulfill his own culinary dreams. It’s a gastronomic celebration of native-grown produce inspired by the people of China.
Paris Bleu’s bottom floor was designed as a bar area with tapas-style snacks, a venue for friends to gather for good drinks in a pleasant environment. All the culinary magic takes place on the upper level of the establishment, which one can reach by way of a white, spiraling staircase lit with purple lights.
The restaurant level is reminiscent of a Zen garden, decorated with dividers topped with smooth, black stones and little bonsai trees. As its name may suggest, the whole restaurant features touches of blue in its lighting and accent colors, providing a relaxed atmosphere. Moreover, the two walls comprised almost entirely by windows give both the upper and lower levels a very open feel, which adds to the ambiance. The restaurant also has a large outdoor seating area that is perfect for cocktails on a summer evening.
Of course, the focal point of the experience is the exquisite, French-inspired food. There is no a la carte menu, but a six-course set menu that changes every month to incorporate seasonal ingredients and the whimsies of Chef Ansanay-Alex. “You don’t go to a theater and ask them to play a certain movie. You go to a theater to see what they are playing.... That is how my restaurant is — guests are being served my art,” he explained.
Ansanay-Alex uses local ingredients in conjunction with his strong background in French cuisine to create a dazzling array of beautifully constructed dishes, which “aren’t too heavy, but still have earthy flavors.” I enjoyed everything, from a ginger chip and mascarpone cheese amuse bouche to lobster with soft gnocchi, drizzled with a tart burst of citrus emulsion, to a decadent serving of pot au feu, a traditional French stew with beef, carrots, and potatoes, reconstructed as a mille feuille and topped with foie gras. In my opinion, the highlight of the evening was the second course, a rich lobster bisque over a creamy egg, all topped with a dollop of sea urchin. However, the final course — light lemon custard topped with a layer of tart passionfruit jelly, green tea flavored bread, and caramelized bananas — came in a close second. Ansanay-Alex is also bravely adding local ingredients like duck tongue. “I’ve been preparing food for 40 years — now I get to do the fun stuff,” Ansanay-Alex said.
Ansanay-Alex hails from Lyon, the location of his renowned restaurant, Auberge de l’ile barbe, and has been a professional chef since 1980. He tries to make his food “simple, but not simplistic.” He set his sights on China when President Xi Jinping visited Lyon in 2014.
Paris Bleu is his first restaurant venture in China, and, while it shares a common concept with his Lyon restaurant, the cuisine is inspired by local Chinese people. According to Ansanay-Alex, he refuses to be “some proud, French chef” and will continue to experiment with his cuisine, drawing on inspiration from outside sources. He plans to divide his time between Lyon and Shanghai, and will create the menus for both restaurants. From next month, the restaurant will also offer an a la carte menu.