Chef Adeline Grattard describes Yam'Tcha as a "love story between France and Hong Kong." Chef Adeline is French and her husband Chi Wah Chan is a Hong Konger and tea aficionado. Chef Grattard's brilliant cooking at her impossible-to-book restaurant Yam'Tcha in Paris most certainly reflects the unique path that she took during the course of her culinary training.
Originally from Dijon, France, Chef Adeline Grattard cooked for a couple years at Astrannce in Paris before setting her sights on China. Despite not knowing Cantonese, she moved to Hong Kong and dusted her chops in Chinese kitchens in Hong Kong, honing her skills in dim sum and traditional Cantonese cooking. Chi Wah joined her later on, and they spent several years in Hong Kong together.
In 2009, they returned to Paris to open their own restaurant. Immediately the critics fell in love with her unique French-Chinese fusion cuisine. Soon afterwards, Yam'TCha received a Michelin Star. More recently, Chef's Table also created a really nice documentary about Chef Grattard and her culinary journey that led her to where she is today.
Chef Grattard cooks by intuition and she's a genius when it comes to flavors. There are no recipes and nothing is written down. She cooks by feel, and every day the dishes may be different.
Yam T'Cha is notorious difficult to book. In fact, I've gone to Paris several times in the past five years, and never once was successful in obtaining a booking. That's why when I managed to snag a lunch booking, we stuck with it, even though it was literally the day we were leaving Paris to go back to Brussels.
Our Meal at Yam'TCha
We began with a few small bites: a veggie spring roll, stewed pork with potato, sea bream sashimi, and a single mushroom crystal dumpling a la Hong Kong style.
A plate of raw shrimp, oyster leaves, salmon roe, white miso, seaweed, grapefruit, and sea beans. The oyster leaves were called such because this plant actually tastes like oyster! It was really interesting. I loved the complex mix of flavors: salty, "ocean-y" umami was nicely balanced out by the refreshingly bright citrus flavors from the grapefruit.
Pan fried skate came with clams, shallots, and ginger. A simple green salad and a steamed bun completed the dish.
You can either do a wine pairing or a tea pairing with the food. We decided to get one of teach. Chi Wah Chan runs the tea program and personally served us each tea as he shared with us about the tea's origins. He sources teas from all over the world.
The above dish was phenomenal and probably my favorite. Inspired by the Chinese Lion's Head Casserole, Chef Grattard's version incorporates foie gras into the soup, adding another level of richness, and a generous shaving of black truffle on top. It was hearty, full of rich flavor, and just simply brilliant.
Another dish that blew us away was her signature stilton blue cheese "bao" (steamed bun) with Amarena cherry inside. Amarena cherry is a sour Italian cherry that is served in a sweet syrup. It's a crazy fusion dish that just WORKS surprisingly well. I don't even like blue cheese, but I thought this "cheese course" was exceptional.
Chinese restaurants in North America always like to give out fresh oranges at the end of the meal. Interestingly, I never see it in Hong Kong. However, Grattard's orange based dessert (complete with an apricot and mandarin mochi, chantilly whipped cream, and real orange slices!) felt like a nod to that part of a Chinese meal.
Mango with sago in coconut milk is a very classic Hong Kong dessert. Chef Grattard's version was delicious and very much evoked memories of Hong Kong. Her version takes it up a notch by adding passion fruit and goji berries.
General Thoughts Yam'Tcha Paris
I can't say enough good things about the restaurant. The environment was lovely, the service was impeccable, and the food was really special. Because we were actually living in Hong Kong, the meal felt even more personal.
We chatted a bit with Chi Wah Chan about Hong Kong, telling him we were from there. He hadn't been back for some time (due to numerous reasons) but was hoping to be able to go back soon.
Since then, a lot has happened in Europe and around the world. COVID-19 has upended the world and restaurants are adjusting best they can. Yam'Tcha has offered take-out at times, or has had to close at other times depending on government regulations.
Currently (Nov 2020) the restaurant is closed but their casual cafe Café Lai’Tcha, which offers coffee and take-out options, is still open. For the latest updates, check out their website.
I really hope Yam'TCha can weather this pandemic and come out strong. It's truly a special restaurant and I highly recommend it!
7 rue du Jour, 75001 Paris
+33 1 40 26 05 05