In a part of town which doesn’t necessarily have a huge amount going on, Tempero offers Brazilian cuisine with a twist, and is environmentally responsible, something that’s extremely rare for a Parisian restaurant.
We went down on one of the two nights a week that they are open for dinner (Thursdays and Fridays) to check it out for ourselves!
The 13th arrondissement, not far from our hotels is not particularly well known for its restaurants (apart from the Chinese neigbourhood, where there’s a vast choice).
Running Tempero in this area is doubly daring then – making a ‘bistronomique’ restaurant work off the beaten track, and making sure the business is environmentally responsible.
We heard about the place in an article in national newspaper Le Monde, who talked to the chef, Alessandra Montagne.
“Montagne works directly with the urban farm Zone sensible, based in the nearby suburb of Saint-Denis. They deliver her vegetables each week, and leave with all her biodegradeable waste which they transform into compost for their crops. It’s a symbiotic arrangement. “For me, it’s out of the question to work with products that have been flown halfway around the globe,” says the French-Brazilian chef. “There’s no point from a taste point of view, and it’s absolutely disastrous for the environment.”(full article in French here)
As laudable as this approach is, our visit did not get off to the best of starts. For the two nights a week that the restaurant serves dinner, they have two sittings, meaning that for the first one you are obliged to vacate your table before 9.45pm.
On one hand, you can understand why this is necessary in order to maximise revenue for the evening, but on the other it’s becoming an annoying Parisian habit. At least they are very frank about it when you call to book (all bookings are made by phone, alas). If you don’t like it, you are free to eat elsewhere.
The tiny room (around 30 seats) is welcoming and colourful, and the prices a little on the high side we would say (three courses and a glass of wine will set you back at least 50 euros). Usually, this price range would guarantee you a certain amount of comfort, but here the tables are so closely placed together that it can get a little noisy. The night of our visit, a couple who had booked for dinner turned on their heels and left, telling the waitress “We wanted to talk to each other, but it’s just not going to be possible here.” Indeed, if you want a private conversation, this is not the place to come.
A couple of other things irked us too – the art on show won’t necessarily be to everyone’s taste, and the flower on our table turned out to be plastic. Ugh! We decided to donate it to the table next to us.
Upon arrival we were reminded again by the waitress that the table had to be free by 9.45pm at the latest, just as she had said when we booked, and when she called us the previous day to make absolutely sure we were really coming. 😕
We sat down and had a look at the menu. This did not take too long – there are only three choices for each course. And so we chose our starters – mushroom soup with soft-boiled egg, and raw Scottish salmon marinated in miso.
The soup looked amazing, and was thick and agreeably strong in flavour. Slightly less agreably, it was served only lukewarm, which surprised us.
The salmon – spectacularly presented – had an overpowering vinegar taste to it, and coupled with the miso and perfumed oil, didn’t give the taste of the fish much chance of expressing itself.
After all the amazing reviews we’d read about the restaurant, we were left a little perplexed.
One thing we were very pleased with was the wine and wine waiter. Her advice, explanations and profound knowledge were spot on.
It was now time for the main course – yellow pollock with Swiss chard, black rice and mushrooms, and a duck breast with sweet potatoes and polenta.
The fish was… just warm, again! We were starting to think this was some chic habit we didn’t know about. Apart from that, it was perfectly cooked, as was the rice, and the presentation was once again very carefully done.
The duck breast was a little less appreciated – the meat was a little too dry, not as tasty as we would have liked, and while the sauce and mustard seeds worked well as accompaniments, the potatoes and boiled carrots were completely forgettable.
We were a little ill at ease, especially as the chef herself – radiant and smiling – was the one to come to the table and serve our dishes. And when the waitress took our empty dishes back and asked whether everything had been alright, we didn’t want to get into a protracted explanation of all the things that seemed off, so we just said yes. Does anyone really use this opportunity to give their complete and honest view of a meal? We have tried a couple of times, and it never really achieved anything.
We were hoping that a good dessert would help soften the memory of the preceeding dishes, so we decided to order a corn cake with coffee sauce, and a chestnut millefeuille.
The cake wasn’t bad per say, but really not extraordinary (for 9€) although the coffee cream was really very good indeed. As for the millefeuille, the pastry was crunchy and very obviously fresh, but the chestnut taste was very subtle. We would have preferred it to be much stronger.
The time was now gone 9pm. Even if we had wanted to stay, it wouldn’t have been possible. Luckily, we were ready to leave.
We absolutely applaud the eco-responsible attitude of Tempero, but perhaps we need to come back for one of the much cheaper lunch menus (15€ / 23€) to see whether we just had bad luck on the day of our visit. The reviews are overwhelmingly positive, after all.
Also, you might like to know that the restaurant opens on the evening of the first Wednesday of each month for a special menu – starter, main course (feijoada), dessert and a caïpirinha for 40€ if you eat in, or 25€ (without the cocktail) to take away. Might be worth trying out.