At their new postage stamp-size wine bar and just-opened upstairs restaurant, Verjus, the pair serves up amuse-bouches that chart an ideal course between French sophistication and American heartiness. The wine bar menu includes buttermilk fried chicken, roasted clams and s’mores made with high-end French chocolate.
Mr. Perkins and Miss Adrian shot to culinary fame here in 2007, when they opened the Hidden Kitchen, the now-closed supper club the pair held twice a week in their central Paris pad. Though underground restaurants are not unheard of elsewhere, the Hidden Kitchen was a novelty in Paris, and even the French press lavished them with praise: Le Figaro’s review called it “quite chic and clearly successful — it’s fully booked for months.”
The Anglo-Saxon influence is often palpable at top restaurants here, even when the chefs themselves are not Americans.
Gregory Marchand, the Frenchman behind the aptly named Frenchie restaurant, cut his teeth in New York and London, where he worked for telegenic chef Jamie Oliver, before returning to France. Known for its market cooking, Frenchie competes with Spring for the top spot among Paris’ contemporary tables.
Kansas-born, Paris-based food blogger Meg Zimbeck said she sees French chefs’ newfound appreciation for America as part of a generational shift.
“There’s a fear among the older generation that they’re not getting as much credit as they are due,” said Miss Zimbeck, the founding editor of Paris by Mouth, a restaurant review website.
“The younger French chefs, they couldn’t care less about that. They’re traveling, they’re bringing back new ingredients. They have shorter attention spans and they’re not afraid of change,” even if that change hails from the country long mocked as the birthplace of Velveeta and other processed cheese products.
Still, Mr. Lebovitz warns that Paris remains a challenging destination for young American cooks with big dreams.
“Paris has this huge mystique, it’s like a magnet,” the writer said, “but a lot of times people come here with starry eyes and have absolutely no idea of what they’re in for.”
Mr. Lebovitz, a pastry chef by training who spent 12 years at Alice Waters’ iconic Berkeley, Calif., eatery Chez Panisse and moved to Paris seven years ago, said reality can be jarring. Beyond the never-ending bureaucratic torture that is the quest for working papers or, worse still, authorization to open a restaurant, Mr. Lebovitz cited the maddening surprises of daily life here.
He described a recent surreal but pedestrian quest for plain white sugar: After searches in several grocery stores turned up nothing, he resorted to crushing sugar cubes to finish his dessert recipe. “It’s inexplicable, but these kind of things happen all the time in Paris,” Mr. Lebovitz added with a resigned smile.
Still, for those who manage to overcome the obstacles, Paris is a huge prize.
“For anyone who likes to cook or eat, this place is simply a dream,” Mr. Lebovitz said. “Actually, it’s a dream for pretty much anyone.”