“High-end French gastronomy is no longer reserved for the elite,” Andrea Calstier declares. And, with a résumé like his, he’s worth listening to. He’s the French expatriate chef behind the latest buzzing New York culinary outpost — Papilles, serving up cuisine vagabonde, which literally translates to “taste buds: wandering cooking.” This makes sense as he, his wife Elena Oliver, who handles the business side of the restaurant, and their business partner Nicolas Thoni, the resident mixologist, have wandered around both their native country France and then the rest of the world.
This international cultural influence is exactly what inspired the trio to craft their seasonal menus using only the freshest ingredients. Andrea and Elena are from Marseille, the largest city in Provence, where they’re used to shopping the fish market at the vieux port for whatever looks the best. Thoni adds that whatever herbs he has lying around the house make their way into his cocktail recipes, which explains Sous Bois, cardamaro with black sea salt; or Le Maquis, fermented tequila and chili pepper.
The thread that connects the cocktail menu with Calstier’s culinary creations are the international quality of the ingredients. Calstier poaches wild-caught cod, then serves it with Persian black lemon. His twist on the classic Pistou soup, as native to Marseille as he is, features only organic, non-GMO, locally sourced components. Lastly, dark chocolate is served with a heap of goat cheese (talk about sweet and sour).
By marrying traditional conventions with unexpected components, the food becomes a playful balance of distinctly flavorful yet soft mediterranean dishes whose juxtapositions perfectly compliment each other. While the simplicity is distinctly french, the main courses are not your average plats principaux. “What we see less in French dining, and that we’d like to experience more, is a cuisine in between classic bistro food and an upscale restaurant,” Oliver explains. “Papilles is bringing that in-between experience, you’ll have delicious food, cooked by a chef coming from several Michelin-starred restaurants, but in a very friendly atmosphere where you’ll feel like it’s home.”
Main Image Credit: Jai Nima Idowu