On a quiet street in Paris, behind the Musée d’Orsay, Les Climats approaches the dining experience with the sensibility with which one might curate an art collection. Every aspect of the restaurant seems designed to breathe fresh air on fine dining, yet every little detail is still accounted for.
Les Climats opened in 2013 in the 7th arrondissement, a stately, affluent neighborhood on the Seine’s Left Bank that is home to fine museums and the Eiffel Tower. The restaurant is both grand and playful. Go up a few steps to the marble lobby and you’ll encounter a dining room full of art nouveau–style tables and red velvet chairs with leopard-print details. In another dining room, French windows give a view of the courtyard. Mosaic floors and William Morris wallpaper break up the seriousness of the high-ceilinged space. There is also an intimate lounge area with an art deco bar, where you can enjoy a drink and admire the wine bottles displayed in the impressive service cellars.
Restaurateurs Denis Jamet and Carole Colin own and manage, respectively, Chez Monsieur, a more casual restaurant near the Madeleine. When they decided to open another restaurant together, they knew they would do an all-Burgundy wine list.
“Burgundy enthusiasts are so interesting,” says Jamet of his clientele. “I think it’s the complexity of the terroir that they like.” The restaurant’s name comes from these diverse Burgundian terroirs, called climats.
Jamet and Colin’s hardcover 250-page book of more than 2,000 selections from all over the region is itself a work of art. The wine offerings are organized by village and are listed alongside Sylvain Pitiot & Pierre Poupon maps. These beautiful classics, created in 1952, outline each grand and premier cru, detailing altitude and vineyard orientation.
The maps are a great aid when sommeliers are guiding guests through the selections, says Jamet. He and Colin make a point of featuring only wines from vignerons they have personally met and whose estates they have visited; every single selection is sourced straight from the winemakers’ cellars.
Even though the list focuses on Burgundy, a rather expensive region, there is plenty of value to be found at Les Climats. “For us, it’s very exciting to bring enthusiasts that dine with us to lesser-known climats,” explains Jamet. “We take just as much pleasure from selling a little bottle as a big one.”
There are great picks for smaller pockets, like the Christian Moreau Chablis 2012 ($45), Jean-Marc Roulot Bourgogne Aligoté 2010 ($48) and Philippe Colotte Marsannay Les Champsalomon 2011 ($45). But you can also splurge on Domaine Leroy Musigny 2007 ($2,318) or any of the dozen Domaine de la Romanée-Conti bottlings available.
The list steps out of Burgundy only to go to its southern neighbor Beaujolais. There are four pages from all 10 crus, and each bottle is under $100.
The kitchen is under the direction of Julien Boscus, a young chef who worked for Pierre Gagnaire in Seoul and Yannick Alléno at Le Meurice in Paris. His cuisine balances richness and finesse, with interesting sweet-and-sour elements. A mackerel amuse-bouche comes with a dollop of bergamot cream. A tartare marries crab and smoked trout with grapefruit and passion fruit. Sea bass is encrusted in pain de mie, adding both sweet and crunchy qualities to the fish. The wild mushrooms served with the dish are cooked in Viré-Clessé wine—a nice wink back to Burgundy. From start to finish, a meal here is pleasantly intriguing.
The “menu initiation” tasting menu serves six courses (flanked by amuses-bouches and a few mignardises) for $145. À la carte mains cost between $60 and $70.
What ties everything together is the service. Knowledgeable and graceful servers execute their tasks with attention to the minutest detail. They are charming and humorous without overdoing it. Interacting with the sommelier is like going on a treasure hunt with an old friend—ask him for a recommendation and a tour of the wine maps. If you let him, he might even pick something out for you and serve it blind.
Through every step of the meal, Les Climats proves that an impeccable, high-end dining experience can also be just plain fun.
Read the entire 2017 Restaurant Awards package, including the cover story, “Building Identity Through Wine," in the Aug. 31, 2017, issue of Wine Spectator.