If I say caviar and you think unreachable, unattainable… well, times have changed! With his Boutary brand and new Parisian restaurant of the same name in the trendy Saint-Germain-des Près, Charles de Saint Vincent aims to shake up the image that people have of caviar. Don’t get me wrong – you will not, in the next 10 years, be spreading caviar on your bread like peanut butter!
Making Caviar More Accessible
The traditional delicacy of choice for Tsars, aristocrats and celebrities from Marlene Dietrich to Picasso and Christian Dior, caviar is still a refined and sophisticated product. And it is, of course, quite expensive. Other delicacies like champagne, salmon, and oysters are also luxurious products, but over the years have lost the image of being inaccessible. This is what de Saint Vincent would like to achieve: make caviar accessible again!
The Expensive Origins of Caviar
Traditionally, the term “caviar” refers to roe from wild sturgeons. Between 1990 and 2000, caviar was scarce due to poaching, over-fishing, water pollution, and damming of rivers. All of this considerably reduced the sturgeon population in the Caspian Sea. As a result, the prices exploded, and caviar was sold at two or even three times the price we used to pay in the 1970s. Since 2000, several restrictions and even embargoes were put into place to ban the export of caviar.
The ban on sturgeon fishing led to the development of aquaculture (the breeding of fish). Today Italy, France, and China are the largest producers and exporters of farmed caviar in the world.
Sturgeon are a very particular species; they are a long-lived and late-maturing fish. Their lifespan is about 50 years, and they first spawn when they are around 8 to 15 years old. There are 25 different species in the world and about 10 varieties are farmed.
Different Varieties of Caviar
Boutary uses three sturgeon varieties: the Baerii, also know as Siberian sturgeon, very famous in France. They work with a farm in Aquitaine, and they have their own breeding farm in Bulgaria, where they breed two other types of sturgeon: the Oscietre (Ossetra, also known as Russian Sturgeon) and the Sterlet. They have also started farming another variety: the Beluga sturgeon.
Caviar, like wine, will age and mature, but in a shorter time frame. According to its maturing time, the caviar will have different characteristics, different colors, and will gain iodine and a long finish. Each type of sturgeon will produce different types of caviar, in terms of color, size, and taste.
Boutary Restaurant: a Refined and Relaxed Experience
As I mentioned, Boutary recently opened a new restaurant in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. Here, de Saint Vincent recreates the spirit of his family castle, le Château de Boutary, in Tarn-et-Garonne (southwest France). With the help of artist Anne Grim, he reproduced different rooms from the castle: the garden, the chapel, the red room, and the ballroom.
It is in this refined, yet laid-back atmosphere that he invites you to discover his caviar. The cherry on the cake is when de Saint Vincent brings a tray with the caviar box and mother-of-pearl spoons, and invites you to taste the caviar of the day à la royale.
This “royal tasting” is a tradition that started with the Tsars’ tasters. They would put a knob of the Tsar’s meal on their hand at the anatomical snuff (intersection of the thumb and the index), then bring it to their mouth to taste the food to make sure that it had not been poisoned. The fishermen in the Caspian Sea seized on the tradition, at first ironically, but then kept it as a ritual.
Women at the Helm of the Restaurant
Two charming women oversee the restaurant with rigor and professionalism: Fatima Meftah, the restaurant manager, and Chef Kelly Rangama in the kitchen.
Chef Kelly has climbed the ladder of the culinary profession by working with Michelin-starred chefs. Most recently, she worked as a sous-chef at L’Arôme with chef Thomas Boullault, her mentor. Kelly draws her creativity and inspiration from her native Reunion Island. So her menu features a variety of dishes with ingredients coming from there, such as combava and Aloe Vera.
Exquisite Food, Beautifully Presented
Chef Kelly also features different dishes in which she carefully combines caviar with other ingredients. For example, the potato with caviar is truly a success, and the presentation is spectacular. And, the crab with caviar, avocado, and sweet pepper of the Vera is absolutely delicious!
The carte includes specialties from the sea: sea bass with asparagus (the blood orange sabayon gives a citrus flavor that accompanies the fish very well) and from the land: Pluma Iberica glazed with licorice, served with vegetables of the season. Both embody chef Kelly’s creativity.
Desserts are exquisite and beautifully presented. The île flottante with Victoria pineapple roasted with galabé sugar from the Reunion Island and coconut cream served with combava meringue is a killer. The strawberry & chocolate with lemon sorbet and Aloe Vera gel cubes was truly divine!
So Many Ways to Appreciate Caviar
There are many ways to appreciate the caviar at Boutary. Savor it with a meal created by Chef Kelly or share a box with your guests. Or for a fun twist, try a blind tasting of three different kinds.
I really appreciated my experience in the caviar world and particularly enjoyed the royal tasting! To my great happiness, I discovered caviar is always tasted twice.
Images by Caliwa Photography for INSPIRELLE.
Address: 25 Rue Mazarine, 75006 Paris, France
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 43 69 10
Average a la carte price: 45€ for a two-course meal.
Menus and bookings online at: http://www.boutary-restaurant.com/