Semilla, Paris.

June 2013.

I wonder if Spanish is the current trendy small Paris restaurant idea. This place is in the slightly upscale Rue de Seine on the left bank and offers a small side order of pretension. I should be clear that we’re not talking about Michelin rosette territory where the prices take off north from the sweet spot on any sensible person’s curve. I’ve said elsewhere that I’m finished with that kind of nonsense, and not because the food isn’t any good or even that it’s far too expensive, it’s just boring.

Semilla isn’t boring. In late June, arriving at 7:30 PM I had a reserved table in the open front of the place so food plus the view. Paris passing a meter in front of your face while you sample lovely delicacies is not a trivial pleasure. There was a Dutch couple on one side of me and one from Chicago on the other. A nice variable mix of conversation.

I had a ceviche of a white fish called maigre, which was beautifully seasoned and benefited from fat cuts of fishy aspic, with a marsanne to wash it down. It really was delicious but I nearly panicked when I saw how little there was. My choice for the main was a veal roll with foie gras, which arrived disguised under a canopy of leaves, presumably so the people would understand that vegetable and fiber comes first, and meat is best covered with a culinary burka. I cleared the leaves away, and there the lovely thing was. I had to ask for salt which it really needed but properly seasoned it was delicious, not scrupling to omit a good friendly layer of veal fat. I’m sure the coarse (and low-calorie dressed) salad was designed to please my favorite kind of middle-aged lady, and would.

Both the wines by the glass were from respectable producers and smelled and tasted consistent with the level of the food.

My only trouble with this place, the price actually being a very reasonable €52 (this time I didn’t order a whole hundred-dollar bottle), is the effete trendy style. And I shouldn’t quibble because of food really was lovely. I just don’t want to be sent up like I’m in somebody’s marketing plan.

There is something to be said for location. Once I was finished there, only two glasses of wine to the good, I didn’t have to go far along adjacent side streets to find a table at a busy sidewalk bar, listen to a respectable street dixieland group with a pretty inspired clarinet player, have another couple of glasses of wine and practice my French with parisiennes at the next table.

I think at this level if you search carefully you could do at least as well in a less upscale location, but I ended up pretty happy with the overall package. 7.9

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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