Purple Magazine
— Purple #31 The Paris issue

c a m import export

c a m import export

text by FRANÇOIS SIMON
photography by OLIVIER ZAHM

this is what a restaurant
should be like in our day and age —
a place 
of indulgence, peace, reconciliation

Thunderbolts lie hidden these days. These restaurants disguise themselves, blend into the crowd, lie low. After all, there are enough gaudy Parisian restaurants trying to be beautiful, tough, polite, smart, or local enough to set their customers’ hearts at ease. We need some hidden places, like this one in Paris on the Rue au Maire, near République, a tad rough and unadorned. Just the kind of lair, den, or hermit’s cell where you can feed in peace. Well, peace might not be exactly the word. Since they don’t take reservations (does that come as any surprise?), right at 7 PM you have to make a dash for the (seven or eight) stools here, the best seats in the house. Within 10 minutes, they disappear beneath the patrons’ esteemed and beautiful posteriors. The room’s other chairs are made of marginally comfortable wood, as if time were short, the world constantly on the move. As if you were supposed to hurry up instead of sitting down. Here, it’s all movement, particle acceleration, spinning meridians. The rest of the decor fits the spirit of the times, a kind of impractical brutalism, a little rough, a little arrogant. As if to say, “Yeah, have you got a problem with it?” Err, no… It’s just that we don’t have to be masochists and mark our asses with chair slats. But it’s fine. After all, there’s a kind of urban poetry to these bare-naked, barely washed walls. Yeah, little guy, you’ve got it all figured out — now sit down and eat.

Phil Euell (the heart and soul of the Boot Cafés) is the one who launched the shifting, energetic Esperanto now spoken within these walls. Before, this place was a little shop (CAM Import-Export, hence the restaurant’s name) that sold miniature Eiffel Towers. He chose a chef working in the direction he had charted. Eseu Lee came here by way of Passerini (one of the best Italian restaurants in Paris, near the Aligre market), which keeps him away from any nonsense. He is Korean, but luckily he wandered a little among airport corridors. His cooking is mostly Asian — Hong Kong-style, like his “chicken wings” — but he also browses, hatching dishes as he pleases, according to what the market or inspiration offers.

The menu is short. Barely eight options. And that’s it, figure it out. The message is magnificent — no creeping lines of text to ruin your evening, your appetite, your libido. No, here, if you’re hungry, you have all you need. If you’re despondent and minimalist, welcome. This is what a restaurant should be like in our day and age. A place of indulgence, peace, reconciliation. So, you can come here with a free mind and a carefree credit card — there’s no catch, just relax and eat. The courses arise instinctively, in short sequences. A polished, lively syntax. Taciturn, but articulate: calamari gimbap cutting to the quick (€7). Then, a steak tartare mixed with pecorino, shallots, dried scallops: XO tartare (€13). The phrases are impeccable, hard-hitting, ringing true as a ball in the sweet spot of a tennis racket. That night, there was a delicate, lovely quail with nuts, pepper, and a sexy rock-and-roll name: typhoon shelter quail, gochujang (€19).

You will see. After a moment, even though you walked in here nonchalantly, you will be hungry. Because it’s well seasoned, spicy just as it should be and not too much, making your fingers strike up an acquaintance with the meat on your plate. The table’s scenery then shifts into a strange game of hopscotch among the dishes, the sudden appetites, and the cloud of Kleenexes offered here as napkins. Well-chosen, high-volume (89dB) music reverberates an answer to the whip of the spicy gochujang sauces, the crunchiness of the peanuts, the smokiness of the mozzarella, the grease of the air. A sharp clientele with a few fashion icons, interesting faces, stylish silhouettes. Loudmouths holding forth, as well (the gladdening effect), which isn’t always indispensable. Attentive, kind, and efficient servers, female, doing their best to mitigate the arrhythmia of courses arriving sometimes quickly and sometimes very slowly. There you have it — now you know everything.

END

CAM’S CREATOR PHIL EUELL CHEF ESEU LEE

[Table of contents]

Purple #31 The Paris issue

Table of contents

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