I keep to a strict gluten-free regime, but with one understandable exception: Paris. Whenever I’m in the French capital I put aside those au courant dietary rules in the name of going native, right down to my dernier bite of pain au chocolat. A number of gluten-free bakeries and cafés have popped up in Paris in the past few years, but I’d generally rather suffer through my body’s reaction to the wheat than forgo a crusty baguette or two.
Now, however, there’s Noglu, a chic and understated “goodbye to gluten” housed within the pale-pink walls of highly regarded French interior designer Mathieu Lehanneur. This Upper Marais address is, in fact, the third outpost of the nascent, transcontinental brand, which has two other Paris locations (in the 2nd and 7th arrondissements) plus a New York satellite on the Upper East Side, where gluten is all but outlawed these days. But this new edition is the notably gourmet outlier thanks to exceptionally talented chef Tsuyoshi Miyazaki, the former number two at Michelin-starred Passage 53 – a gastronomic pinnacle even by Paris standards – who brings his considerable cooking techniques to Noglu’s short but sublime symphony of a menu.
Settled into two counter seats on my most recent visit, my dinner date and I nibbled on surprisingly fluffy, warm and wheat-free bread, while the sommelier poured us each a glass of Monsieur S by Etienne Fort, a natural sparkling wine produced in Limoux, and we watched the Japanese maestro at work in the open kitchen. Next came a scarlet wreath of paper-thin beetroot slices, sprinkled with raspberries, cashews and Gorgonzola to share. This fresh surge of spring was followed with more subtle and sophisticated flavour combinations at thoughtful intervals: three roasted carrot slivers arrived side by side, each lightly glazed in orange coulis with dollops of fromage blanc. As I savoured this dish, I watched in awe as Miyazaki, with two spoons and much sleight of hand, puréed the dash of burnt aubergine that topped our grilled mackerel, then added finishing touches of hazelnuts and wasabi cream.
Mains here are no less skilfully prepared, their flavours harmoniously mixed; shredded, fried spring onions trailed a juicy slice of chicken on Camembert cream, while the vegetarian dish, black and white rice with vegetables was lavished with a creamy yet light curry sauce before our eyes. Early reviews in the French press showed a distinctly Gallic shrug towards the desserts. Their loss, I say, since the vegan panna cotta coco is a delightfully light confection of roasted mango and pineapple slices topped with a cloud of lemongrass-infused coconut whipped cream.