The name Paname is meant to evoke a hip, trendy Parisian insider’s outlook on the City of Lights, referencing the popular Panama hat. The architectures, furnishings, and artwork which fall under the flowery category of Art Nouveau, do just that. Illuminated by adorable patterned sconces, the atmosphere is classy without ever feeling overwhelming.
Chef Bernard Ros is the mastermind behind the restaurant, acting as its executive chef, sommelier, and pastry chef. His classical French cooking showcases many decades of experiences that have made him a hardened, capable chef. However, it’s his attention to detail and accommodating adjustments to the classics that really set his cooking apart from similar restaurants.
Of the starting courses, my favorites were an amuse bouche that consisted of smoked eel that tasted more Japanese in its sweet and salty flavoring than French, and an octopus appetizer.
Served on a bed of haricot blancs (they tasted like chickpeas to me) the baby octopus was perfectly cooked. Not too crispy or chewy, it had a satisfyingly firm texture and savory flavor from a garlic sauce to back it up.
For main courses, I would most definitely order the Bouillabaise and the Beef Borguignon again.
The Bouillabaise in particular was an invigorating, savory elixir of crimson broth. Bursting with plenty of mussels, squid ringlets, juicy shrimp, and flaky bits of cod that all seemed sweet and delicate compared to the stew itself.
I immediately could taste and smell a hint of aromatic spiciness hovering over the dish. Chef Bernard shared with me he uses the Eastern spice anise to add extra fragrant notes instead of wine. Many of his most loyal customers are unable to consume alcohol regularly because of medication or other health concerns. It made for a wonderful substitution. His bouillabaisse is the perfect cure for a frigid December night.
Beef Bourguignon is one of those classical French dishes that can fall prey to its own decadence. Chef Bernard’s beef was exceptionally tender and juicy with cuts of bacon and their rendered fat making the meat even silkier and more flavorful. Garnished with pearl onions and fresh carrots (as opposed to slow cooked and mushy), the vegetables allowed the dish to have a crisp, spring-like aftertaste in every bite.
Dessert was a creamy, refreshing Violet that I find difficult to put into words. The flavor of the violet manifested as both fruity and milky for me. Imagine milk, sugar, and a kiss of fragrance from a field of flowers all swirled together into one marvelous bit of dessert.
There was also a freshly baked apple tart with strawberries that I found more familiar and standard, but very well executed nonetheless. The caramelized apples had an intense yet measured sweetness.
Paname has only been open for the last three years, but I am told that Chef Bernard has cultivated his loyal customer base for over forty years.I believe Paname’s success lends itself to Chef Bernard’s combination of both skill and improvisational talent.
I was surprised to see so many people here on a cold Tuesday evening upon arrival. After tasting the menu, however, I feel as if I am in on a juicy secret.
Paname French Restaurant
Address: 1068 2nd Avenue (Between East 56th and 57th Streets)
Phone Number: 212 207 3737