Four Friends Open a Restaurant...
From the outside, Le Cheval d’Or looks like a regular Chinese restaurant, which, for a long time, it was. Retaining its 80s facade (and a beautiful vintage fridge that’s been repurposed for storing wine), four friends came together to open a place — a bit fusion and experimental, but also somewhere that you’d be happy to find at the end of your road — that’s the talk of the city’s food circles.
“We were at the right place at the right time,” says Crislaine Medina, one of the founders, who also serves as the restaurant’s sommelier. “We all knew each other from the Paris scene and knew that we eventually wanted to work together. We looked at a lot of places, but none were quite right. We said, ‘it will happen organically’… and it did.”
A friend tipped off the group that the Chinese restaurant, which first opened in 1987 down a quiet, cobbled alley in the 19th, was being made available. “None of us are originally from Paris,” says Medina, “so this place just felt right. Somewhere where we can open a democratic restaurant, where everyone is welcome. Mixing some classic techniques with some new flavours.”
On the day that we visit, the street’s shopkeepers are idling outside of doors, chatting in the afternoon sunshine. Along with Medina we meet Hanz Gueco and Luis Andrade, who run the kitchen, and Nadim Smair who looks after things on the floor. Another friend has dropped in with his baby. It’s all very idyllic. Natural light, pale wood, and an open kitchen.
“What does a new style of immigrant restaurant look like? adds Gueco, who made his name cooking at places like LA’s Manresa, Ruygin in Tokyo and Verjus down in the 2nd. “It’s trying things out with different ingredients. We make a ratatouille, a French classic, but using Asian techniques. There’s Tempura, eggplant, courgettes, tomatoes and peppers. It’s like a weird, French-meets-Korean mix! We don’t want people to just have one favourite, though. Hopefully there’s some discovery when you visit us.”
The restaurant has only been open for a couple of months, but Medina is optimistic. “It feels like we're making people happy,” she says. “Good wines, good products, welcoming people.”
“After all of the planning and dreaming, it’s just cool to see our different worlds come together.”