From now through July 2010, one of Paris' hottest tables will be the sole 12-seater located inside a 24-ton glass-and-steel structure that has been constructed on the roof of the Palais de Tokyo contemporary-arts center, in the 16th arrondissement. The temporary restaurant has been conceived as a UFO-like installation by artist Laurent Grasso, who is famous for his unsettling science-, space- and paranormal-inspired works designed to reinstill mystery in a world that has been stripped of its uncertainties by science or so Grasso believes. For a dozen lucky diners at a time, however, there is no mystery about the quality of dining on offer. Nomiya the installation shares the same name as the cozy, casual bar-restaurants found in Japanese cities is a stylish, at times otherworldly, voyage through the culinary arts.
Within the elegant, futuristic interior, chef Gilles Stassart prepares lunches and dinners that are as changing and captivating as the panoramic views of the Seine, the Eiffel Tower and the Parisian cityscape. Something of a philosopher, Stassart challenges the notion that "a meal is simply something to nourish us, and taste but a sensation in your mouth." He is also given to discoursing on the ancient conflict between Apollo, god of the arts, reason and harmony, and Dionysus, god of wine, ecstasy and disorder. "Philosophically, we are trying to set aside this opposition between the body and soul," he declares. "Pleasure is in the mind, too; it's not only physical." Perhaps. But there's true corporeal delight in the surprise of biting into confectionery topped with numbing Sichuan buttons, or in experiencing previously unimagined combinations like artichoke confit with green aniseed, or foie gras infused marshmallow an elegant précis of the French culinary canon in one cubical mouthful.
Lunches and dinners cost roughly $85 and $115 a head, respectively, with wine. Reservations can be made on a special website, www.art-home-electrolux.com, and are accepted a month ahead of time. Demand, as you would expect, is high. If you can't get seats, you could sign up for the daily Art Home culinary workshops downstairs, which explore the ways that classic dishes can take on unexpected forms. There are also tours of the installation, during which you can drink in the same views but have to go hungry.