On Monday and Saturday afternoons, Abri miraculously becomes accessible. The customarily coveted lunch and dinner seatings hold no bearing against the queue for the biweekly méga-sandwich. That a restaurant heralded for its surprise tasting menus spends two days out of the week forming sandwiches like a conveyor belt does not come as a surprise in a town that embraces culinary evolution. Granted this would not be the case decades ago when—more than any other city—Paris meticulously manicured itself for the ratings of the Michelin guide, but the current of nouvelle cuisine steadily pluses on in the city along the Seine.
Thus the sandwich phenomenon at Abri is an alluring testimony of how far Paris has come from the starchy white table clothes and heavy meals drenched in béchamel sauces of times past. It upholds the prix fixes meal trend by presenting customers with the sandwich without offering modifications or substitutions. It also upholds the burgeoning trend of presenting familiar food in unfamiliar ways.
I unveiled the nostalgically foil wrapped lunch to find a sandwich that looked as though it came from a kitchen in the American South, not north-west Paris. Squares of white bread. Coleslaw. Fried chicken. Ingredients so quotidian I didn’t even have them in my health-nut parents’ kitchen growing up. Thus, it was fortunate for me that I wasn’t expecting comforting flavors when biting into this sandwich inspired by American traditions.
In between coleslaw and fried chicken sat an omelet flavored with scallions, adding a pillowy texture and Asian flavors. Even more depth lurked between the three centerpieces: a liquid similar to Worcestershire sauce glued the top layer of bread to the chicken, grainy mustard merged the chicken and the egg and a vinegary mayonnaise coated shreds of cabbage, making an Asian flavored coleslaw.
From the quantity of ingredients to how they seamlessly fused together, everything about this sandwich was méga. The sandwich was towering, which in combination with the crunchiness of the toasted bread and fried chicken could have been overwhelming, but all of the sandwiches’ sauces created the perfect level of moistness so that each bite was graceful and shockingly mess free.
Perhaps more so than Abri’s creative culinary expressions, the prices truly set this restaurant apart. That three course lunches are only 22 Euros and seven course dinners can be as little as 38 Euros is remarkable given the quality and novelty of Chef Okiyama’s dishes. So it should come as no surprise that this adorable lunch of an original (méga)sandwich, drink and dessert is simply 12 Euros. Drink choices are plentiful. I chose a thick and sweet juice of puréed pears by Marcel Bio and this week’s dessert was a deliciously spongy and moist medallion shaped madeleine.
No reservations are needed for the méga-sandwich—enjoy the lunch in the quaint restaurant or take it to go and have a picnic in one of the nearby parks. Abri does not have a website, for more information call 01.83.97.00.00
Abri, 92 rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, Paris, 9th