Rue Berthollet, behind the Pantheon, quiet area of the Fifth arrondissement of Paris, dinner at OKA (“my house”) is a celebration. For the eyes, instantly captivated by the contemporary décor, a variation of mustard yellow, green, bronze, passing by the blue duck as a nod to the brazilian flag and the poetry tart to the plate.
To the palace, completely tourneboulé by the unexpected flavors that sparkle, throw and surprise. Such exquisiteness of this amazing mashed black beans fermented for ten days, awakened by a juice of lemon caramelized with cachaça (alcohol made from sugar cane juice) and little balls of buckwheat that you explode delicately in the mouth, this turbot way “bacalhau” (cod) in sweet pepper cheiro and jambu (a plant of the amazon to the anaesthetic activity), and, finally, this is a unforgettable sphere of white chocolate and acai the heart flowing passion flower. All 100 % free, flour-free.
But the dinner is also a feast thanks to the personality of the leader Raphael Rego. His ballet graph of pans it makes them dance behind a canopy to be closer to its customers. “I need to see, to observe their reaction, try to understand. Is there a flat that bothers them? Is it that the table 8 speaks with the 9? Is it that they share? The sharing is part of the project. I want the people who push the door of OKA can feel the land of the indigenous Yanomami in the middle of the forest, the fineness of the flour of cassava as a small artisan in the region of Sao Paulo has grown at it before I send it surrounded by a cloth to keep it dry, they have the feeling of living a unique experience, feel well.”
“Come, come, install you, you are of what origin, of what color, it doesn’t matter, tell me”
Raphael Rego. A giant brazilian 34-year-old, with long, slender hands. Of the hands that brew, grind, grate almonds and raw cocoa, extract the quintessence of the roots of priprioca, berries acai and other condiments are unusual, reached him home without intermediaries from the remote regions of the Amazon. Hands trained to excellence with great French chefs. Hands that cook at a low temperature, like sauces, are products of the French countryside as the refinement of the service to the French.
A man who knows how to recognize the beauty of a turbot caught in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, a pig of the Mayenne. An adventurer who went to meet him, near Recife in northeastern Brazil, a small local producer that he retains as the 90 farmers that he knows one by one to the four corners of its country of origin and who are now working for him. A man that is playful, sensitive and friendly, who left Brazil to Australia at the age of 19 years with the intention of studying the marketing before take passion for fine dining in favor of a student job in the back-kitchens of the Tetsuya’s in Sydney.
Four years later, in the direction of the France, ecole Ferrandi, l’atelier de Joël Robuchon, Taillevent, chef to The Boutarde of Michel Rostang in Neuilly. Rigor, mastery, and career launched in the high French cuisine. But in 2013, became a father, he asks: “what do I want for my son? He takes each morning of croissants and hot chocolate for breakfast or papaya and fruit juices like me?” A click is heard. A desire to return to the sources.
One of the creations of Raphael Rego, the caipirinha of jambu and maracuja. Julie Limont
Raphael Rego questions. Either he returned to Brazil with his family and opened a restaurant in the example of the most chefs of his generation trained in London, Paris or New York and who enrol in the lineage of Alex Atala, a visionary in the contemporary cuisine of brazil. Is it done the opposite way: put down roots in Paris to be the one who will know this new mestizaje culinary of brazil in France. A bet crazy. Because it is first of all to get rid of clichés, endless barbecues, feijoada (cassoulet of pork and black beans), fried foods and moqueca (stew of fish in coconut milk). A traditional food “that I love”, wishes to clarify Raphael Rego, but a bit heavy and invariably served by the restaurants brazilians abroad in a post-card like setting evoking Rio, the football or the samba.
Raphael Rego is passionate about this range of condiments fabulous, the revisits to adapt it to French taste
In 2014, Raphael Rego made the choice to begin with a new concept: to serve in Paris this kitchen a contemporary franco-brazilian in which he believes. It will be OKA, rue de la Tour d’auvergne, in the Ninth. A tiny space “of 30 square metres kitchen understood”. The beginnings are difficult. The top of the range and its inspiration mixed in are very difficult. “People didn’t understand. Why your caipirinha is 15 euros? It is where is the moqueca, feijoada?”
It grabs the edge, starts to “write his way out of memory” inspired by what made her “a mother, grandmother, and aunts” and what he has learned from great French chefs. By chance, a neighbour, Gilles Pudlowski the note. In 2015, OKA is the first brazilian restaurant to get a Bib Gourmand from Michelin. “I was as proud as any, it was madness, we had three months of waiting. I said to myself, Raphael, it is time to move on to the second step, build relationships with the peasants of the brazilian open wider to try and land a star.”
luck smiled on him. The articles of association of a company in import-export are set in December 2015. OKA, second step, was placed in orbit in early 2016 rue Berthollet. But dreams often break. The works are delayed, a month, two months, three months… Finally, OKA is inaugurated in June 2017. In September, it is already closed. Put up for sale. Defects in repetition, savings, dry, and total depletion of the head. “Everything was in place, but I was no longer there. After nineteen months of work and worries, I had lost the urge. Too much pressure, stress. I never took more.” These are periods strange, when it is necessary to put everything back to flat.
15,5/20 in the Gault and Millau
Rego found his modest desk of the Ninth, returns to the kitchen, took the opportunity to travel around Brazil, learning of the indigenous, rediscovering with them the pleasure of inventing. He is passionate about this range of condiments fabulous, the revisits to adapt it to French taste. “Don’t worry, it certifies a friend in January 2018, OKA will be reborn from its ashes.” The next day, it was a done thing. The chance, as often. A buyer looks to acquire thees local the counter of the Ninth.
With this financing, unhoped-for, Raphael Rego may reopen the rue Berthollet in march. A “renaissance” more user-friendly, less stilted, which corresponds to his new state of mind, that of a “free man”. A single service 18: 30-22: 30 to stagger the arrivals and dedicate themselves to each client according to his desires (vegetarian, vegan) and a gourmet menu of unique at the affordable price of 55 euros.
In less than six months, OKA has already earned a 15.5/20 Gault & Millau. The team has recovered the smile. “Come, come, install you, you are of what origin, of what color, it doesn’t matter, tells me,” it is said in Brazil when you were invited to sit at the table. This is what’s happening to OKA. It tells the story. A hand on the shoulder of the other with this little nudge, which means “obrigado”. Thank you for coming.
OKA. 1, rue Berthollet (Paris Ve). Tel.: 01 45 30 94 56. Open for lunch Friday, and dinner Monday to Saturday. The lunch menu at 35 euros. Booking on www.okaparis.fr
Cowpea, the sun in the plate
Rue de la Grande-Chaumière in Montparnasse, in a former merchant colours, where Picasso bought the painting, which served him to paint Guernica, Cowpea offers for the past two years and a fine afro-brazilian sun. A “hearty food”, describes Josephine Kodiani, one of two women to the origin of this restaurant where the clientele of the district will soon take its bearings under the canopy.
Gambas in coconut milk or cream of cassava, velvety yam, bacalhau fresco (cod) juice of passion fruit and chili rose… You come here to warm the soul and the body to the subtlety playful dishes both savoury and sweet available “with much love” by the young leader brazilian Felipe Pastor. And remember that the cowpea (the “cornille” in French, or black eyed pea in English) is a small bean two-tone black-and-white virtues of lucky charms. In particular, the beginning of each year.
Cowpea. 16, rue de la Grande-Chaumière (Paris Life). Tel.: 01.43.29.43.31.