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Ze Kitchen Galerie

It's a decade-old Michelin-starred restaurant a block off the banks of the Seine in Paris' 6th Arrondisement, helmed by a superstar chef the respected gastronomic guide Gault et Millau named 2010 Chef of the Year. Ze Kitchen Galerie is chef William Ledeuil's showcase for his particular brand of contemporary fusion.  He is not the first French chef to attempt to marry classical French haute cuisine with Asian flavours.  Alain Ducasse, Alain Senderens and Jean-Georges Vongoritchen continue to do so with great assurance, but Ledeuil's particular brand of fusion relies on the subtleties of Southeast Asian herbs, fruits and spices rather than the more predictable Chinese or Japanese ingredients, although ginger, wasabi and coriander are also skillfully added to his many distinctive dishes.  The menu is simultaneously seductive and preposterous, eliciting both desire and skepticism - can you really mix those ingredients together?  Iberian pork confit?  wasabi tarama? - that the best thing to do is to sample the entire menu.  Which is exactly what Ze Kitchen Galerie proposes with its astounding menu degustation for 80 euros. In talking about his vocation, Ledeuil, who trained with another celebrated French chef, Guy Savoy, called cooking his "game".  The soul of his cooking, he said, "is the child within me.  For me, cooking has and always will be a game.  A game which rapidly became an all-consuming passion." His rules are simple:  "Let your imagination and sensitivity run free, while respecting the classic base of a recipe.  Let out the child in you.  Be excited: about the colour, the texture, the smell of the ingredient.  Enjoy talking to your greengrocer.  It might not seem much, but this kind of heartfelt attention to detail makes everyday life so much richer." As for the "gallery" aspect of his restaurant, Ze Kitchen Galerie is that rare Parisian establishment that allows the customer to see what the chefs are cooking up in the glass-walled kitchen.  And the dining room itself doubles as an exhibition space for such artists as Jacques Bosser, Thibault de Reimpre, Leopold Gest, Daniel Humair and Tony Soulie.  In short, a place where food meets art, particularly apt as it is located a stone's throw away from Picasso's old studio along the quai des Grands-Augustins. Ze Kitchen Galerie, 4, rue des Grands-Augustins, 75006 Paris. +33-144-32-00-32   All photos courtesy of Ze Kitchen Galerie