After reading and talking so much recently about the concept of "democratic exclusivity" (first coined by Ed Cotton on the Influx Insights blog and then promoted by the relentless Piers Fawkes), I was delighted to finally experience it myself when I was strolling the streets of Paris last week. I spent a day (a micro-vacation!) in the not-so-touristy 6th district around Metro Vavin in Montparnasse (in fact, I rarely left it, which was a much more satisfying experience than zig-zagging from the left to the right bank all the time as I used to) and discovered "Le Timbre," (French for "the stamp"), a true micro-restaurant in the size of, yep, a stamp. Literally squeezed into a hole-in-the-wall, this place has a total of 12 tables and 24 tightly packed seats, and one is forced by proximity to engage accidental dining partners.
Space is not the only thing that's micro about "Le Stamp:" The fixed price menu is very limited with only two or three choices of every course. The chef is from Manchester, UK, but the food is French and excellent. Reservations are competitive but democratic: As with the Momofuku Ko restaurant in New York, status doesn't matter for landing one of the few tables; everyone can make a reservation, even on short notice. Nonetheless, the dining experience is exclusive -- the night I was there, the waiting line of people exceeded the number of guests still working on their meals, which struck me as a very obvious manifestation of "artificial scarcity." Blend scarcity and timing and you create buzz and intrigue, writes Ed Cotton. Oui!