My husband and I just returned from a week in Paris--neither of us had been in 20 years, and never together, so we were starting from scratch. I'd like to share some reactions and a couple of small finds for people spending time in Montmartre (18th):
We ate at three places suggested by friends and fellow Hounds: Au Bon Accueil (7th), Le Maupertu (near L'Eglise du Dome) and Le Reminet (5th across from Ile de la Cite). Of these three, the food at Le Reminet was far and away the best. We had lovely starters: a quail salad with pine nuts for the husband, a phyllo-wrapped goat cheese on greens with eggplant confit and rouille for me. These were followed by steaks accompanied by an unctuous potato gratin and beautiful, delicious desserts (nougat glace and meringue lavande with lemon sorbet and Charentais melon soaked in a spicy ginger syrup). The chef, Hugues Gournay, comes out to talk with people, and his wife, who manages the front of the house, is unfailingly gracious and thoughtful.
Here's the big problem with Le Reminet: it's wildly (if deservedly) popular, and even reserving early means you end up in a packed, noisy room. We ate there on Sunday, which may have meant a bigger crowd. There are few outside tables, and on a hot summer night, temps in the main dining room, which abuts the kitchen, quickly climbed to nearly 100F. My husband had to stroll outside between courses to make it through the meal. I absolutely would recommend this place, but wait until the weather cools down before attempting it. Also try for an early meal, before the kitchen is completely slammed, and perhaps avoid weekend nights.
Au Bon Accueil lived up to its reputation for very good seasonal food and attentive service. The wine list there is extensive and excellent, with choices in every budget range. Le Maupertu, which has Provencal touches, was inconsistent: the appetizers (two cold, tomato-based salads), fish, and desserts (mascarpone mousse and a millefeuille aux fraises)were nice, but the kitchen showed a tendency to cook red meat and vegetable sides into complete, abject submission. I spent time in Provence as a teenager and can assure you this is not a Provencal approach to cooking! Also, the service was utterly indifferent--not typical in our experience.
Finally, some small finds in Montmartre: L'Entracte (44, rue Oursel, past Abbesses metro stop) is a teeny-tiny bistro serving a slightly hipper version of classic grand-mere food. The owners are two guys, one of whom manages the front, one of whom cooks in a miniscule galley kitchen. They are utterly charming, gracious people who clearly love great ingredients and love taking care of customers. The best part: the clientele is almost entirely local, which means you can have a really French experience, even in summer when the sidewalks are filled with your fellow tourists. Must reserve, though, to get a table. I think they will close for vacances during the month of August.
On rue des Abbesses, right near the metro, is Coquelicot, a boulangerie-patisserie artisanale that makes very good bread and serves terrific, well-priced breakfasts. You can get a croissant and bowl of cafe au lait, or something heartier, like eggs or a smoked salmon plate. Even an 8-course brunch at 16.60 Euros with more food than I could imagine a sane person consuming in one sitting. All the ingredients they use are top-quality, and it shows.
Up the hill just a bit before place des Abbesses is Relais de la Butte, a sweet cafe with a surprisingly good prix fixe that includes a kir royale, three courses and coffee. Food is straightforward but has nice touches (great dressing on a tuna tartare, a terrific sweet potato gratin accompanying herbed lamb). From the cobbled terrace the city unfolds below you--lovely. They are open through the day 7 days a week.
Thanks to all the Chowhounds who provided advice for our trip. I miss the food already!
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