I rode the TGV into Paris, settled in and opted for something simple to ease me into the city of lights. My first dinner there was at Ambassade d'Auvergne in the 3rd arrondisement (22 rue Grenier St-Larzare). The setting is cozy and dark, with beamed ceilings and walls casting a traditional wood-heavy ambiance.
The scallop carpaccio 1st course blew me away. Not in the exquisite lighter-than-air sense that the 3 starred places do, but in a more artful and rustic way that a good country place would. Thin slices of raw, crunchy and sweet scallop are dressed lightly with vinegar to soften the ocean a little bit. Tiny diced red bell peppers punctuate the dish with crisp vegetable crunch and sweetness. A crack of black pepper lends weight and power to the light scallop. Immensely delicious in its simplicity and freshness.
The rustic department continues with a rather satisfying leg of rabbit cooked with foie gras. Sides of roasted fennel, spinach and a potato gratin of some sort do justice to the dish. Good, not great.
Lastly a tart loaded with rhubarb that works really well under a veil of vanilla sauce.
All in all, not a bad place for delighfully competent cooking.
A few days later, I ate lunch at L'Ardoise in the 1st arrondisement (28 rue Mont Thabor). This cheery place is small and cute and busy during lunch. The food is just as bright and cheerful, as are overworked but poised waitresses and the casual dining room. The menu consists of a chalkboard written with a list of dishes, all seemingly full of color.
I start with escargot -- each perfectly crunchy snail is served in its own petit pot with generous amounts of parsley, garlic and butter. Easy to love.
Then a languostine (prawn) risotto, smiling in creamy richness. Very smooth and well cooked. The prawns are just right for me; some might be ever so slightly mushy on the inside, but I don't have too much of an argument with a kitchen that errs on this side of rareness.
For dessert I asked for recommendations and it was a proclamation of love to the lovable chestnut. A crepe of fairly supple and chewy body is turned into a purse for a wonderful chestnut cream while a scoop of chestnut ice cream cozies up to the palate in an indulgent kind of way. Couldn't ask for more.
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