We’ve just returned from ten days and offer this report in hopes it helps others, as I’ve been helped by you.
Three lovely days:
Dinner day 1: Daniel et Denise – at Crequi location. Much has been written in recent posts. For us, the front room was touristy, but not all, and the back room was fully French. It felt like a good introduction to bouchon – nothing remarkable but hearty and local. The gastronomic kitsch was fun: we sat at a table with a “Joel Robuchon” plaque. I went for the quenelles and they were a good introduction.
The gastronomic highlight of the day, however, was the sheep’s milk ice cream from Cremerie Saint Michel – really special.
Day 2: Lunch at La Mere Brazier: This was splendid – I left feeling like this lunch was everything fine dining can and should be. The room was not crowded, in fact, we arrived on the late side for lunch and the staff was warm and professional.
The food was creative and beautiful, highlights: an amuse bouche of lacquered mackerel over eggplant and papaya cream, a crudo of sea bream with passion fruit and chive, crispy pike mousse with crayfish sauce (this was the other end of the spectrum for quenelles from the previous night). As I did on the entire trip, I took advice on what to drink and had a lovely rose, a Bandol, yet one I know from home.
As someone else wrote in a previous post, if you have one meal in Lyon, you could do no better than to eat here – I would add: if you are looking for the two-star formal experience.
Day Three – drove up into Beaujolais on a whim (we had to pick up our rental car early). All was beautiful yet for those that don’t know, most vineyards are closed on weekend, so we did not do much (any)tasting.
For dinner, walked up the big hill to the Croix Russe neighborhood to find O. Vins Anges – a wine bar known for biodynamic wines and festive tasting. Alas, they had to close early. The neighborhood was relaxed and was free of any tourists, best I could tell. We stumbled into Mr. Edgar for a splendid dinner. The food was inventive and delicious - of course without the polish of our previous lunch. Highlights were an artichoke cream with soft-boiled egg, a dish of whipped feta and haricot verts and a main of warm mackerel with potato. The staff and restaurant felt young, fresh, hard working and ambitious.
We then spent two and a half days in the Dordogne. Food was fine – one brasserie-like place in Sarlat, Le Bistrot de l’Octroi, that I’d recommend, but would not recommend staying in Sarlat. It felt like Cape Cod in high season. Way too touristy for my tastes. The most fun food we had was at a little lunch place, Les Tartine, in Tremolat after canoeing; creative and delicious – and quick – sandwiches.
There are some fine dining spots in the region, usually requiring reservation and rooms.
Non-gastronomic highlights of the Dordogne were a visit to Domme – a BEAUTIFUL city (with some good restaurants and a great nougat store) and a visit to Les Jardin de Marqueyssac. This is a mind-blowing garden high above the Dordogne valley. In a region with fairy-tale like vistas, this blew us away.
Next on to Paris:
Day One - dinner at Les Bon Georges. I highly recommend reserving a table here where they are refreshing the bistro menu with fresh and local sourcing. The confit of tuna with potato was a wonderful re-working of herring and potato (one of my favorite dishes). The room was hustling, festive and efficient/brusque in the bistrot style.
Day two – tried a vegetarian restaurant, Veget’Halles that was fun and comfortable but not earth-shattering; a bit better than what we’d get at home, but not by much.
Dinner was at Fish – Le Boissonnerie. We walked over to the street with this place, Semilla and Freddy’s to take our chances without a reservation. The menu here looked most enticing – especially since we are mostly pescatarians. This was one of the more disappointing meals. The food was under-seasoned and combinations did not click. A confit of monkfish was darn near raw (reportedly had been sous vide). Tagliatelle with chanterelles was delicious, but who needs to go there for that. As I mentioned, I always asked for a wine recommendation to go with our menu and was told, “everything we have is good.” Too bad.
Day three – began the day with Pierre Herme Ispahan croissant (from the Saint Germain de Pres site). This is his signature flavor combination of raspberry, passion fruit, lychee and rose. Now I will cross the street to avoid anything cooked with rose water, but this delight now has a special place in my heart. I can taste it two weeks later. The flavors were married and restrained and the pastry itself held everything in a sturdy cloud of butter. Worth a trip (crap, I drooled on my keyboard).
We ended the day at Chez Marianne with a hunkering for falafel. L’As de Felafel did not have seating and we were tired and this Lebanese place was highly recommended. I have to say, disappointing. All the meze salads tasted similar and the staff could not have cared less about us.
Day four – Bastille Day! We had lunch at David Toutin. We had had a reservation at L’Arpege, but recent reviews scared me away. We called David Toutin the day before and got a table. The room is full of wood and linen. I could go on for pages about this meal. There are four and six course tasting menus, with or without pairings. I had a pairing, my wife and daughter each enjoying one delicious glass for the meal (and sneaking tastes of my wine).
Each amuse bouche was beautiful and delicious. Never before have I had more evocative cooking: the first course of tomatos and herbs captured the smell of recently clipped tomato plants and then the bites of fresh tomato. Stunning. Zucchini with clams took me to all that is good about a fish pier. The cod with crispy spelt and pea was a moment in early summer. The beef dish – prepared with a powder of some local flower – presented for our education olfactory preparation – as well as white carrots and crisp nori sent the mind to the wild-flowered pasture at which this cow prepared for this moment (excuse me).
Did I mention that each course had it’s own bread!
Just when my daughter noted that there had been very little parsley in anything we’d eaten, came the dessert of strawberries and parsley ice cream.
Clearly this meal is worth the trip – hell, I’d fly back to Paris just to read what his next menu is.
The thing that really blows my mind, though, is that David Toutin is one of many. I don’t read the Paris press, but did my share of homework for the trip – as do all of you. That this restaurant was one of many on the best of lists (i.e. Paris by Mouth or others) is really the statement about cooking in that great city. All I can say is, go to David Toutin!
Waiting for the Bastille Day fireworks, we had a three entres at GrandCoer. A lovely place in a secluded square. I’m sure everything was delicious, but the sun of lunch still shone brightly.
Day five - Our last meal was at Chez Fernand Christine on the left bank. I’m not sure what list this is on, but the entire place was speaking English. The food was fine and fun, service friendly. They had a classic bistrot menu and we’d not yet had escargot or my herring. Both of these were pleasant and delicious. There’s a place for such a meal.
All in all a wonderful time. I regret not making it to Tous, or any of the places on Mssr. Talcott’s lists.
Two “meta” thoughts: 1) We did not suffer for lack of reservations. I had a reservation for the first night in each city, but there is so much good food, even in the height of the season, we could call a place and get a table for three that night or the next. 2) As is the case here in the States, I don’t find the words “bistrot” or “brasserie” terribly restrictive or suggestive. Especially if you are reading or using Patricia Wells’ app, expect everything to be a bit fancier than you’d expect from a place described as “preparing the basics well” or “ where you want to go for the comfort meals.”
I hope this is helpful and you have a wonderful time.
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