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Paris - April Trip Report or How To Lose Your Abs In 10 Days, Part 1: Pierre Sang Oberkampf, A Noste Upstairs, Les Tablettes, Le Comptoir du Relais, Hugo Desnoyer

mikey8811 | May 17, 201512:29 PM

Not sure if the board needs another trip report as there are a whole lotta them now. But here’s the the first part of a rundown on a trip made in April. Thanks to the denizens of this board who weighed in on the original thread – JT, Parigi, Rio Yeti, Parn, Pti, Shakti, Julie Marie, etc. some of whom I had the pleasure of meeting.

Pierre Sang, Oberkampf

I was concerned that this would be far too fusion but went ahead due to all the recommendations here and elsewhere online. Fortunately it wasn’t. The Korean/ Asian inflections were limited to gratings of yuzu and lashings of gochujang and wasabi which did not add much to nor detract from the food which seemed mostly French albeit modern. This was for a Sunday lunch and I had the whole hog, beginning with great bread from Landemaine down the road and some of that that big pile of butter sitting on the counter. The first course was tender octopus with petit pois and anchovy crème, poached so well I thought it was done sous vide but in fact wasn’t. The line chef said their prep staff was Portuguese and had a way with cephalopods. The fish course was seared mackerel, skin crisped and still translucent flesh with a wasabi crème on the side. The meat course was a fillet mignon of pork, pink with the texture of ham on pomme puree and jus with gochujang . Presentation was per the multitude of mod places out there - ingredients piled to look randomly so with lots of micro greens. For the cheese course, a piece of Cantal with a drizzle of yuzu honey. Dessert was a deconstructed tarte au citron with yuzu ice cream. Overall, fresh ingredients executed well, albeit not as creative as other reports had suggested but to watch the chefs in action in that tiny space was a joy in itself. To a jazz geek it almost had the pulsing energy of Bitches Brew era Miles without the earbleed. Just two chefs in that cramped area turning out food of that quality at the pace they do - that alone is worth the (value) price of admission. Not to mention the generous servings. Mixed crowd with a higher ratio of hip young things.

Cost (hors boisson – as they say): EUR 35

Nearby sight: Pere Lachaise

A Noste, La Table or Upstairs

The upstairs area was more reserved and quieter than the boisterous tapas area downstairs which played to a full house of Paris marathon participants – great vibe, their occasional chants heard upstairs. The tasting menu began with an amuse bouche of sashimi on a rice cracker – passable. Then a trio: truffled scrambled egg in the shell (perhaps a nod to l’Arpege), pretty good; lobster bisque cromesquis - crisp crumbed shell, oozing liquid centre, very good; lobster butter with brioche, good. First course was a creamy, foamy, oniony gratin of morilles - ok. Next up white asparagus strips to resemble angel hair pasta with some larger green asparagus tips on a foamy “carbonara” type sauce with smoked duck, topped with a quail egg yolk – am not a big asparagus fan (I know it’s the season). At this point, the manager, Morgan – as nice and accommodating a guy as you would want to meet – pops up and enquires how things are going. After some conversation, I mention that I hear the chipirons and duck hearts from downstairs come strongly recommended (it was Parigi if I recall correctly) and was wondering if I could have a tiny portion to sample. He pops downstairs and brings up a demi portion of each which I protested was too much but he demurred. Chipirons – pretty good, duck hearts – wow, downed all of those. The fish course was supposedly Scandi inspired – a tranche of Skrei, a delicate cod like fish studded with buckwheat croutons served with salsa of aquavit and a strip of crispbread with caviar – good if a tad salty. Then came the all you can eat meat rotisserie, first up pink slices of melt in your mouth veal roast with a rich meaty gravy (the unctuous chunks of fatty meat in that were impressive) with a brushstroke of piquillo pepper studded with broccoli, cauliflower and pomegranate seeds; carrots and veg. Pretty stuffed by now, I couldn’t do it justice by requesting for seconds. The other meat, pork roasted with chorizo spice was tasty if a bit on the overcooked, tough side. Chevre and then a flourless chocolate passion fruit slice with ice cream followed. Good produce, a lot of food and creative cooking which is slightly rough around the edges in that not everything worked. Plating was of the trail mix variety – you know, atop a pile of twigs, pebbles, hay, some brushstrokes artfully arranged. Friendly, hip, young waitstaff. Oh, as it turned out, they comped the chipirons and duck hearts.

Cost (hors boisson): EUR 60

Nearby sight: Haut Marais walk as recommended by Parn in other threads

Les Tablettes de Jean- Louis Nomicos

Great little place if in a more serious and hushed setting. Older crowd too – whilst I would have been the oldest at A Noste downstairs, I was close to being the youngest here. More refined tastes with pretty presentation. The 3 course lunch menu began with an amuse of frothy petit pois veloute. Entrée was a tarte fine of red mullet and calamari arranged alternately on confit of sweet onions and dusted with oregano – fresh, tasty and colourful with alternating flecked red and white on the pastry base, little black (olive) and red (piquillo pepper ) globs of sauce framing it. Plat was cubes of orange lacquered veal cheeks – slow cooked till fall-apart texture and then seared in a pan. Again pleasing to the eye on a verdant bed of julienned beans. Photogenic and full of colour. At my request, they substituted the dessert du jour for their signature chocolate soufflé tart which was yummy. Good mignardises – mini tarte au citron, strawberry macarons, pate de fruits and chocolate. This was great value with the food quality befitting the one star rating of the establishment.

Cost (hors boisson): EUR 42

Nearby sight: Jardin d’Aclimmatation & Fondation Louis Vuitton

Le Comptoir du Relais

Much has been said about Le Comptoir but there is actually very little written here (I searched and asked with only one response from SFCarole) about the prix fixe dinner that is almost impossible to get a booking for unless you stay at the adjoining hotel. FWIW, I have never been able to get a table in umpteen years even though I have done the lunch brasserie menu many times. I called up a few weeks before on a whim and did manage to get a ressie for an outside table. When asked about sitting outside in the cold, they said they had blankets and heat lamps – not the most reassuring of answers. Fortunately April turned out surprisingly good weather wise. Won’t go on much about the setting as it’s well known save to say it’s a busy little sidewalk and you are literally on the kerb with traffic driving by – although pollution wise it’s almost non existent if you are from Asia. There’s a good buzz from passers by and the queue for l’Avant Comptoir. The crowd is fairly cosmopolitan -expats and out of towners with fewer locals. Yves Camderborde and his lovely wife do the meet and greet – the man wasn’t in the kitchen that night, he was mostly behind the counter in black/ grey garb and not chef whites. Wait staff were mostly young and service was brisk if short of brusque as if they were rushing (for what I don’t know as there wasn’t a second seating). Bread was plonked on the table and a duo carb amuse of cheese gougere and lil’ chou sandwich with andouille followed. The basket was offered and “take one of each only” uttered. There wasn’t any charcuterie (as read about somewhere) to remember, going from memory as my phone had died by then. First course was a flavoursome bouillon with tender poached calamari and feves. Next up orzo ( or more lyrically, langue d’oiseau) in a rich sauce of scallop coral – super. Then a nicely rare faux filet with good char and bloody inside with veg accompaniment (who cares with such good meat). Produce was good, flavours superb and everything melded well together. Portions were on the smaller side which was incongruous to the hearty nature of the food. Then the huge silver disc shaped platter of cheese and condiments – “help yourself” she says. I only wanted the runny stinky ones but she hightailed saying “it’s written” – NOT. So I ended up trying some of each to find the runny ones and that did me in. Dessert was their version of a banana split which was anything but – a chocolate dome (ok a subtle banana flavour inside) with melting chocolate sauce poured over with popping candy underneath. As an aside Carl Marletti also does something with popping candy but more about that later. Mignardise – a couple of mango passionfruit caramels from Jacques Genin. So to answer my own question, yes, definitely go if you can get a booking for this oldie which is still a goodie, unless the service sounds rudie.

Cost (hors boisson): EUR 60

Nearby sights: Lots from the tourist checklist, the buzzy Odeon crossroads, sidestreets and Cours du Commerce Saint-André. Go early enough and get pastries from nearby George Larnicol, Un Dimanche a Paris & L’eclaire du Genie. On the right night, nearby Café Laurent at the Hotel d’Aubusson has a piano bar with a vocalist doing jazz standards.

La Table de Hugo Desnoyer

OK, I had my reservations about schlepping it out there just for lunch but as it turned out there were decent things to see around there too - starting with the man himself in action, flipping carcasses, cleaving away at a hunk of this and that – quite a spectacle. They’ve done away with the tasting menu so it’s only a la carte. The amuse was a tomato gazpacho. There wasn’t complimentary charcuterie like JT reported so I guess that’s only for the VIP’s… I started with a large marrow bone split into two served with toasted bread – rich and tasty. My first instinct was to have the Cote de Boeuf but it was listed for 2 or 3. Instead I had the Trilogie de Viandes which was recommended as a steak tasting plate (also listed for 2 but they’ll do it for 1, later they tell me they’ll also do the CdB for 1 so I guess I missed out because I didn’t ask). Huge pieces of rumsteck (rump), bavette (skirt or hanger?) and mouvant (can’t figure out what it is). Not much char on the meat and more chewy than the US, Oz, Japanese variety that’s popular in Asia. But the juiciness and flavour… For the pedantic, the different cuts tasted, well different – one was gamier, one more delicate, all textures were distinct. That was my protein quota for the day and I skipped dessert. Must do if you like meat – the tartare looked like a killer too, as did the veal chop and of course the CdB. If you don’t then go for the show. The crowd was a mix of locals and a lotta Japanese - I was told there will be one in Shibuya come June.

Cost (hors boisson): EUR 50

Nearby sights: Fondation Le Corbusier, there is also an architectural walk you can do around there, lots of Hector Guimard art nouveau structures, some Cubist ones and Beaux-Arts ones for a contrast. Musee Marmottan

Part 2 – coming soon to an ardoise near you…

PS. If this is too wordy, let me know & I'll prune the next installment,

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