Restaurants & Bars

Paris - April Trip Report or How To Lose Your Abs In 10 Days, Part 2: Pirouette, Chez Denise, Chez l'Ami Jean, AG, Gare Au Gorille

mikey8811 | Jun 2, 201511:33 AM     15


This was the most difficult reservation to make. The website has an archaic online reservation system whereupon selection of an available time, it dispatched an email shortly after saying said time was not available and suggesting a booking at Zebulon instead. Replies to that message went unanswered. After several attempts, I gave up. I then called and was firmly told that dinner bookings were available no later than 8.00 pm rather than the 9.00-9.30 pm time requested. Strangely enough, when I had my hotel call, tables miraculously freed up - go figure. It’s a nice space away from the throngs of folk near the Les Halles project, that opens out onto a square with al fresco dining options – I wondered if that was actually considered public space or property of the restaurant as there were other outlets operating there too. Service was pretty slow as the restaurant filled up and it was indeed a popular spot. Amuse bouche was chicharrones or deep fried pork rinds slathered with a creamy paste – yummy. Unfortunately, the rest of the meal went downhill. Starter was beef tongue diced like a tartare with an oeuf mimosa type topping, discs of daikon and a liberal powdering of tarragon. Posters on other threads – I believe Parn and Rio Yeti - have lamented the lack of seasoning on dishes but boy certainly not here. It was in abundance and over spiced. The liquoricey taste of the tarragon and whatever else they put into the mix was so sharp it veered on unpleasant, overpowering any texture and the slightly luscious fatty mouth feel usually associated with tongue, in itself already much diminished by the dicing. The main was Pollack with black garlic and a sauce that the waitress described as a fish soup. I said, is it like a bisque; she said no. Bouillon? To which she said yes. I thought sounds good. Turns out it was like a Cantonese XO sauce (please enlighten me if there is actually a French sauce that is similar) and not a particularly good one at that. The strong flavour and salty tang of the black garlic, coupled with the XO, killed any sweetness the delicate Pollack flesh may have had. Again, a novel idea that suffered in execution. Another note on the slow service, the waitress brought the ardoise so I could look at the desserts, left it tableside for a good 15 minutes while she went about her biz and returned apologetically only when she remembered. Dessert was a quenelle of soft chocolate with coffee ice cream topped with a clove flavoured caramelised pane (tuile?). Same vein – sounds good but the clove was too strong and seemed incongruous to the rest. I applaud the chef’s creativity in trying to bring an exotic twist to the dishes – I guess if they did work, it would be a feat. Unfortunately for this diner, his fusion attempts were more confusion. Plating was nice and if anything, on the arranged, pretty side with some edible flowers. Go? Hell, no. 3 misses out of 3 – the amuse was the only thing amusing to this bouche. Sometimes it’s best just to give up on a difficult reservation – I would likely have been better off going to Zebulon instead. I realise that this is a popular place here and so apologise in advance if my observations have offended others with more discerning palates – don’t shoot me.

Cost (hors boisson): EUR 55, there were supplements to the EUR 42 prix fixe for the main and dessert, most likely for the exotica that didn’t work

Nearby Sights: Lots on the tourist checklist – Louvre, Palais Royale, Centre Pompidou, a little further to Jardin des Tuileries and the shops on Rue Saint Honore (Lanvin & Colette, my picks) if you are a shopper

Chez Denise

A popular place on this board with good reason. Great food in huge portions, genuinely friendly waitstaff, jovial in-the-mood surrounding diners too, iconic setting, leftist pony-tailed proprietor, can’t recall if they have checked tablecloths but who cares, last being a loo that gives holes in the ground a run for their money. I started with a demi portion of the Foie Gras which was decent but not as good as other versions I had this trip, less melt in the mouth but also less cloyingly rich. For an offal lover, you are spoilt for choice in the mains department. Tete de Veau with sauce Ravigote (a real veal head and not just headcheese as the waiter showed me from a neighbouring order), Rognons de Veau, Andouillette Grillee, Foie de Veau – I settled for the Cervelles d’Agneau Meuniere only because the waiter said it’s hard to find elsewhere and it was a relatively smaller portion than the rest. Large buttery lobes of lamb brains, seared on the outside and creamy inside – what’s not to like? I was so full I skipped dessert. Must go if you like offal – I’m sure the other dishes are great too (the Cote de Boeuf with marrow bones looked great) but I’d never make it past the offal.

Cost (hors boisson): EUR 38

Nearby Sights: Lots on the tourist checklist – Louvre, Palais Royale, Centre Pompidou, a little further to Jardin des Tuileries and the shops on Rue Saint Honore (Lanvin & Colette, my picks) if you are a shopper

Chez l’Ami Jean

Much covered here with mostly proponents and only a few detractors. I went for lunch and had the smaller Voyage Gourmand menu as I was kinda full from breakfast – I was looking for foie specials on the carte but there weren’t any. It wasn’t as crowded as expected, the long shared communal bench in the middle was empty. I requested a seat near the window to the kitchen with a view of the action. The crowd was a mix of locals and mostly American visitors – there were a lot of “don’t eat” requests from the latter. Bread was served with a creamy whipped aioli/ cheese spread. There wasn’t an amuse bouche that I could recall. The first course was a parmesan soup poured over crunchy bacon bits/ lardons and diced shallots or spring onions – good. Next up langue d’oiseau served like a risotto in a creamy sauce with asparagus – good although similar to the soup course. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to the Camdeborde formula from dinner at Le Comptoir the night before ie. soup, carb or pasta (in both cases orzo), fish, meat, etc. The fish course was wild mullet literally set aflame, with garlic and thyme on a tranche of smoked salmon. I guess it is with much virtuosity that the flame extinguishes at the right time to leave the skin appropriately charred and crisped. At this point, Stephane Jego charges out of the kitchen with a bottle of premium olive oil which he douses on the fish and plonks on the table. This was pretty good. The meat course was roast chicken with vegetables, served with pomme puree. Eerily enough I had walked past a ubiquitous chicken rotisserie place the same morning, the whiff of roasting chicken fat made me want some. Be careful what you wish for. It was a large cut of breast meat served with chorizo and was tasty, my quibble being I’m not a white meat fan (something I should have mentioned). Dessert was the much talked about rice pudding, plonked on the table in the large communal serving bowl with condiments. Good but not mind blowingly so. The chef then sends out a complimentary dessert of berries and meringue, kind of like an Eton Mess without as much cream. Overall, it was a tasty, hearty meal but I wasn’t wowed by it. Portions are big and there was a lot of food for the money. I sat next to a couple of chefs from l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon London and they seemed impressed by the level of cooking. They had a mate in the kitchen and had the full carte blanche menu which was similar but had lots more courses – mackerel, petoncles, veal. There was food envy on my part even if I did not have the appetite for that amount of food. So my advice is if you can stomach it, go for the full on deal. Stephane Jego would have a chat to them in between doing his thing. And the shouting – that seemed nuanced. Everything would be friendly and amiable with lots of chatter and then suddenly a shout or stream of cussing would erupt leading to a dead silence throughout. I didn’t expect that during the less harried lunch service but it was there in spades. The man is a joy to watch at work – I would put the theatre aspect just slightly below that of the guys at Pierre Sang. Go? Yes, for all that and the value – you’ll get a good meal, maybe not one that knocks your socks off but a good one nonetheless.

Cost (hors boisson): EUR 42

Nearby Sights: Lots on the tourist checklist – Tour Eiffel, Invalides, Grand Palais, Palais du Tokyo, Musee Quai Branly


Tucked away on a side street near a soup kitchen, this little place had a nice neighbourhood feel to it. Arriving for an early lunch, items on the menu didn’t seem appealing. I asked to see the carte and the waiter said he had to check with the chef whether items from the carte could be served (I had thought they were good for all day). It was pretty much the same carte that JT reviewed a while back and my selections were similar. Amuse bouche was a celery soup without the parmesan cookies I saw others being served later (it may have been too early). I started with seared lobes of foie gras, crisp on the outside and meltingly rich inside on an apple tarte – very good. The main was sweetbreads with green and white asparagus on celeriac puree – again very good if slightly salty. Both were garnished with micro greens and edible flowers and the plating was artfully done and photogenic. Dessert was their signature deconstructed Mont Blanc in a serving bowl with chestnut vermicelli, crumbs, Chantilly and little meringues; covered by a lid with violet ice cream and more of the same. Presentation was exquisite, almost too pretty to eat and tasted excellent. Petit fours were some madeleines and shards of chocolate. Overall a great meal, recommended.

Cost (hors boisson): EUR 46 (EUR 40 prix fixe plus supplements for the starter and main)

Nearby sights: Lots from the tourist checklist – Jardin du Luxembourg, Saint Sulpice, Fontaine Saint Michel, a little further - Saint Severin, Saint Chapelle, Cathedrale Notre Dame, Square du Vert Galant, Pont Neuf; 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.

Gare Au Gorille

A late lunch after a train arrival at Saint Lazare, this replaced Septime which insisted on a 12.30 pm start for lunch which I would not have made. A nice cosy place in the Batignolles area but really, this neo bistrot could have been anywhere in the world. The décor was certainly that way. The daily changing 3 course lunch menu gives you a choice out of 2 starters, mains and desserts. I started with a petit pois soup, with smoked eel and a crumbly goat cheese. Just as the waitress described – tasting of Spring in all its freshness. The main was a tranche of cod, browned and crisped on the outside with delicate just cooked flesh on the inside. This was topped with a riff on oeufs mimosa – grated yolk, diced ham bits and spice. There was a lot happening on the plate but not in an overwhelming way. Rather, there was a delicate balance between the sweetness of the fish and the appropriately sharp mimosa topping, complementing each other. This was in stark contrast to my earlier experience of Pirouette’s failed rendition. Dessert was a melange of citrus fruits with sponge bits and milk ice cream. Excellent fresh produce, prepared thoughtfully, with skill and creativity. Definitely go – it’s a no brainer. In fact, it’s probably the best EUR 25 I’ve ever spent.

Cost (hors boisson): EUR 25

Nearby sights: Square des Batignolles, Parc Monceau – these are what I had down from Parn’s suggestions but I got hopelessly lost, walked past a funky vinyl shop, some Asian takeout places and somehow ended up at the Montmartre Cemetery and bussed it to Barbes and Chateau Rouge

Part 3 to follow…

Link to Part 1: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/1013974

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