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Paris dining: Les Fontaines

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Paris dining: Les Fontaines

Sally Chow | Sep 7, 2003 09:29 PM

A bit of a long post but this is the short version of my journal post. Anyway, I wanted to share a real Chowhound find with you. Enjoy!

I've walked past this restaurant on rue Soufflot every day twice a day on my way to and from class in August and never once took notice of it. But there are hundreds of restaurants in Paris that look like Les Fontaines or are a close approximation of it so it's not surprising it never merited any attention. Besides, back in Toronto its' outdated decor would give one pause to think the food may be as equally uninspired.

This place is the French equivalent of a greasy spoon diner but the food is arterial-cloggingly good. A couple of us started with the warm goat's cheese salad (salade de chevre chaud) which came nicely presented but was much too generous a serving with two rounds of goat's cheese. While we were settling on our dinner, we had noticed some beautiful slabs of beef filet in pastry headed to nearly every table around us so the choice as to main course seemed obvious. One of my classmates and I had decided to share the filet de boeuf en croute sauce foie gras avec pommes de terres so that we'd have room for the all important last course-- dessert. We ordered it sanglant (bloody) as suggested; the pastry was perfectly golden and crisp wrapped around meltingly tender beef. The slice of foie gras on top was pure decadence and sin as it melted into the sauce. We washed this down with a pichet of vin Bourgogne Ronommee which I've really no idea what it was. It's no Romanee-Conti but it was pleasant and I'm sure doing a good job at the same time of de-plaquing my arteries. One of my other classmates had ordered shrimp salad to start and escalope de saumon au confit l'echolote to follow. She enjoyed both courses but my advice to anyone dining here would be to stick with the meat.

I didn't really need dessert after this but I had the tarte tatin et la creme fraiche. It hit the right spot. Perfectly caramelized warm apples on top of a lovely crust. We skipped coffee because as much as I would have liked one it would have put me over.

When we had arrived for our 8PM reservation the restaurant was 1/3 to half full. By the time we were well into our meal the place was packed but three servers deftly managed this approximately 80-seat restaurant. What I loved about the experience was that apart from a table of English tourists we were surrounded by Parisians. You know you've happened upon the right place when that happens. This is not a place you go to for atmosphere but for extremely good old-fashioned food in lively surroundings. Dinner for three came to around 96 euros including a small additional gratuity of 10%.

Postnotes: I stopped by for coffee the following Monday. The same person who had worked at dinner on Saturday was now on the AM shift. I asked if he was the owner as his care and attention at the tables on Saturday left me with the impresson he could very well be but it turns out he's a manager and it's the chef who is owner. We started talking about the food which I told him had impressed upon me that night. He told me the chef shops not once but twice a day at the market and there is neither a microwave, freezer, nor vacuum-packaged food on the premises. That day's lunch menu which changes daily was already posted by the bar (some interesting dishes all about 10 euros each).

When another friend and I returned for dinner this past Saturday it was well past 10 PM by the time we realized we were hungry. I placed a quick call to the restaurant to confirm that the kitchen was still open. When we arrived at around 1030 there was a line-up by the bar and the dining room was absolutely packed. A different manager was on duty this evening but she showed the same care and attention to the dining room as her colleague from the previous evening. Against my better judgment I ordered fish-- St. Pierre aux 15 epices. It was perfectly cooked but the sauce with 15 spices which was somewhat curry in style didn't do much for me.

Link: http://myfreedomjournal.blogspot.com

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