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Paris Restaurant Review: A La Biche au Bois

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Paris Restaurant Review: A La Biche au Bois

Sally "Freedom Hound" Chow | Sep 2, 2003 12:49 PM

It's a bit of a long review but it's actually a condensed version of one posted on my Paris journal. If you're interested in dining here, restaurant details are also posted there. Happy chow hunting!

First impressions of a restaurant can often set the tone for the entire meal to follow. Given that I had just decided to go out for lunch I arrived at around 1PM to a nearly packed dining room with no reservation. At a time like this I put on my best “please have sympathy for me face” and ask somewhat apologetically if there is any possibility of a table. The hostess, who turned out also to be the proprietor, welcomed me as if I was a guest in her home and offered to seat me immediately in the dining room filled mainly with French business men.

A fellow Chowhound described A La Biche au Bois as a “genuine old-fashioned bistrot parisien” offering a “vrai Paris dining experience.” It was exactly that. The pretty dining room of closely packed tables were set with crisp white linens and silver. Any expectation of formality was supplanted by the two very engaging proprietors, a husband and wife team. A row of statuettes added a whimsical touch above the banquette-- some of a smiling chef with a wooden spoon in one hand and others of funky black characters.

When I returned from the toilette, an elderly lady has just arrived about to be seated at the empty table next to mine. My response when she asked if I wouldn’t mind changing tables with her made us fast friends. It turned out that she and her husband, who was just parking the car, typically dine here twice a week once each at lunch and at dinner.

The restaurant’s name roughly translates into “the doe in the woods.” It follows that game (les gibiers) is the house specialty but the season hadn’t quite yet arrived. The proprietor expected it would be on the menu by next week. He said it was being hunted as we speak and then proceeded to pretend shoot with his imaginary rifle into the air.

The reasonable set menu was 22.30 euros for three courses of one’s choosing from entrée, plat*, cheese, and dessert. In addition to the day’s special entrée and plat which were included in the set menu option, there were also a range of menu choices with only a few demanding a supplement. The recommendation from both the waiter and my friend at the next table was to commence with either the house-made terrine of duck or rabbit; I settled on “la terrine de canard.” My entrée of two generous slices of duck terrine served alongside a salad of butter lettuce and a pot of gherkins arrived within minutes of my order.

For the main course I ordered the day’s special, a rabbit stewed in white wine sauce with mash or “lapin au vin blanc en cassolette puree.” The main course was equally generous and I could immediately see that it was much bigger than my now nearly satiated appetite. The rabbit, a leg and I think two small pieces of breast, were very tender nearly falling off the bone. The accompanying white wine sauce was very light with delicate notes of thyme and reminded me of the sauce of my grandmother’s beef stew one of the few stews I still crave from childhood. It was a perfect sauce for smothering the mashed potatoes but not that they lacked flavour. The very creamy mash had comfort food written all over it. It was flavourful although different than what I’m used to which I guess comes from using crème fraîche instead of heavy cream. I’m also convinced any butter over here is better than the best that’s available on the other side of the Atlantic. In the end I couldn’t finish it all but I made an honourable attempt. Not only did I not have room for dessert or coffee but I had to head off for my 230 rendez-vous before I realized.

Lunch at A La Biche au Bois was more like a feast as my lunch of choice these days consists of cucumber slices, tomatoes, some cheese, sometimes bread, and a bit of wine when I really need to facilitate my comprehension of some particularly convoluted aspect of French grammar. The food was well executed and the experience so agreeable I wouldn’t hesitate to return, but I would in all likelihood prefer to try it at dinner when game is in season. Upon learning from my friend at the next table that there are sometimes line-ups, it would also be prudent to reserve ahead rather than leave a table to chance.

*Note: Entrée refers to what we call the appetizer in North America. Similarly, plat or les plats refer to the mains.

Link: http://myfreedomjournal.blogspot.com

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