Two weeks in Paris, early December, spent mostly doing two things. 1. Eating and drinking wine. 2. Deciding where to eat and drink wine next. I no longer take extensive notes so what follows are the highlights - and the lowlights - from memory.
Dinner at Les Fines Gueules - 43 rue Croix des Petite Champs. Had heard mostly good things and it is just around the corner from the apartment. One of the bigger disappointments of the trip. Entrees were Tomatoes with what was described as Burrata - Mozzarella and calamars. The calamari was mushy in texture and it, along with the sauce, was almost totally lacking in flavor. The Mozzarella was so old that it had developed a rind that was at least 1/8" thick and the tomatoes had little flavor and a mealy texture like most of those at my local Safeway. The main, tartare of Aubrac beef was very good.
Pleine Mer - 22 rue de Charbol. You go for one reason and one reason only. OYSTERS, and boy were they good. You have your choice of oysters or oysters along with a few wines. Oysters are served with brown bread and butter and a wedge of lemon, nothing else. The oysters were "sauvage" or wild, not cultivated and they were pristine. Perfect with a bottle of nice Muscadet. Highly recommended go early, have some oysters and then go on to dinner elsewhere. Take a platter back to your apartment to enjoy along with your market finds of the day.
Verjus - 52 rue de Richelieu. Went for dinner with my son on the third night they were open as Verjus. Did the full menu 8 courses with wine pairing at 70 euro (a six course tasting menu is 55 euro) They have a short but well chosen wine list but we opted for the wine pairing (40 or 30 euro). Portion sizes were just right. At the end of the meal we had cleaned every plate and were fully satisfied with no feeling of having eaten too much. Each plate nicely presented the somewhat complex preparations. We sampled each component separately and then tasted them together as a whole. Everything worked! The individual components were precise and the combinations sparkled. Only major ingredients listed below.
Sea bass carpaccio with black truffles, grapefruit and radish paired with Macon Fuisse. The bass was absolutely fresh and the truffles intense.
House smoked salmon with chanterelles and horseradish paired with a terrific Croze Hermitage blanc. The salmon was very lightly smoked so the smoke was just an accent and not overpowering as so often happens. The salmon was just warm. Delightful.
The intermezzo was a single small buckwheat cracker (housemade) with "winter pickles, greens and pine nut butter." WOW!! Sometimes I am blown away when I least expect it. This really popped. I should have demanded a half dozen more. The best single bite of not just the trip, but the whole year.
Duck breast with white miso labne, sunchoke, nori, micro basil and kimchi paired with a 2006 Bourgogne rouge. Despite the improbable ingredients it was delightful.
Braised pork belly with carrot, frisee and ricotta paired with a Corbieres. Rich and full flavored. Seems like pork belly is obligatory these days :)
Dessert was a chocolate ganache with beetroot granita, fennel jelly and fennel curd paired with Croze Hermitage rouge. The chocolate and the beetroot granita were intense and pure of flavor. The wine was very, very good, however, IMO pairing dry wine, red or white, with chocolate is an exercise in futility.
Service professional and just right for the setting. All in all the best restaurant meal of the trip and that includes lunch at Le Cinq.
l'Enoteca - rue Saint Paul in the 4th. Open on Sunday. I went specifically for the white truffles. Tagliolini with white truffles,45 euros, and a glass of 2001 Albino Rocca Barbaresco, 21 euros. The tagliolini itself was outstanding and as good as good as any I have had. The truffles were a disappointment and I do not know for sure but I suspect they were of inferior quality since the black truffles at Verjus were superb. The Barbaresco, on the other hand, ROCKED! Nebbiolo is my favorite red grape and this one was perfectly balance and amazingly complex and long.
Lunch at Restaurant Miroir - 94 rue des Martyrs. This will now become a mandatory stop. Dinner back in April was excellent and very reasonably priced. They have an extremely well chosen selections of wines. Lunch this trip was equally good as were the wines. To be honest the conversation was interesting enough that it erased the memory of the specifics of the meal.
Lunch at Le Cinq - do you really need the address?? What a great room. The service here was impeccable as was the food. My problem is the food was too impeccable. I know that unusual plate shapes are "in" but round is still just fine. I am put off by having one course on three different plates. The seasonal mushroom entree had eight different kinds of mushrooms marinated in a light vinaigrette. Very tasty. The calves liver plat was perfectly cooked and delicious (I love calf liver by the way). Maybe I was in the wrong mood but the food, while good, just seemed to lack spark the I expect from a gastronomic temple.
Juveniles - 47 rue de Richelieu. Juves is my neighborhood hangout. Been going for years. Tim knows wine as well as anyone I know and there is always something interesting to try and often a wine maker or wine journalist to talk with. Food is always satisfying and good. Marinated quail, sausage and puree. Crostini Ron - tomato cured ham and pesto - wonderful. Foie gras as good as any anywhere and very generous portions. Stilton and Cheddar from England (not all great cheese comes from France) and superb St Marcellin and Conte from Trotte.
Best dish of the trip - Buckwheat cracker at Verjus
Best meal of the trip - Verjus
Best wine of the trip - 2001 Barbaresco at l'Enoteca
Best evening of the trip. Dinner with new friends. Bourride made from scratch with Irouleguy Blanc.