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France Christmas

Repas Report: Two weeks around Christmas and the New Year. (long)


Restaurants & Bars 8

Repas Report: Two weeks around Christmas and the New Year. (long)

Gman | Mar 2, 2014 10:00 AM

Old friends, a couple of standouts, and a few warnings...

Two weeks over Christmas and New Year’s 2014, in our usual perch on Ile Saint Louis. All prices are for two including wine and coffees...

A slight delay in our flight so we didn’t arrive at the apartment until almost past lunch time so after dropping the bags at the apartment we wandered down the block to cozy and friendly but unremarkable

POM CANELLE, on Rue des Deux Ponts. It is well known there are not many options on the island, though lots of folks stop at this spot for desserts or Berthillon. However, if you’re in the hood and hungry the Plats du Jour are a bargain and if not revelatory, they are just fine and the welcome is always warm. I started with Soupe au Légumes and then followed with Bœuf Bourguignon and Bman had Curry d’Agneaux. 33€, including the demi de Brouilly 12€.

After shopping for provisions at all our favorite spots, and unpacking, and pushing through the jet-lag (we subscribe to the stay-up-til-local-bed-time-then-go-into-a-coma-til-the-next-morning approach) we were happy not to wander too far and visit an old friend:

BRASSERIE DE L’ISLE SAINT LOUIS. This is not a food destination, really. Many things are okay, some a bit shy of that. I think the Choucroute is the way to go… but there is something so wonderfully untouched about the interior, the wait staff, the menu and I somewhere deep down feel that some homage should be given to a place like this before it slips away, precisely as the once decent café across the street did a few years ago when it got all tarted up (more on that later…). Shared a starter of escargot, then I had Faux Filet sauce aux Poivre and Bman had an omelette mixte avec frites followed by a shared Mille Feuille. 87,50€, including a 25€ Bottle of Morgon.

Had early tickets for the d’Orsay Masculin show which left us in a neighborhood with many good lunch options…

CINQ MARS, in the 7th. Started with Salade Lentille which was topped with crispy bits of sautéed Spec. The lentils were perfect, the dressing exact and the Spec a yummy touch. I think this is now my favorite example of this, my oft-ordered starter… Bman started with Œuf Mayo. Ditto. Perfect eggs (damp in the middle, tender whites) delicious mayo and delicate well dressed greens. We switched half-way, thank goodness. Bman followed with Pot au Feu façon Cinq Mars which was lighter and fresher than the traditional dish but delicious and I had an “Omlette Bien Baveuse” offered nature or accompagnée which is the way I went. Waiter (owner?) offered lardons, fromage, champignons ou les trois… yes please. It was indeed tender and bien baveuse and polished off. We shared a chocolate Fondant Baulois with crème Anglaise. The rest of our two weeks in Paris we talked of going back. I think we should have…. 99€, 31€ for a surprisingly earthy, really delicious bottle of Joubert Vielles Vignes 2011 Brouilly.

As we travel around the Hols we are frequently shut out of many places that close at that same time. Had tried for years to get here and finally did…

BISTROY LES PAPPILLES in the 5th. Well known on CH and from the Googling I did it seems the menu doesn’t vary all that much, but it mattered not for the occasional visitor and the food was terrific, the welcome warm and the joint jumpin’. Started with a lovely porcelain Soupière tête de lion with a Velouté de Pomme de terre Douce avec copeaux de châtaignes, croutons, ciboulette, et lardons frits. This was followed by a near-overflowing copper casserole of Epaule d'agneaux des Pyrénées, pomme de terre grenaille, carottes, pois gourmands, oignons nouveaux, tomates confites, ails confits, fleur de thym. The lamb was tender and onctueuse, and the vegetables each à point, the sauce rich and satisfying. Followed by a cheese course and then Panacotta clémentines. 97€ (pris fixe entrée plat fromage dessert : 31 €) with a bottle we picked out from the shelves of a very nice 2010 Yves Cuilleron Saint-Joseph, 35€.

LES TEMPS DES CERISES, in the 4th. Charming little corner bistro with a zinc bar. Started with Soupe au crème de Champignons which was meaty and rich followed by Joue de Bœuf braise a l’Orange for Bman and Filet de Bar for me and a Mère Richard St. Marcellin after (which I can never pass up). 78,90€ with simple but quaffable bottle of Lucien Tramier L’Origine, 18,50€

AUX TONNEAUX DES HALLES, in the 1st near St. Eustache. Had just come from the Pierre Huyge show at Beaubourg and was hoping to find a new spot in the neighborhood. Had read about this bistro in a few different sorces and wanted to fortify ourselves with some good steak and good frites (harder to find all the time…). Started with a shared Œuf Mayo and then Entrecôte and sauce Bordelaise (though I prefer just good fiery mustard, which I had) for each of us with excellent frites maison. A bottle of George Descombes 2011 Brouilly. My notes fail me here, but I’m pretty sure we were out of there for under 60€.

ST REGIS, Ile Saint-Louis. I won’t vent for long and I have only myself to blame, but we were tuckered out from a full day of exhibitions and touring and still a little full from the big entrecote at lunch and just wanted a Croque Madame and this was the only place nearby where I thought we would find one. Found one indeed but would have done better to pick up some eggs at the grocer and make one myself. This used to be a very serviceable neighborhood café, now has been overhauled to look more like Pastis in New York City (an imitation, of an imitation of a genuine Parisian Café…). Lighting and atmosphere are nice enough, and it’s a lovely corner of the world to look out on, but 81,00€ for a couple of “croques” (they were in fact more like mediocre, cold croquants..) and cold mediocre frites…). We shared tart, and had a bottle of forgettable Cote du Rhone, 27€… oh, and to increase the charm – after 9pm (just when we arrived) the price of a bottle of wine is increased by 10%, or some such nonsense…. Not again, I swear….

Had been invited at the last minute to spend Christmas with friends up in Normandy, made all the more adventurous by Tempete Dirk, but we finally made it there and the Cochon de Lait was pit roasted with the help of a large café umbrella…. Upon returning to Paris a bit late in the day, and knowing we were dinning in with friends in the evening we decided to try

CREPE EN L’ISLE, Rue des Deux Ponts, indeed our closest food option directly across from the apartment door but we had never been. A couple of Crepe Complete and some Crêpe au Caramel Beurre Sale and we were sated and quickly back on our way for more adventure. 35€, which included a pichet of Cidre, natch! (6,80€)

LE RELAIS DE L’ENTRECOTE, in the 8th, Rue Marbeuf. Probably our 7th time here, and have to say always one of our most enjoyable experiences. The steak, ‘sauce fameuse’ and frites are so consistently good….75,30€, which included a bottle of the house Tarn Reserve at 17,90€.

RESTAURANT MOISSONNIER, on Rue des Fosses in the 5th. Had likely walked past this place a dozen times and never thought to stop in, but we were meeting friends from the neighborhood and this was where they suggested. Started with Frisée au Lardons which was excellent and for my plat had Quenelle de Brochet en Sauce Nantua, which was enormous, delicious and even I couldn’t finish it… Shared and Œuf a la Neige and a bottle of some Cote du Rhône (my notes fail…). Unlike our visits to other more-well-known places on this strip that disappointed… here, I’d go back. 105€.

AU CHAI DE L’ABBAYE, Rue de Buci in the 6th. A frequent lunch spot when we’re in this neighborhood. Filet de Bœuf for me and Chou Farci for Bman. First time we’d visited and the place wasn’t packed with Parisians and we started to wonder if the economy is hitting these mid-priced places a little harder than those above and below. 60€ which included a carafe Juliénas 20€.

METROPOLITAIN, Rue de Jouy, in the 4th. We both started with a Œuf mollet croustillant, crème de champignons de Paris, topped with thin slices of pickled radish (I think…) that was rich and delicious. My plat was a rif on Brandade de Morue that was somewhat lighter and the potatoes more crushed than mashed but it was delicious. Bman had Perdreau (partridge) three-ways : a sausage, seared breast, and braised. Apres, Bman had a “Paris-Carcassonne“ a sort of riff on Paris-Brest and I, as is my wont, went the cheese route with an Assortiment de fromages affinées par M Dubois “MOF” which included very fine examples of Roquefort, Cantal, St. Nectaire and some aged chevre. Not the coziest of spots, but we liked the music they were playing so much we asked the waitress to tell us what it was (London Grammar). 120€ which included a François Villard Saint Joseph, “Poivre et Sol” Saint-Joseph which indeed was quite pepper-y and nice 44€

LA ROTISSERIE DU BEAUJOLAIS, in the 5th. Our third visit, and as always, a very pleasant stop. Poelee de Champignons Provençal for a shared starter, Colvert Roti for me off the spit, and Faux-filet de Salers for Bman, followed by fromage (St. Nectaire, La Mere Richard St. Marcellin, Pont Lévesque) and washed down with a very nice Juliénas (31€). 118€

LA ROSE DE FRANCE, Place Dauphine, Ile de la Cite. Place Dauphine seems such a potentially magical location. It’s a shame this place has gone seriously downhill, from what was never a very lofty perch in the first place. Last time stopped in here for lunch and had a very good, inexpensive plat du jour and agreeable service and wine. This time out it was horrible. The place has been fancied up since our last visit, now attempting a modern interior and a newly frosty and insulting hostess to go with it. My pumpkin soup was obviously thrown in the blender with all its seeds which were not pulverized in the process… just kind of chopped up. VERY unappetizing. Joue de Boeuf was 70% big hunks of fat, 10% gristle.

LE PETITE PONTOISE in the 5th. I like this small, cozy spot. We each started with Raviole du Dauphine Gratinee and then Poulet Fermier for me Joue de Cochon for Bman and followed by a chocolat Amadeus (whatever that is). 112,80€ 34€ for a bottle of Brouilly.

BISTROT PAUL BERT, in the 11th. Meeting Parisian friends and this is one of her favorites and we are happy to return. Started with Œufs a la Truffe, which is steep (28€) but I love it and we live once…Then we both had Filet de Bœuf in the house pepper sauce and frites maison (shame we have to spell that out now…) and we shared the enormous and yummy Paris Brest. 147€, with a Morgon Decombes 36€

LA TARTINE, Rue de Rivoli, in the 4th just near where it becomes Rue St. Antoine. Didn’t manage to snag my receipt but the place is reasonable and reliable and usually pretty lively. Had a lunch of Leek soup and a croquant with Grison (dried beef) and some Savoie cheese and a pitcher of the house red.

JACQUES GENIN in the 3rd. Happily our travels brought us up into this neighborhood and I insisted we stop. I joined the chorus of mourners when he stopped making pastry… thank heaven he has returned to making at least the extraordinary Mille Feuille which is monte à la commande… made to order. There was a line and we waited for about 30 minutes while several single visitors hogged up 4-tops, but no matter… Here’s the deal: I’m not even really a dessert person – I always opt for the cheese instead… but this little shatter-y marvel is just about the best thing I have ever eaten. Savory, buttery pastry, delicious pastry cream (this time vanilla… I think there was one other option, something fruity as I recall)… Oh, Chef…please never stop again….. 27,40€ with some cafés on the side.

LA DAME DE PIC, in the 1st. Friends were meeting us in Paris and had reserved here for our dinner together. An unusual experience. The menus are built around perfumes. One sniffs three testers at the table and selects a menu based on what scent you are most attracted to. Why not? A bit off putting to me at first, like having a scented candle on a dinner table, but once the ordering is done the scent strips are taken away. Based on my whiffs, I selected a menu called Conte d’Hiver (Winter Story). Here’s their description. « LES PETITS LEGUMES bille coulante au Parmesan, poivre de Sichuan rouge. LE BLOND DE PARIS, royale de champignons, émulsion dashi, Matcha. LA BAVETTE D'ALOYAU, consommé à la feuille de cannelier, ail doux. L'ANANAS, camomille matricaire sauvage, galanga. » 80€

We were given an amuse of curried cauliflower and coconut soup, with a savory, crushed-peanut encrusted marshmallow, which was tasty. Next up were the delicate, perfectly cooked baby vegetables on a pillow of parmesan in a mushroom and green tea foam. Plat was a bavette in a soy broth with vegetables. A cheese plate with a very nice Langres, Comte and one other was served and we followed with the sort of pineapple flan with thin cookies, caramelized sugar and gold leaf worked in to the sculptural top. Had very nice wines, a Volnay and then another Burgundy… So. Hmmmm. All the food was tasty. One of our companions rightly said it was all a bit soft, and I think that’s true. While it was good, and in fact subtle, nothing really knocked my socks off. For the price point and ambience, which was refined and slightly spare, but warm, I found the service to be a bit stilted and frosty, and once or twice bordering on condescension. Not sure I’d be tempted to go back.

CHEZ DENISE, in the 1st near Les Halles. I just love this place. Boistrous, crowded and incredibly tasty and copious food. We shared the terrine de pate, and then I had Daube de Bœuf which was served like most stews here, in a big copper pot deposited on the table. Came with a side of elbow macaroni which was (unusual for France, in my book…) perfectly cooked. We shared a Baba au Rhum and a bottle of the house Brouilly. After the fussiness of the night before, I loved this place even just a little bit more. Lost the receipt but I think we were out of there for under 50€ each. Hail Denise. Long may she reign…

Houndies, as always, thanks heaps for your guidance and candor.

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