A quick debrief on the last couple of days in Paris. Thankfully, a professional conference didn't prohibit sneaking away for two "for fun" dinners.
C’est Mon Plaisir
John Talbott's favourites list pushed me toward this bistronomique place on the Ile St-Louis. The room is tiny (20 seats) and attractive, but just a wee bit too brightly lit to be truly lovely. After an amuse-bouche of poached chicken roulade that seemed about as obligatory and pleasure-less as Thanksgiving with the in-laws, dinner consisted of two high points with a sag in the middle.
Started with a creamy crab soup with roasted fennel, sausage, hazelnuts and raisins – don't ask me how this worked, but it was divine. The interplay of flavours was simply remarkable.
But after this soupy splendour -- having read on John's blog that fish was one of the restaurant’s strong suits -- I was doubly disappointed with the main: cod with lomo d'Iberico, Tarbais beans and Sherry vinaigre. It was just dull, stodgy and underseasoned; bah! Nothing to redeem it.
Except, that is, the cheese plate, which cheered me up no end: gorgeously well aged Valencay, Coulommiers au poivre, bleu de Serzac and Langres. The Coulommiers was one of the best cheeses I've ever had, full stop. We drank a respectable but not inspired 2007 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, and the total for 3 people was 129 euros. Such were the starter and the cheese that I’m willing to give them another try. And it IS just across the street from the Berthillon mothership…so the meal could be followed by extraordinary ice cream.
When a friend took me here in 2006, the food was so chortlingly good I swore I'd go back. Better late than never...
I hate the fact that double seatings have arrived in France – especially when circumstances conspire to force the early seating upon me. In this case, though I was grumpy at having to give up our table at 9pm, the sacrifice did get me back to the gare du Nord in time for my Thalys.
My friend. had a soupe de poisson with a lovely rouille to start, and I had an oeof cocotte à la crème de truffes d’automne. A’s soup was perhaps more shellfishy than fishy, but I don’t count that as any kind of a bad thing. My poached egg was perfectly cooked and arrived in a little glass jar atop a sort of bread pudding luxuriating in a bath of truffly cream, with a generous shaving of truffles atop. The sole complaint: it could have used a touch of salt, and there are no saltcellars on the tables. Alas. Mains were lièvre à la royale (hare stewed in a wine sauce thickened with its own blood) and canard sauvage aux coings. A’s hare was gamy and earthy; my duck was perfectly cooked and flavourful, with the aromatic quince setting it off nicely.
Everything went very, very well with the excellent Faugeres the waitress steered us to – a gently spicy bargain at 28 €. A. made the better dessert choice, with stewed reines-claudes, while I completely lost my head and ordered a baba à l’Armagnac. The over-the-top booziness meant I could have set my breath afire if I’d had a match.
Many, many, many tourists (well, as many as you can fit into a 20-cover place), for those that like to keep track of such things.
This doesn't really count as a review, as we'd hired the place out for a client dinner, and a buffet at that - not a true representation of the kitchen's skills, I always think. But I do have to say that my snide and snooty expectations were totally surpassed - the Asian-esque dishes were really GOOD. And the Champagne and wines were excellent. For Philippe Starck fans, the space itself is a treat. I don't know that anything will ever take me to this corner of the 16th again, if if it does, I'd actually be pretty happy to go back.
And one last note: I sent friends to Josephine Chez Dumonet for dinner, and received a flood of ecstatically grateful tweets in return. They said it was among the best meals they've ever had - the food, the chaotic service, the ambiance - it all added up to a huge hit.
Boulevard Edgar Quinet, Paris, Île-de-France 75014, FR