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Two weeks in Paris – a long (sorry) review and some questions too…


Restaurants & Bars 29

Two weeks in Paris – a long (sorry) review and some questions too…

Gman | Jan 26, 2010 02:03 PM

First of all – a shout out to all the France Board houndies. This was our sixth trip to La Belle and by far the tastiest thanks to your thoughtful and generous notes and comments. I’ve added details where I had them, listed food I had (or stole off Bman, my partner’s, plate) and separated out the wine costs since this varies so wildly. Most often, as you’ll see we ended up at the cheap end of the spectrum which is what our budget required. Still, not a single bottle I wouldn’t gladly have again, and a few I’ll hope to find stateside, even though I’m sure it’s unlikely with many. As for the swell grub… there’s no hope of finding it here….well that’s what dreams are for… and planning next year’s trip. Unless noted, meals included entrée, plat, dessert and coffee for two.

Le Rotisserie du Beaujolais, 17 Quai de la Tournelle, in the 5th. Very near the apt. we rented on the Ile St. Louis, and hurray (!) open on our day of arrival – Christmas Eve, for my money THE toughest night to eat out a Paris. Amuse of Rillettes at the table. Had the mache chevre chaud, and Epaule d’Agneau pour duex farci aux herbes Pommes sauté, and finished with Ile flotant. All pretty good, though the steak and chicken around us looked more compelling than the lamb we had. The pomme sauté were great. Lively and fun spot. 76€ Dinner,17€ litre de Beaujolais, 34€ two snifters of Calva de Tour D’Argent, it being the holidays and all…

Chez Paul, 13 rue de Charronne, 11th. Hadn’t been back here in a while but read the thread a while ago about Pot au Feu and made me crave a return. Especially on a very cold day, and Christmas, at that. Bless them, they were open. Had Potage de Legume (it really was very cold that day) and Pot au feu. It IS amazing how a cocotte of boiled stuff can have such lovely flavor. Finished nearly every bit of it. 48€ lunch no dessert, 14€ 100cl pichet de Cotes du Rhone.

Chez Julien, Rue Pont Louis Phillipe, 4th.. Had trepidations about returning here but very concerned about limited options on Christmas. Called several others that were closed or a few that were full. Was able to book Julien and figured we could dump it if we came up with something better. Had actually been there 4 years ago for Christmas. Loved our dinner, hated being sandwiched between Yanks (which is pretty much what we have found everywhere on Christmas – it is mostly tourists that are out…). It IS a lovely room, and a lovely, and for us, convenient location. Had Terrine de fois gras
and Chataubriand, frites, and sauce poivres on the side. Happily, it was all quite good, and the Ladoix was lovely with it. As we were half way through our plat the dreaded yanks showed. They were seated next to us and awful. Textbook, even. Though thankfully our French had progressed enough from four years ago that we could converse in French the rest of the night and not have to swap tales with this awful duo. I also appreciated that it was just the regular menu, no Noel gouging. Once the French trio of young gents were seated on the other side of us we realized our jig would be up soon, so we skipped dessert knowing we had some Berthillon Pistache (our hands down fave) back at the apt. 92€ dinner with no dessert, 65€ Ladoix Premiere Cru, Domaine Chevalier.

Christophe, 8 rue descartes, 5th. Many recs. on this Board for this place, which we enjoyed, though Souphie’s brief analysis of the atmosphere (which we only read après) is spot on and hysterical. It IS a mausoleum! Host sort of glowered at us the whole time. Chef vacated the kitchen after service and just sat in a chair mopping his brow…. Um…. There were only 6 of us in the restaurant that lunch… Had Boudin noire et Chorizo Croustilliant avec arugula et confiture de tomate (very tasty) and Brandade Morue (arugula encore) and the cheese plate, served with… arugula. A little variety in the greens would have been nice. All very good, though. Return? Hmmmm. Let me think…. 39€ Lunch, 17€ Bottle of Rosé Languedoc.

Hidden Kitchen, table d’hote. A secret location in the 2nd. Can’t even remember where I first read about this but thought it sounded fun, and it was. The food was all very good, even if most of it didn’t seem particularly French, as others have said. The chef/ host couple are lovely and adorable and intrepid. And the courses are sized so you’re not stuffed, just sated. Had Celerie Root Soup with Clementine et lovage, Beet and potato carpacio with fennel porridge, Sautéed sea bass with fish chowder, a palate cleanser of Bombay Sapphire sorbet atop a bourbon gelee, Veal meatball with linguini, Flank Steak with wild rice, squash puree and caramelized onions, Brussels Sprouts salad, Almond cake with cacao nib glace, and Mignardises (tongue, somewhat in cheek, I think) of a peanut butter cup, a Rice Krispie treat, a zeppolli and a brownie. 80€ per person included wine pairings.

Chez Janou, 2 Rue Roger Verlomme, 3rd. Have been here many times and always liked it. Very lively and fun mix of people. Had not reserved and they still managed to seat us before too long. Had poelee de champignons, Brandade de Morue (Okay, I like the stuff… so sue me!) 45€ dinner, no dessert. 23€ litre de Rosé.

Les Fontains, 9 rue soufflot, 5th. Was on the first set of recommendations I was given 20 years ago and finally made it after finding Les Papilles closed, one assumes for the holiday, though no sign in the window. Had the Croquant d’endive chevre Charolais (very nice) and the Boeuf Bourguignon et nouille (plat du jour – twas fine). 32€ lunch for two, one entree, no dessert (see below). 22€ 50cl pichet de Givry.

Le Rostand, 6 Place Edmond Rostand.
Came here after lunch for Poire-amande tart (7€). Had it last year and loved it. I think they are known for it. Who makes it? Worth a trip.

La Brasserie de L’Isle Saint Louis, 55 Quai de Bourbon, Ile St. Louis, 4th. Had friends arriving nearby and wanted something in the neighborhood and traditional. Had onion tart and Choucroute Garnie and 2 glasses Riesling. All fine. Nothing revelatory, and there is something I like about the place despite the sour-faced waiters. There’s something comforting about a place that seems so unchanged. 50€, dinner, no dessert.

Le Gaigne, 12 Rue Pecquay, 4th. Special shout out to Houndies and Mark Bittman for their recommendation of this place. Maybe the best meal we had in Paris. Oeuf cocotte, and crème d’Epinard was just that, and yet so tasty and complex. We talked about this dish for days. Pave de Saumon, on a fondue de poireaux, in a sauce raifort (horseradish) was perfect… uh…. And I don’t even really care for salmon that much!!! Bman and I switched at the halfway point. He had Epaule D’Agneau rotie (perfectly rosie), pommes dauphine (perfectly crisp and airy). Crème Caramel and some kind of tart to finish. Meringue mignardises with coffee. 40€ lunch, 16 € Rosé Loire. If it weren’t for the various holiday closings we would have gone back. Happily.

Epigramme, 9 rue de L’Eperon, 6th. Had Coquilles St Jacques avec chorizo (lovely),
Sanglier Rotie (I don’t remember it, even though I have a picture of it…..but I’m sure it was good). Finished with Riz au lait (Bman) Vieux Comte and St Nectaire (I lean to frommage when it’s an option on the menu). 72€ dinner, 31€ demi of Pernand-Vergelesses premiere cru blanc (entrees) 28 € demi of Pernand-Vergelesses premiere cru rouge (plats).

Les Cocottes de Christian Constant, 135 rue Saint-Domenique, 7th. Had been curious about this for a while. Agree that Staub is sort of the star as some say, but had a very tasty lunch. The best hostess we’ve ever encountered. She was great. Had Frissee lardon croustillant et oeuf poche (yummy) and the plat (or should that be cocotte) du jour - Boeuf au carotte, which was fine. Very fine, but would have been better after a long braise in a cocotte, instead of just being served in one. Tart au chocolate, and Riz au Lait, which we thought was the best of the three we tasted this trip. 70€ lunch, 32€ bottle of Beaujolais.

Le Coude Fou, 12 Rue du Bourg Tibourg, in the 4th. Looking for a little break for the porte-monnaie. Had Crottin de Chevre Chaud, and Entrecôte au blue dauvergne followed by fromage. Was all fine, nothing memorable, especially not the slightly bristly service. 52€ dinner, 26€ bottle of Rosé de Corse.

New Year’s Eve. Had a feast at the apartment with our visiting friends. Loved the Foie entiere from La Petite Scierie on Ile St. Louis. Bought a label rouge Morteau (to slice and sautee and serve with soup as we had at la Cabotte in Nuits-Saint-Georges) and pate de campagne at Boucherie Jean-Paul Gardil (also on the Ile, and always excellent), Potimarron soup from the verger across the street, and a rotisserie-d Poulet Fermier and Pommes roti and Celerie Remoulade from Becquerel, on Rue St. Antoine. A bounteous plateau de Fromage from Ferme St. Aubin on Rue St. Louis en l’Ile, a wonderful cremarie, and a talented affiner, and an tart au Abricot et Pistache tart from the Boulangerie on Rue des Deux Ponts. We had plenty of wine gathered from our week in Burgundy, and plenty of good champers provided by our visiting pals. If I lived in Paris and could buy prepared food this good I would stop cooking.

Chez Denise, (La Tour de Montlhery) 5 Rue des Prouvaires, 1st. Hadn’t been here in a few years. Always delicious and satisfying. Had Onglet de Boeuf et Frites and a fair amount of the giant copper sautee pan that was brought to the table filled with my partner’s order of Civet de Chevreuil. Followed by Baba au Rhum (bottle of Rum left on the table for additional dousing) and Ile flotant. 74€ lunch, all washed down with the customary litre (25€) of the house Brouilly.

Ambassade d’ Auvergne. Who cares where it is. Somewhere in the third. Houndies, why didn’t we listen…? Many of you warned us, but I had my heart set on trying aligot. Next time I’ll stay home and make it. I could easily do better….Salade Tiède de Lentilles Vertes du Puy avec lardons (really – I’m a guy who loves his bacon but I don’t think they belong here….) and mais oui, the Saucisse de Parlan & Aligot. Yes of course they brought it to the table to pull it and stretch it in front of us. The whole thing was rather side-showy, with rehearsed lines about no dessert if I didn’t finish my lentils. Aligot seemed to have raw bits of garlic in it. Crunchy and green. Not good. Finished with a “Tarte Gourmande” aux noix & Glace Cannelle. I love walnuts. This tart seemed stale. 56€ lunch,18€ bottle of Boudes (Auvergnat rouge). Skip it.

Cafe Restaurant Louis Philippe, 66, Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 4th. Okay, I’ll be frank: we were still a bit wobbly on our pins from the Saint Sylvester celebration chez nous. We didn’t have the energy to venture far. Had never tried this little boite adjacent to Chez Julien. Had Oeufs brouillés aux cèpes, and the plat du jour, Gigot d’Agneau et gratin dauphinois. Lively and friendly. An extensive menu, all of it reasonable, and based on these two dishes, I’d bet most of it fine. 35€ dinner, shared entrée, no dessert. 15€ pichet de vin rouge.

Art Home – pronouncé Arome, ….Nomiya…. the kooky pod atop the Palais de Tokyo for one year only. Table d’Hote meets performance art. 12 guests, only one lunch and one dinner per day. Got up three mornings in a row at 3:30am in New York to book this. Totally unusual and totally worth it. Started with Champagne and two amuses, each on a porcelain Chinese Spoon: Caviar de Haring avec kiwi, and Caviar de exocet (flying fish) et pomme verte. Started with Potage Potimarron avec pesto, chorizo, et truffes (very good, if a bit predictable) and seared foie gras, with pain d’epice, sauce de pommes avec Romarin, and endive braise. Good, though a bit fruity and sweet. Finished with Gateau Savarin, creme Chantilly au Cassis et guimauve. With both courses, had Chateau Barbanau, Cotes de Provence. 60€ per person. Amazing spot. Amazing views. Interesting crowd. Memorable.

Les Fêtes Galantes, 17 Rue de L’Ecole Ploytechnique, in the 5th. A friend had recommended it. Um…. It’s a dump. Period. Forget that one wall is covered with bras from supposedly devoted patrons offering them up in gratitude to the chef (someone should introduce these ladies to Le Gaigne, or Le Pre Verre… would they strip and run naked through the streets???); forget that the walls are covered with every business card, mash note, and “good luck” paper money in small denominations from when they first opened… seemingly everything but “for a good time call…” ; forget that the service was shoddy, and inattentive and got orders wrong; forget that we had to ask for bread and water. Forget all that. The food sucked. Awful onion soup, the worst, like, ever! On several continents. We can’t even remember what we had after that…Some steak? Faux filet? It came with Frites Maison (waffle cut, skimpy portion for the two of us). We had some bottle of red. A couple came in and sat next to us, and learning that the 17€ menu jumped to 23€ after 8:30, and, one assumes, getting a better look at the place, made the only logical decision. They got up and left. We should have. A dump. Ask me sometime about trying to climb over diners to get to the secret passage to use the WC. Oy.

Le Comptoire du Relais, 5 Carrefour de L’Odeon, 6th. We’re on a bus on our way back from the Vanves Marche aux Puces and had to transfer buses, happily, it turned out, right in front of Le Comptoire where two tables were empty at around 2pm on a Sunday. Oh, and we were starved. More than made up for the disastrous dinner the night before. Loved every morsel. Had Oeufs mayonnaise, which I think may have had a little pork crackling or something crunchy atop the blanket of mayo over the ouefs. Delicious. Poule au pot, which turned out to be a thick slice of roulade, some kind of foam on top, and all of it on a bed of … not quite risotto… more like cheesy rice. Delicious. Bman had Joue de Boeuf in a casserole with whole wheat pasta and legumes. Also delish. We couldn’t remember which pot de crème our friend loved there, and Bman wanted the Tart au Pomme et Pruneaux avec glace Armagnac, so we ordered both. The vanilla was the ticket. We left most of the chocolate one. I swear. 68€ lunch with three desserts, 15€ litre of Saumur rouge. Now I get all the fuss. Oh, and everything around us look great too.

Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon, 11th. Wanted our visiting friends to see one of the big beautiful rooms. Not my favorite food, but I’ve learned what to order there, I think. A chevre amuse was brought to the table. Had the Boudin blanc de Rethel aux pommes et foie gras de canard au sautoir, jus de veau au cidre, (a small plate for all that verbiage) and the Gigot d’agneau rôti, gratin de pommes de terre à la fourme d’Ambert, which I like very much. It’s carved table side and the carver dished it out and then asked me if I’d like some more D’agneau. I said pourquoi pas! 110€ dinner, 38€ bottle of Cotes du Rhone.

Chez George, 1 Rue du Mail, 2nd. After the lame lentils at Ambassade it really made me miss the perfect ones here. Love this place. Salad tiede de Lentil du Puy. Sole George. First time I ordered the sole I was seeking something light after days of Paris indulging. Turns out it is sole swimming in a thick, Pouilly cream sauce. First time may have been a mistake, but second time was totally on purpose. I polished it off both times. 84€ lunch, no dessert, shared starter, 38€ Chablis premiere cru.

Fou de L'isle, 33 Rue des Deux Ponts, Ile St. Louis, 4th. Again, kinda tuckered out from touring about, and wanting to eat nearby we figured we’d try this place we’d walked past a hundred times. Had Oeufs cocotte avec duxelles et foie gras (yummy), and Coquolet avec frites. 47€ dinner, shared dessert, no coffee. 20 € bottle of Muscadet

Le Pre Verre, 8 Rue Thenard, 5th. It was their first day open after 10 days or so of closed for the holidays. You’d think they were gone for a year: I had a good view of the door and every other person that came through the door kissed the host/owner on both cheeks and many did the same with the waitstaff as well, like they were all old lost friends. Very sweet, and very friendly, and very lively. Lovely. And super cheap for lunch, and delicious too. Had soupe de cresson et roquette (couldn’t have imagined it could be that flavorful) and the plat du jour - Joue de porc a la badiane, with carrots, atop pasta. Delicious. Look forward to going back. A guy sitting near us resembled Souphie’s young portrait… was it you Soup? 26€ lunch, included two glasses of Languedoc rouge, no dessert. 15€ for an additional pot de vin.

Chez l’Ami Jean, 27 Rue Malar, 7th. Okay here come the questions I referenced above. What happened here – did I order wrong, or is the emperor (hold that thought) naked?
Ordered off the ardoise. Started with a Civet de poulpe. I probably missed that it also came with some kind of small crab that had been hacked in half. I say hacked cause there were many shell bits at the bottom of my civet, which I assume I was supposed to finish off using the spoon they gave me. Whole dish was swimming in a tasty, green (seemed sort of lobster tamale?) sauce. Mushrooms and a whole leek completed the presentation. Realize I was meant to tear the crab apart and suck out the teeny legs but that kind of physical involvement never compels me. We were seated right next to the kitchen, which I thought would be fun, and was. M. Jego was there front and center, and smiled warmly at us despite his sort of purposefully scowling presence on his website. To his further credit, when I ordered an entrée (the poulpe and crab) and my partner did not, and when the hostess reported to the chef that Bman was allergic to shellfish (I had asked about a frommage amuse that was on the table….if I have any doubt, I ask, as shellfish would kill him, and we’ve come close a few times) to his further credit the chef, I think because he understood we couldn’t share, offered up a complimentary soup. Bman thought this was partially because he was sitting RIGHT in front of the chef, and it would have bugged him to see Bman sitting there NOT eating his food…. But I digress – it was a very nice gesture. My plat was something relatively new on the menu (heard a conversation between the hostess and a regular). Can’t remember the full description from the ardoise except that it was called Empereur. What it was, was a filet of some white fish wrapped around mushrooms and chorizo. The dish was covered with a bright green foam. (what’s up with all the foam these days??? Have no idea what it was but trust it had some impact on the dish….) Was enjoying this dish, it was quite tasty, until I started running into fish bones. And then scales. That’s right, scales. So…. Your thoughts here, kind reader… should one expect a little hardware with the software? Totally ruined it for me, but maybe I’m squeamish cause I ended up in the hospital once with a fishbone caught in my throat. A couple of other observations. Frequently plates were sent to diners one at a time. Sometimes one diner would have their plat 3-4 minutes before their companion. And chef made quite the (practiced?) scene (including fist bangs and shouts) when a dish had been meticulously assembled, wiped clean of any stray unintentional drips on the rim, and sat at his counter waiting to be delivered, one assumes because he didn’t want it to be less than perfect for the diner, but is it not impolite to start eating before all at ones table have been served? While we were there, no fewer than six people made their way back to the tiny kitchen to praise the chef, kiss his cheeks and fawn over him. And indeed, he’s pretty fawn-able. BUT, in the end of this… performance…. I think Bman hit the nail on the proverbial head and delivered the (to this puzzled but dedicated nibbler) the coup de gras… It seems to be all about him. M. Jego. He, front and center. He, barking out orders. He, demanding when dishes should be eaten. And what should be eaten, even. Several times, with a few scraps (for example, apple matchsticks left over from another plates garnish) in the kitchen he threw together little complimentary dishes to send out to his regulars. People all but applauded. Or kissed his ring. And there is much apparent creativity in evidence. But. Should it all be about him…? We concluded with the legendary Riz au Lait, which indeed, one portion could feed four, though it was very sweet and we didn’t like it as much as the one at Les Cocottes which was thicker and more balanced. The confiture du lait that accompanied was okay, but what I really loved, were the little tin of cookies and, surprisingly, the little pot of muesli to mix into the riz. It was fresh, crispy, and delicious. We asked for the addition, but instead, and with some urgency, the head waiter insisted the chef wanted to buy us a drink at the bar. “Right now” he said in English. Okay. At this point I was certain we were being mistaken for someone of some importance, as there were many tables still available in the restaurant and it was rather late in the lunch service. Nonetheless we were scurried to the small bar near the door and the coat-check/bartendress offered us anything we would like. I looked over the bar and spotted Vieille Prune, which was something I had always meant to try and never remembered to, so we ordered it. I liked it. Then all became clear… when the small front door opened and a group of 8 ambled in. He needed our table, indeed. So, as we walked back out into the chilly afternoon and, that day, snowy Paris air we found ourselves somewhat bewildered. 105€ Lunch, one entrée, and one huge dessert, 25€ some Rosé. Oh… one final odd note: asked for a carafe d’eau and was told there were none, only bottled. I guess at that point I was supposed to stick to my guns and ask for a glass of water which by law they have to bring, but I was thrown. This was a first.

Bisrot Paul Bert, 18 Rue Paul Bert, 11th. Our final night in Paris this trip, which can put so much pressure on a meal. We always want to, if not end on a high note, at least not end on a low note. We did very well here. Our first time here. Started with Ouefs au plat au truffe, which was delicious, if a bit steep. We both had Filet de boeuf au poivre accompagne de frites maison. It was perfectly cooked, and very tasty. I could have enjoyed slightly less pepper (some of it clearly seared on the filet, and therefore somewhat bitter) but overall, delicious. Terrific frites, and a nice green salad to accompany as well. We were there at 8 and the joint was empty. But within the next hour it was packed with a nice mix. Families, travelers, co-workers. There were only a few servers for the entire restaurant which kept them running once the joint was jumping, but overall was very efficient and friendly service. Finished with the Paris Brest (again enough for four, as Mark Bittman said) and the Souffle Grand Marnier. 120€ Dinner, 34€ bottle of Cote de Beaune.

Again – humble thanks for all the guidance from the Houndies. A la procahine…

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