Le Severo

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There’s lots of good food in Paris, but sometimes you have to travel to the outer neighborhoods to find the gems. And while the 14th arrondissement isn’t all that far, it’s worth the trek for the excellent meal at Le Severo with some other friends at a little petit coin of a restaurant, a schlep from wherever you are in Paris. There’s only 10 or so simple tables and a lone cook in the open kitchen who presides over the dining room. An old zinc bar acts as a catch-all for bottles of water, wine carafes, and a big container of fleur de sel…which was a good omen.

One entire wall of Le Severo is a chalk-written wine list and menu. Notice I said ‘wine list’ first. That’s because three-and-a half lengthy columns are up there, listing all sorts of wine, heavy on the reds. Somewhere in the midst of it all lurks a terse menu, and it’s almost all about beef: steaks, Côte de Boeuf, Lyonnais Sausages, and Foie de Veau. First courses range from a salade Caprese, (a dish you shouldn’t order outside of Italy) and a salad with goat cheese. But the real star here is le meat, so we started with a platter of glistening slices of cured jambon artisanal, which isn’t really beef but I’m too revved up to go back and change that, and it came with a too-huge slab of yellow, ultra-buttery butter (which is the only way I could describe it…it was really, really buttery…I don’t want to change that either) which we slathered on the bread, from the organic bakery, Moisan, then draped our slices with the ham. We then gobbled ‘em down.
Delicious.

The other starter was a Terrine de pot au feu. Pot au feu is the French equivalent of a boiled-beef supper, complete with vegetables and broth. When done right, it’s excellent, and at Le Severo, my hunch paid off. The terrine featured cubed, boiled beef parts, tender and neatly diced, loosely held in place with a light, jellied beef broth.

Since it’s rather warm and humid here in Paris right now, I chose a bottle of Fleurie, which was an overwhelming task considering the size and scope of the wine list. But the prices were gentle enough to encourage experimentation and the list is full of curious wines, so I think whatever you chose would be the right choice. The Fleurie was light, upbeat, and fruity…yet sturdy enough to stand up to a slab of beef.

Anyhow, our steaks arrived flawlessly cooked.
The French love their beef bleu, practically raw. But I like mine rare to medium-rare, or saignant. The chef-jacketed owner William Bernet, who is the singular server, assured me I’d be happy with saignant, and when he brought my faux filet, the rosy, juicy slices were indeed cooked just to the lower edge of my desired point of tenderness. To the side, my steak was accompanied by very, very good house-made French Fries.

My only fault was that the fries could have spent an extra 48 seconds in the deep-fryer to get that deep-golden crust that everyone loves but cooks seem to have trouble attaining around here, a fault I find in too many restos in France. Does anyone really like undercooked French fries? But I didn’t need to reach for that container of fleur de sel at all during dinner; everything was salted just-right. That to me, is the sign of a great cook, and a great restaurant. If you can’t salt food properly, you should find another line of work.

I was able to talk my companions, who just moved here from Rome and were delighted to chow down on good, honest French cooking, into splitting a cushiony-round disk of St. Marcellin cheese, which was roll-you-eyes-back-in-your-head amazing. I had a simple Creme Caramel, which arrived properly ice-cold and floating in a slick of dreamy burnt sugar sauce.

And because they were eating cheese, I didn’t have to share one bite of it (Ha! My strategy worked.) My friends then had a Mousse au Chocolat, which they liked, but they were not as conniving as me and shared a bit, but I felt it could’ve used a wallop of more chocolate flavor, but that’s how I am about chocolate desserts. The espresso served after dinner was quite good, and living in France, I’ve gained a new appreciation for Illy café, which is all but impossible to ruin.

First courses at Le Severo are in the 10€ range, while main courses were priced 15 to 25€. The hefty Côte de Boeuf, which they’ll prepare for 2 or 3 people, is 30€ per person and I’m going to have it on my next visit.

On the métro home after dinner, it suddenly dawned on my that my dining companions were macrobiotic. So if macrobiotic people can enjoy a beef restaurant like Le Severo, you can imagine how happy it makes us carnivores.

Le Severo
8, rue des Plantes
M: Mouton Duvernet
Tél: 01 45 40 40 91

14 comments

  • But wait David, you are confusing me, do you mean, French hostile comments as in, written in French, or as in, written by Frenchies. I can do both if I want to, how cool is that! ;-)

    On a serious note, I think I have to check this place now. Always looking for good spots when I come to Paris! And, bad boy of you not to share your crème caramel (French hostile comment #1: you forgot the accent on the “e”!) but you can be forgiven if you bake any type of chocolate dessert pour moi.

  • Béa! I didn’t put the accent in because I forgot the HTML for it, and didn’t want to have to walk across the room, dig out my HTML guide, type it in, and check it before publishing the blog entry.

    Whew! just talking about it wiped me out…

    Thanks for not being hostile, mon chérie (see, I got the accent there…but I’m not sure if it’s Mon Chérie, or Ma Chérie)…how do you French do it?!

  • Over the “e” in creme is a circumflex, not an acute accent – but who cares??!! David’s restaurant review had me very hungry and I almost hopped the EuroStar to get to the restaurant – I lerrrrrrrrvvvvve good beef -something we see less of in UK these days (yeah, thaks to BSE)

  • Shucks, this info is just about 4 months off from this year’s visit in May. I stayed with a friend who lives across Avenue du Maine, near the Mouton metro stop. We did not make it here, but I can share another great restaurant also in the 14th. Great little bistro.

    Les Fils de la Ferme,
    5 rue Mouton-Duvernet, 14th,
    Tel: 01.45.39.39.61
    Mº Mouton-Duvernet

  • I ate at Le Severo two years ago, after reading a favorable notice about it in “Art of Eating” and it was my favorite meal in Paris, along with my dinner at Le Petit Marguery. I had a Morgon and it was perfect with the pig’s feet and steak.

    I brought a friend who likes her meat overcooked. She had their boeuf hache, which was tres saignant, and she ate it all, anyway.

  • hi david,

    about yout way to remember when you’re supposed to say ” mon ” or ” ma ” , try this :
    mon = monsieur
    ma = madame => MA chérie :) .

    ok,, it doesn’t work for neutrol subjects, but if it can help at least for people porposes … :D .

  • hmm a lot of typing mistakes here…
    youR, neutrAl, and pUrposes, of course :/ .

  • Ahahah, you are totally forgiven. And, it is mon chéri for masculine and ma chérie for feminine (masculine nouns as for mon, feminine nouns ask for ma, when singular)….Anyway! this is not a grammar class! ;-) And btw, no biggie, but the accent on crème is not an acute accent (accent aigu) but un accent grave (and not a circumflex accent, sorry). I know those are hard to remember. And right, as said, what matters here is to remember a nice place to eat for a next trip to Paris.

    Now I am the one tired.

  • I like the idea of the terrine. I think I might try something like that. Thank you for the great description of your meal.

  • Sounds like I had the same meal the last time I was at Le Severo. It is well regarded especially for its wine list (the restaurant’s business cards have been displayed at Caves Auge [sorry, no accent marks available]). You really do have to like beef to get the most out of this place–guess I don’t. On the other hand, the wine list is superb and the service quite charming. When I couldn’t finish all of the bottle of Morgon I had ordered, William decanted the rest of it back out of the carafe and into the bottle for me, corked it, and suggested I take it home and put it in the refrigerator. It was fine the next day.

  • Mmmm that sounds good! And wherever did you get that great picture up at the top? I saw some vintage French school posters for sale at HD Buttercup a few months ago, but they were about $100. and badly torn. One of them showed goats wandering around a suburban looking neighborhood circa the 1950s. Is this something similar? Love the Charo thing too – my mom and I always used to tease my Dad for having a crush on her – whether he really did or not I don’t know!

  • I totally second Le Severo as a neat little bistro for good “rustic” food. As you probably noticed, meat is a specialty here. It’s because the chef first trained to be a butcher! The fries are also very good here… probably cooked in fat. I wrote down that his name is Bernet or Bernai or Bernay (sorry, there’s too many ways of spelling it.) Anyway, it’s pronounced as Bear-nay, if you wanted to say “Bonjour chef” the next time round.

  • Sounds like a great place David – especially since my other half is a carnivore of note… Love the Barry Manilow references – you sure write the posts that make the whole world laugh!

  • So funny, every time I google French restaurants I’m interested in trying, your name pops up near the top! I’m in Paris for a few days, while you’re back on home turf in San Francisco. Sounds like life is treating you well. I’ll let you know how Le Severo is 3 years post your post. I had an amazing lunch today at L’Atelier Joel Robuchon — it was orgasmic.

    Cheers!
    Kevin