I got a very cute message lately from a couple who had come to Paris and followed some of my restaurant suggestions. But it got to the point one evening here they were undecided where to go one night, and her husband said, “I don’t care. Let’s just go anywhere that chocolate-guy says to go!”
I was glad to be of service, but I like being known as ‘that chocolate-guy’ just as much.
But frankly, I don’t go out as much as most folks imagine. I love going to my market, talking to the vendors, and coming home with something new that I’ve never tried before, like the chervil roots I bought the other day, which involved a rather detailed, lengthy conversation with the vendor.
I mostly cooking all the fine things I find here and learn about. So when I do go out, I want it to be good…no, I want it to be great…and I find the best food in Paris is classic French cuisine; confit de canard, steak frites, and coq au vin. When you find a good version, I don’t think there’s anything more satisfying. Especially if it’s accompanied by good friends.
And, of course, a few obligatory glasses of vin rouge.
So here’s a round-up of places I’ve eaten lately.
There’s a few you might to want to bookmark for your next visit, as well as one or two you might want to avoid.
3, rue Racine (6th)
Tel: 01 44 32 15 60
The gorgeous art nouveau interior does little to mitigate the lame meal I had here recently. The chilled Spinach-Avocado Soup was so devoid of flavor, instead lieu eating it, we found ourselves transfixed by discussing whether the spinach itself was frozen, or the entire soup was. When the waiter asked why we didn’t eat it, he wasn’t very pleased with the answer and avoided us the rest of the night.
My main course, noix de entrecote, grilled beef, was not bad and served medium-rare, as requested, with industrial fries and a decent green salad. A few sprinkles of salt in the kitchen would have livened things up on just about everything, except maybe the servers.
Le Square Trousseau
1, rue Antoine Vollon (12th)
Tel: 01 43 43 06 00
Resting comfortably in the corner of the lovely Square Trousseau is probably the most satisfying restaurant I’ve eaten at lately in Paris. French classics, just right, seems to be their specialty.
My lunch engagement began with six expertly-shucked oysters (not one bit of shell in there), which were served simply with a wedge of lemon. Perfect. Afterwards, I moved on to pan-roasted cod with a light butter sauce (which was basically good, French butter, simply melted and drizzled over). Smooth, straightforward service and beaucoup de charme, Le Square Trousseau is one place I’m really looking forward to returning for dinner. I honestly can’t wait.
UPDATE: Le Square Trousseau is under new management as of 2009/2010 and I haven’t been back since they’ve taken oven.
Les Fils de la Ferme
5, rue Mouton Duvernet (14th)
Tel: 01 45 39 39 61
Don’t let the slightly unattractive dining room fool you; the food here more than makes up for the lapse in interior design (Note: Tuscan yellow belongs only in one place…Tuscany.)
This place was recommended by a reader, and when I passed the kitchen after entering the restaurant, on the way to “freshen up”, I saw the friendly cooks plating up some very lovely looking food and anticipated a good meal.
We all started with rillettes of wild boar, a meaty paste with less-fat than traditional rillettes, the leanness accentuated the flavor of the dark, complex meat. Topped with a flourish of fleur de sel and smoky red bits of pimente d’Espellette, it was a pleasurable accompaniment to our cellar temperature carafe of Brouilly.
My main course was lieu jeune, otherwise known as pollack (or cod) on a bed of lentilles de Puy. For dessert, my friend had a slab of muenster cheese, and his daughter and I had coffee (I’m still working off all that gelato from Italy.) Moderately priced, with very friendly service as well.
15, rue de Panoyaux (20th)
Tel: 01 43 58 45 45
La Boulangerie had appealed to me long before I made it up there. A former bakery turned into a small, neighborhood joint, serving market-based cuisine in an intimate space. What’s not to like?
Well, the first thing I didn’t like was when we began with two coupes of nice Champagne. But oddly, they were served in regular wine glasses, not Champagne flutes. Even the humblest of restaurants in France serve Champagne in flutes. But when we asked why, the server told us, “We don’t like wine flutes.” I presumed they were trying to be anti-trendy, but judging from the bobo crowd (ie: trendy), I would have liked my Champagne in a flute. I guess I am bobo.
The 28€, 3-course menu looked delicious, so anticipating a nice dinner, I started with the Terrine of Pheasant, and two nice-sized slabs arrived shortly, which were quite good, although served too cold to appreciate the flavor. For my main course, I had a pot au feu of pig cheeks, which came bubbling-hot in a small orange Le Creuset casserole. Pot au feu is basically a boiled meat dinner, which can be bland, so mustard or horseradish are often served alongside, adding a spicy counterpoint. Alas there was none and I assume they where kept where the Champagne flutes are stored. My companion had the côte de biche, chops of deer, which were undersalted and underseasoned.
Desserts were the low point of the night, quelle dommage. (Before leaving, I told the waitress I’d be happy to volunteer to work there for one week.) My Cinnamon Cake arrived as a flat disk of plain cake, similarly to what slid out of my sister’s Easy-Bake oven, topped with a few scribbles of sauce and a tasty roasted Bosc pear, which I scraped off and ate. The pain d’epice ice cream was terrific, but the dry, ordinary cake was not easily redeemed.
Our other dessert, a Terrine of Clementines with ‘cacao espuma’ (chocolate ‘foam’) came in a glass with a small amount of Clementine gelée hiding at the bottom covered with way too much dark, bitter chocolate mousse, which tasted like melted ice cream and was so rich (and frankly, not very good) and completely obliterated the sprightly charm of the fresh clementines.
I wanted to like La Boulangerie very much, but was disappointed. The servers were lively and helpful, and a bit sardonic. The menu read so well, but the food fell flat. Perhaps some of my readers have had better experiences.
62, rue de Seine (6th)
Tel: 01 40 51 00 09
Each time I stop in at this well-stocked épicierie, I have to resist the urge to start picking pieces off one of the outstanding Iberico hams resting in the racks by the window. These pricy jambons, made from pigs which forage for wild acorns, have a distinctly nutty flavor. Although in the future there’s plans to export these hams to the US, right now if you come to Paris, you can get a taste of what the fuss is all about here at da rosa (plenty.)
da rosa also features a terrific selection of items from Spain and Italy, including Amedei chocolates, jams and jellies from Christine Ferber, and fleur de sel. They generously offer samples of their Sauternes-soaked raisins dipped in dark chocolate, which are a fine, after-dinner, or before breakfast (in my case) nibble.
This is a great place to come for lunch or in the evening, for a plate of ham, some fine Spanish cheeses, and a glass of wine. Especially if you’re staying in the St. Germaine area.
25, rue Caile (10th)
Tel: 01 42 05 44 04
I had a strong dislike of Indian food. Often it’s too brightly-colored, and just seems like a lot of glop. That changed when I went to Thailand, and tasted how wonderful Indian food could be. But since then, I’ve become very picky about where I’ll eat Indian food, and Paris isn’t exactly on the Indian-food map like London is.
So when a friend invited me to Dishny, I warily accepted, but was glad that I did. This funky, inexpensive joint is in the La Chapelle area, just behind the Gare du Nord, is a fascinating area where there’s much to explore…although you might prefer to do your exploring during the day, since the neighborhood can get a bit ‘lively’. You’ll find Indian shops selling all sorts of exotic spices, unusual produce, and inexpensive cooking equipment. The Hell’s Angels of Paris headquarters is nearby too. I haven’t been in there yet, but it’s on my list.
I always start with naan, a slightly-greasy flatbread filled with warm, melting cheese tucked inside, before I dig into my enormous dosai; a large crepe filled with mildly-seasoned potatoes. Alongside are spicy and cooling coconutty condiments for customization. And the grilled tandoori chicken with basmati rice is good too. Very inexpensive.
64, rue de Seine (6th)
Tel: 01 43 26 50 31
Maybe you’re one of those visitors coming to Paris who wants to sample lots of the fine cheeses France is famous for. But you’re staying in a little hotel room, not an apartment. Where can you do it?
(And no, you can’t come over to my place. Unless you bring the cheese.)
Fromagerie 31 is a cheese shop, but it has several tables and they’ll gladly cut and serve a you degustation of cheeses; five, seven, or nine, accompanied by a green salad with an explanation of each variety. This is a simple, no-frills kind of place but friendly, and there’s a small selection of wines by the glass as well.
UPDATE: Fromagerie 31 is now closed.
117, rue Cherche-Midi (6th)
Tel: 01 45 48 52 40
I’ve just added this to my list of Parisian favorites. When a friend came to town looking for honest French bistro fare, he suggested Chez Dumonet, which I’d passed many times but never ventured inside.
Fortunately, last weekend I did. Chef John-Christian Dumonet cooks up some of the best French fare in town, riddled with southwestern influences. His homemade terrine is meaty and rich with a thick layer of fat sliding off the top. The herring in olive oil with pickled onions is enormous and silkly-smooth, served in an earthenware bowl with lots of onions and potatoes. But what I loved the most was my duck confit; so crisp that I was tempted to eat just the skin and leave the meat behind. But I wanted to save room for the over-the-top Grand Marnier Soufflé, that needs to be ordered in advance. The deceptively-flat puff pastry millefeuille is not to be missed either. It’s as close as one can get to enjoying the pure taste of butter without chewing on a stick of beurre itself.
Due to the size of the portions, many dishes are available in half sizes, and the very friendly waiters are happy to split anything.
Although I don’t recommend sharing the soufflé.
One bite, and you won’t want to share it either!