Mon Vieil Ami

While I wait for my life (ie, my television and internet) to return to normal….(although I’d be happy if they’d just return. period)…I left my perch in the Wi-Fi equipped Place des Vosges long enough to have a really nice dinner at Mon Vieil Ami, that I thought I’d recount. I was going stir-crazy sitting at home and was so bored that I almost had to work. Imagine that!

But since I procrastinated enough, which included scrubbing the knobs on my washing machine (yes, really…) and the ones on the oven too, then tackling a batch of ice cream using some leftover mascarpone in my fridge that had one day left on it, I am back in the Place des Vosges once again, sans chocolat chaud, but connected.

What more could a guy want? Yikes…now that’s a loaded question.
I couldn’t wait for my internet connection to return to normal, so I thought I’d offer forth a short, quick write-up of a great dinner I had last night. And judging from your very kind comments, I know 98% of you are sympathetic to my situation—and perhaps the other 2% are meanies, content to laugh at others’ misfortune. So excuse any errors, mis-whatevers, and typos while the chill slowly creeps into my fingers here on this cold park bench. And since I’m sitting, need I say where else the cold is creeping into? Perhaps when I get home I’ll take a chocolat chaud sitz-bath.
With marshmallows, thank you ver much.

(ha!…my first typo…)

My dining companion hier soir from Los Angeles was missing vegetables after eating too many rich meals while in Paris, so she was thrilled with the menu offered at Mon Vieil Ami. My first course was roasted beets from the gardens of Joël Thiebaut (sp?…I’ll correct the spelling later.) In the huge terrine buried amongst the ruby-red and golden beets were four well-caramelized, succulent, sweet-sour chicken wings, as well as some raw beets that had been shaved into ribbons, added for good measure. Why not?

We both ordered the same entrée, which I love, since I hate to share.


Each plate came with four nicely-seared scallops and braised Belgian endive with a touch of lardons, or smoky belly bacon. Each was just singed slightly, giving the edges a nice chewiness, and the frothy citrus zest vinaigrette added a nice note of tanginess that surrounded it all.

En suite, I ordered the Île-Flottante, a dessert which I am perhaps the only die-hard fan of. A white-white poached meringue rested high atop a mound of not-as-advertised caramelized apples: They were a bit pale, but delicious all the same. The dessert was doused tableside with crème anglaise and I got a nice view of the waiters elbow, which was very attractive (How do those French guys keep their elbows in such good shape?) My friend ordered the Chestnut Ice Cream and Raspberry Sorbet comme un Vacherin, which was meant to be similar to the famed meringue and ice cream combo. But the meringues were a bit too hard and she timidly tried to poke them into pieces, but was unsuccessful.

So I grabbed a fork and really let ‘em have it, which did the trick. I didn’t go through 20+ years of martial arts training for nothing (except for a pair of messed-up knees and a funny story about trying to take a sword through Canadian customs.) Not a bad dessert, but when I saw the slick, über-thin tarte au chocolat that the neighboring table got, served simply with absolutely no adornment. And it didn’t look like it needed anything—it was just perfect in it’s dark chocolate & buttery crust simplicity. I wished I’d ordered that.
Next time.

We had a bottle of goofy Sancerre that the waiter described as ‘petrolisé‘ (darn spelling again…) which we interpreted as being ‘like petrol’, although I’m sure that’s not right. But on second thought, maybe it was, since the wine had a peculiar aftertaste that didn’t win me over.

Still, this is one of the best places to eat in Paris.
And the 41€ prix-fixe dinner, with about five options in each category (and none of those annoying surcharges) is a bargain for the top-notch quality of the cooking and the ingredients used, and the servers were exceptionally nice and gracious. You will hear a lot of English spoken amongst the diners, but there’s a decent mix of other languages in the room as well. It’s one of the few places on the touristy Ile-St. Louis that’s worth a visit (reservations are advised.) And it’s a great place for elbow-watching too. If you’re into that kind of thing.

Mon Vieil Ami
69, rue St.Louis-en-Île
Tél: 01 40 46 01 35

UPDATE: I’ve recently heard some reports of less-than-stellar service at Mon Vieil Ami. While I haven’t experienced that first hand, thankfully, it was from reliable sources. So while restaurants can vary from day to day, that’s just a heads-up. -dl

25 comments

  • The Place des Vosges — if you’ve got to be shivering over a wireless connection anywhere, that’s a very good place. If you went over to Angelina’s for a hot chocolate afterwards, that would be my vicarious pleasure for the day. Hope you get your internet and cable back soon!

  • Mon Vieil Ami was the first restaurant I visited on my first trip to Paris last year – what a wonderful way to start! Thanks so much for sharing the meal and bringing back great memories. p.s. – By the time we got to dessert, the table next to us had just gotten the last piece of the chocolate tarte!

  • Dear Sir:

    You will find an explanation of your present interruption in service at paragraph 47 on page 9 of the 13 page contract you signed upon application for our services. Bonne journee!

    France Telecom

  • We laugh in the face of your internet outage.

    Le ha! Le ha! Le ha!

  • We ate at Mon Vieil Ami on our honeymoon in Paris last May. It was phenomenal…I would go back in a heartbeat.

  • Steve: I must not have gotten that far yet.

    I’m only on page #7!

    France Telecom: Well, the joke’s on you—I’ve got Noos (although come to think of it, the joke may be on me…)

    Leigh: It is a great place, isn’t it.
    A chef who specialized in vegetables!

  • chicken wings and beets? i love it.

  • That dessert (the one you ordered) sounds amazing actually. Why are you the only one that likes it? Thanks for writing this post in the bitter cold! You’re so devoted to your adoring fans.

  • about these chilly places, may i suggest this ? http://www.chaufferette.com/ :)

  • Funny, one of my good girlfriend’s favorite dessert is also Ile-Flottante, so I decided to make it for her on her bday. Since I’ve never had it before, I wanted to order the legit version at a restaurant before embarking on my own recreation. It’s amazing, but maybe only one French restaurant in L.A. serves Ile-Flottante! (I found out after the fact.) So, with the help of Google, I did my own version. I’m not sure if it came out correctly but my friend appreciated it nonetheless.

  • I am a huge fan of the Ile-Flottante and miss them desperately. Does any restaurant in New York serve one?

  • Kicked out of the house by the cable company — that’s bad. How is it in Paris, you have WiFi in every coffee place? If that’s the case you can just eat yourself around town, write about it and end up fat and happy after all the eating.

  • I TELL PEOPLE TO GO THERE ALL THE TIME! I’m so glad you went and liked it. It is so good…cozy and great food. Some people don’t like the coziness…too cozy for them with the tables so close together.
    But you’re right, 41 euros is a huge bargain for what they serve.
    Miam.

  • I love your blog! and your books! + you post all the time!! sorry. got a little excited. I don’t remember you ever writing about your hobbies other than yoga. did you do wushu?

  • Waaaaah: we tried so hard to get a reservation at Mon Vieil Ami when we were in Paris in June, but through a series of tragicomic incidents, we were unsuccessful.
    Merci fo the vicarious visit.

  • Don’t they have free Wifi in Paris cafes? Go warm up somewhere.

    Ile Flottante? I thought my french ex-boyfriend’s mom was the only one who still made that.

  • Damn, another great place we missed. Sometimes I get so frustrated that my stomach will only accommodate three meals per day!

    Stay warm… xx

  • David,
    Interesting comment on the wine. The “petroleum” characteristic is generally found in a good aged Riesling (10 years+). It is considered a good quality a sort of oily effect. I know it sounds weird but it is good. Never heard of it in a Sav Blanc though, that should be fresh and zingy.

    Still working through the book – great success with Toasted Coconut and Fresh Ginger…jury’s out on the roasted banana. May try Lavender and Honey this weekend if I can hunt down some flowers.

    Cheers
    Phil

  • oh i loved mon vieil ami, too. i am a big fan of westerman, although i do know that he isn’t actively cooking there. i had a brilliantly simple starter or leeks with (fresh) anchovy vinaigrette and we shared a marvellous pave de porc – i absolutely loved every morsel and found it to be very good value for money as well. plus, it was (still is) one of the few bistros in paris where smoking isn’t allowed… a veritable blessing!

  • Noos….my heart bleeds for you. Internet not worked for 2 months & haven’t had the TV package I ordered originally for 5 months. I officially gave up today. Eating out is the way forward!!

  • Bonjour! Thanks for the mini-review of Mon Vieil Ami — it brought back memories. We were the American couple sitting beside you that night. I generally take notes on the back of the invoice so I can recall the meal when we get home. We keep a journal focused on the wine we drink, which lets us re-live our holidays. I remember the 1999 Gerrey-Chambertin we drank at MVA and the entrees, but I drew a blank on the mains. Not until I Googled the restaurant, and tripped over your post, did more of it come back to me, like the scallops with lardon.

    BTW mate, I tried to find YOUR site while we were in France, but all the combinations of your surname that I tried drew a blank. I thought there would be an “i” close to the “Le”. You should have some business cards with your web addy on them to hand out to people who are interested in you. I gather you have some degree of fame (sorry to not have heard of you, but it’s a big world out there and one cannot know EVERYONE!) but it never hurts to have the means of marketing yourself further.

    Anyway, Carol and I will bookmark your site. As American expatriates who love Paris, we find your experiences extra-interesting.

  • Hi Bukko: Thanks, and glad you found the site. My name’s phonetic; people like to add all sorts of extraneous letters, though. I don’t have cards, but I was wearing my http://www.davidlebovitz.com t-shirt, but it was underneath my sweater! ; )

  • As the Aussies would say, I’m sure the T-shirt looked “good onya.”

    When I got home from a rock concert I went to last night, Carol had a half-dozen tabs open to various pages of yours, so you’ve won another enthusiast! We might sign up for one of your chocolate tours when we come over next year, assuming that President Cheney hasn’t started a nuclear war and disrupted international travel before then.

    And it was a GeVrey-Chambertin we drank, not “Gerry”. I hate to make typos. Must get a spell-checker en francais…

  • Just a follow on from your review of Mon Vieil Ami…just back from a visit to Paris with my husband and 3.5 yr old daughter and called into this restaurant on spec for lunch. We were a bit dubious about how they would feel about feeding a small person, but when asked for child menu they responded by asking what they could make for her and suggested some chicken and sauteed potatoes which we were delighted with. Thankfully she behaved so we could enjoy our hake with sorrel sauce…absolutely delicious. She even ate some of her dinner (we each stole some of her potato…very good). Nicest meal we had in Paris and the Sancerre went down very well with it.

  • Service was nice but food was less then stellar.. will not be going back