Le Mary Celeste

spiced cucumbers

The cocktail resurgence has hit Paris big-time (and it’s hit me too), and the team who created Candelaria and Glass, two of my favorite places in Paris, have another hit on their hands with Le Mary Celeste. This corner bar in the Marais is named after a ship in the nineteenth century that left New York and was later found adrift and abandoned. No one ever found out what happened to the crew, who left all their personal belongings and valuables behind, but the boat was also found fully stocked with barrels of alcohol.

Le Mary Celeste cocktail - Rain Dog

I don’t think many – or any – of those barrels landed in Paris, although there is no shortage of things to drink around here. Wine has historically been the drink of choice, although beer seems to have overtaken les vins in popularity judging from all the young people drinking pints in cafés. But gaining traction are cocktails of quality.

mary celeste cocktailadam of Le Mary Celeste
bartender cocktailsspicy cocktail

As time marches on, I now usually have to limit myself to two. (Or I pay for it the next day.) But it’s hard when the cocktails are as good as they are at Le Mary Celeste. Each drink is breathtaking – and not just a work of art, but perfectly balanced, such as the Rain Dog, a mound of ice doused in small-batch bourbon, mint, and amaro bitters.

Haan

Equally inventive is the Koh Gaden, a frothy white mix of aquavit, lime, egg white, kaffir lime, and galangal syrup. Because the bar is in a fairly hip area, it has a tendency to draw a certain crowd although those of us who are the old-guard can show those kidsters a thing or two about drinking. (Especially if you’ve had extensive experience in San Francisco – and dealt with the wrath of the notorious Bruno at the Persian Aub Zam Zam, which I survived on many occasions.) But here, the bartenders are nice and accommodating, whipping up drinks like Yolos (short for “You Only Live Once”) to a couple of fashionistas parked at the bar, which contain sake, fresh peach puree, Aperol, Prosecco, and green tea.

Le Mary CelesteMary Celeste - Rain Dog
chain saw - Le Mary Celestewine at Le Mary Celeste

Other drinks might be spiked with chilis, rimmed with fleur de sel, coriander seed powder, or Sichuan pepper. And if you don’t mind putting yourself in the hands of an expert, you can ask for a recommendation, letting the bartender know what kind of drink you prefer – spicy, smoky, sweet, fruity, and what your choice of alcohol tends to be. I did that the first time I was there and spent quite a few subsequent trips try to remember what I had, ordering and ordering, unable to finagle what that amazing cocktail was.

cocktail at Le Mary Celeste

I was explaining to the head bartender, Carlos Madriz, who is a brilliant bartender, that his drinks were like a great Caesar Salad; all the ingredients meld perfectly, with none of them dominate the other. Perhaps he though he should have cut me off after the first drink, but I was too busy diving into a bowl of cucumbers and radishes marinated in deep-fried Korean pepper to considering stopping eating.

Why? Because unlike most cocktail bars, the food at Le Mary Celeste is outstanding as well. Chef Haan Palcu-Chang creates a ever-changing menu of “bar snacks” that will have you pushing away those little bowls of stale popcorn and peanuts found elsewhere. And he is preparing some of the best food in Paris. The first time I tried his kimchi, I couldn’t stop eating it. He’s had to stop making it because apparently I wasn’t the only one who like it – he was going through 10 kilos every two weeks and ran out of refrigerator space to store it. But now you can get Radis, concombre, chili, a fiery-red dish of radishes and cucumbers marinated in deep-fried Korean chili powder.

octopus

Originally from Canada, Haan has lived in Korea and in a few other cities around the world – and his parents are Chinese, and Romanian – which is reflected in his global cuisine he’s cooking in Paris. Like a number of talented French people who have traveled, or lived abroad, they came back and are succeeding by applying those techniques to French ingredients.

chef Haan at Le Mary Celestedrinks at Le Mary Celeste
stuffed pigs feettying pig foot

The place is always packed with a good mix of French folks and others, and when I asked the soft-spoken Haan if he had trouble because some of the food he serves is spicy, he said “Not really. But I did have some young Frenchwomen return their tartare because they said they couldn’t eat food unless their was bread available.” So some traditions do die hard. And although a few might not be ready for the change, the throngs at the bar every night prove that most are hungry for it.

tuna tartare

I’m sorry those women missed out on Ceviche de thon, pasteque, herbes, a lively plate of diced albacore tuna with juicy watermelon and pretty green herbs scattered over the top, with Turkish chiles providing just the right amount of heat.

scallop taco

I think I made a spectacle of myself trying to wolf down a scallop taco, but I didn’t care. (After all, when you’re surrounded by people much better-looking, and far better-dressed than you are, what have you got to lose?) So chow down I did.

smoked trout

Rainbow trout provides some color to contrast with potatoes and horseradish cream, and I’ve never had a dud in any of the bar snacks or foods that are intended to be à partager at Le Mary Celeste. My Frenchman had a few of their oysters from Great Britain (only available seasonally) and was happily surprised that they were right up there with les huitres from France. In fact, he hasn’t stopped talking about them since last winter and I’m hoping the weather takes a turn for the colder soon so I can get him back there.

deviled eggs

To go with drinks, I always go with at least one Œuf du diable, a Deviled egg filled with mayonnaise, fresh ginger, and topped with deep-fried wild rice. It’s a great riff on the classic Œufs mayo – and when I say “I”, it’s because it’s the one dish I refuse to share.

chef Haan cookingle mary celesteBar at Le Mary CelesteLe Mary Celeste cocktails

Dessert might be a green tea panna cotta with lemon verbena and fresh Provencal peaches. Everything is always well-seasoned and brilliantly flavored. Haan worked in a few restaurants in Paris, and he had some ups-and-downs in the tumultuous world of French restaurant kitchens and wanted to explore using other ingredients, flavors, and techniques without any of the complications (and reluctance) in other kitchens, relying on well-sourced ingredients in Paris. And the crowds at the bar attest to how delighted people in Paris are for these kinds of fully flavored foods made with fresh ingredients, including me.

green tea panna cotta

On the way out on my last visit, I was talking to Carlos at the bar, letting him know that I was never able to find out what that cocktail I’d had the first night I was there, probably a year or so ago. In spite of the thousands of cocktails he’s served, to hundreds of people, he said – “It was a Toronto.” I was stunned that he both remembered me, and the drink I had. But I can relate; I’ve had a few memorable nights at Le Mary Celeste. And a few I don’t remember.

Le Mary Celeste
1, rue Commines (3rd)
M: Filles du Calvaire

Current Opening Hours: 6pm-2am daily. Weekend brunch from Noon to 4pm, then open though the afternoon, closing at 2am. (Subject to change.)


Note: The casual menu at Le Mary Celeste is composed smaller plates of food meant to be shared, along with stellar cocktails or a glass of wine. There are non-alcoholic drinks on offer as well. As the evening progresses, the lively cocktail bar can get quite bustling. They open at 6pm and are generally less-busy in the early evening. If you arrive later, there may be a bit of a wait to sit at the bar or at one of the tables. When in-season, Le Mary Celeste offers oysters from Great Britain for just €1 each during “Happy Hour” in the winter, when the bar opens at 5pm. During the month of August, 2013, the kitchen will only be serving a few small plates – no hot food – on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Brooklyn brewery

61 comments

  • Is that foamy white drink the Cocodin you mentioned? It reminds me of the Pisco Sour I had at a dinner party a few months ago. My host grew up in Peru and said she learned to make them there– best drink in the world! She served them in little glasses….

  • Well I like that name (I live in Toronto). What beautiful dishes!

  • I guess we all want such a bar near by, the eggs and tacos…
    I like the name, and am very curious, since celeste means light blue in spanish and is a name also. So cool they remembered your drink!

    • I know! I was kind of blown away, because it was a while back and the first time I’d gone there. And he actually remembered the drink.

  • What beautiful photos of what is clearly beautiful food! The scallop tacos and the smoked trout made my mouth water and it’s 7:48 am here in Austin! What is that last icy drink with the limes that looks like watermelon juice? Oh, and the egg dish looks divine! I would not have shared either.

  • The spicy radishes look mouth-watering! Even at 8.30 in the morning! Looks like a must-visit on our next trip to Paris (assuming they stay open in August, which is always when we seem to go…missing out on so many great meals, because of our timing).

  • @ClareD Ha! Looks like there are more of us who drool over savory dishes before breakfast!

  • Clotilde shared this salad she had eaten at the Mary Celeste & I made it the other day: Roasted Cauliflower. Oh-my-GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD It was sooooo good. Should I say I ate the entire roasted head of cauliflower in this salad??? How un-Parisian of me LOL I only wish I had a cocktail next to it… :(

  • No one has commented on the chainsaw! No where else to put it, I guess.
    Great article and mouth watering photos, David! Putting it on our list for October.

    • I asked them about it and they said one of their bartenders was going to use it for ice carving, but they didn’t know where he could do it! And I thought it was to make sure there were no unruly customers!

  • This place looks right up my alley, A must for whenever I attempt to travel to Paris

    ciao

  • The food sounds (and looks) absolutely amazing.
    I think I could easily lose myself in an evening experimenting with the cocktails there.

  • David, the link for the Le Mary Celeste does not work.

    Thanks,
    Claire

    Thanks. I’m using a new version of software and it makes the quotation marks that are required for me to code links as unreadable. I try to catch ‘em and correct ‘em when I can. – thanks! dl

  • Do you have the recipe for the spiced cucumbers? They look amazing and my garden is full of cukes! I need new ways to serve them.

    Thank you
    Susan

    • I don’t, but he told me he heated oil and put the Korean chile powder in it, then used that to marinate the cucumbers and radishes. There may be some vinegar or lime juice in there to balance it out, but can’t say for sure. But it’s worth trying!

  • Wish I could go tonight! Reads and looks amazing. Was the trout raw or “gravlaxed” in some way?

  • All the restaurant photos you post look like they could be in Portland, Ore. Looks like Portlandia is taking over the world!

  • The Brooklynization of Paris is in full swing! ;)

  • Oooh that Bruno used to scare the bejesus outta me! How I would have loved to have ordered a Mary-Celeste-like cocktail at the Persian Aub Zam Zam room. But I was always too petrified to attempt to order anything but a martini there. Looking forward to sipping a Cocodin or a Yolo (or two) when I’m in Paris in November!

    • He was really a character, and could be really mean. I remember him kicking people out of there all the time. It was kind of funny to watch people come in, sit down at a table – and how he would bellow at them that there was no service at the tables – only at the bar. I didn’t live far away so he was pretty okay with me. But what a San Francisco character he was (and how he made such great martinis from using that awful gin he used to pour from the 1/2-gallon jug, I’ll never know..)

  • Hi David – I love the mention of the Mary Celeste (both the bar and the ship). I live in Toronto, Canada, and have a vacation rental property in Nova Scotia, just down the shore from where the Mary Celeste was built at the Spencer’s Island ship yard. I’ve included a link to information about a local ship building museum & hope that is ok re your policy re links. http://www.novascotiabeachhouse.com/museums.php

    Thanks for sharing all your creativity with us, your readers!

  • So now that you have groaned over it, what is in the Cocodin? I figure it is the frothy white drink that looks so wonderful.

  • You write the most delicious restaurant reviews!
    Thanks

  • intrigued, i went a-searching for the lost vessel…

    http://www.deafwhale.com/maryceleste/

    a longish read, but interesting. also interesting that the ship’s cargo was mostly grain alcohol – probably why the bar is called what it is?

  • My to-do list just got one line longer… and I must say I am flabbergasted that I hadn’t heard about this place before. Nice to know there are always new things to discover in the city of lights.

  • Amazing sounding drinks, and the menu sounds right up my street, scallop tacos, octopus, tuna salad, and oysters. The clientele might be rather offputting though, as it is in the Mission District these days in SF – too many hipster types so I feel old and just tolerated.

  • Chef Haan is cute! And so is the man in the blazer and chambray in the first set of photos. Heeheehee.

    I normally don’t comment on that kind of thing, by the way. But no one was pointing it out and I felt it needed to be said.

    Anyway, back to the food and the restaurant, everything looks lovely, inviting and fresh.

    Oh and I blame you, David, for the hour I spent reading on the ship Mary Celeste. What a fascinating story.

  • Yes, it was an unforgettable experience going to my Peruvian friends house for dinner and tasting so many new flavors. Someone said they brought the Pisco back with them from Peru. She put the drink in the blender instead of shaking it with ice so it was frothy and went down so easy. Best cocktail I’ve ever had! . Will send you her recipe when I get it.

  • Excellent review! We’re looking forward to a visit on our next trip to Paris (especially since it’s in the neighborhood of our apartment). The Rain Dog sounds interesting.

  • I love that they care about both their cocktails and their food. How nice to be able to go to this place and have an amazing cocktail and share a plate of something yummy with friends. It seems too perfect! (read: jealous!) :)
    Great post. I truly want to go there and experience it.

  • What is in the very first photo? i’m guessing those are the cukes you mentioned, but the edge of one looks almost charred…also, i think you can give yourself enough credit now for your own personal “following,” and when it comes time to wolfing down anything, you are free to open wide because everyone only cares about WHAT you’re eating and not HOW. Chow down with abandon; you’ve earned the pleasure.

  • KIMCHI! The place looks amazing, but I’m stuck on the kimchi. I’ve almost given up looking for good Korean ingredients in France, but here’s a glimmer of hope!

  • Amazing pictures of the food and of the drinks! And ceviche with bread sounds awful, maybe chips at most if you must quench your desire for carbs :)

  • Lovely article, as always, but I was so looking for the pickled cucumber recipe. Is there any chance you might share it?

  • Love this post! And I have fond memories of Bruno too! A scary character for sure.
    Will add Mary Celeste to my next trip to Paris! Cheers.

  • Cool place! Sounds like a fun place to spend some time.

    We have a creative bartender in Lake Placid who makes a fabulous cocktail with coco lopez grapefruit chili simple prosecco and tequila and lime… Really tastey!! She named it Mothers Milk.

  • linkjendal: I did mention in a previous comment how it was made, based on what he told me. But I didn’t get the recipe from him. Next time I see him, I’ll ask.

    hillary: Those are the cucumbers in Korean chile powder.

    Katrina: Both of them are taken – but you can still enjoy the fruits of their labors. (Adam, the gent in the suit, is one of the owners of the bar.)

    Lynn: The staff is really nice and because they are located in a hip/bobo/hipster-ish area, they do get some customers that fall into those brackets. But I’ve never felt out of place ~

    Mary Kate: I also remember that Bruno at the Persian Aub Zam Zam in San Francisco used to only give silver dollars for change. And that if anyone ordered a Cosmopolitan, he would kick them out!

  • How beautiful those dishes look and that includes most that I wouldn’t eat! Same for the cocktails. I can see the prices for some things on the menu under the main photo, they look wonderful. That’s a nice solid drink, too!

    P.S. David, you are way too hard on yourself! :)

  • Dear David:
    Is it possible that you would post a recipe for a real PISCO SOUR?
    Recently returned from Chile, where we were served them frequently
    (thank goodness for that!), and now that I’m back in So Cal I miss them so.
    Next I’m off to Paris, armed with info from the indomitable David, so should
    have a great time.
    Many sincere thanks to a fountain of good information.
    Dolli

  • Love these tales of Bruno, too funny!
    David, what’s the last dish in the photos? The one that looks like yoghurt, nectarines and mint or some other lovely leaves? Thanks!
    BTW the hipster moustache on the man holding the scallop tacos is hilarious!

  • The green tea panna cotta with fresh peaches and lemon verbena sounds fabulous. I’ve got to try and make it….

  • Sou brasileira e sigo o seu blog, que por sinal eu adoro, PARABÉNS !! Mas eu gostaria de obter a receita dos pepinos temperados que vc postou,

  • Man, I wish average American men dressed as well as that first man – totally casual yet pulled together…David, do you wear jackets going out or are there other stylish options?

  • Hey David,
    Is it just me or has your photography stepped up a gear?

    Wow they look supergood!
    Loving the blog.

  • WOW! That octopus! x

  • I’m always excited to read descriptions of amazing cocktails but no matter how good they sound, I always end up ordering a Ketel One Gimlet, fresh lime juice, straight up. That, to me, is the ultimate cocktail. What I can’t stop thinking about is that egg dish you described, with mayo, fried wild rice, ginger and scallions. I want one!

  • How is it that Colchester oysters are famous and exported all over the world, but the Brits have never heard of them?! I only found out after living in Paris for a few years. I wish I could try that kimchi, can we club together to buy him a bigger fridge?

  • What a juicy post. It is 10.30 at night in Belfast, and I really feel like grabbing my umbrella and running through the rain to catch a flight to Paris. ( I’ve done it before ! )
    Thank you so much David, for your delightful and generous sharing. I shall read this one again and again x

  • I see that Paris too has les hipsters. I thought they were only an U.S. based phenomenon.

  • Hello David,
    I just read that you’re looking for xanthan gum.
    I think you can find some at G Detou, else, you can go to Aroma zone 40 boulevard saint germain, they sell xanthan gum ( along with agar agar, carraghenan, adraganth). I don’t know if it’s food grade though.
    Some health food stores stock it too.
    Gomme xanthan

    • Thanks. I went to 4 natural food stores and Goumanyat, and they didn’t have it. I know (or think..) G. Detou carries it but I thought (hope) one place in my neighborhood might.

  • Loved your August letter about the small cask for your Negronis. I have been making them in a half-pint jar (just for 3 glasses) and leaving them in the fridge for a couple days. I’m sure it is my imagination, but I do think they are better for the delay between making and drinking.

  • hi David;
    first; i have to say i’m obsessed with your blog; it’s wonderful

    secondly; if i have only 4 nights in Paris should i go to the Le Mary Celeste?
    while asking; where would you go (which restaurants) if you had only 4 nights at paris :)

    thank u so much;
    michelle

  • wonderful post, as usual!
    did the ceviche de thon have any dressing or was the tuna marinated in citrus?
    it’s hard to tell from the photo. but it looks like such a fantastic combination that i’d like to try it.
    thanks!

  • Oh, what a splendid article. Now I want a Cocodin, and David, it is only 07:12 here in Los Angeles. Look what you have started…

    Surely you must have a few bartenders in Paris to rival the notorious Bruno. I would love to hear about them. Part of the fun of the cocktail revolution is the raft of characters that come along with it.

    Thanks again for some of the very finest writing around. You are very good for me. I am rather Italian-centric, and you always remind me that the world is more than Italy alone!

  • Sounds yummy! I have been addicted to Mexican martinis lately, are they popular in Paris?

  • I’ve been thinking about those radish and cucumber pickles for almost two weeks now! They look a lot like a Korean radish kimchee called kkakdugi (google it). Even if its not even close I’ll never know, being in Vermont and all. Plus kkakdugi looks mighty tasty in its own right :)
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • The Age of Sail Heritage Museum (www.ageofsailmuseum.ca) in Port Greville, Nova Scotia, Canada is just a few minutes’ drive down the road from Spencer’s Island, where the Amazon/Mary Celeste was built in 1861. Oralee O’Byrne-Curator, manager of the Age of Sail, gave me the following information, which came from The Saga of the Mary Celeste, by Stan Spicer and from the Museum’s archives.

    This ship was originally christened the Amazon. She was built by Joshua Dewis and was 99.3ft long, 25.5ft in breadth,11.7ft deep and weighed 98.42 gross tons. In 1863 she was valued at $4,600! (Canadian dollars).

    The Amazon/Mary Celeste experienced a series of problems – the first Captain, Robert McLellan of Economy (Nova Scotia), grew very ill on the initial voyage, developed pneumonia and was ferried to shore, where he died within a few hours. Next, when Captain John Parker of Walton (Nova Scotia) carried on to London (UK), the ship ran aground when going down the East Channel and ran into an English brig which quickly sunk. In 1868, the Amazon was auctioned off in New York for $1750 (USD) and renamed Mary Celeste by the new owner, who subsequently lost her a year later for debts. The next owner, Capt James Winchester, repaired the ship and expanded her size, so that she now measured 103 ft long, and 25.7ft in breadth and 282.28 tons, with the cost of repairs being in excess of $10,000.

    In 1872 Captain Briggs, his wife, 2 year old daughter and a crew of 7 and a cargo of 1701 barrels of alcohol boarded the ship for Genoa Italy. Somewhere off of the Azores, the entire crew of the Mary Celeste disappeared – as mentioned in David’s enticing review of Le Mary Celeste. The story goes that when the Italian vessel The Dei Gartia found the vessel floundering and boarded it, the table was set and the captain’s coat and pipe were laid out but no one was on board. The vessel was towed into Gibralter and the crew of the Dei Gartia arrested on suspicion of murder, with the charges eventually dropped. The mystery of The Mary Celeste has never been solved.

    The Age of Sail has very kindly given me 2 pictures of engravings of the Mary Celeste, and a picture of a model of the ship, with a local wine bottle label with an engraving on it. If anyone would like an email copy of these, please get in touch with me through my web site (http://www.novascotiabeachhouse.com/museums.php).

    David – the next time you are in the US, please come and visit the Museum and also a wonderful restaurant (www.wildcaraway.ca) a few minutes from it, where you can watch the same ocean view the builders of the Mary Celeste looked at every day and enjoy the meals prepared with local products. I am sure you and your Frenchman will just love the fish brought in from the Bay of Fundy!

  • Oh, I WISH I’d known about this place last month, when my wife and I were in Paris; when I lived in Paris (late 90′s), not many Parisians knew about Korean things–what a welcome change it is now! Bonne continuation!