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Restaurant Astier

Astier Paris

What’s not to like about a somewhat out-of-the-way bistrotière like Astier, serving examples of classic French cuisine, keeping the torch alive of a genre that’s become harder to find done right?

The pre-fixe menu at Astier is a little gentler at €35, and you can choose from four of five selections in each category. There’s more extensive selections on the à la carte side of the carte. (Traveler tip: Menu in French means a fixed series of dishes, often les plates du jour composed of various courses. A carte is the actual physical menu.) but we were thoroughly pleased with chunky block of house-made foie gras sprinkled with fleur de sel, with toasted brioche and chutney alongside.

knives at Astier Astier wine list

Warm brandade (whipped salted fish and potatoes) was a good rendition of the classic thankfully served in appetizer proportions, although I could have done without the diced roasted peppers on top which detracted from the taste. (I may also be a little biased, though because also can’t stand roasted peppers.) My main course was a shallow bowl of slow-roasted, tender lamb shoulder with stubby baby carrots in a thick jus and exactly what I felt like eating sitting in a Parisian bistro.

photo

The star of the show at Astier, which I hope they never take off the stage (I’m sure there would be a riot if they did, and I’d lead the pack) is the massive cheese plate. There’s hardly room on the table for it – Another tip: hold on to your wine glasses when they set it down – then dive right in. We had to guide our stunned neighbors when it was their turn with the cheese board—Romain is especially good at taking charge and took control, slicing cheese for them and putting in on their plates. When it was our turn, he loaded me up with five superb specimens: Époisses (which was the best I’ve ever had), Salers, Brie de Meaux, a fine, ripe Camembert, and a tangy Basque sheep’s milk cheese.

(Next time someone says the French practice portion control, they can remove Romain—and his damn 28-inch waist—from that equation.)

Astier menu

Needless to say, I could barely eat my rice pudding, which tasted fine with some poached fruits embedded in the top, but when the waiter set down a studly Baba au rhum in from of the man behind us, just about every head in the room turned, especially when the garçon split it open and doused both halves with nearly a quarter bottle of rum. His wife, who was being prudent forking up a warm chocolate cake, said to me “C’est le meilleur Baba au rhum à Paris!” And from the look of his face, she wasn’t lying.

We had a bottle of Chenin blanc (€22) from the Touraine*, which was the first selection on the reasonable wine list, after we started off with two glasses of Champagne. (€11 each and kind of steep, but I really needed a glass that night and didn’t think it’d be polite to drink one in front of a dinner companion without springing for one for him as well.) Dinner for two, with a few supplemental charges, because we veered a bit from the menu fixe, came in at €118. A few years back, a major food magazine was going to do an issue on Paris, but the editor told me she was concerned about the prices in Paris, especially with the exchange rate. But a four-course meal like this in any American city, with wine and two pre-dinner glasses of bubbly would cost about twice as much.

Fromages

(I’d also like to give points to Astier for serving bottles of chilled filtered water, still or sparkling, at no extra cost. France is one of the largest consumers of bottled water in the world, and the tap water is perfectly safe to drink, and free. The waitress told me they were trying to reduce waste and the strain on the waiters, who were tired of carrying all those cases of bottles. It’s a great initiative, one which I hope more restaurants worldwide would adopt.)

chocolate cake at Astier

It’s tricky these days to find an honest French meal in Paris, made with good ingredients by actual cooks rather than hired hands. And when I left, I took a peek in the sparkling kitchen where the cooks were staying busy plating up food for the other lucky diners. The waiters were hovering by the door and the owner was behind the bar polishing glasses, waiting to say goodbye as we left. I was a little sorry to go, but happy that there was a reasonably long walk home in front of me, because I needed it.

Restaurant Astier Paris

Restaurant Astier
44, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud (11th)
Tél: 01 43 57 16 35

Restaurant Astier is open seven days a week. They also have opened a take-out/eat in dining annex next door that’s very casual, focusing on rotisserie meats, charcuterie, and wines by the glass, called Jeanne A (42, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Tél: 01 43 55 09 49)



Related Posts and Links

Jeanne A. (Hungry for Paris)

Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud (Secrets of Paris)

Jeanne A. in the 11th (John Talbott’s Paris)

Paris Bistro Astier: For Old Times (and New) (Patricia Wells)

Fastidious French Get Free Sparkling Water Fountain (Good)

Paris Restaurant Archives

French Menu Translation Guide

Sunday Dining in Paris


*I’m far from being an expert on wine, but I sure like it. And I used to come to France before I moved here and was usually timid about ordering it because of my inexpertise, so would limit myself to order bottles with familiar names, like Côte du Rhone and such. But I’ve been trying to learn more (by tasting, bien sûr) and as I started moving toward white wines, I found I was really enjoying wines from the Touraine, an area not far from Paris called the Loire.

The best white wine from that region is Sancerre, which is always priced a bit higher than the other white wines. (And usually merits it.) But other white wines from the Loire are Sauvignon blanc and Chemin blanc, and are often quite good and economical choices, if that’s a concern. You don’t have to pay a lot of money to drink decent wine in France.

Muscadet is another white wine produced in the same region, which has the unfortunate association (because the names are similar) with inexpensive sweet wine called Muscatel, which it doesn’t resemble. Muscadets aren’t always great wines, but some aren’t bad and I’ll take a glass at a bar during l’heure d’apéro, the pre-dinner drink.

So if you’re in a restaurant and want to try something different, if you see the word “Touraine” listed after a bottle, and something bright and minerally appeals to you, you might want to give one a try. And if anyone gives you a hard time about it, tell them you’re supporting the local wines.

Lausanne, Switzerland

near Lausanne

Everyone has a story about the Swiss, which sometimes ends up with them getting reprimanded for moving something out of the exact place where it belongs. Or arriving 12.5 seconds too late and missing a train. So I was freaking out when I was en route there because I filled out the blank spaces myself on my railpass that asked for my name and passport number. Just after I did that, I read that it said not to do that: the station agent must be the one to take care of it.

chocolates candied oranges in chocolate

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Raclette

raclette

Sometimes you wonder if people do eat all the stuff we think they eat in other countries. Do Russian people really eat blini and follow them up with shots of iced vodka? In Hawaii, are people sitting around dipping their fingers into bowls of poi? Do Americans actually eat the skins of potatoes? How many Parisians actually nibble on macarons? And is it so that Swiss people eat copious amounts of melted cheese, stirred around in pots and heaped on plates?

cornichons raclette knife

People in Switzerland actually do eat Fondue and Raclette, as I found out on a recent visit. But eating Raclette outside of Switzerland is like eating a New York hot dog anywhere but standing on a crowded sidewalk in New York. Sure you can do it, but it’s not as much fun. (And somehow never tastes as good.)
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Making Swiss Cheese Fondue

Fondue

I’ve never really had fondue. Well, I am sure that at some point in my life someone dusted off their never-used fondue pot from the back of their kitchen cabinet and melted some stringy cheese in it. But it must not have been memorable because I can’t recall it at all. (Or perhaps a few shots of kirsch took care of that.)

Swiss fondue is not just melted cheese with bread dipped in it; it’s an opportunity to gather some friends around a heaving pot of bubbling cheese and having a great time. The word fondue is a riff of the French verb fondre, which means “to melt.” So theoretically anything melted could be a fondue, although I didn’t see any chocolate fondues in Switzerland and if you mentioned one to someone they might give you a funny look.

adding wine to fondue chef and mushroom

Fondue isn’t that hard to make (or eat), and I recently had an authentic one in Switzerland that I spent all night afterward thinking about it. Of course, I’m sure that digesting a big pot of melted cheese probably had a little to do with that as well.
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Librairie Gastéréa: Gastronomic Bookstore

german baking book

Like most men (and it seems from my previous post, quite a few women, married or otherwise), have a crush on Sophia Loren. My passion was aroused when I walked by the Librairie Gastéréa and saw her beaming face as she lovingly rolled out sheets of pasta on the book jacket parked enticingly in their window.

sophia loren's cookbook sophialorencookbook

So I was happy to have a chance to go inside and see the collection of Henri-Daniel and Tania Wibaut, who’ve owned this shop for about six years.

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Bircher Müesli

müesli

I have quite a few “issues”, including an aversion food that’s blue which wasn’t intended by nature to be so (I don’t understand what’s up with that ‘blue raspberry’ soda), I don’t like getting dressed first thing in the morning or talking to others for at least the first hour of the day, I get uneasy when being driven anywhere by a taxi or hired driver, and I’m so terrified of my bank back in Paris that I avoid making money so I don’t have to go in there and do anything scary like, say, make a payment or deposit money into my bank account.

swiss yogurt

But nothing strikes fear in the heart of me more than one thing: Hotel Breakfasts.
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Irish Shortbread Recipe & Ireland Travel Notes

butter shortbread

Over dinner on my final night in Ireland, one of the other diners who is Irish said to me, “I just came back from Paris…”, and he hesitated for a moment, and continued “…and the food wasn’t very good.” It’s probably unimaginable a few years ago that someone from Ireland would be criticizing the quality of French cooking. But it shows how far Irish cooking has come.

pint of guinness Irish coffee

I was recounting that story to someone over lunch yesterday back in Paris, who assured me that I was fortunate to have eaten so well during my trip. So of course, there’s good and not-good restaurants in every country, but over my dinner in Cork, Ireland, diving in to a pan-seared dry-aged steak, a pile of freshly sautéed spinach, and crisp French fries made from real potatoes and cooked so each one had a deep-brown crust, I had to say that in addition to the multiple Irish coffees, the rest of the food I had in Ireland was fresh, well-prepared, and surprisingly good.

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Ballymaloe Cookery School

Darina Allen at Ballymaloe organic beetroot

When Darina Allen sat down to talk to us, a small group of food writers, it was just after her son and daughter in law, Rachel Allen. It was definitely nap time, and I put my camera in my bag along with my notepad, and contemplated having a little bit of a mental break while sit around in a kitchen, listening as Darina planned to tell us about her Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Well, that was the wrong idea. Because within seconds after Darina started talking, I scrambled around in my messenger bag for my notepad and pen because every word and phrase that came out of her mouth was note-worthy.

learn to cook squash

I’m not a reporter and can’t write very fast (thirty five years working in professional kitchens seem to be taking their toll), plus I’ll never be a journalist because I always get too involved in what I’m seeing or who I’m talking to rather than focusing on taking notes and zeroing in on facts and figures. But I tried to catch as much as I could as she spoke faster than I could jot things down.

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