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Caillebotte restaurant

I never feel the need to be the first person to hit the latest hotspots. For one thing, I worked in restaurants and I know that the first few weeks (or in some cases, months) can be tough and it takes time to sort everything out. True, they are open to the public and serving meals, but since I’m just a regular diner, and not a food critic, I think it’s better to wait and let everything fall into place. Another reason, which happens too frequently, is the throng of people who go to a hyped new place. I’ve been disappointed by places I’ve read and heard a lot about, only to find that they don’t live up to the buildup. (Which has me scratching my head, because so many people are talking them up.) I figure the good places will still be open months and months later, and the bad ones will beat a hasty retreat.

Since I don’t have my ear to the ground, I hadn’t heard about Caillebotte. But I had heard of Pantruche, which has been around a while and is known for the quality of its food. And since a friend who loves to eat was in town, I thought it time to consult the little list I keep of places I’m eager to visit. At the end of the list was Caillebotte, which was at the end because it was the most recent addition, suggested to me by my friend Zeva, who runs Yelp in France.

Caillebotte restaurant

Since I was a bit early (bakers and pastry chefs are always early, or on time), after I locked up my bike, I took a mini-stroll around the area and realized why I liked the 9th arrondissement so much: Whichever way you went, and whichever street you took, there was something completely different just around the corner. Down the street from Caillebotte was a Greek caterer who had filo-wrapped triangular pies for sale in a hazy showcase in the window. Around the corner was a place called Les Madeleines Parisiennes, which, unfortunately, wasn’t a shop filled with the famed buttery cookies but seemed to be famous for le brunch. A few doors down there was a wine shop with bottles stacked in the window, and a blackboard that promised hearty bistro classics.

Caillebotte restaurant

At Caillebotte, we both decided to go with the menu du jour (€19 at lunch), which included a choice of any of the first courses from the menu, and the main course of the day, which was leg of lamb with a hazelnut crust. My friend started off with a bowl of salsify (above), a root vegetable that’s often called oyster plant (because some folks think it tastes like les huitres), that you don’t often find on French menus – or even in markets – with octopus, egg yolk confit, and a Granny Smith apple cream.

Caillebotte restaurant

Because I still haven’t outgrown my aversion to anything with tentacles, I kept my spoon to myself. Which allowed me to enjoy my marvelous raviolis generously stuffed with shredded paleron de bœuf (short ribs) served with slices of rutabaga, another root vegetable that deserves more recognition, all smothered under a smoky bacon emulsion.

(I’d say foam, but whenever I post about a new restaurant in Paris, there invariably seems to be foam somewhere in there, which draws a bunch of negative comments from folks far from being even faintly fond of foam. People ask me why young Parisian chefs are still fascinated by foam and I’m not quite sure what to say. So I’m going with l’emulsion, which is less polarizing.)

Caillebotte restaurant

For those who find the flavor of lamb too strong, the Gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb) would be just right, as it was very mild. The hazelnut flavor of the crust was pas très present as well. We also would have preferred thinner slices; I am not sure why, but leg of lamb always seems tastier when the slices are I slender rather served in hefty chunks. The star of the dish was bulghur (cracked wheat), piled under the lamb, which soaked up the lamb juices and made me wish I had been served just a big bowl of that.

It was hard to pass on dessert, since the menu was intriguing. The people behind us had ordered the chocolate mousse with corn crumble and dried black olives, which I wanted to try, but my friend from Italy winced at the idea of black olives in dessert.

Caillebotte restaurant

So I had the brioche perdu with fromage blanc sorbet, citron, and an orange marmalade that would have benefitted greatly from the bread being more cooked through, and more aggressively caramelized on the outside.

My friend liked his roasted pineapple with ice cream, although, like my dessert, it would have benefitted from a little extra crunch for texture, and a bit of extra sweetness. (And perhaps a bit of saltiness, too.) It was nice to have imaginative, house-made desserts. But some tasting and minor tweaking before they went out of the kitchen would have resulted in a noticeable difference.

Caillebotte restaurant

There’s a terrific selection of wines by the glass at €5 to €7/per, and I’m interested in coming back and having a full-on meal here. It’s €35 for three courses and I can’t forget to mention that the staff could not have been nicer. It’s great to see the younger generation of French sincerely interested in providing good, helpful, professional service without a hint of pretension or exasperation.

Caillebotte restaurant

When I left, I took my friend by the Greek caterer to show it to him. I wanted to poke my head inside but was too bashful. (In spite of him pushing me from behind.) So I craned my neck to watch the bakers, until one smiled at me and waved, and I waved back. Next time, I’ll arrive early again, so I can go in and see what they’re baking up. And perhaps those other folks nearby will get on the stick with some Parisian madeleines by the time I get back, too.

8, rue Hippolyte Lebas (9th)
Tél: 01 53 20 88 70
Métro: Cadet or Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
(Closed Saturday and Sunday)



    • Lily

    You should stop writing about such nice places in Paris – seeing the pics I want to jump on the train asap, lol.

    I am really happy restaurants are starting to work with more not-so-known vegetables, and lunch there is not overly expensive.

    • T. Tilash

    Please, you “should” use the word “foam”. You are lucky to have a word that expresses correctly what it is… in french the closest we have is “mousse”, but since people usually think of thicker mousses, they don’t see the airy foams as being mousses… but they are : bubbles of air surrounded by liquid, that is a foam (or a mousse), but not an emulsion.
    An emulsion is a mixture of liquid and fat (either one suspended in the other)… and this word is wrongly used by all french chefs for lack of a better definition (or for fear of using the more correct “mousse”).
    I’m not a language nazi (although it does seem like it from this comment), but I really feel you are lucky to have a word we don’t, and should therefore use it (this one, and “fluffy”).

    With all this being said… I can’t wait to go try Caillebotte.

    • Jess

    I have to admit, I’m a sucker for the “foam” dishes…I think it’s probably because it tricks me into eating something lighter that I really am!

    And thank you for explaining what “salsif” is. I’ve been eating this at my French in-laws house for years and never knew how to translate…though maybe I’ll stick with calling it “salsif” instead of “oyster plant” !

    • CoffeeGrounded

    Rutabagas with short ribs. This sounds particularly divine to me. The sweet meat mingling with the slightly bitter, yet sweet root congers up a test trial. (I’ve long been a fan of all things, rooted, a parsnip is another favorite.)

    Foam? Naw. I think I’ll leave canned Gillette in the bathroom and opt for l’emulsion. Don’t want to fuzz my brain with menthol scents when I’m about to course thru a sweet meal like that one.

    You are so polite. I would have tapped that patron on the shoulder and politely offered a taste of mine for a taste of his. The olives would have made me do it. That, and the fact we Texan’s ain’t too proud to put our feet where our mounts is…if ya knows what I mean.

    Wrangle on Cowboy. Get on down that arrondissement and bring us a few more surprises.

    • guglielmo

    I want to go there! the sooner the better :D

    maybe next friday ;)

    thanks for your wise (as always) suggestions!


    • Susan

    I don’t eat out much so trends in restaurant foods haven’t gotten to the point of being like a bad cliché yet. That said, I know what you mean about overuse of a novel idea. For instance, bacon in everything a couple of years ago or a poached egg on top of everything, still. It’s tired, but then again, I don’t like soft eggs so it’s probably just me that’s tired of it. All this to say, I know what you mean about the foam but I’d sure like to get bored of it!

    • Jessica

    Foam as an element in a dish needs to be banned, but then I was that opinion rather quickly after it emerged at The Thing.

    • Liza in Ann Arbor

    I really don’t mind foam myself but I can just imagine all the negative comments. Cracks me up what you write sometimes!

    • Hyppol

    There was a joke about the name of the street. A long time ago, it was a very famous street for prostitution. The name “Hyppolite Lebas” was too long to be written on the sign so it was decided to mention it like this “Rue Hte Lebas”.
    And then everybody used to speak of “rue Haute Lebas” which sounds like “Ôte le bas” (remove or get off… your pants or panties…).
    A name which fitted very well with the job most of women were doing there and the reason why some men came in the street…

      • Animadversor

      “Drop Trou” Street must have been a very naughty place indeed if the men actually came in the street!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    T. Tilash: Interesting that the word mousse is mostly used to describe it in French, which is not exactly the same thing. On the other hand, mousse au chocolat is a rather beloved classic worldwide and no one seems to have a problem with that. (Certainly not me!)

    Susan: Like going to the latest hotspot, I think it’s curious down-the-road, to see what trends stick, and which ones fall to the wayside. Warm individual chocolate cakes with melting centers, I think, is a good one that I’m happy has stuck around. But the gimmicky things tend not to last so long. I’ve played around a bit with molecular gastronomy at home, but (like things that were considered revolutionary for their time perhaps, like baking powder and active dry yeast) we’ll see what’s around in 10, 20, or 30 years…

      • guglielmo

      david, loved your comment about mousse au chocolat and the individual chocolate cake with melting center. :D It seems like you like chocolate a lot (but I already knew it…)

      however I hope to see what s around in 20/30 years…. I I think about 30 years ago i wasnt even (almost) born ….

      • Jessica

      Mousse, yes.
      Foam, not so much.

      With foam, I think about soap and baths.

    • Karen Tripson

    David, I bet the Greek caterer is weeping this morning reading this over his near miss with meeting you. Please go back so he can introduce you to his pastry and you tell us about it. I’ll go buy some fillo to be ready.

    • Christine Beck

    Une écume peut être?

    • Jacqueline Cosgrove

    Hi David
    Is this restaurant wheelchair accessible? They don’t seem to have a website to check.
    Thanks Jakki

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Jakki: There is a step to get in. However the staff is super nice and they might be able to assist if that’s requested & you let them know in advance. (You can call them and they would be able to best describe the entrance and where the tables are situated.)

    • ItalianGirlCooks

    Ravioli stuffed with short ribs – hmm, it may be time to branch out from my family (ricotta/spinach, eggplant and meatball) raviloli fillings!

    • Delsa

    I am not a “foam” fan…….however, it’s fine if it shares the plate with something substantial to eat ( chew and swallow ).
    And please….do not charge me for something that dissolves when it hits my tongue. Use as a garnish only.

    • Caroline

    I would be curious to try the dessert made with olives. In the March issue of Saveur, there’s an article on the new generation of chefs in Marseille. One of the recipes featured (by Lionel Lévy) is Clafoutis aux Olives Noires Confites. I love clafoutis, and can’t to try this version.

    • Gene

    David maybe you could barter your voluminous pastry and confectionery knowledge and get set up with dinner for the advice you give them. ‘Will consult for food’, could be your new motto.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Well, I think the kitchen staff and chef are talented. But no matter how good you are, it’s always good to get another opinion or advice. When I worked at Chez Panisse, the kitchen staff & the waiters and floor folks would gather before the restaurant opened and we would taste each dish together. Someone might suggest more salt, less acidity, etc…and any cook would chime in with their thoughts, no matter if they were the chef of the kitchen or a line cook. It’s that interaction that can make food even better and I think anyone (or any dish) benefits from tasting and adjusting, if necessary.

    • T. Tilash

    Yes you are right about the mousse au chocolat. Basically we think as “mousses” as being a very stiff foam.

    @Christine Beck
    I like “écume”, an écume is “solids suspended in a liquid with air”… So it is definitely closer to what everybody calls “émulsion” in french (which it isn’t). But for some reason “écume” sounds frou-frou, and a lot of people wouldn’t use it, which is a shame I think.

    • Gavrielle

    The idea of lamb having too strong a flavour is kinda bemusing to Kiwis, who tend to grow up with roast lamb being both a regular on the menu and often a celebratory dish as well. I know other countries don’t look at it like that though, given that I once had a cab driver in the US who questioned whether lamb was even edible:).

    • Forest

    totally agree about the niceness of the staff. I’ve been in twice and both times I remarked on how friendly (without being over the top) they were. Also, on my last visit one of the servers promised to by me a glass of champagne if the Seahawks won the superbowl. Now, I don’t watch football, but I do like champagne. So, looks like I’ll have to get back in there soon to take them up on it! :)

    • Karen S.

    Re lamb flavor: One of the more ridiculous articles in Cooks Illustrated explained how to de-lamb a leg of lamb by carefully removing all of the fat, connective tissue, and bone with the goal of making it taste like ‘rich beef’ instead of lamb. My response: if you don’t like the flavor of lamb, then don’t eat it, for Pete’s sake!

    • Jill

    I’d really love it if you could replicate that bulghur!

    • Laurent

    Hi there, and thanks for your great reviews of nice places in Paris, it really helps us French people who can’t indulge in checking out all those nice places like you do!

    Re. foam vs ;emulsion vs. “mousse”: from what I can see on the pictures, this is definitely not emulsion or “mousse” (the latter being a slightly incorrect translation of foam).. I personally would refer to it using the Spanish term “espuma” (which translats to “écume” in French and “foam” in English, but in the very specific meaning of foam formed by waves breaking on a beach, *not* your shaving foam/lather!). “Espuma” is quite a common term nowadays in the cooking jargon.

    • Jacquelyn

    We will be visiting in Nice and Paris plus some places in between. Would like some restaurant dinner recommendations for non-tourist dining.
    Just bought yr book “Sweet Life.” Merci!


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