Moissonnier

Floating island at Moissonnier Paris restaurant

Call me old-fashioned, but sometimes I like old-fashioned places. One place that does old-fashioned especially well is France. But I’m not the only one who feels that way; people come from around the world to visit the city, and bask in the à l’ancienne charm, which is sometimes derisively described as carte postale Paris. Like other cities, Paris is changing and isn’t a museum, per se, but there’s something about the city that attracts people like no other city in the world. Many visitors come specifically to eat. Which I know for a fact because I came for the same reason.

Jura wine Moissonnier Paris restaurant

The loss of bistros has been well-documented, but there’s been a resurgence of interest in bistros that has sprung up in New York, London, Tokyo, and of course – even Paris, where la cuisine française is having a renaissance, too. But at some places, it never left. One such place is Moissonnier, which is considered a bouchon lyonnais, sending out plates of hearty, copious French food in the style of the bouchons of Lyon.

The restaurant is run by the husband and wife team of Philippe and Valérie Mayet. Chef Mayet has been called “the ambassador of the cuisine of the Jura,” a region in the northeast of France known for its mountains, mountain cheeses, and wines. The wines of the Jura aren’t widely poured outside of France. But even in France, the waiter might hesitate if you order a glass since the flavor of them is very particular. The wines have a slightly maderized taste, almost oxidized, and reminiscent of sherry. Most people don’t expect that in a glass of vin blanc but the wines go extremely well with Comté, Bleu de Gex, Mont d’Or, and Morbier (which is the only one of them that I don’t love), the cheeses of the region, as well as cream-based dishes, but can be a tougher sell on its own.

(Because the region is mountainous, winters can be snowy and quite fierce. I tumbled over and off an icy mountain road one night in a car with a friend, coming back from a cheese-ripening cave. Our rescuers invited us in for cheese and white wine, which went a long way toward helping us get over the shock. The locals laughed, and waved it away, “C’est pas grave. It happens all the time…”)

Vin jaune is another wine from the area that’s best enjoyed with foods of the region. The wine is fermented in oak casks for six years, giving it a partially peculiar oxidized flavor. It’s a tough sell by the glass or bottle, but terrific when swirled into a creamy sauce or served with cheese.

Frisee salad with bacon

I knew I was in for a rich meal at Moissonnier so started with a salad, a classic Frisée aux lardons, served in a tight bowl with an appropriately correct mustard dressing and big chunks of semi-crisp bacon. It’s one of my favorite salads in the world and this was a textbook example of the classic. Although, to be honest, I went in knowing that it wasn’t going to be exactly a “light” salad. I was glad it wasn’t huge because of what was to follow.

As we went on the main courses, a visiting friend from New York had ordered the Quennelle de brochet soufflée (pike dumpling), without any hesitation. It’s one of those dishes that always makes me chuckle when people say that eating “the French way” is all about moderation, and portion size. Well, I’m not sure this is a pretty good argument for that! (It might be hard to tell from my iPhone photo, but it was nearly as long as my forearm, from elbow to wrist.)

Quenelle at Moissonnier Paris restaurant

It was huge, which my friend eating it said repeatedly, and no one was arguing with him. While he kept offering tastes to everyone at our table, insisting he wouldn’t be able to finish it, somehow, he did.

Scallops of Moissonnier Paris restaurantIn keeping with my “light” idea for dinner, I wanted the scallops with leeks fondue (meltingly soft leeks), someone else at the table scooped up the last order from the specials board, which was okay with me because it gave me permission to order the Chicken with morel mushrooms and vin jaune.

chicken with morels at Moissonnier Paris restaurant

Creamy and rich, the chicken was served with egg noodles and I was glad it was just a cuisse (thigh), because if it had been a half a chicken, I wouldn’t have been able to finish it. (Well, I probably could have…) My guess is that this is the dish to get here, especially when morels are in season.

Monkfish at Moissonnier Paris restaurant

Others at the table had monkfish with shellfish sauce (above), and roasted lamb chops persillé, below.

Lamb chops at Moissonnier Paris restaurant

The desserts were a bit mixed. I took a bite of my friend’s chocolate mousse flavored with orange and have to admit that I’m biased and don’t adore chocolate with citrus, or raspberries, which detract from the chocolate flavor. Just give me the chocolate, thanks. And that was the case here.

The entrement citrus had me wondering if fresh lemon juice were used in the individual cake, as I missed that unmistakable and refreshing zing you get from freshly squeezed lemons, especially after a generously rich meal. I am a big fan of Œufs à la neige and while mine was fine (shown at the top of the post), part of me was very full from the creamy chicken but part of me wanted a little more légerité (lightness) to the meringue. I didn’t take a taste of my friend’s meringues glacées which I’m sure was good (it was the one the people behind us were going nuts over), but I couldn’t manage even a bite, and let him enjoy it all by himself.

(I also have to admit that I’m not so good at the “Take a bite and pass it around” kind of thing. Sometimes I just want it sit down and eat my own plate of food. Sorry, dining partners.)

Chocolate meringue at Moissonnier Paris restaurant

You won’t find bearded hipster/bobo dudes or les jeunes filles clutching mobile phones and hopping up from the table between every course to go outside for a smoke at Moissonnier. The night we went, it was a pretty staid evening, with two French grandparents with their grandson, sighing with pleasure over their ice cream meringue,) and a few other couples getting respite from the chill of winter courtesy of the hearty cuisine from the Jura. But by the end of the evening, everyone seemed to leave happy – and full, including us.

Moissonnier
28, rue Fossés Saint-Bernard (5th)
M: Cardinal Lemoine
Tél: 01 43 29 87 65
Closed Sunday and Monday

[Menu]


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39 comments

  • January 13, 2017 2:57pm

    I just love those classic places.

  • Terry
    January 13, 2017 4:07pm

    Had dinner here the last time we were in Paris. I had the quenelle and it went on forever! My husband had the chocolate meringue glacées and it was fabulous.

    • January 13, 2017 6:05pm
      David Lebovitz

      My friend was overwhelmed by the size of it. I like quenelles but was formidable, for sure. Bravo for getting through it!

  • January 13, 2017 4:28pm

    I love your books & your blog. I cannot wait to get back to Paris and visit this lovely bistro. It is on my list.

  • Joan Qualls
    January 13, 2017 5:20pm

    Dear David – I love reading your posts. We just got home from Paris on Monday; reading this means we need to turn around and go right back! Thanks for the delicious review.

  • Lisa
    January 13, 2017 5:21pm

    Mon dieu – my favorite kind of French restaurant. Your photos made my mouth water. Wish I were there – will definitely put this place on the “must” list for my next trip to Paris.

  • Cate
    January 13, 2017 5:43pm

    east-central – not really northeast. Did a double take when you said northeast and couldnt visualize mountains up that far north. Had to go to a map to make sure. Jurals: due west of Geneva & Lausanne

  • January 13, 2017 5:45pm

    The frisee salad and meringue glacees would be all that fit in my stomach. I’m with you when it comes to chocolate and citrus!

  • Christina
    January 13, 2017 5:49pm

    Dear David – Reading the menu, I noticed many wines offered as “vins en pots”, 46cl. Is it in a jug or by the glass? I know a pot-de-vin is a bribe, but I doubt that is it. Merci

  • Cindy m.
    January 13, 2017 6:32pm

    Ahhh, love this place!! Thanks for the memories. Old school indeed.

  • January 13, 2017 6:45pm

    You really take us there. And I’m hungry. I like this kind of food–we tend to cook a simplified, somewhat lighter version of it at home. At a restaurant, it generally means you’re going to get what you want, and not some deconstructed surprise that isn’t at all what you imagined. That’s OK when the surprise is good, but sometimes it isn’t what you would have wanted.

  • Joan
    January 13, 2017 6:56pm

    If I can reply to Christine about “pots” of wine (and not pots-de-vin!) as far as I know it is a measurement peculiar to Lyon and served in a sort of bottle, well, a pot!
    Sorry David, but I love Morbier!!! I’ll eat your share any time!

  • January 13, 2017 7:11pm

    The mouthwatering pictures, exquisite- sounding French terms (love the sound of “bobo dudes…”) and most of all the detailed information about memory-making eateries on your blog makes me want to dream of being in Paris some day. I went to school in England but never had a chance to visit Paris. Every time I read your awesome posts, Paris calls my name. Terima Kasih, David (That’s “Thank You,” David in Malay).

  • Rafael
    January 13, 2017 7:22pm

    what else is in the scallops and leeks? (looks orange in the picture)

    are there recipes I can look up somewhere for that dish and the chicken dish?

    • January 13, 2017 8:06pm

      The orange is the row part of the scallop. They are often served without. I have passed this place too many times and wondered. Its time to try it. Gorgeous looking food.

  • Samantha
    January 13, 2017 8:49pm

    Beautiful. Thank you for providing grace and beauty to the world with your blog. I check it every day so that I can be reminded of how things are supposed to be. Thank you.

  • Carolyn Hasbrouck
    January 13, 2017 9:09pm

    Your meal at Moissonnier is what I remember done in the many exquisite bistros located on the left bank of Paris in the 80′ and 90’s. Many are no longer as the younger generation found other professions other than over a hot stove. These are the comfort foods done with perfection not just in France but in other countries where cold weather exists. I too don’t want any fruit engaged with chocolate…just give me the pure chocolate please. Lovely review and photographs as only you do so well.

  • Shell
    January 13, 2017 9:53pm

    I want to take a bath in that chicken and morel dish. With the frisee salad on the side of course.

  • Mary F.
    January 14, 2017 1:44am

    The food looks perfect for a cold winters night. I’m with you; I don’t like sharing my dinner with everyone either unless it’s just moi and hubby. But I do like a little orange or lemon added to chocolate sometimes as it becomes it’s own unique flavor….like vanilla and orange make creamsicle.

  • Christine Quigley
    January 14, 2017 3:05am

    Gorgeous post, David, one of your best! I cannot wait to finish learning my French and booking that trip next year.
    Very sharp photos of the food, you can almost smell (taste) it!.. Lovely..

  • Hope Anderson
    January 14, 2017 5:14am

    I’m laughing hysterically at the last dessert, which would serve a family of four–so much for the idea of small portions in Paris! Everything you’ve photographed reminds me of my first fine dining experience in Paris in the 70’s: the food was good but unappetizing looking, with very little color contrast. I’m sure your dinner was good, but I also understand why nouvelle cuisine came into style.

  • January 14, 2017 6:19am

    Jura fanatics here, and knew nothing of Moissonier but will clearly be reserving for our upcoming April visit. We live for Comte and coq au vin jaune!

  • leslie green
    January 14, 2017 8:14am

    On my list for my next trip to Paris.

  • Makanmata
    January 14, 2017 2:48pm

    This is precisely the sort of place I am always looking for in Paris, and have great difficulty finding. I cannot get well executed classic French food where I live, while the more modern French style cooking is easy to find here as it is in Paris. Thanks so much for the post.

  • Tally
    January 14, 2017 7:06pm

    This must be one of the ‘hidden secrets’ to have survived in the competitive Parisian food scene for so long, yet when you google the restaurant name, the very second entry is this very blog post!

    I will have to earmark this place for our next trip to Paris. On our recent trip we had splendid meals at La Regalade 14eme and La Bourse et la Vie (which I discovered via this blog). I’d give La Bourse the edge on the quality but enjoyed the atmosphere more at La Regalade and especially their homemade pates. And I’m always on the hunt for bistros of similar quality to try out.

    • January 15, 2017 2:39pm
      David Lebovitz

      A number of bistros and restaurants have had to cut costs to make ends meet, and in many cases, it’s the quality of the food and ingredients that suffer. When we asked the husband and wife owner what happened to the cloth tableclothes, they said they decided to switch to placemats, so they could continue to use good-quality ingredients. (For the record, one of the few things I didn’t like about the place was the placemats. I’d rather dine on butcher paper, or just an unadorned table, than plastic placemats.)

  • susan luraschi
    January 14, 2017 11:04pm

    No better wine for basting a chicken or turkey, it’s a Jura all the way. Try a ‘traditional’ if the Savignan is too scary.

  • January 15, 2017 12:05am

    It does sound like very nicely rendered, perfectly classic French food. I’d love to go back to Paris soon and eat at a properly classic bistro – will add this to the list. Thank you!

    (Also, it took me a while to realise there was a Jura in both France and Scotland…)

  • Martin
    January 15, 2017 1:46pm

    Praline rose on Œufs à la neige sounds like a great mixture of textures. Have you ever tried to make praline rose? I have-with very mixed results-and would be very interested if you could produce a recipe for them.
    Thanks

    • January 15, 2017 2:34pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve made quite of few pralines like that (my recipe for pralined almonds is in The Perfect Scoop, pg 196). I don’t typically add red colorant to mine, but my take is that a few drops in the mixture would give them that rose color, although I’m not 100% sure since I haven’t tried it.

      • Martin
        January 16, 2017 1:07pm

        It’s very tricky. Adding food coloring (liquid) seems to do terrible things to the caramel. Unsurprising, I suppose, because it must alter the chemistry. Powdered food coloring produces a pink but translucent praline. Still a long way from praline rose. I’d love to know how to get it right because buying it is eye-wateringly expensive.

        • January 16, 2017 1:17pm
          David Lebovitz

          I’m not sure how you’d make them without using colorant, but here are two French recipe blogs that show how to make them: Pralines roses maison en 5 minutes and Pralines roses.

          • Martin
            January 16, 2017 1:24pm

            Brilliant. Thanks for that. Reading them I think I was not cooking the praline long enough. So simple. Doh.

  • Doug Flatley
    January 15, 2017 5:46pm

    Will be visiting Paris in late March and this restaurant is on our list.

  • Teresa
    January 15, 2017 7:51pm

    David – Good afternoon from Philadelphia! Can you kindly provide a recipe for a classic Frisée aux lardons? Please accept my apology if you have already posted one. I read your post every day – and it is only a very sad day when I am not able. Forever sincerely, Teresa

    • January 16, 2017 8:27am
      David Lebovitz

      It’s one of my favorite salads and my recipe for it is in My Paris Kitchen.

      • Teresa
        January 16, 2017 3:21pm

        Oh thank you! I have your book at home in my kitchen!!

  • Janet Catesby
    January 16, 2017 6:57am

    I’m with you David, I order what I want and do not wish to share OR try anyone else’s!

  • S. Robert
    January 16, 2017 8:49pm

    Back in the 80, Moissonnier was considered one of the top bistros in town – full upstairs and down every night. Then it seemed to slip below the radar. Glad to hear that it’s holding up so well.

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