Thoumieux, Paris Eats (was "Is it necessary to order wine...")
I've enjoyed several meals at Thoumieux -- their duck confit, served with garlicky potatoes, is terrific. But the cassoulet was a big disappointment the last time I was there, which was a shame, because my husband and I had saved it for our last dinner in Paris on a trip with friends who'd never been there. We'd been extolling the pleasures of cassoulet for almost a week; three out of the four of us ordered it that night. Unlike previous meals, the beans hadn't been cooked long enough to be as soft as they should have been and the seasoning was somewhat bland. I was happy as ever with my duck confit and desserts were really good, especially the tarte tatin with a *huge* dollop of creme fraiche.
We're going back to Paris in two weeks. Anybody have any recommendations for casual, reasonably-priced French restaurants for lunch & dinner? Bistro, brasserie, whatever. We're not looking for places in the price range of Taillevant, Jacques Cagna or the Jules Verne, etc. (They're all wonderful, but out of the budget this time.)
I like Bastide de l'Odeon for Mediterranean food (near the Luxembourg Gardens), Bouillon Racine for Belgian-inspired food (very tasty, and excellent beers), and les Brezolles, on the rue Mabillon (6th arr.).
Also, if in the mood for good, simple, authentic Chinese (it can happen), Mirama on the rue St Jacques across from St Severin Church is great (must have the Soupe aux raviolis aux crevettes).
Also, in that neighborhood is the Caves du Pantheon, a great little wine shop. Talk to the owners (btw, they close for lunch) they are nice and can advise (not sure if they speak English, though).
Also, if you read French, pick up the Guide Lebey for Paris restaurants in all price classes and good reviews (not the only guide, but a pretty good one).
The Paris string continues. Must be the strong dollar. Anyway, I just got back from a week in Paris and can inform on some Patricia Wells bistro recommendations (as well as a few others):
1. Chez Maitre Paul: (Wells recommendation) This was one of her hits. Menu at @ 165 ff was a good deal. The entree that stands out on the menu is the poulet gratinee which Wells highlights, and it was fabulous. (She also gives the recipe for this one so she must really like it). Specializes in Jura food and wines. The Jura way with chardonnay is interesting and worth a try.
2. Les Bouchons De Francois Clerc: (Wells) Turns out that that this restaurant has several locations - the one we tried and the one in the book was in the 5e. This place was a trip with good but not oustanding food. For starters we ate oysters en gelee with sea urchin creme fraiche and a salad with both beef carpaccio and foie gras. Both were quite nice, with the oysters prevailing (the beef and foie were both a bit salty). Main courses we tried were 7-hour shoulder of lamb en croute, and veal kidneys (rognons). The lamb was the winner - meltingly tender and nicely flavored. The kidneys were, well, you gotta like kidneys.
The real screwball aspect of the place was the cheese course, included in the 220f menu. You receive an entire tray of about 15 cheeses and eat ad lib. The cheeses were nicely varied and well-aged. Our waiter, not the most restrained waiter in Paris to put it midly, had a whole routine about the selections, and not just for the Americans.
The other nice part of the place was the wines which are sold at cost. A '97 Bouchard Vosne-Romanee at 165f. I couldn't resist. The wine was a bit young but opened up fairly nicely with air.
3. Au Bon Accueil: (Wells) This one turned out to be a clinker for us. Nicely siutated near Tour Eiffel, it's a small place. Ordering the menu was disappointing as the portions were small and not all that well prepared. We had the oysters, and the pigeon for starters, followed by the beef and rabbit. Beef was better than the rabbit which was dried out if nicely presented. This place was recommended in the most recent Wine Spectator guide to Paris too. Either it has gone downhill or we hit it on an off night.
4. Le Repair de Cartouche: (Recommended in a Travel & Leisure article on bistros, and in a NY Times Sunday travel piece) This was a winner and is quite popular, so reserve. Locate on rue Amiot near Pl. Republique. The most interesting, if not the most refined cooking we had on the trip. For starters we had the eel and potato salad in aioli, and the cochon terrine, both terrific. For main courses, a terrific chicken and an equally terrific scallop dish. Both were served on sauteed cabbge (different types) which were heavy on the beurre but oh so good. A good wine with these dishes was the Auxey Duresses.
Finally, for nostalgia purposes, we did go to Chez Jenny. Despite the touristy rep, it was filled with Parisians and the choucroute royale for 2 was truly splendid.
That's my report. It is a good time to go to Paris. Strong dollar, decent weather (at least compared to NYC lately), and not really crowded at all. We were able to get many same day reservations.
We ate at Chez Maitre Paul 2 weeks ago and I also had the poulet gratinee. I agree, it was excellent. This place has been our "1st night in Paris" restaurant of choice for the last 4 trips. It's always quite good and dependable.
We also ate at Chez Jenny which, on a Tuesday night, was hopping. The food was quite good. Gotta love that choucroute!!!
Another big favorite of ours and always gets a return visit is Benoit. Excellent bistro food!
Wonderful information, thanks.
If you've got a moment, could you add some details about how to go about making same-day reservations. My French is OK unless there is going to be a lot of rapid-fire time negotiations with 24-hour clock times.
Reason for asking is that the last time I called for a reservation in France, I got a phone answering machine. Go figure! I just hung up, since I was travelling and couldn't figure out how leaving a message would help. Needless to say, upon arrival the restaurant was full.
So any tips much appreciated. Thanks.
re: Allan Evans
Gee, Alan, maybe it was just an off night? I don't think I'd eliminate Thoumieux from my list just 'cause of that. As for other restaurants with great cassoulet, I don't have a recommendation for you but, when I get home from work, I'm heading straight for my Michelin Rouge and Patricia Wells guides to see if they do.
Since my husband and I have sworn not to visit any of the restaurants we've already visited -- always looking for new experiences -- we'll definitely need a cassoulet source. Well, maybe we'll repeat one restaurant: Moissonier, in the 5th, where my husband had an incredible pork shank on a bed of lentils and I had light and airy pike quenelles in what I think was a lobster sauce -- an amazing dish that I might just have to try again.
If I find a really strong recommendation for cassoulet, I'll post it tomorrow.
re: Allan Evans
Alan, I checked the Michelin and there are several restaurants listed under "vous recherchez un cassoulet." Three of them are also listed in the Patricia Wells Food-Lovers' Guide. 1-star: Benoit, in the 4th, and Au Trou Gascon, in the 12th. No stars, A Sousceyrac (11th).
I think we're gonna have to try Benoit as our splurge meal. Only 2 weeks to go and I'm hungry already.
Bon voyage and bon appetit!
I was at Thoumieux 10 days ago, and I had the cassoulet. It was very good but not as great as I remember it the last time, which was 3 years ago. A restaurant (bistro) that I highly recommend, though, is Benoit. I believe it's in the 3rd or 4th arr. I've been there each trip to Paris and have never been disappointed. It seems it just keeps getting better, too, as this last time was the best yet.