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Paris report: Bastide Odeon, Bouillion Racine, Alcazar (long)

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Weinhen Aug 4, 2001 09:52 AM

We just returned from our trip through Paris (6 days) and Alsace (6 days). To avoid an ultralong post here, I'll separate the two (and thus will post on Alsace later.) I also will post separately on Nobu Paris since we had Omakase, deserving of it's own post.

We got in to and out of Paris at the last moment before the city went on vacation. This may have affected the overall restaurant scene. I know how I feel about a week before I go on vacation. Nevertheless, despite eating without Michelin starred benediction, there were some standout meals for us. We stayed in the 5th, on the edge of the 6th near Luxembourg and were somewhat geographically unadventurous, but that really doesn't matter too much in Paris if you're not seeking out "destination" restaurants. All of the following are dinner reports.

Bastide Odeon: This Provencal restaurant in the 6th was our opening night. We got reservations on very short notice and ate early as a result (a fine thing for the jet-lagged.) It's a comfortable place, decorated Provencal style with much wood. It has definitely been dicovered by the tourists. We were ushered immediately to the Anglophone section but treated repectfully. Starters were a simple but delicious artichoke dish which was an artichoke bottom, filled with a mild goat cheese and then broiled. It was presented in a radicchio "cup" and served with a roquette salad dressed with a nice vinaigrette. Very nice and the sort of thing one could easily make at home (and we will!) The other starter, which I would recommend avoiding, was gnocchi in a somewhat bitter pesto with escargots. The gnocchi were ok but the sauce was too sharp and inexcusably gritty. Main courses were braised then roasted veal breast in "fresh ketchup" (which tasted strongly, but not too much of star anise), over a quick saute of carrots, cabbage and onion. I enjoyed the dish, big flavors, but the real winner of the evening was my wife's main course of risotto with quail and foie gras. This was superb. Deep flavors, creamy yet firm rice, perfectly cooked quail and foie, and with exceptional balance. A definite recommendation. Wine with all of this was a 2000 Cazaneuve Terres Rouges which was young but ready with lots of fruit.

Bouillion Racine: Also in the 6th, and pretty much a couple of blocks from Bastide Odeon. This is supposed to be a standard recommendation for Belgian in Paris and it was certainly true to those roots. However, this is not the place to go for moules frites. Not even on the menu. It's a visually interesting spot, all celadon, wood and lots of mirrors (it looks like it might have been an old ice cream parlor.) We walked in without reservations but were accomodated graciously despite how busy they were. I wasn't too impressed with the food but maybe we ordered wrong. The best thing we had were the starters. We both ordered the shrimp croquettes - billed as a house specialty and traditionally Belgian. It was 2 fried croquettes of a very creamy shrimp puree served with a salad including preserved lemon and a fried parsley leaf. Not ultra-refined but quite tasty. For the main courses, I had a brochette of overcooked beef (despite ordered medium rare) with some magret and a pile of haricots vertes. Not impressive. My wife enjoyed her dorade waterzooi more than I liked my dish but it knocked neither of our socks off. With the meal we had Belgian beer, Palme specials (light & smooth) and Rodenback Grand Cru (very weird burnt tasting.) Bouillion Racine does not get a strong recommendation, but maybe they had an off night.

Alcazar: The Conran place. We were unable to get reservations for the previous night here, so we made them for this night at 9:30. When we walked in it was nearly empty but filled up pretty much as the night went on. This seems true of Paris in the summer, everyone eats late at stylish spots. The sun didn't set until 10:15 and that seems to set the tone. Dinner here was quite nice bordering on excellent. Cuisine is modern French despite English ownership. The room is large and modern. We both commented that it looked more like a NY restaurant than any other place we'd been in Paris. We both started with an exceedingly fresh and generous assiette of fruits de mer. You can order a variety of sizes of shellfish plates and ours were the second smallest but nevertheless included many bulots, a heap of small brown shrimp, four superb oysters, and half a crab accompanied by a standard mignonette sauce and a very fresh mayonnaise. Lots of oohing and aahing over the freshness of the shellfish from our table, washed down with a glass each of the house champagne (quite good). Mains were rack of lamb (very tasty) and magret/confit combination (sorry but I've forgotten the sides with these) which went well with a 1999 Julienas. After, we shared some Roquefort which came paired with a glass of some sort of brandy which turned out to be a nice combination. Overall, Alcazar was quite good, and definitely better than Conran's NYC spot, Guastavino.

Overall, our Paris experience was tremendous but the real chowhounding happened at Nobu and in Alsace. Please read those posts for the real fun.

Andrew