Paris: Les Pipos, Le Baratin, Mon Vieil Ami
Quick report after a quick weekend:
A tiny Auvergnat restaurant just behind the Pantheon on rue de l'Ecole Polytechnique. Given the neighbourhood, this should perhaps scream "tourist trap," but for whatever reason, I really do like this place and its unpretentious, decent food. Lots of obvious regulars, which is always nice to see. G. had the pave Charolais, and I had the assiette de charcuterie and a lovely wedge of Reblochon, but my hunch is that one is better served by sticking with whatever the plat du jour is, for 11-13 euros. Les Pipos is charming enough in its way to make me overlook the kind of lousy service (asking five times for water and another five times for bread, that kind of thing) that usually makes me crazy.
I'd heard some great stuff about this wine bar up in the 20th, specialising in good food and bio wines, and thought it would also be a good reason to take my partner to an arrondissement he'd never been in before. It has a cool ambience -- very down-to-earth, resident cat sleeping on one of the tables, packed to the gills with regulars -- and I would have been happy to pay 25 euros or so per person for what we ate. Unfortunately, it cost closer to 50 euros per person. Starters: a half dozen incredibly fresh langoustines served just with their own lovely selves, and a slightly bizarre "mi-cuit" tuna dish with "Mexican" flavours. The overall effect was of decent-quality oil-cured tuna with cilantro and coriander. Drank an interesting sparkling Touraine rose. Mains: palette de porc roti and gigot d'agneau. Workmanlike but uninspired -- but the 2005 Les Laquets Cahors we drank with them was lovely, with nicely structured tannins and hints of tobacco and cedar. Split a slightly overly-ripe Saint-Marcellin for dessert (I'm all about gooey, but prefer my St-Marcellin to be more floral than barnyardy). Would I go back? No; too far out of the way for too little return.
(On a side note, on Sunday morning I came across the Cahors in a lovely little wine store in the 11th -- Le Verre Vole -- and upon purchasing it learned that the store has its own "Le Baratin-like" wine bar/resto on rue de Lancry in the 10th. Might give that a shot next time.)
Mon Vieil Ami
Our second visit here was as good as as we'd hoped. A 41-euro menu (so just a few euros more than Le Baratin) for lovely, lovely food. Started with cold pea soup with roasted gambas, flavored with nutmeg and enlivened with a few grains of popped corn (for an inspired echo of the sweet nuttiness of the shrimp) for me and a gorgeous mijotee of all kinds of vegetables in a succulent broth, topped with a bruschetta of piperade and anchovies, for G. Then filet de sandre with lovely potatoes and artichokes, flavoured with rosemary and a bit of young sage, for me and YUMMY lamb with turnips and chickpeas for G. I kept dunking bits of bread (from Eric Kayser -- the best I've ever had in a restaurant) into the jus in G's terrine. Finished with cheese for me (okay but not transcendent) and a gorgeous strawberry-rhubarb crumble for G. Fruit desserts are definitely the way to go here (though the baba au rhum at the table next to us looked awfully good). Drank the same pinot gris we did last time -- 2004 Maurice Schoech Cuvee Justin Pinot Gris). Still love it.
to respond to your tangent - le verre volé is a very good restaurant/wine bar - make sure to make reservations well in advance (and call to verify, they put reservations on these little post-it notes that sometimes fall or get lost). i'm surprised it doesn't get more attention on this board. another one you may want to try is autour d'un verre in the 9th