Report from Mar 09 trip to Paris
What we ate & where
I am a former chef trained by a French woman. Tomas and I met while working in a restaurant in Cambridge, MA. Food and wines are abiding passions of ours. Trips to Paris create a frenzy of research to find the best new places to go in a limited amount of time. Also we plan one full meal a day. Breakfast is at the hotel and it is a full spread (with a full provenance as well) so we just have either lunch or dinner out. Sometimes we will have a snack of ice cream or pastry during the day.
Le Petit Pontoise – (Metro - Maubert Mutualité) Finding restaurants in Paris on Sunday evening is often difficult. I had tried to get into Le Petit Pontoise on a prior trip but was turned away. Seeing the tiny dining room I was not surprised. While we were debating the menu and what was on it the couple next to us leaned over and confided that we could get English menus. I told them that we were fine with the French menus. After all how will we learn otherwise? When asked if I speak French I always say I speak menu. We decided on the tatin d’artichaut and risotto aux morilles to start. The tatin d’artichaut was a tart of artichoke hearts, eggplant and tomatoes that had been prepared like a tarte tatin, the famous French upside down apple tart. It was fabulous and I am going to try to make it at home. Followed by magret de canard with a sauce de miel et cidre and noix st Jacques provençal. Tomas was in heaven with fruits Armagnac for dessert. They took a large preserving jar off the side board and served him from that. I had ananas rôti which was caramelized roasted pineapple. Dinner without wine or drinks was 95€ and well worth it.
Le Régalade (Metro - Alesia) The interesting thing about this trip is where we shared meals with our friends my memory of who ate what was clouded by the convivial nature of group dining. So my memory of this meal is sparse. I picked this restaurant because I had heard great things about it. It was the restaurant that Yves Camdeborde sold before he bought the Relais St Germain and created Le Comptoir.
We went on Monday evening after the GTG at the Lutecia so we did not order aperitifs which Tomas says created the problem. The problem was that we could not get service. We were seated, they asked if we wanted apéritifs which we refused. We ordered a bottle of wine and a carafe of water. Neither appeared. They took the order for the meal and we asked again for water. The terrine that the restaurant is famous for was set on the table. No bread or plates to put it on. I am not sure if that is the normal course of events but eating terrine out of your hands is not what I consider appropriate. When they brought the entrees Tomas asked about the wine. It appears that the bottle we ordered was out of stock. He ordered a different white and also a red. The white appeared but never the red wine. We ate our meal and debated about getting digestifs but decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. Tomas made his feelings known to the staff when he went to pay. They did not feel that he had grounds but the hostess was sufficiently annoyed to have problems with all our credit cards. None of Tomas’ would work and finally she got my reserve debit card to go through which meant that I paid a premium for bad service. Ah well at least the food was good:
Entrees – AGM –asparagus special
Tomas – shellfish soup
Cigalechanta – brandade de morue stuffed into a tomato
Gomiki - pate
D – I just don’t remember
Plats - AGM – pork belly (an experiment that I am not sure I will try again)
Tomas, cigalechanta, D – I think all got the dorade which is a white fish
Gomiki- a breast of chicken stuffed with foie gras
Desserts The only dessert I remember is Tomas’ pineapple gazpacho which was fabulous.
The pre fixe menu was either 32 or 36€ per person with a 6€ supplement for my asparagus.
Chez L’Ami Jean (Metro – Invalides) cigalechanta was interested in going to Chez L’Ami Jean. So we submitted gracefully and arranged for lunch on Tuesday. We arrived 20 minutes late for our reservation but the staff was warm and welcoming. As with the dinner for 5 at Le Régalade my memory of lunch is sketchy. Tomas and Mimi started with a raw tuna which Tomas thinks came with scallions and olive oil. Delicate is how he described it. My asparagus were delicious with some porky products. I followed with scallops which I thought were wonderful but don’t remember the details. Mimi had a magret de canard which came with the skin on and she thought was delicious but fatty. It also came with a marrow bone. Tomas was in heaven with a saddle of lamb with the kidneys. The plats came with their amazing pureed potatoes. One was garlic potatoes. Mimi and I had a vacherin with raspberries –two meringue cookies sandwiched with crème fraiche and amazing raspberries. Tomas had something chocolate. Both he and Mimi indulged in Armagnac. We were the last to stagger out the door. Poor Mimi’s foot! We walked back to the hotel. With a bottle of wine and the Armagnac the tab was 184€.
Breizh Café (Metro - St-Sébastien – Froissart) After reading David Lebovitz’s description of the buckwheat crepes at this Cafe we just had to try them. We weren’t the far away on Wednesday afternoon so we popped in. Tomas had a smoked salmon crepe and I had artichoke and ham which came with a fried egg. The egg was a little strange to me but it was delicious. We also had a pitcher of their cider which was fabulous. We split a caramelized apple crepe with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Lunch came to about 38€.
Itinéraires (Metro - Maubert Mutualité) I had two new restaurants on my list and was vacillating between them. I don’t know why I chose to have lunch on Thursday at Itinéraires but we were glad I did. It helped to hear that JulieVikmanis and her husband enjoyed it when we met them at the GTG. The staff was very warm and welcoming especially as I walked in gave our name and had a coughing fit. The waitress seated us and rushed me a glass of water. They had a printed menu and a blackboard with essential specials of the day. You could mix and match. We started with an asparagus salad with white and green asparagus which was good but didn’t hold a candle against a carpaccio of scallops with foie gras dotted with pomegranates on a bed of shredded celery root. We went with wines by the glass and they have some amazing wines. One was a Gewürztraminer which was golden in color and wonderful with the scallops and asparagus. The plats were a rabbit saddle with a mustard sauce, cabbage and bacon and a magret de canard with beets and raspberries. The combination of beets and raspberries was something we were a little leery of but it worked so well with duck that we will try it at home. The duck and the scallops were voted the best dishes of the week. Desserts were a strawberry soup which wasn’t really soupy and pears poached in different mediums-chocolate, wine and something else. I highly recommend this restaurant. We were one of the few Americans there and were treated very well. The pre fixe menu was 36€ per person.
Le Comptoir Du Relais (Metro – Odeon) One of the benefits of staying at the Relais St Germain is the ability to get a table at Le Comptoir on weeknights. Mimi expressed an interest (ok, she demanded we go) so all five of us gathered for Tomas’ last night in Paris. We started with a bottle of Champagne and reviewed the menu. Contrary to other dinners at Le Comptoir on this night there were choices (with some pretty hefty supplements). Each night the menu is printed on a post card with the saint’s name. Friday March 27 was Saint Habib. The menu was:
Coque d’étrilles en gelée légèrement safranées Champignon de paris chips et mousseline (Soft shell crabshells stuffed with a mousseline of saffroned crab)
Asperges vertes du Perthuis et mousseline Boutargue et caviars de hareng fume
(Asparagus with a mousseline garnished with smoked herring roe)
Tomas and I substituted an order of Morilles de Turquie a la crème which were wonderful.
Carré de cochon de lait des Pyrénées rôti, Endive braisé á l’orange, jus lier tapenade (saddle of pork with braised endives in orange and a jus with tapenade)
I substituted Ris de veau de Corrèze au verjus (Sweetbreads in verjus). I love sweetbreads and jump at the chance to have them each time they are presented.
Fromages affinés par la maison Boursault (The famous cheese board that get placed on your table and removed when you have eaten your fill)
Meringue coco, fraise gariguettes Chantilly, crème glace <<lait fraise>> (Meringues with strawberries and ice cream)
It was a very good meal and they actually moved us to the sitting room off the lobby to finish Armagnac and champagnes. The menu is 50€ per person.
Le Comptoir Up until 5PM weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday Le Comptoir serves a bistro menu.
Tomas and I stopped in for a late lunch/snack on our first Sunday in Paris. The reigning staff person judged that for that we had to sit on the sidewalk while the tables inside were reserved for full meals. (I do miss our favorite waitress Livia. I wonder where she is.) We ordered a Planche du Cochonnaille. I found this description of it online ‘a pork lover’s dream of a final repast before heading off to the great sty in the sky. Imagine a thick slab of wood, two jagged edges artfully left asunder, topped with delicious homemade charcuterie from the Camdeborde family’s larder. I dive right into the unctuous boudin noir, a lightly spiced blood sausage so soft and velvety that it almost melts in my mouth. I love the paper-thin, fatty slices of sweet ham and the salami studded with big black peppercorns, but most of all, I adore the graillons de porc, chunks of pork fat fried until crisp and golden—junk food of the gods. To go with it all, there are tangy cornichons, bread from Eric Kayser and sweet butter.’ It was all that and went really well with two glasses of Chateauneuf-du-Pape
On Sunday night (our last night in Paris) gomiki, Dick, cigalechanta and I had dinner at Le Comptoir. Dick and Mimi started with Absinthe, Miki had champagne and I had a Muscat. We reviewed the menu and made our choices. Dick and I had the artichoke soup with foie gras and Japanese pearls (tapioca), Mimi ordered the same Planche du Cochonnaille Tomas and I had split the prior Sunday. Miki abstained. For plats Miki and I had the magret de canard, Dick had a stew I think and Mimi had the Brandade de Morue. This time she said it was as good as her grandfather’s. I had raspberry and pineapple sorbets for dessert but the hit of the night was nougat glace with ice cream. Dinner with wine and drinks was 50€ per person.
Our last experience of Le Regalade was similar to yours. Good food but the service was in meltdown with some locals at adjacent tables to us becoming very agitated - something that is not common in Paris. I think they are turning the tables and don't have enough staff.
I love your description of the Planche du Cohinonnaile at Le Comptoir, it is really good - I think they still do the basket which is even bigger - and I made the mistake of ordering it once! IMO the restaurant is great, but seems out of favour with many . Was Livia the tall, slender, young waitress who worked with the shorter, older more feisty one (who is still there) a few years ago? If it was she was fantastic. I to wonder were she has gone.
I think why it is out of favor is that people get confused between the two different services. Most of the time we have been there it has been a predominance of locals. That is what I think Camdeborde wants and why he limits the reservations at the dinner service. We love to go mid afternoon and sit and relax with a nibble and a bottle of wine. Not so busy then.
That was Livia. She was always moving so fast that half the time she was sliding across the floor. I meant to ask Jean Luc the head waiter at night where she was but didn't get a chance.
Feisty is a nice polite word for the older waitress.