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paris in January Report - long

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Thanks for all the advice specific to my planning post as well as the very many ideas I gained from reading the board. So we had another 8 days of decadence. I don’t have all the prices of our meals and we drank ridiculously expensive wine on several occasions so I will just note inexpensive, moderate, expensive and outrageous.

We arrived on a Sunday afternoon from Boston after a nite in LDN , checked into our apartment in the 7th and had a bit of hunger. So we walked down Ave Rapp to Cafe d Alma. It was perfectly ok for a bottle of Sancerre and a snack of toasts with 4 spreads (eggplant and tomato, a tapenade, a crème cheesy spread and smoked salmon). Just enough to get us thru the afternoon but just that. We have been there for just a coffee in better weather and the outdoor seating in good weather is rather nice.

Dinner: Fontaine de Mars. I am a sucker for this old place and enjoyed it for what it is…I had starter of pork terrine with toasts and onion jam. Main of Chicken with morels Husb had a very good salad and loved his cassoulet. Shared a cheese plate for dessert All quite tasty and unchanged from previous experiences. We had a bottle of 2003 white burgundy ( name has escaped me) As we weren’t traveling in prime tourist season, FdM was populated by locals seeking a traditional Sunday dinner. Service very good and it was a mere 2 block walk from apartment. Moderate in price

Monday lunch: Thomieux. I started with a bird game pate . Main of breast of Bresse chicken (sous vide) in an incredible sauce served with celery and carrots. Husb had salad and salmon. Both meals were excellent in flavor, and service was good if a bit rushed initially. We had a bottle of Volnay. So no complaints about the things that matter but the room ! Last we were there it had been taken over but not yet renovated. Suffice to say that I considered the old décor a grand dame and the new décor a tart . It is shiny, very brightly lit and mirrored to within an inch of its life. Seemed to be a big local business lunch crowd. Expensive

Monday dinner at Hiramatsu. I think this a very elegant room with fairly stark décor and with red and blue and crystal accents on the tables. It was not busy and only 5 perimeter tables were occupied throughout the evening . Service was as always exceptional. But food was not quite as amazing as I recalled from our one previous visit. Nibble pastries ( sort of flat gougeres) arrived as we were settling. The were flavored with anchovie or blue cheese. Perfect baquette with salted butter was served . We had a tasting menu. First up was a lovely smoked salmon served with creme fraiche and wasabi creme. Next was a foie gras mousse served with an intense prune puree and a sauterne gelee. Not novel but fine flavors Third was a scallop millefeuille with essence of ( again intense )tomato ,pistou and a lemon cream sauce. Lot of flavors going on there and maybe a bit much for the delicate scallops. For final savory course they served medallions of veal with perfect baby vegetables. Dessert was an ice cream with very strong cinnamon overtones and accompaniments. Wine list was amazing. We had an American couple sitting next to us that were difficult to ignore in that they were all that we try not to be when traveling abroad ( or actually anywhere) ..demanding and loud…so I may be more critical than warranted as the magic of the elegant experience was not there but through no fault of the restaurant. Expensive

We had tried 6 weeks prior to score Bigarrade for dinner ( HA) but were pleased that we were able to book for Tuesday lunch . And what a lunch. It was a 3 hour affair and the restaurant was about 75% full ( that is to say about 15 people total) It was a seafood ladened feast. First plate a single succulent deep fried calamari, followed by a perfect square of foccacia served with incredible EVOO. Then an oyster served with a red cabbage puree, Next sea bream carpaccio. Next Scallop crudo. Both were served with bright and very flavorful accents and sauces The only course that I really didn’t enjoy was a flat cylinder of squid that had been totally compressed ( I watched it being prepared and couldn’t figure out what it was ) and then sauteed and served with tiny clams. My dislike was the compression factor which made for a very chewy course. My Husband gladly ate
mine. Finally a rabbit course served with a nice sauce Then started the multiple desserts of fruit purees, chocolate. passion fruit pastry. Too numerous to track . The prices based on number of courses chosen were 39 or 45 Euros pp. Cash only and for the taste parade, value, creativity along with very good service I might put this in the dirt cheap bucket. I believe we were there the day they got their second star …good for them

Tuesday Dinner at Josephine Chez Dumonet. Well this was just plain fun. And wonderful food and playful but not over reaching service . My favorite traditional meal and we had quite a few. I started with the pork terrine followed by the most delicious cote de veau with a rich rich sauce served with creamy pommes puree. Husb started with smoked salmon that was a more than generous serving and for a main he had the beef bourguignon. He is not a big traditionalist eater and he raved and nearly finished the entire serving which again was more than generous. Wine was poured, and poured, and poured and we finally shared a cheese plate. And waddled to find a taxi home. Just a great experience, delicious food and moderate in price. It has replaced a couple of restaurants on my previous “ must go each visit ” list. Moderate.

Wednesday dinner: We had a dear friend visiting from Auxerre and wanted to take her somewhere for dinner that we knew that would not disappoint so we reserved Dominique Bouchet. It was a late and light meal but as expected DB did not disappoint. We nibbled on gougeres with a glass of wine. Our guest declined a starter so we went right for the plats and she and my Husb enjoyed the lamb served with pommes puree and a sumptuous sauce. I had the pintade served on a bed of braised cabbage. All were excellent. We finished with a shared cheese plate and were served really fine mignardises. We had a delicious bottle of Volnay-Santaney as well. Gracious service…warm room, seemed to be a very local crowd. Always on the return list. Expensive

Thursday lunch FINALLY Chez L’ami Jean- I have read so much and wanted to experience it so badly…we had a late lunch reservation 1;30pm. We shared a pork terrine which was terrific and I ordered the braised beef cheeks and Husb ordered the sautéed bar and no sooner were our mains and wine served that my Husb took very suddenly and badly ill and we had to flee…they were wonderful to us and I am grateful . But a very scary experience and I am very very lucky that he recovered by the following morning so I will not complain about leaving that delicious, coveted, long awaited food…really I won’t …really…really. I actually have no idea if expensive or not as in addition to paying for our meal, I bought the next table their wine as they were in the midst of the drama so it was 154 Euros but I don’t know what was what on the bill..but I will not complain…..really…really .

Friday lunch KGB…and I really liked it and perhaps it was time for a cuisine break to something light and different . We ordered the surprise H'orderves and they were excellent- a tiny bowl white radish soup, chicken croquette, a ravioli with beef Husb had the pasta with squid and octopus And I the grilled duck breast served in a bowl with a deep rich sauce and yellow beets For dessert we shared the Mango cappacino which was 3 layers with texture and intensity of flavor deepening at the bottom We also had a bottle of Pic St Loup …Good service and yes the room is loud but that was part of the fun..it was nearly full and everyone seemed to be having a good time..we certainly did and will return. Moderate

Friday dinner Le Quincy – I had read and heard much about the atmosphere and the proprietor here but he seemed to be on his best behavior. It was crowded ( we had as most nights a 9pm reservation) and the food was quite good , not Josephine Dumonet good or CAJ good ( the little I had not that I am complaining….really) but on the list of traditional meals it fell at that point to 3rd of 3. Husb and I shared the platter of excellent ham as well as a slice of the terrine that was served with a cabbage salad. He had the cote du veau and declared it excellent and I the chicken with morels which I enjoyed . (the chicken contest winner turned out to be Thomieux) We tried for a simple serving of fruit for dessert but the proprietor would have none of that so we shared some excellent vanilla ice cream with Grand Marnier. We had a very nice bottle of Givry Moderate cash only

Saturday lunch Over many visits we have spied a wine bar in the 7th “Sancerre” which for some reason always seemed to be closed when we were eager to try it but alas we finally found it open. It is delightful ( on Ave Rapp) . We ordered a bottle of Sancerre blanc and I guess they give each table its own bottle of blanc or rouge and charge for what you drink. We were told that the plat du jour was a quiche but something was lost in translation as we were served meat pie… an excellent meat pie nonetheless…We picked mostly at the accompanying salad as we wanted just something light and some wine but what I did eat was very flavorful Judging from adjacent tables , next time I will get the omelette which was ladened with mushrooms and looked delicious . I could see this being a regular vice if I lived in the neighborhood. Delightful service and definitely a local gem. Inexpensive

Saturday dinner ETC the second restaurant of the Chef at Ledoyen. It is a lovely room all art deco grey and maroon . Very beautiful . Excellent acoustics and service at the FOH was a bit chilly but our server was fine although for the first time in my dining in Paris MIA much of the time .The restaurant was filled with well heeled and very colorful locals It wasn’t the worst expensive meal I have had in Paris..it was second only to a terrible night we had a couple of years ago at Apicius. A very close second. We are and were treated as tourists and it was not a comfortable evening ( “you must want the English menu” ) and as I am a tourist and a respectful one I would be ok to a degree with the attitude if the food hit it out of the park. It did not. Husb starter of hot and cold oysters was a hopeful start and he enjoyed them. I ordered the deer terrine wrapped in a puff pastry. The pastry was not puff in fact quite heavy and the terrine not very flavorful and very large for a starter
and heavy as well. The mains were just bad and we both left well more than half of our mains. Husb ordered the Lobster sausage and could not eat it . he declared it the singular worst dish he has ever had and claimed a strong astringent smell and taste. Coming from lobster land in Massachusetts that is not a good thing. I ordered the entrecote that was bathed in soy. Lots of soy. Too salty to eat …it was served with fingerling potatoes that tasted bitter ..and I have never met a potato I didn’t like. Anyhow little was eaten. We observed the couple next to us enjoying a cheese course for dessert so we thought that may salvage our experience I think we got the American cheese plate. As there were 3 ( vs 4 at the next table) cheeses of a very mild variety and it lacked the blue that I saw and was anticipating . In contrast to tables on either side of us we were not served mignardises. At this point I am probably being hysterical so I will stop . We were looking for a new experience and in the past have been rewarded by discovering DB and L’Arome for ourselves …but it wasn’t in the cards…All things considered expensive but outrageous for attitude and food quality…sorry Phil I know u were looking for a new destination…this isn’t it .

Sunday dinner Shan Gout Holy Cats Batman we just loved this place and had it almost all to ourselves ( one other couple left as we arrived at 9pm) …it is as described..a spare room , open kitchen on a side street in the 12th with a killer wine list and just plain perfect food. We had the dan dan noodles which was amazing and at the end of the day the large nest was really one continuous noodle ( challenge for the chop stick impaired) and the dumplings which were flavorful and fresh We shared ( or rather fought over ) the sesame beef and the pork with ginger and pepper. A fine bottle of Mercurey was had. The service was lovely and we just envy the neighborhood for having this gem. Total dirt cheap bucket..and contrary to John Talbot’s sly and understandably selfish advice …please go ! Knowing the Sunday night challenge and the hype this place has received I had visions of standing in line on a cold sidewalk…no it was empty !!!!

Monday snack Willys Wine Bar We can always count on this place for a good wine break during the day and on Monday while I was savaging the January sales ( at least in my mind) we stopped for a cheese plate and a bottle of Crozes Hermitage. The staff couldn’t have been nicer and we totally enjoyed an hour at the bar. It reminded me that we need to get next door to Maceo on the next trip. Inexpensive ( cheese plate was about 12 euros) and was fresh , tasty and plentiful..she even served us seconds just because).

And so it goes Monday ( the last night ) dinner. We have a very sentimental tie to Petit Pointoise and have always enjoyed our meals. This night it paled compared to Josephine Dumonet, Le Quincy and CAJ ( what little I had but I am not complaining …really) However the sentiment was there and the food was good if not great and we enjoyed a green bean salad with mushrooms and shrimp, a mammoth pork chop served with pommes puree and a somewhat heavy sauce and I had my final poulet, a roast chicken. Service was family style good as always and we had a lovely red burgundy to toast our final Bon Appetit in Paris.

We enjoyed many coffees at sidewalk cafes, loved our Paris Perfect apartment, decided that the end of January is a very good time to go to Paris as it was warm compared to what we left in Boston and we had no lines for D’Orsay, the Soulages exhibit at Pompidou ( breathtaking) , L’ Orangerie , or for our first visit to MOMA ( I want the furniture)…don’t know when we will be back as a week in LDN is next on the list …but it is a magic place and I thank you all for sharing , for your candor and for your very fine palates.. And I am really ok with not having the food at CAJ…really. CHOW !

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  1. ".... I believe we were there the day they got their second star …good for them..." The Michelin French guide for 2010 doesn't appear until March, I think there is speculation that Bigarrade has a second but it is far from confirmed, and as far as I know no leaks yet.

    Looks like you had some fine meals and a great time, great to read.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PhilD

      Yes I trolled the rumor mill here and saw that post the evening after our lunch .Whether true or not the prices are way too good to be true so go soon..And as may be obvious from my report I am not a fish loving woman...but I liked it And I was trepidatious re your rec for Chateaubriand but ended up with a no choice menu anyhow and Husb was thrilled ...as was I ...

    2. "contrary to John Talbot’s sly and understandably selfish advice …please go ! "
      Darn.

      As for eating lobster in Europe, having grown up inside Route 128 and summered in Maine all my life, the very few times I've sampled it here, it has paled in comparison (exception: Daniel Rose's lobster rolls last summer, but then he knows Maine too).

      1 Reply
      1. re: John Talbott

        I've had some good ones in Paris and the rest of France for sure. I have a nasty habit of always ordering lobster salad at seafooders to see if they have a clue.

      2. Thanks for the great details. I'll be going to a few of "your" restaurants in April, including a Thursday dinner at Le Bigarrade (made res this week for third week in April). One question, they only take cash? If so, want to be prepared, obviously. Thanks---

        2 Replies
        1. re: kathrynj

          My notes say yes but Zagat says major credit cards so I would give a call before dinner or maybe someone else recalls

          1. re: capeanne

            Good thought---I need to reconfirm so I can check then. Really looking forward to it!

        2. Thanks for the thorough roundup. I'm usually there over the Hols so there is some of the crowds to deal with, but still far from peak. Will add some of these to my list for next year. Merci!