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May 20, 2010 12:19 AM

Rino in the 11th - in a word: fantastic.

Last night was our first in Paris and we spent it at Rino. The dinner was exactly what we were looking for: great ingredients, interesting combinations, stuff we can't cook at home.
What we found unexpected is that the menu is fixed - you have no selection at all, no a la carte - only a choice between the petit (3 dishes + dessert) or grand (4 dishes + cheeses + dessert). We opted for the petit.
In hindsight, though, I think we could have asked to exchange one of the fixed plates with say, the ravioli offered in the grand menu or the cheese course. What do you Parisians think?
First course was the best: called a soup but really a sauce based on nettle (!) with calamari, new potatoes and mesclun greens on it. It was topped with something crunchy, what we think are fried breadcrumbs and was excellent as a topping. This was a dish where the combination was surprising but worked really well.
Second was cod topped with cabbage & asparagus on tapenade. Excellent dish, olives added a great twist, fish was superb and done perfectly.
Third was duck which we are not such big fans of, but as a duck dish it was great. It was served with carrots, endive and wild sorrel and we think a mustard base.
Dessert was perfect, simple, well executed and just the right size portion. A cheesecake topped with strawberries (oh where can I get such strawberries??) a scoop of pistachio ice cream and bit of superb lemon curd on the side.
We drank the house wine and were happy with it (we're not such wine drinkers and we were still a bit jet lagged)
Thanks Meg and John for the recommendation.

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  1. You're welcome, tx for the feedback. It's in my Top 10 of Sping 2010.

    1. And thanks for the shot of the chalkboard. Nice addition to your comments.

      1. This almost-hole-in-the-wall was one of our "woohoo" moments. We sat at the bar table across from the kitchen. The two chefs watched and were interested in our reactions to the plates. When I mentioned that I wasn't wild about marinated mackerel, the chef offered to let me be a guinea pig for a dish he was working on, squid with beet gnocchi. Oh, my! Among the other dishes we loved were ravioli with cepes and spinach, excellent duck and an extraordinary flamed milk pudding with ice cream and fruit. The food sang and the chefs and waiter were adorable. What a find!

        The pictured extraordinarily simple dessert was one of the best we experienced. Each little fruit had perfect/quintessential flavor that bounced off the homey pudding and glace.

        1. If I had a top ten in would be in it too! You're welcome.

          12 Replies
          1. re: vielleanglaise

            My top ten plus or minus just changed with the MiniPalais /Frechon and Street Food aka 104.

            It's now:
            Le R St H
            Street Food, Concert de Cuisine
            Petit Caillou
            l'Agrume, Moustache, Le R Old
            Chez Grenouille
            Chez Georges

            1. re: John Talbott

              Ms. L. and I just had lunch at Rino today with heightened expectations after glowing reports from reliable sources, i.e. Phyllis Flick, Alec Lobrano and an O.K. review from John Talbott. What a letdown, the only thing to really recommend it to me was the cheap price, certainly not the decor, the quantity or the choice of wines. There were 2 choices, both inexpensive products, flank steak and mackerel, which are both near the low end pricewise of their respective categories, steak and fish. I will say that they were both prepared well, but to keep the prices down, they were both served with exactly the same garnishings, a small bit of spinach, three delicious baby onions and a pumpkin preparation that was midway between a purée and a sauce. The no choice entrée was a "risotto" but good arborio rice was replaced by barley; this dish was saved by a few squid rings and sauced with its ink. The dessert was miniscule, a small chocolate muffin(not fondant) served with a teaspoon of vanilla ice cream and a mandolin thin slice of apple. Ms. L. has a small appetite and we both left less than sated.

              This place will not be in my top 10 and how others can rate it above l'Agrume, l'Aromatik, La Regalade, which are all in a comparable price range is beyond me...à chacun son gout, degustibus, and all that jazz.

              1. re: Laidback

                I went back over my notes to find parallels to your experience. Yes, there is no decor, nor are there choices in either menu (although they were very willing to make a substitution for me), nor is there any pretense at using uber-luxury ingredients. What we found were plates prepared with imagination and precision, a light hand and reasonably sized portions. And we found the food delicious. I can only wonder if lunch brings a smaller meal since we all were quite satisfied by the end of the meal.

                Here, from our dinner, are baby octopus with beet gnocchi, ravioli with cepes, lobster and lovely bloody duck breast.

                1. re: mangeur

                  There's no accouting for taste, and perhaps your meal at Rino was truly dissapointing, or mine have been unusually exceptional, but there some points above that I would like to counter.

                  Oxtail, short ribs, tripe, lambs liver, pigs blood, veal head, chicken livers, chicken feet, seaweed, cabbage, turnips, apples, the list of inexpensive ingredients that chef's can work wonders with is endless - indeed one could argue that the use of such produce is at the heart of many cuisines. If you don't like flank steak, or mackerel, then it's unfortunate If a chef botches them up, then criticism is justified . But to criticise per se a restaurant for serving "ignoble" produce per se is unjust.

                  The serving of the identical vegetables with two different dishes, especially at these prices, is standard.

                  Perhaps I'm critiquing the the critique here rather than the message, but does a cake like dessert necessarily have to be a fondant?

                  1. re: vielleanglaise

                    "but does a cake like dessert necessarily have to be a fondant?"

                    Only if you are led to believe so.

                    Mangeur, your dinner does indeed look scrumptious and I think you may have touched on a good point; dinner and lunch are often two different experiences at the same restaurant. All I can do is report what I encountered at that point in time. I love flank steak and mackerel and pointed out that they were both well prepared, but the use of "ignoble" ingredients can certainly help keep the price down, which was my poorly made point. Mangeur, at dinner had lobster, which certainly is more noble and I suspect her price was a bit higher than mine at lunch and her photos indeed indicate that her repast was more copious than our lunch.

                    I am delighted that everyone else had a superior experience than we did and wish that you may you have many more.

                    1. re: Laidback

                      Laidback, the 'push me-pull me' of lunch versus dinner probably won't be solved on this board. My husband and I don't 'do lunch' because we are always busy during the mid-day hours. Since we stay in hotels rather than apartments, 'what to do' for some 5 hours in the evening is also a problem. Dinner out is our evening entertainment.

                      As I remember, the petit menu was 45€ at dinner, the 6 course (an additional savory course, in our case the lobster, plus a cheese course) 55€.

                      1. re: Laidback

                        I need to add that our evening at Rino was colored by the infectious enthusiasm and joy of the two chefs and waiter, joy being the operative word. It is this kind of kitchen engagement that I looked for in several of the restaurants you compared to Rino. In one, I found no transfer of this enthusiasm from kitchen to dining room and excessive stress in both areas at another.

                        At Rino, every plate was imbued with the kind of soul that we look for.

                        1. re: mangeur

                          "and an O.K. review from John Talbott"
                          Yup. I liked it but have not been back. No reflection on any of you, my friends, but it was just OK, nothing more. As I said March 27th, "Great fish, wonderful chef and waitstaff, otherwise OK."
                          And as I said today, in my conversation at lunch with some very enlightened tasters at the (IMHO) much over-rated Cafe Pleyel, places get hyped/buzzed sometimes so much so that posters want to commit harikari if they can't reach Spring, Frenchie or what were the other places of the moment, on the telephone? Hummmm, there is life after all of them. Folks, five restaurants open here every week, every one is reachable by Metro in 20-40 minutes no matter where you are and in no less than 1-2 hours by taxi.

                          1. re: John Talbott

                            For what it's worth, you actually wrote, "Go? For the fish; this guy is a genius buying and cooking it."

                            1. re: vielleanglaise

                              Thank you Vielle, but I've also written ad nauseum that you/one cannot go to a place for just one thing, esp if you're more than one - for instance - at Le Verre Vole today, Madame was told there was indeed fish - crab with the celeri, anchovies with the tomatoes, sardines with the (I forget) and a ceviche of salted cod but not what most folk would consider a whole fish course - a cooked whole or filet of fish (daurade, bar, lieu, etc).

                              1. re: John Talbott

                                Je t'en prie. Having dined at Rino, and indeed written a post about it on these boards before your write-up where you employ the word "genius", I was not unduly influenced by your review. I was just trying to point out the confusion that could be caused by a text where you employ the word "genius". Genius fish, genius meat, genius desserts, people are going to go.

                  2. re: Laidback

                    I had lunch at Rino just before Christmas and was so pleased that I've made a res for the end of January. The luscious main course of chicken--I think it was called "poulet fermier" on the chalkboard--put to shame its counterpart at La Régalade St-Honoré which I tasted last October.

              2. Been there last october for dinner and enjoyed it a lot. The deco is simply...non-existent. The lighting (sp ?) makes you look really ugly, but the food was really fresh and tasty. I am surprised you did not enjoy it, Laidback. Your reviews on OPF had made me think we had the same taste. ;-))