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uhockey's thoughts on Paris Restaurants - Part 3 - Guy Savoy, Josephine Chez Dumonet, Michel Rostang, Le Regalade St.Honore, Le Pre-Catelan, L'AOC

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This thread acts as a continuation of Part 1, found here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/780625
and Part 2, found here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/783176

Again, thanks to all the France Hounds for making the trip stellar.

http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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  1. Josephine Chez Dumonet:

    Full text below, photos in the blog.

    http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/04/j...

    Of the sixteen restaurant meals during our trip to Paris there is only one that I do not feel I can evaluate appropriately – a meal that took place at Josephine Chez Dumonet late on the evening April the 14th. As the circumstances tinting my view of this experience (save for seating us in the “American” section up front while all of the French folks were seated in back) were not a fault of the restaurant I will avoid my traditionally wordy assessment and instead simply opt to comment on what was ordered and how it tasted while noting the service and space were satisfactory – neither overdone nor deficient in any way – though with what the meal ended up costing me I’d have much sooner gone elsewhere for both.

    Beginning first with the bread service – a house made toasted baguette with a nice open crumb delivered with rather uninspired unsalted butter and extra fleur de sel on request. It was good for mopping up sauce and as a delivery mechanism for the appetizers but overall sub-par compared to the options throughout the rest of Paris.

    Complimentary wines – one white and one red with the first a bit too dry for my tastes while the second was quite sweet and fruity and both a nice gesture while we waited for our courses to arrive – the white with appetizers and the red with the mains.

    1983 Chateau Terfort Ste Croix du Mont – an old bottle brought up from the cellar that was uncorked and tasted first behind the bar prior to delivery. Nearly a Sauternes in color and flavor with a smooth sweetness that coated the mouth at first but perfumed the palate with a clean finish and notes of pear, honey, caramel, and even hints of cinnamon. An experience in a bottle coming from a menu most do not even realize exists it was a wine suitable for both the discerning and the novice though perhaps not the sort of thing you order with indifference to yours or someone elses wallet.

    Amongst our first courses the first was a demi portion of the house terrine de campagne maison avec salade et cornichons et onions. Similar to that of L’Ami Jean and later Le Regalade St. Honore this was the weakest of the terrines we tasted in Paris and also the only one which was not provided compliments of the house. Overall it simply tasted like meat – the spices largely subdued…a shame as the texture was actually quite nice.

    Faring much better than the terrine de campagne, a demi portion of the foie gras de canard frais maison was absolutely sensational – buttery, smooth, and almost melting when warmed to room temperature – the perfect accoutrement to the bread and all the better with some fleur de sel plus a brilliant pairing to the Chateau Terfort with the wine bringing out the sapor of the liver and the liver bringing out buttery toffee notes from the wine.

    For our main courses, the first was Cote de veau au vinaigre de framboise – a large slab of meat marinated with and absolutely soaked in a pool of aromatic raspberry vinegar. Not particularly a fan of veal I’ll note that the bite I tasted was supple, slightly sweet, and much more lean than I’d anticipated – an excellent slice of veal which was picked cleaned from the bone by meal’s end.

    For my selection, having heard fantastic things of both duck preparations at Chez Dumonet and a fan of all things duck, I selected the Confit de Canard Maison. Served as a sizable leg and thigh over crispy potatoes and an uninspired salad with light vinaigrette the confit was admittedly quite good with a crisp skin overlying a ribbon of fat and dark succulent meat that was slightly gamy with notes of garlic, onion, and chives lending balance. Hefty in portion and low in price the duck was undoubtedly the best deal of the evening – no frills comfort food done well.

    The third main plate was undoubtedly the best of the meal and though the 34EU price tag seemed a bit steep the flavors were admittedly complex and the presentation a step (or two) above the others. Titled Millefeuille de Pigeon et ses cuisses confites this two part arrangement was first the legs – lacquered, sweet, crispy on the exterior but melting and falling off the bone within – and then a three layer tower of crispy potatoes with the most flavorful and moist pigeon confit within. With everything resting in a pool of sweetened game sauce with hefty notes of cinnamon and spice I will simply note that even considering the fact that she was stuffed after Guy Savoy it took some convincing to get my sister to share.

    With plates cleared and everyone rather full on both food and wine dessert was a rather gluttonous choice, and unfortunately a somewhat controversial one as I was unfortunately prevented the soufflé I’d very much desired instead settling for the Paris Toulouse avec corinthes et framboises – essentially a slightly more dense Paris Brest with filling of berries, whipped cream, and custard. Having heard how large the dessert portions at Dumonet were I was rather surprised at both the averageness of the size and the flavor of the dessert, though the berries were impeccable. Regardless for 18EU I’d have expected better and judging from the soufflés I saw emerging from the kitchen I couldn’t help but feel slighted.

    The second dessert ordered was simply a plate of berries and whipped cream – specifically currants and raspberries with the same whipped cream that filled the Toulouse. At 12EU it was again overpriced, but the berries were again excellent.

    The last of the desserts was titled “Mille-feuille Jean-Louis” and while I’m not sure which Jean-Louis they are referring to, this two layered version was the most paltry Mille-feuille we experienced in Paris and at nearly 2.5-times the price of the marvelous version at Jacques-Genin (though admittedly more affordable yet vastly less impressive than those at l’Arpege or Guy Savoy) it was simply disappointing in pairing the same vanilla bean custard from the Toulouse with two crunchy layers of pastry…the presentation honestly looked like they’d forgotten another 5 layers.

    Ordering coffee because it was nearly 11pm and I’d hit a wall nearly an hour prior it was a humorous display to see our server yipped at by the chef for failing to bring the mignardises with the coffee, but when they arrived these treats were perhaps the best desserts of the meal – particularly the honey and nut tuilles and the fried coconut macaroons.

    In the end Josephine Chez Dumonet turned out to be an overly expensive and exceedingly average experience that due to some ancillary issues turned out to be perhaps the meal I regret most on our trip to Paris – while the room, the company, the service, and the experience were fine, with what the meal ended up costing I could have gone back to Le Cinq or any number of one to two starred experiences – not to mention the significantly cheaper and vastly more impressive L’Ami Jean or Le Regalade St. Honore.

    8 Replies
    1. re: uhockey

      I admire your objectivity.

      1. re: uhockey

        Why didn't you order the soufflé?

        1. re: ellenost

          It's worth pointing out that you ordered (seemingly) 3 main courses and 3 desserts for 2 diners, and a fancy bottle of wine. You could have eaten less and paid less. What you paid must be higher than average and might explain the cost of your dinner being similar to lunch (?) at starred establishments. Not to say that JCD isn't expensive.

          Also, the French usually seem to be sat at the front at JCD. You weren't seated so badly.

          1. re: johannabanana

            seemingly is correct.

            As I stated, I was commenting only on the food and service, not the back story.

            There was not a single French speaking native in the room with us when we were sat, but later some were sat there as the back room was full at that point.

            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

            1. re: johannabanana

              Agree with what you say Johanna the back is the generally thought of as the American section (or so other reports suggest). Also it is disingenuous to compare dinner and lunch prices at Le Cinq especially as you say uhockey had three mains and three desserts.

              Interested to know why they comped the wine? But good to here the white (Chateau Terfort Ste Croix du Mont) tasted and looked like a Sauterne, after all it is made with the same grapes and is from an appellation which is next door to Sauterne

            2. re: ellenost

              My order was changed without consulting me.

              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

              1. re: uhockey

                The restaurant changed your order without providing an explanation? Did they run out of souffles?

            3. re: uhockey

              There is a disclaimer at the very beginning of this post and I'll not expound on the ancillary issues here or in the blog.

              A) I tried to order the Souffle.
              B) I don't eat veal and I never order wine, no matter who is paying.
              C) I stated this was my (one, single person) opinion of the food we tasted - and regardless of any of the ancillary it would have been more expensive and less impresive than L'AJ or LeRegalade.

              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

            4. Surely the Grand Marnier souffle is one of the reasons for going to JCD.
              Wonderful report on GS and thought you should have posted it here regardless of chowhound politics. Seems the GS outpost in Vegas does not compare favourably with Paris. Interesting as we are thinking of trying the one in Singapore on our way to Europe.
              With 5 more reports to go this a reader's feast with surely a Guiness book of records nomination in order for such a gastronomique achievement . Well done and I am enjoying every report.

              1 Reply
              1. re: DownUnder

                I abide by their rules, though people seem to disagree and suggest otherwise.

                I personally enjoyed the LV Savoy a lot, but the Paris one more.

                Glad my feedback is useful.

                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

              2. Michel Rostang:

                Full text below, photos in the blog.

                http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/04/m...

                When someone asks me about the very best meal I had in Paris Michel Rostang is not the first name to come to mind, yet at the same time if I were asked to explain the most “classical French dining experience” of the trip our lunch in front of the kitchen window at 20 rue Rennequin is precisely what I would describe. Family owned and operated since inception and garnering 2-Michelin Stars the year I was born I was told by friends that this would not be the most revelatory experience in the City of Lights, but that if one ordered correctly it could be a stellar meal at a comparatively good price and while Rostang’s kitchen may not produce items as delicious or distinctive as Gagnaire or Barbot I can say without batting a lash that my friends were right.

                Located slightly off the beaten path in the 17eme but easily identifiable by its patron’s name on the building outside we arrived to our 12:30 reservation a few moments early and within seconds of entering the door were greeted by a young man who introduced himself as the Maître d’Hôtel and Chef Rostang’s daughter, a pleasant yet serious woman who was very clearly in charge of many (if not all) aspects of the front of the house. With coat and bag taken we were asked if we would prefer a seat in the more “intimate” portion of the restaurant or if we should prefer a seat before the large picture-window looking into the kitchen – an obvious choice and given the situation of the table an opportunity for both of us to watch every aspect of our meal’s preparation without hearing a sound from the kitchen staff.

                Seated and greeted by our server, a young man perhaps my sister’s age who spoke perfect English, three distinctive menus were presented and after a couple of questions we both decided to opt for the lunch special – 78Eu for three courses, plus to split an additional appetizer and a cheese course. Having heard impressive things of Rostang’s famous truffle sandwich it was somewhat disappointing when we were informed that they were not currently offering the item because “the current truffle selection is best suited for garnish and sauces” but given the breadth of classics on the menu we certainly were not left scrambling for ideas.

                With orders placed and water filled it was a short wait before the meal would begin and during that time we each made a visit to the gilded downstairs restroom largely to see the two separate wine rooms – one quite enormous and rustic with the other well appointed and behind glass showing off some of their more esoteric selections. With the restaurant less than half full throughout our meal we also were left time to remark on the how charming the room was with its heavy wood paneling juxtaposing delicate lace curtains and a collection of ornate statuettes and dolls displayed along the wall – the whole feel like dining in a stately mansion, or as the case may be, the private residence and vision of Monsieur Rostang.

                With thick linen napkins unfolded and heavily padded wooden chairs beneath us the meal would begin with a trio of canapés – all three tasty and one utterly outstanding. Beginning first with the simple, a slice of house cured Jambon with truffled vinegar, pistachio, and parmesan was plenty savory, a little sweet, and nicely accented by the nuts. Moving next to the sandwich, described as a club sandwich of hand-picked crab, truffle, and brie this selection was buttery, sweet, and aromatic with each ingredient coming forth with aplomb – I’d have gladly accepted a full portion of this sandwich in place of the truffle sandwich had they offered. As good as the sandwich was, the showstopper of the troika was the Butter tart with onion cream and foie gras – an unctuous amalgam of smooth liver and onion that was even more so plus mildly sweet top notes from the pastry.

                With canapés consumed the next item to arrive at our table was the house bread – a single option in the form of a crunchy demi-baguette served with salted Bordier butter. With bread replenished with a warm roll each time the prior version was within a bite of completion I, as usual, enjoyed plenty and the butter was as good as any save for that at l’Arpege.

                With Chef Rostang in the kitchen (apparently something less and less frequent these days according to reports and his daughter’s comments towards the end of the meal) largely as an observer and coach as the young team worked convivially our amuse proper for the meal would arrive in a rather sizable bowl described as Fennel Soup with Lobster claws and Lobster coral Crème. Impressive in portion and in taste this medium-warm potage was the definition of “velvety” and with the aromatic blend of spices and fennel balanced against the butter poached lobster and briny cream it was better than most lobster bisques I’ve tasted stateside. While I personally would have preferred it to be hotter and I jokingly mentioned this to the server it was a minor quibble given the quality.

                For our first course of the afternoon there were six choices and all but one sounded enticing but in the end my love of foie gras won out and my server would soon arrive with “Fresh Sea Scallops and Foie Gras Ravioli in a broth of algae, root vegetables and herbs.” Ever professional if not a bit too serious I was warned that this soup was “hot – as you like it” completely straight faced and indeed it was; it was also wonderful. With the scallops caramelized on the exterior and nearly raw within and the pillows of foie lightly kissed with balsamic the sweet proteins melded nicely with carrots, turnips, and rutabaga while the savory broth sang of Asian inspired umami – an admittedly surprising flourish considering the chef’s classic stylings.

                For my sister’s first course her decision, like her main course, was “Le Plat du jour proposé par le Maître d’Hôtel” – in this case described as “Chilled Fisherman’s Stew of Calamari, Razor Clams, Sea Bass, and Belotta Ham.” Expecting a broth-thin cioppino or gazpacho but instead delivered a buttery and smooth veloute loaded with briny seafood, savory ham, and bitter greens balanced against onions and peppers the most impressive part of this dish was the heterogeneity of it all – each bite a new experience with the acidity of the tomato providing an anchor to the diversity of flavors.

                For our added appetizer a third soup was selected and though we asked for it to be split in the kitchen we were instead served two full bowls of the “Egg cream with fresh black truffles and Jerusalem Artichokes.” Again served hot and thick this velvety soup was the best of the trio and as a 30Eu supplement well worth the expense as the chopped egg blended seamlessly with the hefty vegetal tones of the Sunchoke and aromatics of the truffle.

                With plates cleared we were next visited by both Michel and his daughter (acting as translator) who thanked us for coming and commended our main course selections – “one a classic, the other my new take on surf and turf.” Beginning first with the Plat du jour, “Truffled John Dory with blood sausage wrapped in bacon lardons and black olive puree” – it is hard to imagine more polar opposites. Beginning first with the fish – 2 slices, both pan kissed but moist and flakey with a layer of black truffles atop – it was mild, aromatic, and lovely. Serving as counterpoint to the fish, the very definition of savory – briny bacon, aromatic and heavily seasoned sausage, plus the essence of olives. With a silver sauce-pan of truffled potatoes along side adding a creamy aspect to the plate it was perhaps the best “surf n’ turf” I’ve ever tasted thus making it a classic in its own right.

                For my main course, a classic by any definition as it was handed down from Escoffier by way of his father, the selection was easy – La Quenelle de Brochet soufflé a la crème de homard “comme le faisait Jo Rostang” – a serving practically half the size of a regulation basketball and nearly as orange. Plated tableside and served with nutty saffron rice this admixture of pike, egg, and bread was impossibly fluffy and delicious on its own, but what truly raised it to its legendary status was the buttery lobster sauce which was baked to a leathery dome atop with more added not once, not twice, but thrice during the course of it’s consumption. While everything at Michel Rostang was delicious this dish was alone worth the visit and undoubtedly one of the five best savories I had on the trip.

                Wiping the rest of my plate clean once again with some baguette we were again visited by the younger Rostang who seemed very pleased we’d enjoyed our meal and cleaning the table herself mentioned that the cheese cart should not be missed. With Erika again growing full I suggested perhaps splitting a course which was agreeable to all – even though as it turns out I’d be eating 90% of it myself. With the two boards unloaded from a clever refrigerated space in the wall and described at length I unfortunately do not recall all of the selections from the Goat-heavy board, but of those selected my notes include “Two year Comte, Epoisse, Ashed Lyon Goat, Raw-milk sheep, Blue, Roquefort, Brind amour” and all were quite tasty paired with slices of toasty house-made Walnut Raisin Bread.

                Having missed out on my soufflé the night before and already bearing witness to the sort of products coming out from under the kitchen’s Salamander our dessert selections were similar but entirely different – for my sister the Hot Chocolate Souffle with Cocoa Ice Cream and Black Pepper Whipped Cream and for myself the Salty Butter Caramel Souffle with Williams Pear Sorbet. Larger than expected and with outfitted in silver both I can only note that both were beyond reproach – tall, proud, piping hot, and a cloud of sweet balanced by the nuances of their respective sauces. As an added bonus it should also be noted that the ice creams at Rostang are every bit as good as those at Berthillon – particularly the dark chocolate which is trumped only by Philadelphia’s Capogiro for best Chocolate Ice Cream I’ve ever tasted.

                With soufflés finished (and Erika stuffed) the final treats for our meal would arrive on the flowing dress of a marvelous silver statue. With nine mignardises in total including an overly soft Canele, a perfect boozy Baba, and other flavors including Candied Currants, Almond Nougat, Apricot Gelee, Rhubarb Tart, Almond Cookie, Chocolate Ganache, and Lemon Marshmallow all were quite tasty but none truly exemplary – more or less the standard despite the lavish service ware. With the kitchen drapes now pulled and the staff making their way downstairs to change clothes and head home our check was requested as we enjoyed the bites and after noting a double charge for the cheeses that was instantly corrected the bill was paid and a copy of the menu requested while we lingered and chatted with our server for a bit before making our way to the sunny streets.

                Having already noted my overall thoughts about Rostang at the start of this review I think it is important to say that although the meal wasn’t “the best,” it did fall in the setting of a shear embarrassment of riches unlike any trip I’ve ever taken…in almost any American city Rostang would be the best restaurant in town by leaps and bounds. While the food was perhaps “old school” there were certainly flourishes that made it stand out and additionally, while the service and room were a bit stodgy and not as much fun as that of Le Cinq or Guy Savoy both were every bit on par with that of LeDoyen or Le Pre-Catalan. In the end I’d gladly go back not only for the quenelles or the soufflé, but also because by being “old school,” Michel Rostang represents something quite unique in the new world of Barbot and Bistronomy.

                5 Replies
                1. re: uhockey

                  Bravo, encore.

                  1. re: Nancy S.

                    Again, I admire your ability to consume and so thoroughly enjoy those portions of such rich food. After our lunch at Rostang (which included the famous quenelle, of which I only ate about 1/3 of) I felt so full that I could barely function! I long late afternoon walk helped, but I couldn't eat another bite of anything until dinner the next day!

                    Thanks so much for the fine reporting and huzzah to you and your fine appetite!

                  2. re: uhockey

                    Did you not get the potatoes Dauphinois with the Quenelle ? That, a few years ago, was my best item consumed on my trip.

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                      Nope - got rice that was quite tasty.

                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                    2. re: uhockey

                      Oh yeah... that blood sausage is speaking my language...

                    3. Le Regalade St-Honore:

                      Full Text Below, photos in the blog.

                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/04/l...

                      After feasting at Michel Rostang for lunch and spending a long afternoon shopping it off at Printemps and walking it off at Centre Pompidou our dinner on Friday would remain in the 1st Arrondissement at yet another member of Paris’ Bistronomic movement; this time at the second iteration of Bruno Doucet’s famous La Régalade. Having initially considered the original location in the 14th but eventually opting on the Saint-Honoré setting based on recent reviews, location, and the fact that Doucet was spending less and less time at the original it was with minimal difficulty that we found the small storefront and having opted for the “early” seating at 7:30 when we called to make reservations a month prior it was no surprise that when we arrived the space was nearly vacant allowing for a swift greeting by one of four young females circulating the small room.

                      With reservations confirmed and coats hung along the wall we were led to a small wooden two-top midway along the wall looking into the small kitchen and moments later menus were presented and chalk-board specials described. With service certainly more abrupt than other meals on our trip I will note that our server, a cute British lass fluent in both French and English, was excellent throughout although the tag-team style of service did at one point lead to a substantial delay in refilling our carafe de l’eau. Left to explore the menu and browse the room it would be little time before decisions were made and although as it turned out Doucet was out of town and cooking at neither Régalade that night the meal that followed would represent the best “bang for the buck” we found in Paris.

                      With the 30-seats all packed by 8:00pm and the noise level steadily increasing to something between a hum and a buzz as we watched the young team work frenetically yet quietly in the open kitchen gleaming with copper pots and all sorts of shiny pipes and gadgets the first item to arrive at our table was the complimentary loaf pan containing the night’s “terrine du porc, veau, et canard” with a jar of cornichons and freshly sliced baguette. Instructed to “enjoy as much as you like” I’m rather certain that our server did not expect two diners of our size “enjoy” the whole thing, but with slice after slice full of meaty flavor and heavy aromatics including onion, pepper, garlic, coriander, paprika, and more it was hard to stop. While the entirety of the composition was not quite as complex or smooth as that at L’Ami Jean, the more charred top layer was absolutely fantastic and when paired with the warm baguette and semi-sweet cornichons it was a great start.

                      Eschewing the up-charged nightly specials as most were beef based our 33Eu three-course journey would begin perhaps twenty-five minues after seating with “Gambas sautees ail et persil, jambon d’Espagne, risotto cremeux a l’encre de seiche” for my sister. Served in a large both of impressive depth and vastly larger than one would expect for an entrée the base of this dish was an intense creamy risotto tinged with squid ink yet still maintaining its nutty essence topped with an admixture of chopped prawns sautéed in garlic and parsley and crisp cracklins’ of Spainish ham. Certainly more “Pan-European” than strictly French the quality of the risotto itself was one of the best I’ve ever tasted and while the garlic prawns may have been just a bit “too garlic” for my tastes they certainly did not obscure the flavor profile of the other ingredients leading to a plate my sister considered one of the best of the trip.

                      For my entrée the day’s selection would be one of my favorite foods in one of my favorite styles of presentation – “Oeuf de poule bio facon cocotte, epinard, pointes d’asperges et tomates confites.” Delivered in a screw-top glass jar and popped open tableside with the warning that it was very hot, this bubbly soup of poached organic egg in “casserole” was the very picture of early spring. With the smooth and creamy egg plus sautéed spinach forming the backdrop of flavors and crisp snappy asparagus speckling the each spoonful, the most interesting component of this dish was actually the duck fat confit tomatoes – intensely sweet and slightly leathery in texture providing juxtaposition to the otherwise vegetal and subdued flavor profile.

                      With entrees cleared the plats would arrive quickly on their heels as the steady stream of plates from such a small kitchen was a sight to behold. For my sister’s selection, “Filet de dorade dries sauvage a la plancha, legumes fins et croquants a l’huile d’olive, emulsion a la coriander et au gingembre” featured an imposing fillet of slightly over-cooked grilled sea bream that none the less flaked apart nicely and had a great flavor. Topped with bitter greens and resting on a bed of pine nuts and snappy vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, and zucchini poached in olive oil the dish was finished with an aromatic sauce of coriander and ginger that although tasty was also slightly overwhelming of the fish.

                      For my main course the selection was easy – I simply can’t turn down duck and although “Margret de canard epais roti sur la peau, petites pommes de terres roties au jus de viande” was perhaps the most straight forward item on the menu it was also very well done. Yet another sizeable portion with the honey lacquered skin fatty and supple and the flesh pink and moist the flavor of the duck was quite good while the roasted fingerling potatoes intermingled with fibrous mushrooms in beefy gravy were a nice savory contrast. While I generally prefer the skin slightly more crisp than this presentation I had to tip my hat to the chef as the quality of this particular duck was actually quite distinctive and less oily than I’d expected and as such despite the skin being slightly “tough” the preparation preserved the quality of the flesh.

                      With our plats cleared it would take perhaps twenty minutes for desserts to arrive largely because of my selection; just when you thought my soufflé fix would have been satisfied by the double header at Rostang, Le Regalade offered a version of their own entitled “Souffle chaud au Grand Marnier.” For the third time following the assumption that if a little is good a lot is better, this towering soufflé arrived tall and teetering, a mountain of white topped with a snowfall of confectioners’ sugar. Simple, sweet, steaming hot, and punchy with notes of cognac and orange it was a classic done well and compared to previous experiences with Gran Marnier soufflés it was understated – a good thing for someone who doesn’t fancy too boozy a preparation.

                      Furthering her newfound love of Rice Pudding that began at L’Ami Jean, Erika’s dessert selection arrived in a latched jar and although I cannot be certain my gestalt is that pound for pound the portion may have actually trumped even that served to us by Jego. Titled “Riz cuit au lait et a la vanilla comme le faisait ma grand-mere, caramel laitier,” and served with a liquid salty caramel so buttery that it put those at Jacques Genin to shame, the pudding itself was thick, toothsome, rich, and heavily accented with vanilla. Again with the wooden spoon working slowly it was once again to our waitress’ surprise when she arrived later to find the jar empty and both of us smiling in a near comatose state. To be completely honest I can’t say whether the pudding at Jean or Regalade was better – but I’d gladly do a blind taste test again if only to have another chance to taste both once more.

                      Sitting and chatting (and trying to digest all those carbohydrates) after declining coffee it is notable that the tables seated to our left and right had both already settled their bills and been once again filled as a small line was developing in the street despite being 9:30 – even after eight days in town it still amused us how late Parisians choose to dine. With the bill requested, delivered, and settled our last bites of the meal would be a pair of perfect golden Madelines – warm and slightly tinged with lemon – a textbook ending befitting such a lovely day.

                      Making our way from Le Regalade St. Honore into a throng of Parisian youths out celebrating the impending weekend it was a quick walk to the Metro and with both of us quite stuffed I was glad to have my sister along as I fell asleep not once, but twice en route back to our apartment and with a mere 30 hours left on our trip I slept like a log for the first time in over a week. Having dined at five of the more notable “bistronomic” restaurants in Paris I can say without doubt that Le Regalade St-Honore was at least on par with Chez L’Ami Jean on that particular evening in terms of fun and while the food was not quite as careful or soulful at times, once you take into account price and ‘experience’ this is a spot well worth the reservation as the chef’s seasonal focus, liberal portions, and inspired flavors should command at least twice the 33Eu prix fixe.

                      23 Replies
                      1. re: uhockey

                        Wow! Your glowing review made me pull up my notes from our visit last fall. We (three), found little to admire or recommend at any point of our meal. The terrine was brought only seconds before our entree and was of so little interest that we weren't bothered by the lapse. As I reread descriptions of our plates, I can't remember any of them except my order of pigeon with girolles and foie gras (with a very hefty supplement) which was blown away by wild dove the next night at CAJ. The only dessert I can conger from my notes is the riz au lait which, served like yours, was so stiff that the spoon stood upright. No worries about over indulgence there...

                        This meal was by far the poorest of our 10 days in Paris. It seems that this room has many personalities. AKA a crap shoot.

                        1. re: uhockey

                          uhockey - thanks so much for your awesome reports (have been following all of them!). After reading Le Regalade, I think we can actually do this one (we'll be in Paris in July with 2 teen daughters). One question, does anyone know when they will be on vacation?

                          1. re: ElaineL

                            Thank you for reading and for the compliments. I'll defer to others on the vacation question. That whole concept of restaurants taking a month off is so (literally) foreign to me. :-)

                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                          2. re: uhockey

                            I seem to have had my post regarding the Uhockey (at Le Regalade) eating all the communal terrine and then ordering the "riz au lait" for one and both sharing and finishing the "communal dish" deleted. I posted my comment to highlight that this isn't a polite thing to do in a restaurant in Paris and thus sought to try and educate other hounds. I will try again.

                            In France there is a tradition of offering dishes to diners in communal sized portions or for bowls, platters, bottles to be left on the table for a diner to help themselves to a portion (in some respects like "family style" in the US). Examples of this include the terrine at Le Regalade (and many other places); platters of charcuterie in bistros (sometimes Chez La Ami Jean); the riz au lait at Chez La Ami Jean and Le Regalade; the cheeseboard left on your table at dinner at Le Comptoir; the two bottles of rum left on the table with the baba au rhum at many places, etc etc.

                            This food isn't wasted, if you don't eat it all, it simply goes on the next table. It is much like the bread service in most Parisian restaurants, you take your bread from the basket (and never return uneaten bread to the basket) and then the bread goes to the next table after you have had your fill. In in a similar way the terrine moves from table to table, as it is a small welcome dish to show generosity. Likewise when you order a portion of riz au lait and it comes in a big bowl you should take what you want rather than sharing it with those that did not order it. When the shared cheese board is left on your table it isn't a challenge laid down by the restaurant instead it is polite to carefully cut a selection and leave it in good condition for other diners.

                            If you do decide to finish these communal dishes I doubt much will be said; you may get the odd surprised look from the waitress, but I suspect the restaurants get used to tourists doing this. However, please do recognise that it is great etiquette and in IMO I find I get better service and treatment from a place if I follow local norms. A personal opinion but one that may help others avoid embarrassment.

                            1. re: PhilD

                              I agree with you about house terrines, the bread, cheese etc... But I'm not sure I agree about the riz au lait. I've only had the one at CAJ, but it didn't seem to me like a communal sized portions, it is huge considering it is a dessert for one, but it has nothing to do with a terrine where you usually eat only a slice, or an "all you can eat chocolate mousse" where they would bring you a huge bowl obviously not intended to be finished. So I personally don't really see a problem with sharing a riz au lait at CAJ or La Regalade. But maybe I'm wrong.

                              1. re: Rio Yeti

                                I tend to agree with this - though to be fair I'm not really keen on a "communal" terrine being passed from one table to the next if unfinished. There is no way I'd consider the rice pudding in that setting, either. At LRSH and CAJ these are made for the table - not to be shared with the next.

                                I find it interesting that "embarrassment" is being considered as an issue here - who, honestly, is embarassed in a restaurant?

                                In the end my reviews simply document my experiences - some people enjoy them, other people opt to criticize yet continue to read them. My intent is simply to inform what my experience was and share it with fellow CHers so that they have a good idea of what the experience was like and they can then decide if they want to make the time/financial investment. I get nothing from writing these other than the ability to re-remember the visit and share with friends and family.......plus I really enjoy it. I'm unembarassed. :-)

                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                1. re: uhockey

                                  "some people enjoy them, other people opt to criticize yet continue to read them"

                                  That's called success man ;)

                                  1. re: uhockey

                                    "There is no way I'd consider the rice pudding in that setting, either. At LRSH and CAJ these are made for the table - not to be shared with the next." - At CLJ it comes in a large bowl with enough to easily serve three or four people, it comes with a wooden serving spoon, the person who orders it gets a small bowl and a spoon to eat it with, the others at the table don't. To me that has all the hallmarks of a communal dish which you serve yourself from.

                                    After many meals at CLJ I understand that many people do share the dish, and many people "double-dip" with people eating straight from the serving dish. So it is a dish that is in the process of morphing from a communal dish to a table dish. My guess is that as a result another good French dining tradition will eventually come to an end with portion controlled serves replacing the large shared dishes. That disappoints me.

                                  2. re: Rio Yeti

                                    "but it didn't seem to me like a communal sized portions" - maybe the morph into the portion control is already happening . In my day it was a very large dish that would generously serve three or four people.

                                    1. re: PhilD

                                      Nope, still pretty huge, for 3 or 4, still in the original dishes for serving as well.

                                      1. re: PhilD

                                        Yes it still could serve around 3 people (4 is a bit much...), but usually, at least for other types of food, when a communal sized dish is brought, it's more for 10 than for 2 or 3... making it very clear that you're not supposed to eat everything or share with the table if they didn't order it.
                                        I feel like at CAJ the dish is just twice as big as it should be for one person, and therefore makes it unclear if it is supposed to be a communal dish or just a huge portion to bring the "mamma style" to the table.

                                        But again, I may be wrong, it's just my feeling, maybe someone should clearly ask this the next time they eat there to know how the restaurant feels about it.

                                        1. re: Rio Yeti

                                          Rio - I agree it is a little ambiguous there, and that is in part down to the large number of tourists who don't know how to handle it, so my guess is the staff simply go with the flow. Geese and golden eggs come to mind.

                                        2. re: PhilD

                                          For the record, my friend and I kicked the terrine at La Regalade. There was about 500 grams there. We were hungry and had been drinking prior to arrival. It was one of the better terrine grise I've ever had. We ordered one of the better red burgundies from the wine list, and went nuts.

                                          I am sure nobody cared as the place was total mayhem...

                                          1. re: PhilD

                                            Is it confirmed that there is only one serving size for the riz au lait at CLJ? I ask because we ordered the prix fixe. For one of the desserts we chose the rice pudding. For the other dessert, I decided to go with the raw milk camembert. Now the riz au lait arrived in a large bowl and it was what I would consider a generous 1.5 portion size. But it would be the most stingy 3-4 person serving size I have ever seen. I cannot see it feeding more than 2 very small people, tops...especially not THAT amazing riz au lait. Maybe it's my oversized American dining habits but I eat bowls of pho much bigger than that in a single sitting. Below is a photo of our serving portion. Can you confirm if this is the 3-4 person serving size or if the serving bowl is now dropped to a more managable 1.5 serving portion due to us gluttonous tourists?

                                             
                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              My d-I-l ordered the riz au lait as part of the menu in September. It was a very generous serving for one. As I remember, my son sneaked a spoonful or two, but it was definitely not a communal serving. Perhaps it is indeed a case of the goose that laid the golden eggs, as suggested upthread.

                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                A bit tricky to say from the photo, although it looks like this the photo after two portions have been served as I assume the two plates top and bottom of the bowl have been used for the riz au lait not the cheese.

                                                Also not really good to compare a Pho which is really a meal in a bowl to a dessert, Maybe it is simply a case of European portion sizes to US sizes, I think the best comparison is to the dessert portion sizes in other Paris reataurants, however I do love the concept that portion size should be related to how good a dish is - not certain it will catch on though.

                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                  Yes, it can be tricky from the photo but using the quarter portion of camembert and the slices of bread to the left and the size of the wooden spoon in relation to the size of the bowl itself as a point of reference can you tell if the bowl is about the same as before or smaller these days? When I hear communal serving, I think huge mixing bowl. Again, probably my warped American concept of portion size...and the undeniable fact that I am a glutton.

                                                  It would be interesting to see if two bowls are brought out if someone were to order 2 orders of the riz au lait for dessert or if a larger bowl were brought out or if the same size bowl were brought out...or maybe a parisian regular could just go ask?

                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                    That would indeed be a good test. And if they bought a single bowl with two serving plates would they charge for one or two portions?

                                          2. re: PhilD

                                            As a tourist who only visits France every so often, thanks for the tip. My eyes are always (much) bigger than my stomach, so this wouldn't likely be an issue for me, but I do appreciate the gentle education. I don't see this as a criticism of the OP.

                                            1. re: Leely2

                                              All one can hope is to become increasingly aware of the culture one is visiting. I shudder to think of the errors I've made over time, with many as recent as our latest visit this Spring. I can only hope to learn about them as I go along. As they say, C'est la vie.

                                              1. re: Leely2

                                                I find it ridiculous that people are "embarassed" in a restaurant - you are there to eat, they are there to serve their culinary vision. The service portions of the riz at both LRSH and CAJ are enough for 1-2 persons with a decent appetite - serving them as a "table" dessert would give each diner perhaps a spoonfull.

                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                1. re: uhockey

                                                  I will be sure to make a separate order of the riz at CAJ as my wife has been known to accuse me for taking the last bite for days on end...

                                                  Perhaps the embarrassment is in the eyes of beholder?
                                                  (case of disappearing posts again...)

                                                  1. re: Kurtis

                                                    "(case of disappearing posts again...)"

                                                    Not only here but there....

                                          3. Le Pre-Catelan:

                                            Full text below, photos in the blog.

                                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/04/l...

                                            Our last full day in Paris would see us visit the sixth of the ten Michelin three-star establishments within the city limits – though to call Le Pré Catelan “within” city limits is almost a misnomer. Awaking early to visit Sacre Coeur and then catching the metro to the edge of Bois de Boulogne we’d originally considered a taxi but after breathing the fresh floral air of the former royal hunting grounds and taking in the glorious weather and beautiful scenery we instead decided to walk. With the sun high above and Erika in a shiny dress while I donned a jacket and tie it should be noted retrospect that the rather roundabout route of jogging trails and grass may not have been the most rational decision of our trip, but at the same time our nearly thirty minute trek was one of the most beautiful stretches of land we saw in all of Paris.

                                            Making good time as we passed by sunbathers and were passed by joggers it was with a bit of effort that we eventually discovered the former dairy farm turned gastronomic destination but after a short detour through the gardens the signage improved and within moments we were greeted by a young man patrolling the grounds in tuxedo and bow-tie who led us directly to the doors of the restaurant where many great chefs including Thomas Keller once trained. With the doors opened in unison by a pair of hostesses a warm greeting welcomed us and within moments our reservation was confirmed bags were checked and we were led through the grand front dining hall to a lovely sunlit lounge overlooking the garden and patio in back.

                                            Seated at a plush two top with me looking into the main dining room and Erika looking into a large perpendicular room where a particularly boisterous party of at least ten were dining it was mere moments before our server and the maitre d’hôtel would arrive to greet us and provide two separate menus – one the a la carte and tasting menu and the other the 85Eu four-course lunch. Assured that if desired we could order different length menus we ordered a bottle of still Evian (unlimited refills for 9Eu) after declining the champagne carte and were left to decide and after weighing the options we each decided on the lunch menu – essentially two choices for each course and all derived from the a la carte menu, including some of Chef Frederic Anton’s most famous items.

                                            With the off white tablecloth held flat by steel brackets and a signature charger, fine silver, and salt and pepper shakers alongside a single flower in a low vase decorating the table the setting of Le Pre Catelan was surprisingly modern for such a storied building yet by utilizing marble and mirrors with aplomb the room managed a fine balance between its heritage and the modernity of Anton’s cuisine. With tables well spaced and service professional yet friendly I will note that this was one of the few places where our server engaged us in conversation about where we were from and shared some tidbits about himself and the chef throughout the meal – for instance, I of course knew of Anton’s time at Jamin with Robuchon, but I had no idea that he’d previously been at Les Crayères.

                                            Sitting and taking in the room it was approximately fifteen minutes after seating that the meal would begin, interestingly with the bread basket preceding the amuse. With breads made on premises and served warm in a large silver bowl there were two choices – a crunchy baguette with a good crumb and a nutty cereal bread with great chew. For the butter, shockingly it was not Bordier, but rather from a supplier called Beillevaire – the embossed one unsalted and smooth while the other was dotted with fleur de sel and almost honey tinged in its flavor.

                                            With the bread barely buttered our amuse would arrive in a deep vessel with the aroma greeting my nose before it even reached the table – it was onion, no doubt. Described first as Onion Veloute and then finished with Leek Cream at tableside this hot/cool combination was a textural wonder with both mouthfeels entirely different and the flavors surprisingly subdued. While I personally would have preferred a single temperature as opposed to the luke-warm amalgam that resulted after a few bites there was no arguing with the effect of the flavors in awakening the palate.

                                            With a spot of bread to clear the palate our first courses would arrive after a bit of a delay as the large party was enjoying the full tasting menu and a procession of waiters was required to deliver each course. When our items did arrive, however, both were well worth the wait. Beginning first with my selection, Port poached Foie Gras dusted with dried lentils, Foie Gras Cream with black truffles, and toasted country bread – it was everything you would expect with such an ingredient profile. Served on three separate plates with the soup at center I began there while it was still warm and was rewarded with a velvet potage featuring a nearly meringue thick centerpiece laden with the sapor of foie gras and topped with black truffles and a rim of buttery foie gras foam tinged with peppery tones. Moving on to the terrine itself – a textbook example, easily spreadable and nearly melting at room temperature with sweet boozy tones throughout and both fleur de sel and the crunchy lentils to add contrast. Spread thick and thin in varying combinations on the toasted bread (refilled without even having to ask) I stretched the course for quite some time as my sister ooh’d and ahh’d over her selection.

                                            While the Foie was good, as it normally is, my sister’s selection was definitely worth the auditory show of appreciation. Titled Cold Poached Egg perfumed with celery, Remoulade of Celery Root, Rocket Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette and Aged Balsamic the only thing better than the way the dish tasted was the way it looked – as a matter of fact, in a trip full of visually stimulating food it is this dish that wallpapers my computer even a month later. Meticulous and precise with the egg actually sous-vided in a bag with celery jus and then chilled prior to plating the visual effect was almost that of the egg arising from the sweetened custard beneath and when cut the yolk was untouched – pouring forth as though entirely raw. With the centerpiece plate delicious its accoutrements were not quite as impressive, yet at the same time the spiral of poached celery root in eggy spiced mayonnaise and the bitter salad with heady dressing proved a nice point/counterpoint to the subtlety of the egg.

                                            With the entrees cleared it would again be a leisurely delay spent chatting and watching the parade of gorgeous dishes brought to the tables around us before the main courses would arrive – this time each harkening of Anton’s days with Robuchon in both preparation and presentation. For my sister’s plat, a troika of flavors on two separate plates detailed as Langoustine Ravioli served in Olive Oil Foam with White pepper and Mint and Fried Langoustine Spring Roll and Tempura romaine lettuce with peanut sauce and romaine lettuce jus. Beginning first with the Raviolo, quite large and stuffed with sweet crustacean I loved the way the tender meat was lightly accented by pepper and mint while the “sauce” was almost barely there – a glassy mouthfeel more than anything – allowing the protein to truly shine. With the ravioli quite similar to the one at Robuchon’s Vegas flagship, the tempura shrimp on the slate was a dead ringer for the one at L’Atelier with the fresh tail wrapped in crispy basil and citrus before a visit to the fryer. Served along with the Langoustine in a separate crispy shell was the pure flavor of romaine lettuce – intense and vegetal – and for dipping there were two sauces; one a bitter chlorophyll tinged lettuce juice and the other a thick peanut sauce with flavors of smoke, sugar, and something slightly acidic.

                                            For my main course, again clearly an ode to his mentor, I was served a trio of plates titled Foie Gras Stuffed Quail roasted with Truffle Honey / Buttered Potatoes with Asparagus Tips / Risotto with Parmesan, Quail Jus, and Nuts. Having had Robuchon’s tiny Quail only five months prior the first shocker in the presentation was the sheer size – each leg perhaps three times as large as that at Robuchon and the breasts easily twice the size. Served bisected with a thin layer of liver beneath the skin and the legs coated in honey and black truffle with the breasts honey and green onion the bird was flawless, complex, and nutty. For the sides, the potatoes were apparently dehydrated and rehydrated in butter and subsequently topped with butter poached asparagus tips and a drizzle of honey – as one might imagine with so much butter, these too were great. For the final member of the trio, the risotto was texturally excellent and while the parmesan was almost too potent it surprisingly found levity in the honey sweetened game jus and interestingly textured nuts that appeared almost as though they were pushed through a garlic press.

                                            Realizing that our trip to Paris was coming to a close and that this could be the last time in a while that I would enjoy any cheese, let alone cheeses of the quality we experienced in France, I was admittedly a bit remorseful when the black carte arrived with twenty-one options. Deferring to our server asking for whatever was best this was the third time we were served the lovely four-year aged comte of Bernard Antony along with nine other selections including epoisse, an intense raw Brie that we were told can only be obtained at Le Pre Catelan, a peppered goats cheese, and a very specific form of Morbier utilizing white ash. With each cheese “telling a different story and serving a different purpose” according to our server this was perhaps the most well-culled collection we experienced in Paris and although not the biggest, each choice was exquisite.

                                            For our desserts there were two selections on the lunch menu and although we originally considered adding Le Pre Catelan’s take on Robuchon’s Sphere De Sucre entitled “Pomme” the size of the desserts made us reconsider – this is not a place that skimps on the sweets. For my selection, something we’d seen a lot of on the trip was all dressed up with gold and candied nuts to produce “Le Paris Brest with Praline Cream.” With expectations high for what a 30Eu Brest (if ordered a la carte) would offer this gussied up version was not the traditional wheel but instead a nearly 8inch by 4 inch by 4 inch sandwich of buttery choux and the most intense praline cream of the trip. While I cannot say it warranted the 30Eu pricetag, it was by far the best Paris Brest I’ve ever tasted which is saying a lot on a trip that included nearly ten.

                                            For my sister’s dessert she received an updated look at Escoffier’s classic “La Poire Comme Une Belle Helene.” Served in similar fashion to Le Sucre this dessert featured sugar poached pears, smooth hazelnut pastry cream, and vanilla meringue inside a floral crystal shell. Topped tableside with molten dark chocolate with the shell dissolving slowly this dessert was further complicated and nuanced by crunchy bits of hazelnut and tiny balls of chocolate within providing a dynamic experience to go with the tableside show. With my sister not particularly fond of pears in general even she noted that this dessert was one of the best on the trip and having experienced Le Sucre in two forms in the past I have to say this version was every bit on par in texture and quality while the addition of high quality chocolate really never hurts anything.

                                            With desserts thoroughly enjoyed our final treats of the afternoon were a quartet of Mignardises and complimentary coffee for myself and tea for Erika. Amongst the candies served in a piano-finish and silver box matching the room’s décor were two Vanilla Marshmallows, Raspberry Pate au Fruits, Cocoa Nougats with pistachio, and butter caramel with salty peanuts – each good, but none terribly memorable. With coffee refilled, again included on the lunch tasting, and check delivered we were asked if we would like another round of mignardises while we waited for them to hail us a car – an offer we declined to the puzzled look of our server who seemed confused when we explained to him that we had walked. With the bill paid and a copy of the menu requested we were wished a “beautiful and happy day” and thanked for coming before being walked to the door where a lovely walk through the park to the Musee Marmottan awaited.

                                            Having now dined at more than half of Paris’ 10-Best (at least according to Michelin) I can say without hesitation that Le Pre Catelan is definitely deserving of it’s accolades and Anton’s Robuchon-esque precision produced some of the most beautiful food I have ever had the privilege to eat – yet at the same time, compared to the other restaurants in the category the experience of Le Pre Catelan simply didn’t have that feeling of a special occasion to me. Sure the service was prim and proper – even friendly at times – and yes the grand room as well as the back salons are prestigious, clean, and classic yet modern, but everything just felt so formulaic, like they’ve done this a thousand times to the point where everything is now too easy and there is no impetus to change. With that said – certainly I’d go back and likely this time to order the full tasting – but I probably would not do it at the end of such a trip because while Le Pre Catelan’s light certainly shines brightly it was simply outshined by so much else on our trip.

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: uhockey

                                              "but everything just felt so formulaic, like they’ve done this a thousand times to the point where everything is now too easy and there is no impetus to change"

                                              Is it possible that after doing what you have done, you just become "jarred" and a little bit blasé ?

                                              For someone who can afford only one "expensive" lunch/dinner and choose Le Pre Catelan I would think it is a mighty fine establishment!!.

                                              Again, another great review.

                                              Thanks.

                                              Max.

                                              1. re: Maximilien

                                                I agree with you 110% that this was a case of excess. I would head back to Le Pre Catelan in a heartbeat and recommend it to anyone as a great place to to dine - and for some folks (namely the less adventurous) I'd recommend it over Gagnaire and others.

                                                At the same time, if I had $100Eu to do lunch anywhere in Paris I'd go to Ledoyen or Le Cinq first.

                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                              2. re: uhockey

                                                Great to read. Regarding the butter, some feel that Pascal Beillevaire's example trumps M. Bordier's.

                                                1. re: Nancy S.

                                                  ....can't say I agree - that butter at l'Arpege is unreal.

                                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                  1. re: uhockey

                                                    I've have not compared, yet. In July, I'll purchase both taste side by side.

                                                2. re: uhockey

                                                  I've been loving these reports from Paris as I'm headed there later this year and want to do a couple 3-star places and a handful of more inexpensive places. These reviews have been incredibly helpful. Any chance for a summary with your favorite dishes/meals?

                                                  1. re: johnsofats

                                                    No chance in terms of a blog post, but favorite meals:
                                                    Higher end: Gagnaire, l'Arpege, LeDoyen, Le Cinq, Jean-Francois Piege
                                                    Lower end: L'Ami Jean, Le Regalade St. Honore, Le Chateaubriand

                                                    Favorite Dishes: Nearly too many to count, but amongst the best of the best:
                                                    Macaroni Castle at LeDoyen, Duck at Gagnaire, Lobster at l'Arpege, Sweetbreads at JFP, Quenelle at Rostang, Chicken at Savoy, Foie Gras at Le Cinq.........there are just so many.

                                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                    1. re: uhockey

                                                      That's about all I can ask. Thanks!

                                                3. l'AOC:

                                                  Full text below, photos in the blog.

                                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/04/l...

                                                  For our final proper meal in Paris the decision was made to stray a bit from the tried, true, and traditionally highly recommended. While part of the reason for this decision was based on not wanting another epic meal as we had to pack our bags for an early flight back to the United States another part of it had to do with a phrase I kept reading when researching the pedigree of many of the city’s best chefs – “Maitre Rôtisseur” – a title apparently relating to a society called Le Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and based on an ancient guild of meat roasters. Intrigued by this society and having thoroughly researched our trip (as I am prone to do) the one name that kept coming up was a place called L’AOC – a space according to many that currently makes the best roasted meats in the city and honors the traditions of the ancient guild more formally than any other.

                                                  With a charming location visible from the Seine finding L’AOC was as simple as the reservations process by way of the internet, though as it turned out given our early hour of dining the reservation was not entirely necessary – with the bistro well lit and the sun not yet set when we arrived the restaurant would be no more than a quarter full throughout the 65 minute duration of our meal. Making our way in the door we were greeted pleasantly by a middle-aged woman who turned out to be the chef’s wife and after realizing we spoke only English she welcomed us and led us to a two top all the way in the back, near the restroom.

                                                  Not wanting to complain as the seat wasn’t bad but at the same time getting the sense we weren’t exactly “welcomed” our menus were delivered and we were pointed to the 3-course prix fixe and explained the choices in single words – main ingredients only – and left to peruse the menu. With our server, a young male who spoke minimal English arriving with a wine list next we declined and requested a bottle of water – Evian for 6EU – and perused the menu for a short while before placing orders. Perhaps sensing her relatively chilly welcome I will note that the chef’s wife did stop by twice during the course of our meal, both times with a smile, to see how things were going and when the chef made his way from the grill room to say hello to all the patrons he seemed quite pleasant and hospitable.

                                                  With wooden chairs topped with worn leather padding matching hefty wooden tables with pull-through checked tablecloths the feel of L’AOC was everything one expects from a French bistro and the yellow walls, red curtains, and knick-knacks only served to complete the scene. With a charcuterie and pate island at the restaurant center it would be a short while before our meal would begin and having seen other tables delivered a weighted bag of bread it required a request for ours to arrive – a request that I’d have probably been better off not making as the house bread was a chewy baguette served without butter.

                                                  With my sister opting for the 29Eu prix fixe and myself choosing to go a la carte and share dessert as there was only one dessert that sounded pleasing our first courses would arrive approximately fifteen minutes after seating and while mine was excellent, Erika’s was the worst single course we ate in all of France. Titled “Avocat cuvettes en verrine” on the chalkboard and described as “Avocados and Shrimp” by our waitress this dish was…well…it was vile. Served in a glass bowl as promised by the name and with a layer of avocado mousse at its base the dish started out well enough, but what sat atop the creamy avocado ran afoul with a watery reduction of what seemed to be tomato, vinegar, corn, vinegar, pepper and more vinegar. Seemingly an attempt at guacamole or salsa but so stringent that any nuance was lost all we could do was sit and scratch our heads as to how such a thing even happened – or why they even added the shrimp as it most certainly couldn’t be tasted.

                                                  With Erika’s dud returning to the kitchen less than 1/3 eaten I was somewhat saddened by the fact that she had no interest in my entrée – but at the same time the selfish part of me was kind of happy. Simply titled “foie gras torchon” on the menu and costing a mere 14Eu my dish featured a large chunk of creamy foie gras lying nude on slate with three thick slices of grilled country bread, pepper, and fleur de sel as its only accoutrements. With the liver slightly firmer than other preparations in texture it was no less lovely and although not quite as refined as some of the port-poached presentations I’d had elsewhere a stunning degree of natural sweetness was naturally present. With this nutty bread substantially better than the baguette and still hot from the grill the foie spread nicely and bite by bite disappeared as I smiled with delight.

                                                  With main courses arriving literally moments after our first plates were cleared it was with horror that Erika saw the same admixture of vegetables topping her Sea Bream and Eggplant Puree with Balsamic, but thankfully this time the acidic orange layer was not present and things proceeded much more smoothly. Beginning first with the fish, a large pan seared filet served skin on and dressed minimally with lemon and butter the preparation was excellent though the quality of the fish which was merely average when compared to the version at La Regalade only a day earlier. Accompanying the fish in a baked round was a soufflé of eggplant puree – creamy, light, and spiced lightly with pepper – it’s texture similar to stuffing and very tasty both on its own and with bites of the dourade.

                                                  With the nightly special roasted meats consisting of mostly beef in various forms my main course selection was a combination platter of sorts featuring “Traditionally roasted duck breast, confit of leg, and wood roasted new potatoes in duck jus.” Benefitted from our early reservation as there were apparently only a few ducks available that night, this dish was by far the best of the evening with the duck breast tender, moist, and lean while the slow roasting melded fat and skin into a crispy layer sweetened by simple syrup and balsamic. Additionally impressive (and the best confit of the trip) the duck leg served atop the breast was nearly burnt in portions yet the flavor was intact and the meat so supple it literally fell off the bone as I tried to cut the skin. With the roasted potatoes smoky and tender and the jus briny, sweet, and clean the entirety of this plate was a winner and the portion large enough that it could have been shared by two.

                                                  With plates cleared, mine still holding some potatoes and Erika’s still with some fish, a shared dessert seemed the best course of action since we’d pre-gamed at Jacques-Genin and once again the order of the day would be Riz au Lait – this time a much smaller portion than those previous and although the caramel and almonds were good, the texture wasn’t as “stick a spoon up in it” as it was tapioca. Sure this may have been better than any rice pudding stateside, but when compared to what we’d experienced over the past week it was a bit of a disappointment.

                                                  With the bill paid – a modest 69Eu all inclusive – we bid farewell to our server and on the way out the chef yelled a “Merci et Bonsoire” from the kitchen where he was hard at work, seemingly the only person in the kitchen at all. With the night still young as we made it to the street and a night of remorseful packing before us we opted to walk for a bit along the Seine prior to catching the Metro and reflecting on the night I feel a bit mixed about the experience; on one hand l’AOC seems devout to a simpler way of cooking and a simpler way of life with each ingredient fresh and minimally altered, yet on the other hand they seem to want to be a “go to” space given their inviting website, location, and décor while the service and some of the cooking do not live up to such standards. While I certainly do not regret the visit to l’AOC given the quality of the foie gras and the duck if I were to do it again I’d probably opt to go with someone French who loves roasted meats as this is clearly not a place accustomed to non-natives fish is simply not what they are known for.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: uhockey

                                                    "...a request that I’d have probably been better off not making as the house bread was a chewy baguette served without butter" - wise to remember most restaurants in Paris don't serve butter with bread. This generally only happens at the 2 or 3 star places.

                                                  2. That's it - thanks again to all for the fantastic tips that helped us have a wonderful time.

                                                    I'm not sure when I'll be back - though my current "Must visit" list is topped by Michel Bras at #1 and Fat Duck at #2 so Paris is logically somewhere in between.

                                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: uhockey

                                                      WOW! Great reviews, great detail and great reading. Thanks!

                                                      My conclusion. Either your metabolic rate is the highest in the universe or you are a candidate for the next series of the Biggest Loser.

                                                      1. re: jock

                                                        I am a gym rat and when I'm not traveling my diet is nothing like this at all. :-)

                                                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                        1. re: uhockey

                                                          Wonderful reviews and will miss your reports. Perhaps Sydney & Melbourne may one day feature in your travels. We have some great restaurants down here!