Trip Report a Tourist’s Perspective (Part 1: Spring)
First thanks to everyone who’s posts and advice helped with the planning of my trip (June 2011). I thought of you all often while walking the streets and eating my way through Paris. I have to say I enjoyed every step I took, every small bite, and every glass of wine I had in every little patisserie, boulangerie, and café that we stopped in. As much of a “foodie” as I consider myself (whatever that means), in the end, I think I spent far too much time stressing over where to eat. I think a fellow CH poster said it best on an earlier post - We traveled and ate for decades before the internet made it easy for us to become neurotic about our nightly choices.
In an attempt to post something a little different, I’m going to try a post that attempts to bridge the “tourist” aspect and the “food” aspect of my experiences. I don’t think I fully understood how those two aspects of my own “personality” really came into play until this trip, so maybe the perspective will help fellow kindred spirits.
To put my feedback in perspective: I am American – 40ish ;) - traveled with my husband to Paris for a 3 day “food” trip as a birthday present to me (thank you, great present) – often travel to “food” destinations and like to eat at everything from a street vender to “big name” restaurants. I travel often, am not afraid if I don’t know the language and am not afraid to order something that I don’t know what it is or can’t figure out how to translate it. But as much as I travel I still can’t figure out how to keep the water from splashing out all over the floor when showering in “European” showers ☺ - so take this as you want knowing all of that . . . .
For the tourists:
6 rue Bailleul – essentially on a small little street “behind” the Louvre (East)
Cost about 243 euro for 2 people, food/wine pairings/cheese course
Reservations: Yes you will need them. We had 7pm reservations which is considered VERY early in Paris for dinner. Being of German descent (some stereotypes hurt), we showed up on time and the restaurant was empty except for the table next to us (Swiss husband – American wife, very nice couple just thought it was funny that we were the two ontime). It seemed the rest of the 7pm reservations just decided to show up around 8pm and were seated no problems. So I don’t really get the whole reservation thing but it was PACKED when we left (upstairs and downstairs). In fact, downstairs filled up very quickly – maybe they were locals without reservations who were seated while they were waiting for the 7pm upstairs reservations to show up – who knows. So if you are traveling to Paris and want to eat there get the reservation. If you just want to show up and gamble - and you lose - there is a lovely wine bar literally around the corner (Le Garde Robe - 41 rue de l"Arbre) that has fun wines, lovely service, very small, had a great charcuterie board there on another evening - they also had a small "menu" of maybe 5-8 other dishes.
Very small restaurant, maybe 12 – 2 top tables (on ground floor) and open kitchen. there is a downstairs that had sort of bar height tables, a little more rustic feeling, but actually we thought it looked quite charming considering all the negative comments we had heard about it on the boards here.
Would I recommend it? Yes and No.
This one was the one restaurant that really made me rethink what I want while traveling.
Yes because the food was EXCELLENT and I will try to recreate many of the dishes at home. It definitely "ticked all the boxes" for the foodie in me.
No (and this was a learning experience for me) because the kitchen spoke English to each other and the entire restaurant was filled with Americans (expect for the husband of the woman next to us who was Swiss – and one table could have been Canadians). While the food is not something I can find locally, for me anyway, and the ingredients/cooking felt "european" (whatever that really means in 2011) I kind of felt like I was in America while I was eating there. I may have felt differently on a different night with a mixed crowd and it certainly was no fault of the restaurant. I didn’t know or think I would have felt that way but that is what it was on the night we were there.
The staff was great with us, we asked they present everything in French (I don’t speak much, my husband speaks wonderfully but is a little short of the “food vocabulary” as he learned French as a child) – and I always feel that if I know enough of the language to get 50% then why not have them speak their native language and I’ll cope. But they speak perfect English if you want or need them to as well.
For the Foodies:
The food and service were spot on. If you have never been, there is no menu – you are not presented with anything that will tell you what you will be having (or we weren’t) – and I loved that. I often order the “tasting” menu (call it what you will) when it is available because if I am going out to a restaurant or to experience a chef I feel like I should eat what they want to present in they way they want to present it. I wouldn’t tell an artist how to paint so why tell a chef how to cook. If I love what they do I’ll eat there again, if not, no worries. And I loved what they did.
Amuse course: poached veal with an anchovy sauce. The anchovy sauce was something that I loved and reminded that I forgot how great good anchovies can be – not fishy at all just that wonderful hard to place taste.
First course: shrimp stuffed zucchini flower with little fried shrimps and a strong chicken stock. EXCELLENT. The flower was stuffed with an egg white and shrimp “paste” that had the perfect texture. There were the most wonderful little whole friend shrimp on top – we had these shrimp in Brittany on our last trip to France and loved them there too – just so shrimpy. It was plated with this great rich chicken stock. It was lovely. I promise to grow zucchini next year just for the flowers it was that good. (And I have loved the flowers everywhere I have had them – Italy was the last place – this just reminded me that it is a must for next year).
Second course: Raw trout (from the west of France I think they said) in a cream sauce with trout roe, pea shoots (I think) and smoked potatoes. Loved this course as well. The trout was the color of wild salmon and had a great mild flavor. The roe was perfectly sweet and had that great mouth “pop” that I love about roe and the hot smoked potatoes combined with the cold fish was a great pairing. I will say that the wine pairing with this course was the only pairing I wasn’t convinced went well. It was a wine from Sicily (I think – I drank a lot of wine – but it could have been from Greece) that was just a flat pairing to me. I actually would have paired it was a Cider from Brittany (which I know is a little low brow for this type of restaurant but there is a smoky quality to Brittany’s cider that came to mind as I was eating this course – it could be horrible, who knows until you try it).
Third course. Lamb two ways – loin and saddle (I think that is what they said). I love lamb in France. I don’t know how or where they get it, but the flavor is always wonderful and not “game-y” like the lamb I seem to have in the States. It was perfectly cooked – rare but not at all raw – and the saddle piece had a great meaty flavor to it. I wish I could give you more details but this dish was the one we had the most trouble translating from French. There were also almonds, a rich great sauce, and a cauliflower puree (that may or may not have had almonds in it also – I don’t think so but that is what we thought she said in French). Note to self: use more cauliflower with meats, they go so well together.
Cheese Course: 5 different cheeses – I couldn’t even tell you what they were. They were good but not easy to translate. Nothing to complain about but nothing earth shattering (but in all fairness that is how I would describe most cheese courses). You could easily pass on this if you were full, don’t care, or trying to save a few euro and you wouldn’t be missing anything. We love cheese so we were happy with it.
First Dessert: Raspberries in a sweet white wine with an herb (couldn’t catch the translation) and what I thought were cocoa nibs (but I don’t remember them saying that either). I love fresh berries and feel they are a great ‘after a lot of food’ course to just help make you think you didn’t just east so much.
Second Dessert: Lemon curd with Chantilly cream topped with crumbled cookies and shaved chocolate. Again, I love this type of dessert after a long meal. Something about the lemon just helps cleanse the palate and cut through any fatty mouth feel left from previous courses.
Third Dessert: Coconut ice cream – a very nice coconut ice cream . . . don’t know what else to say about it.
Since we started at 7pm, we were done probably around 9:30 (I didn't really look) so had a nice amount of time to walk it all off before heading back to the hotel to sleep. So the early reservation was great that way.
Still to come (L'Atelier, Le Comptoir, Le Pre Verre, misc food experiences)
Thanks for a great post - never been to Spring (but would based on your report), but think that you've described what I *often* feel when dining in a well/over-researched place. Delight, disappointment, and a bunch of other things too, but as mangeur says, it's perceptive and well-balanced.
I also complement you on this post. Your mode of traveling and eating is similar to mine. I appreciate your objectivity in reporting.