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Jul 18, 2011 05:41 PM

Paris - La Régalade - Saint Honoré

In 2003, my sister and I went to Paris to visit our darling friend Brian, a foodie par-excellence and quite a stellar chef, to boot. We had the most indulgent vacation. Lots and lots of eating. Two pairs of Louis Vuitton shoes! We were high on lights and wine and the scintillating sensation of running wild in one of Europe's most beautiful cities.

The evening to beat all evenings was the one we spent at La Régalade, way out in the 14th arrondissement. I have vivid memories of the older French couples at the table next to us -- who were getting completely sauced -- flirting shamelessly with all of us. The meal was one of the top five meals of my life. The food was exquisite rustic French and I have never experienced such convivial ambiance before or since. I remember hearing Francis Cabrel on the radio in the cab after dinner and dissolving into a happy emotional mess from the sheer satisfaction of the entire experience.

So you can imagine that I was hoping to return to La Régalade. When I went back to Paris in 2005 with A., things didn't pan out. A. was not feeling game and I was sorely disappointed. In 2011, things would be different. We were going to La Régalade.

But then I started reading all the blog entries and the Chowhound posts and I began to feel discouraged. It was no longer Yves Camdeborde's restaurant. Now there were two La Régalade. How would I know which to pick? I mentioned my phone bill to France. No fewer than seven of those $3.25/minute calls were to Les Régalades. I had a miserable time getting through. The connections were always crackly and disjointed at best, and my French was terrible. I think the folks at La Régalade in the 14th, must have hung up on me twice in dispair.

I managed to get through to La Régalade Saint-Honoré and was able to secure a reservation for our Tuesday evening meal. Then the nerves starting kicking in. Would it live up to my expectations? I had read enough positive feedback to have hope. But then I started worrying that A. wouldn't like it, that he would doubt me, that the whole thing would be a flop.

And you know what? Being A., he did doubt me a little bit before we got there. Asking questions, like what makes you think it's going to be any good? My husband is loaded with skepticism. Loaded. But you know what else? When you're dealing with a skeptic like A., there is nothing sweeter than a success.

And that's what we had on the Tuesday night at La Régalade Saint-Honoré. A big fat success. It didn't matter that we were stuck along the wall with all the other Americans (isn't that the worst?), or that the space itself is not nearly as charming and old-school French as the original. It didn't matter a wit, because the service was spot-on and the food was divine.

Just as with my previous experience, the meal began with terrine à volonté and a mason jar of vinegary cornichons and pickled onions. The country-style poultry terrine was a delicious and warm welcome to the evening. I love that style of generosity. It conveys kind hospitality and it is how you would greet friends and loved-ones.

I chose the gambas sautées ail et persil, jambon d'Espagne, risotto crémeux à l'encre de seiche (sautéed shrimp with garlic and parsley, Spanish ham, and risotto with squid ink). A. selected the petite lasagne de légumes confits, mozzarella di buffala, jambon cru et basilic (lasagna of confit vegetables, buffalo mozzarella, raw ham and basil). Honestly, I was thinking to myself that A. was crazy to order Italian food when we had only barely arrived in France, but as is usually the case, he was absolutely right with his selection.

But so was I.

The dish was scattered with toasted garlic slivers. The shrimp were succulent and sweet. So often I can take or leave risotto, and for the most part I have been relatively indifferent to squid ink, but this risotto sung of the sea and salt and was indeed miraculously crémeux. The Spanish ham added a subtle porkiness that enriched the flavor of the dish. I'm searching for the right adjectives and embarrassing terms like heaven-on-Earth are coming to mind. Sorry!
The lasagna that A. ordered was a revelation. Showered in fresh herbs the entire dish had an emerald green flavor. The pasta was nearly transparent, the mozzarella luscious. The pesto and tomato sauce celebrated summer deliciously. This was lasagna, yes, but it was also anything but, in the sense that it transcended lasagna completely.

I'm pretty sure that I managed to order the richest dish on the menu, if not the richest in Paris. The poitrine de cochon fermier moelleuse de chez Ospital, la couenne croustillante, lentilles vertes du Puy cuisinées comme un petit salé (Ospital Farm pork belly with crispy pork rind and lentils du Puy) was a salty and fatty heart-attack in a soup plate. I mean that in a good way.

There was absolutely no way -- even with A.'s help -- that I could finish that massive hunk of pork belly surrounded by froth and crispy nuggets of pork rind. The earthy lentils helped to anchor the dish, yet it was still deathly rich, and entirely perfect. The dish embodied a traditional petit salé, but managed to elevate the pork to an entirely new plane of porcine pleasure.

A. had a hankering for the John Dory, but apparently so had the other patrons that evening. None left. He settled on the pavé de cabillaud de Bretagne demi-sel cuit dans un bouillon de poule, pousses d'épinards ravigotées, pignons de pin et vinaigrette de soja (filet of salt-cooked (not positive exactly what they mean here) cod in chicken bouillon with warmed spinach leaves, pine nuts, and soy vinaigrette).

The presentation was beautiful, lots of vivid green herbs and spinach contrasting white flesh and brick-red oven-roasted tomatoes. The pine-nuts provided a pleasantly subtle crunch. I liked his dish fine, but I'm not wild about cod or about uncooked spinach, so this was not my favorite of the evening.

You may have noticed that I don't often write about desserts. In fact you won't find a single dessert recipe on this blog (something to work towards!). The only time I've had a sweet-tooth was when I was pregnant and for a bit while I was nursing. I've developed an appreciation for sweets, but not much of a craving. That being said, I got cozy -- real cozy -- with desserts in Paris. We indulged almost every single night.

At La Régalade, we consumed more desserts in one night than I normally eat in one month. We ordered the soufflé chaud au Grand Marnier (warm Grand Marnier soufflé) and the fraîcheur de rhubarbe et fraises, fromage blanc et marscarpone à la vanille (rhubarb compote with strawberries, fromage blanc, and vanilla marscarpone). Apparently the chef felt that the soufflé was dragging its feet, so he sent out the petits pots de crème à a vanille gelée de fruits de la passion (vanilla pots de crème with passion fruit gelée). Only thirty seconds later did the souflé arrive. I'll confess with no shame that we ate every drop of all three desserts.

I have never in my life had a soufflé that captures the true meaning of the word soufflé so well. The Grand Marnier soufflé was indeed as light as a breath. Certainly, I've enjoyed soufflés in the past. We used to make the chocolate variety in Santa Cruz, but they were as dense as a pudding compared to this whiff of a dessert.

The other two desserts were all dreamy creaminess. I adore pots de crèmes, be they chocolate, vanilla, pistachio or caramel. These did not disappoint. The vanilla was potent and the bright acidic flavor of the passion fruit was a smart juxtaposition. The textures of cream and gelée also played off of each other superbly.

Rhubarb and strawberry are a classic combination for a reason. Throw in cream and vanilla and then a little crumble over the top for crunch and you've pretty much got my favorite dessert. Another hit!

Add a glass of Armagnac and I was over the moon.

I cannot recommend La Régalade Saint-Honoré enough. Chef Bruno Doucet is doing a swell job. It's definitely not haute-cuisine. Think elevated rustic French and you're in the right ballpark. At 35 euro for the three course prix-fixe, this is without a doubt one of the better deals in Paris. In the end what can I say? A. & I had a thoroughly marvelous time. You shouldn't miss this.

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  1. Thanks for review, the other one in the 14th is still wonderful as well.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

      Glad to hear the original is still great - going there on Monday!

      1. re: ElaineL

        We went to La Regalade in the 14th about ten days ago and the meal was simply wonderful. Hands down the best meal of our trip and I envy you!

    2. Well done, thanks. I enjoyed the same "porcine pleasure" my last visit.

      1. Great review JF - we were just there a week ago and also had a phenomenal meal. Question - has anyone tried to replicate the terrine served at Regalade Saint Honore. Would you be willing to share your recipe as I would love to try it at home (know it won't be the same - but can't fault me for trying). It was incredible and could have made an entire meal out of that along with the cornichons coupled with their bread, butter and a bottle of wine.

        1. Back from a new meal there and would like to reiterate my opinion that, while it is a nice place, it pales in comparison with the Régalade on av. Jean Moulin. Come to think of it, how could you have the same prices here and there, when the rents have to be so widely different? Apparently the answer is: cut on quality.

          Don't get me wrong -- everything was nice enough, and I wouldn't say the place sucks. But the terrine was bland with too fatty a mouthfeel, the girolles were good not great with too watery a sauce, the salade with the tuna wasn't entirely clean (had sand in it), the rib eye was smaller than adevertised (if that was 450g, then I am 75kg), and the duck was cooked in stupid fashion, with one half well done and the other blue rare, and not such a good product to start with. The riz au lait did not disapoint, and I wonder if it's not actually made in the other restaurant.

          The thing that is better at Saint Honoré than Jean Moulin is that there is more room. Service is overwhelmed at both places, nice but not fast, and there's still that time in the beginning where you're at your table, hoping you'll get something to drink at some point.

          Really, the two places look alike -- same menu, same concept. But the one in Jean Moulin actually is an excellent restaurant, with some truly remarkable dishes. The other seems to mostly be a cash-flow for the chef, and I don't blame him
          for that.

          11 Replies
          1. re: souphie

            I've a question, soup. Did you have a good time? By that, I mean did either service or ambiance at LRSH add any value to whatever vibes your table would have generated by itself?

            Loaded question, yes, since I've posted earlier that we found the entire experience a turn-off, from the comparatively indifferent food to totally indifferent service. (And don't even put the riz au lait in the same sentence with that at L'AJ.)

            1. re: mangeur

              "And don't even put the riz au lait in the same sentence with that at L'AJ."

              Raising both hands and both feet in agreement.

              1. re: mangeur

                I had a good time because I had good company and the restaurant was not actively bad. And because the restaurant is actually more spacious than the original, which I appreciate, being a big-sized man. But you could feel that people around us were not here the food

                1. re: souphie

                  I was Souphie's good company at La Régalade Saint-Honoré today (thanks Souphie!) and I totally agree with everything he wrote. It is a fair report, not exaggerated one bit.

                  I was the one who ordered the duck and I was extremely disappointed. Even the stupid way it was cooked would not have been so regrettable if the product had been good to begin with. As it was, it was tasteless and slightly reminiscent of cottonwool in texture. I already knew there was something wrong when I ordered and the waitress asked me how I wanted it cooked. I said "rare". She looked a bit alarmed and corrected me: "Rosé (pink)" with a sound in her voice and a facial expression which meant "I'm sorry, we can't possibly cook that duck rare." I understood and said: "Okay, rosé." Indeed not every duck can be cooked rare. I was also the one who found sand in the salad leaves.

                  I wlll save the riz au lait from the massacre and here I will disagree with my beloved friends: indeed I really liked that riz au lait. It is not less good than at Chez L'Ami Jean, it is different. It tastes more like a traditional grandma's riz au lait and I love that.

                  To answer Mangeur's question, I am going to echo Souphie and say that I had a good time because I had good company, but although the room looks rather nice there is nothing in the atmosphere, service or food that would make me want to come back. And certainly nothing to justify the booking difficulties I've heard about. For one thing I believe LRSH is some sort of pot-boiler for the whole Régalade entreprise, serving the same type of cooking based on products of lesser quality that receive a sloppier treatment. There is no way that a restaurant can be economically sound with such prices at such a location while using the same quality of products that has made the older La Régalade famous.

                  By comparison, I wonder for instance why Claude Colliot's restaurant is not fuller: products always pristine; careful, clean, creative and mastered cooking; kind service, gentle prices, and a truly warm, feelgood dining-room.

                  1. re: Ptipois

                    Thank you for the posting. We were looking to dine at the restaurant next week but, with limited time and many options, and your review, I think we can look elsewhere.....

                    1. re: comiendosiempre

                      you're basing your choice on one bad review? for shame.

                      1. re: atomeyes

                        Actually, two.
                        I'd like to like the place, for Bruno Doucet is a good chef, but if one believes the quality of products is important, La Régalade Saint-Honoré is simply not at the level of the Régalade Jean-Moulin. That duck was a disaster and had no place in a bistrot with the ambition of duplicating the original. The terrine was quite disappointing compared to that of the old Régalade (and of today's Camdeborde or Jégo).
                        Now if one believes that product quality is a secondary matter, by all means go there. But in the opposite case, the place is clearly not worth the hype.
                        As Souphie writes, it's not "actively bad", you can still order well (as I think atomeyes did) but you're not 100% sure of having a good time.

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          screw having a good time. i was there 1 month ago and it was the clear winner in being the best meal I had in my 4+ days in Paris.
                          while the only common dish your table and mine had was the terrine (which, again, we thought was excellent and had to force ourselves to not finish the entire loaf), my only complaint would be the lack of innovation regarding the composition of each dish. but one can argue that the simplicity is part of the great execution.
                          judging by all of the buzz St-Honore's receiving versus the lack of negative reviews, i would be tempted to say that you two were there, unfortunately, during an off night. i'm interested to see further reviews to see if you had a rare off night or me and the OP had a rare on night.

                          1. re: atomeyes

                            It wasn't an off night, it was a perfectly normal day. Nothing we had during that lunch was worth reporting as a success, except for the riz au lait which remained at its usual, immutable high level. Aside from that, nowhere was the execution correct, and simplicity had nothing to do with it. I am of a different mind than yours and couldn't care less if there's a lack of "innovation" as long as the products are good and well taken care of. To me, just cooking really good food is a tremendous innovation in itself and bad primal matter/execution is what makes a dish immediately look, feel and taste old.

                            If Alain Chapel or Fernand Point came back from heaven and cooked again for us exactly the same dishes that they cooked during their lifetime, I am sure we would find them incredibly innovating.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              How one credits a restaurant depends much on how and where one is used to eating. A fine terrine is available at many shops around Paris, and is something I prefer to enjoy as part of a small meal, not as a prelude to a substantial one. I ordered pigeon at LRSH on one night and repeated the order the next at L'Ami Jean. L'AJ was so far superior that the two dishes were barely identifiable as the same fowl. (But the pigeon at Saturne exceeded both, and so it goes.) One could stand a spoon upright in the riz au lait at LRSH, while that at L'AJ was cloud light, the difference in condiment, day and night. Except for the pigeon, I had to go back to my notes to see what we ordered at LRSH, the food was so forgettable, while I can recite many multi-course meals from the heart.

                              I guess that "heart" is the operative word. We found none at LRSH. On the contrary, the service was some of the most perfunctory we've experienced in Paris, the prevailing attitude: "you are so lucky to have a table here tonight." And to show how generous or perhaps dumb I can be, I returned a second time with my son and daughter-in-law, at which time service teetered between rude and none, and the food praised by the press had not improved from my first visit.

                              As the old saying goes, "Once bad, shame on you. Twice bad, shame on me."

                          2. re: Ptipois

                            I concur. My dinner last year was most disappointing. The ingredients for the entrees and plats were not pristine and the preparation not correct. The desserts, however, were fine.

              2. Great review.

                We were there a month ago. I'm pretty certain they seat all Anglos a) at the early seatings, b) in the same restaurant section.

                The terrine was something we still talk about/dream about. The souffle was divine. Everything was excellent other than the service being a little cold. otherwise, it was an excellent meal. well executed, quite delicious.

                and my wife thought their riz au lait was better than chez L'Ami Jean's. Her words, not mine.