2 Weeks in Paris Part II; Au Passage, FL, Cafe des Musees
This post includes 2 places that were new to us as well as an old favorite.
This is the Bar A Manger in the 11th off of R. St. Sebastian. Open for a while but new since our visit in Feb. and a recent Fooding award winner. Luckily we had made reservations just prior to the award announcement for lunch with a Paris friend. The room was full with an interesting cross section of ages and groups (workers from the neighborhood, moms with toddlers and groups of friends). James Henry (ex-Spring) was still in the kitchen and lunch has a set menu only while the evenings are a tapas style offering of many small plates. The wine list is short but chocked full of excellent (many natural and biodynamic) choices. We started with 2 squid a la plancha that were lightly stuffed with a bright fresh citron confit and a tasty balsamic reduction. The mains were 2 perfectly cooked lieu jaune and 1 echine de cochon properly rose. Our shared dessert was a lovely burrata with honey and pistachios. The 2 course lunch is a steal at 13E. With 2 bottles of wine (a very nice Cour Cheverny white and an excellent Chiroubles VV) and 2 coffees the bill was 112E. I perused the small plate dinner offerings and hoped we could return for dinner during our stay but that was not to be.
Another small (20-25 covers) chef driven restaurant. The chef hails from Picardie so we started our dinner with a Ficelle Picardie (a millefeuille of crepes, ham and cheese) and a veloute of champignons with marrons and fois gras. Mains were a veal steak with beets and carrots (the yellow beets were particularly good) and a properly rare bavette with roasted potatoes, carrots and navets. Why are the navets in France so much better than our turnips here in the US? Dessert was a large profiterole and cheese (a tome au cidre and a le rollot. The rollot is a Picardian cheese I was not familiar with but was superb.) With a bottle of Ducrocq Bergerac, a glass of white and 2 coffees the bill was 114E. This is a modern room, a fantastic staff and well prepared food at reasonable prices. In looking at the menu, the prices at lunch are also very reasonable. With 2 courses and a carafe of wine 2 people could spend less than 60E in the usually pricier 7th off R. St. Dominique.
CAFÉ DES MUSEES
A Sunday night regular place for us in Paris. We were not only here on Sun. night but also after the March des Producteurs market in St. Paul for a rainy cold afternoon lunch. Sunday night was less crowded and a more laid back service. We enjoyed a starter of house cured salmon and smoked herring. Mains were steak frites and a lamb fricassee. With a bottle of Gramenon CDR white, a glass of Cahors red, dessert, 2 coffees and Armagnac the bill was 105E. The crowd was mostly locals including a lovely 90 yr old lady and her grandson who were locals. We enjoyed the dinner and the conversation with our neighbors at the next table. Lunch was very crowded. A rainy cold Saturday afternoon. We sat at the 2 bar seats in front of the upstairs kitchen. Watching the cooking, the plating and the choreography of the staff was as much fun as the food we ate. Starters were a Crème de Gascon (great) and a terrine maison. Mains were a salade d’automne and St. Jacques roti. With a carafe and a glass of Saumur, 2 glasses of Vire Clesse and 3 coffees the bill was 95E. I know the Café des Musees has been both favorably and unfavorably reviewed (esp. on line) yet we enjoy it and have at least one meal here when we are in Paris.
Love your report. Again.
I have always had luck on weekend lunchs at the Musées, especially Sunday lunch. It is a more mellow hour with mostly locals, instead of the other tourist-intense meal times. This point makes a huge difference for most restos, in terms of food and service quality and general vibes, but it makes especially a marked difference for a place like Des Musées.
I think that is good advice - most tourists are sightseeing at lunchtime so it is only us food obsessives and locals who will have searched out the good places.
For example, I have been instructed that I WILL be sightseeing on my next trip, and I am to be taken up the Tour Eiffel with the stricture that this will not be an excuse to eat there...! Looks like an early morning visit.
There are 60 million visitors a year and only 2.2 million of us Parisiens. Unless you head for a resto in the depths of one of the quartiers populaires, chances are that most eateries in central Paris will have a preponderance of non-locals. (BTW, foreigners often mistake any French speaker as local but in fact many are relatively clueless daytrippers or weekenders from the suburbs or the provinces.) As for Café des Musées, I love it (or more precisely I love its price/quality ratio) and would go more often if only I could get a table. But it's firmly on the tourist circuit and we locals, more whimsical and less prone to making reservations days in advance, are being squeezed out by tourists. The same for Les Papilles, Frenchie, and many of the other restaurants most frequently recommended by Chowhounders. And judging from my last visit, Au Passage is headed the same way.
Thanks for this, dennis. Your great report reminds us that dining is highly of the moment. Not only that morning's market, the kitchen's momentary karma but certainly the collection of diners who turn up that day.
We approached des Musees with happy hopes and maybe even great expectations, considering the consistently good reviews we'd read. Our toss of the dice brought us a room crowded with tourists and the resulting stretched servers.
We need to give it another chance and hope for something akin to your experience.
You are so spot on. Over the years we have found that Musees has had this problem but more at lunch than at dinner. The location and the more recent US reviews have added to this effect. We have found that we like the upstairs better the downstairs has offered a less harried, more intimate meal although without the "action" found upstairs.