Reflections on a week of Paris dining, January 2012 (long!)
Here is my almost complete report of our week in Paris. I owe so much to the Paris chowHounds (as well as other Paris bloggers) …we had a wonderful week that consisted primarily of eating and drinking and walking so that we could eat and drink some more. I have been pining for Paris ever since…sigh.
OK, here goes, my best recollections (please excuse any and all spelling errors, especially in French!)
Places we really loved and will return:
Chez L’Ami Jean (
will review separately befitting of the grand voyager lunch menu that took over 3 hours to consume! Suffice it to say that we loved it as always)
Loved everything about this tiny little place, from the art-noveau tiles and funky décor to the warm staff. My husband decided he was on a boudin noir vertical tasting mission, and he deemed the boudin noir starter at Vivant to be the best yet. I enjoyed my burrata entrée,,,light an refreshing. We both had the challans duck with polenta and caramelized shallots…again the duck was some of the most moist, tender and delicious we’ve ever had. Why can’t we get duck like that in the States?! We enjoyed a nice bottle of bio wine – the list was stellar and they obviously care about and are knowledgeable about their wines. (I could kick myself for not taking notes of all the wonderful wine we had this trip! We usually try to order wine that you can’t easily find in the US. Nest time I will record!) Our desserts were a chocolate tart with caramel sauce, and a molten-like cake that was warm and oozing with chocolate.
The next night was Le Galopin, Located on my new favorite street in Paris (I love the 10th and the area around Place Sainte Marthe is where I want to live someday, hint to husband), Anyway, there was one menu of seven courses at 44 euros, which given the quality of the food, was to us a great “bargain”. I wish that I had kept the menu, but based on my scribbly notes, we started with an amuse bouche of raw veal (I called it veal sushi in my notes). Very light. Then we had a delicious veloute of root vegetables, followed by scallops on the shell, black cod in some magically wonderful broth that contained many mysterious flavors that I couldn’t name, but worked), a “cou-nu” as it was listed on the menu, which I didn’t want to picture so instead I called it a delightful chicken dish that again, had many wonderful flavors, parsnip ice cream that was really good and fromage blanc that was anything but simple. Some dishes succeeded more than others but overall everything was really well prepared and the portion sizes were perfect. Nice space…we enjoyed watching the action through the window to the kitchen. It was especially nice to have this meal sandwiched between Vivant and Chez Casimir, as it was a bit more refined. It made for a nice balance in our trip.
We just love Sundays at Baron Rouge….the oysters are always tasty, the wine is always great and we really love the ambiance, with the crowd spilling outside and everyone sharing tables. We’ve had some interesting conversations with strangers here. We will definitely go back. (Note to DCM…we mistimed our attempts to try Pleine Mer – they were closed one day and ran out of oysters on the other day we tried to get there. Next time!!)
Dans Les Landes
We met a friend here for lunch so I was way too busy chatting to take notes of all the wonderful things we tried, but all were great, especially the salad. How a simple plate of romaine and anchovies and (some magical ingredient that we couldn’t name) could taste so out of this world is beyond me! Just super. We also had some delicious rillettes de sardines as well as some pork belly dish and fried chipirons...way too much food for 3. We also enjoyed the basque wine and my friend and I enjoyed the handsome waiters. Loved the long communal tables…it’s definitely a place to take lots of friends. We’ll be back for sure.
Places we really liked a lot and will most likely return
Le Sot l'Y Laisse
I put this on the list based on positive reviews and because my husband travels to Japan often…I thought he would enjoy the slight Japanese spin on French cuisine, as well as flexing his Japanese language muscle. And I was right on all counts. We spent an enjoyable evening here. His entrée was one of the best we had all week: oysters on the half shell surrounded by something called gelee de la mer, with dill and peppercorns. It just tasted of the sea. I had the foie gras risotto with Madeira sauce. For plats my husband went for the pigs feet with lentils (of course it sounds better described as crepinette de pied du porc au foie gras pole), and I had the cod with some beautiful fresh tasting veggies on the side. For dessert I had a wonderful aumoniere de pommes (sp), that was a purse of light dough filled with apples. All was very delicious and my husband enjoyed chatting with our server (who I took to be the chef’s wife,) and then the chef, in Japanese. We speak French too (him well and me ok) so luckily there were no lost in translation moments! Everyone was warm and welcoming.
Chez Casimir was just what we wanted on a misty foggy night. Real comfort food and lots of it! I got the foie gras with pate to start, and my husband had St Jacques Rillettes (for the first time!), which were delicious. He had the raie for his plat and he was a happy camper as he had been craving it all week. I had the eschine du porc and it was very good as well. The cheese plate was huge and yummy, and the desserts were great as well, especially my pear poached in a red wine. Really homey and comfortable place with good food at a reasonable price. Thanks CH!
Café des Musees
Decided to stop by for an unplanned lunch and were lucky to get a place at the counter where we could watch the action. Both ordered the menu, which was a watercress soup followed by gigot d’agneau with white beans and a small salad, all for a ridiculous 13e. The soup was light and silky, and perfect for lunch. We had watched the chef carve these delicious slices of nice rare lamb and my husband was almost drooling over the glass…but, when we got our plates, they were from the more well-done ends (which were not burned or anything, just a little more medium well than rare). Husband tried to hide his disappointment and we said that everything was ok, but we must have not hide it all that well because next thing we knew extra slices of rare bloody lamb appeared on our plates! That was really nice, and along with the delicious reasonably priced food and warm welcome, we will go back. This was my second lunch there and I was happy with the consistency. It’s good when reality matches your memories!
Places we liked ok, but probably won’t go back, for various reasons…
Le Verre Vole
This was my second time at Verre Vole and I’m not sure I’ll return. We met some French friends who live in Paris here, so we were 4. We had two nice bottles of Pic St Loup which were enjoyable. But the food wasn’t up to the par of my memory, and my plat, a special cote du veau, was tough and rather chewy (one of our friend’s got it as well and agreed). My husband and our other friend fared much better with the boudin noir, which was tasty (but not a match for Vivant). The entrees: petoncles, scallops, were ok was well but nothing stood out. I would definitely go here if I lived in the apartment we stayed in (in the hood). But I wouldn’t seek it out for a short trip again.
This is one of those occasions where we made a scheduling mistake. If we had gone out for a more traditional lunch earlier that day, perhaps dinner at Au Passage would have fared a bit better in my review. But, alas, Au Passage was the biggest disappointment to me this trip. I WISH we had been able to get into Septime or Rino or had switched to Le Philou or La Regalade. We had dinner at Au Passage after our oyster lunch at Huiterie Regis and after walking our usual 6 miles, I was particularly hungry by the time we got there. I knew that they menu was small plates…I was ok with that, but perhaps we simply hit on a bad night as nothing whelmed (let alone overwhelmed). We had a lovely rather pricey bottle of Morgon, but the food, at least that night was, sigh..ok. I wanted more than ok , which explains my review. I didn’t even write down what we had. The chocolate nousse-like dessert was yummy, but otherwise, not worth spending a precious one of our 7 nights there. I think if we lived in Paris, in the neighborhood, we’d go there for sure, probably often Loved the funky décor and the posters, but overall the biggest disappointment for me. (Also a lesson, I think, for people with limited time in Paris. Places that people who live in Paris love, and for good reason!, may not be the best choice for a CH visiting for one week…)
Having not been able to time a visit to Pleine Mer, we decided to combine a visit to Bon Marche with a late lunch at Huiterie Regis. It was full when we got there, so we waited outside for a table to open up. The welcome was less than warm, but not off-putting enough for us to leave. We settled in and ordered 2 dozen oysters – 1 dozen number 3 fines and a dozen number 3 speciales., and a bottle of Sancerre. I have to report that the speciales were some of the best oysters we have ever had. We live near the Chesapeake Bay so we know at least a little something about oysters and these were stellar – they started out salty and ended with a sweet taste… Very “speciale”!
But, to us, the owner seemed a bit dismayed, by the number of foreigners in the room. My husband, as mentioned above, speaks Japanese (and also fluent French). There were several parties of Japanese diners, and we couldn’t help notice that they didn’t seem to receive the same lukewarm treatment as we did, let alone a welcoming reception (one Japanese couple was skipped over in favor of another couple, for example). Thankfully my husband was able to assist in translating some things for our fellow tourists, but I remember just feeling bad for them. A positive moment occurred when one of the regular customers answered the phone and turned to my husband and asked in French if he spoke English, and handed him the phone to deal with someone from Hong Kong asking in English if they take reservations! (They don’t). My husband, UN translator! Who knows, maybe Regis was simply having a bad day…but it just rubbed us the wrong way, especially since those oysters ain’t cheap!
One recommendation, that could pertain to the story above: we overheard several parties of English speakers throughout the trip, Americans like us, saying thank you and yes please over and over again. I would definitely recommend that anyone going to Paris try to learn and practice saying merci and s’il vous plait, and a few of the other polite words in French. I just think it goes a long way to try to speak the language. This is from someone who has been struggling to learn French for the past 5 years.…it can be done at any age! At least the basics. OK, off soapbox now…
Whew! My report on Chez L’Ami Jean will be forthcoming. Thanks again…
Thanks a lot for all this good info.. I gladly added Chez Casimir and Dans Les Landes to finialize my list for trip.. I understand you ate lunch in Dans, was it very packed ? I would like to do both for lunch, find it a bit uneasy to reserve for 1, but i guess it is better doing it like that then having "surprises".. Thanks again, loved your report..
Thanks Parigi. I am a frequent lurker on this board and enjoy all of the regular posters' comments and thoughts. I am happy to contribute. And by the way, I forgot to mention all of the pastries and bread consumed from Du Pain et Des Idees, along with snacks procured from the cheese shop on Rue du Faubourg St Martin (and the Caves du Martin for even more wine). I am most happy to report that not one pound was gained during this trip despite the gluttony! We walked so much that I thought my legs were going to give out. Thankfully we hit the spell of great weather or else I would have never been able to consume such mass quantities.
oferl, yes we had lunch at Dans Les Landes, and it wasn't full on a Wed at lunch. But I would definitely reserve anywhere you can, you never know. We reserved everywhere possible, and lucked out at Cafe des Musees. One thought...while Dans Les Landes was wonderful, I'm not sure I would recommend it for a single diner. The portions were huge, so it would be impossible to try more than 2 things I think. I've been to Paris alone before too, and I try to go to places where I can sit at a communal table or at a counter, so in that sense I would choose Chez L'Ami Jean over Dans Les Landes if it were me.. But the food was stellar at Dans Les Landes, so it might work if you order just right...
Great report, Sis......now I know why you are homesick (well, I always knew why, this just give one more reason, lol)
Dans les Landes is still on my list, even more so now and Vivant has been duly added. Sorry you didn't enjoy Au Passage, we loved our meal there, but it could have been an off night or just not what you guys were looking for or in the mood for. Tant pis, sounds like there were more winners than losers.
Can't wait for your review of CLJ. Our lunch in October wowed us and we are pining to go back, just probably not next trip.......don't think it would be the place to take an 8 year old, lol
Thanks for a great report!
The OP makes a good point about Au Passage, I loved it for a light lunch, but can see it would not work for a starving diner at dinner unless you added more dishes than normal.
It is also a good point about residents vs. visitors. As a resident I wanted variety, the excitement of taking risks and finding something new and interesting (and often got tired of standard French bistro food), but as a visitor I want safe, guaranteed good experiences (and lots of standard French bistro food). Maybe cities like Paris and Rome need two boards...?
Also interesting to hear about Vivant - not that well reviewed on the board despite its pedigree.