Trip report: Le Verre Voles (10e), Fish-La Boissonnerie (6e), Chez l'Ami Jean (7e), Reed (7e), Rollet Pradier (6e)
This is a trip report from Paris for week March 25-28 based on information and suggestions gained from Chowhounders and followed up on line. Reservations were made using our concierge prior to arrival, or by me. The report includes dinner at Le Verre Voles in the 10e, Fish-La Boissonnorie in the 6e and Chez l'Ami Jean and Reed in the 7th and take out pastry lunch from Rollet Pradier (6e) that was carried across the bridge to the Orangerie before taking in the Monet (awesome). We planned a balance of meals, all with great food, but some with a higher creativity level than others and to balance our experience for the week. We want a great trip and planned for different experiences with the common denominators being great eating.
Le Verre Vole: Wine bar with really good food in a hipster hard to get in resto in the 10th. Small tables, loudish, good music, cool vibe. Parisian friends of ours were surprised we knew about it, and that we were able to get reservations because it's "in" with a hard to get cool vibe going for it - people are very serious about service and quality of food here. Cool street, fun to walk around near the canal, lots of Parisians for dinner, a great staff and helpful for wine choices and settling on dinner options. Dinner with a bottle of wine, starters, plats and dessert was about 109 euros for 2. We had reservations, and dress ranged from jeans to dressed up locals headed to the back room for what was clearly a dinner party. The restaurant sells wine and people came in choosing wines on their way home to eat. Dinner was excellent. This is the new french bistro cuisine, not so heavy on the sauces, locally sourced and sustainable meats, poultry and seafood, nicely presented and served rich in flavors. Scallops were the best dish of the night but in a couple grit remained marring a heavenly offering. The young pork loins served beautifully seared and still moist served on a bed of wild greens were excellent also. Wines are naturel so they need to breathe. Another couple decanted theirs which we were kicking ourselves for not having done. The sausage was too much and we would not order that again, its just too much of a good thing without the creativity of the other dishes. Wine selection and service are great. Its all men here.
Fish-La Boissonnorie: Great location, terrific food, service to die for with a lovely bathroom, great dishes and one of the best dishes of the WEEK! Lots of visitors, great decor, small tables, close together and little loud. Pork belly, I licked my spoon and wished I had even more and there was more than enough. Again, the mackerel ceviche was wonderful, champignon veloutte was yummy comforting and my husband was thrilled he chose wisely thinking he picked the best dish of the night - my ceviche was a little artfully arranged and bordering on the deconstructed and possibly precious...until the pork belly arrived. Then I won hands done. Yes, it's a stupid game, but fun to note later which dishes surprise, delight and continue to impress. This one was phenomenal. If I could have I would have stolen more from the kitchen and licked the plate clean. Wonderful. Chocolate dessert was so dense as to be almost one incredibly large solid truffle - that was not easy to eat. The poached pears and sabayon on the other hand was perfect! Tonight it was wine by the glass, fairly decent and not quite as initially bitingly dry as Le Verre Voles.
Chez L'Ami Jean: Phenomenal meal and probably our favorite of the week. Jego and his staff are SERIOUS about service and food. They efficiently seat you, help you order dinner and wine, serve with impeccable presentation and make service a bit of a production and later check in to see if all is well. It is. It was. Small tables, eating next to strangers, a little loud, the servers are well instructed and work as a group. And despite flying broken glass once and the dutch traders next to us in their suits ripping a rival a new one sotto vox into a cabled cell phone, the meal was beyond expectations. Baby scallops are a wry twist on the emperors new clothes, trust me the staff has a sense of humor that they will test you with. I was served a plate with small tiny nuts like seeds in what appeared to be a smeared pesto sauce. Patrons around me and my husband didn't know how to react, so laughter and ribbing followed stunned silence as my incredibly miniscule baby scallops became the joke. I had faith. After Larry's oysters and pork appetizer with fois gras was served a plate of beautifully prepared amazing scallops still in shells arrived to be placed artfully on my green plate. Wow. So worth it. These should be eaten as a layered series of flavors and are truly amazing. Fois Gras with lobster followed, plus a beautifully prepared turbot and then...of course...Jego's rice pudding. I shake my head with the glorious memory of that delectable concoction served with two accompaniments that must be used to gain the taste of heaven that has arrived. Order the sauterne with this. What a surprise! Yes it was sweet, but not too sweet - this sauterne was a revelation. Jego and his staff are the epitome of new Paris cuisine.
Reed: Reed is the anti-male chef dominated evening. Catherine Reed's restaurant is set up as a beautifully decorated kitchen and dining area - you feel as if you have been welcomed into this elegant and beautiful woman's home and she is preparing a wonderful meal just for you. It's all really well done, comfortable food beautifully prepared and served. Beautifully relaxing lovely restaurant, very quiet, romantic even, good service. And while it is not a crazy combination of the new Paris cuisine, it is wonderful and extremely nicely prepared, as if you are sitting in the lovingly designed home of your neighbor the chef and allowing her to please your palate in a setting that allows you to visit with your companions too. It's not all about the chef, but about the company --- which is perfect for a Paris visit - honestly it should be about you. My asparagus risotto was wonderful, but the revelation for me was a tie between the first green and red tomato starter sliced thin with olive oil and parmesan on puff pastry and the dessert of citrus cheesecake - lovely! The restaurant is gorgeous with a stove that I would kill for. I took a picture. Check it out on facebook. Larry's poulet was very well prepared, and his Chocolate Mousse Pie was quite tasty. This was the best pick of the week for wines, Catherine knows her stuff and was willing to pull in a wine that wasn't even on the menu. Amazing!
Rollet Pradier: While in Paris choose a lunch of pastry in the park one day, it's SO WORTH IT!!! We chose Rollet Pradier behind the National Assembly in the 7th, near the d'Orsay and across the river from the Orangerie. Run to this place, their macaroons, the fluffy savory pastries of chevre and tomato, and an AMAZING champignon tart one of a kind experience that will remain with me always. Paris is known for this. Take advantage. Phenomenal presentation, a little fancier than most, very serious about pastry here. We downloaded David Lebovitz's Paris Pastry book arranged by arrondissment and have made great use of it. You only live once and you can diet later. Wow.
That's the trip report. Tomorrow night is Les Papilles. Friday on to Amsterdam for Bathazar's Kitchen, De Kas and Blauw.
David's book is enormous. It has chocolate shops, pastry shops, alsatian pastry shops, bread shops, ice cream shops, etc. all over Paris. I am glad I downloaded it to my kindle prior to leaving the states. The data alone would have killed the sim card purchased before arrival in Paris. The best part of the book is that it is arranged in the back by arrondissment and that it has a variety of pictures to help you make up your mind. We chose Rollet Pradier because we were at the Orangerie just across the Seine from the National Assembly building. This is a well heeled neighborhood and the cafe pastry seller is literally a few doorways from an entrance to the assemblymen. Accordingly the shop is big on decorum and a more formal level of service. And I love savory pastry. Tomorrow I will search for macaroons in the tenth on the way to the train station. Thank you for the encouragement on dinner! I love dressing and going out, its so much fun here. We have had a wonderful time. Paris service in department stores, restaurants, taxis, shops - literally all over Paris has been lovely, kind and overwhelmingly open.
I have an update. We did not make it to Les Papilles. We went a couple hours before the reservation to the Centre Pompidou which has a fabulous modern art collection AND a Matisse show, and a Dance exhibition, and a very interesting thought provoking vintage tv exhibit. We got involved and wanted to delay our 7:30pm reservations to further absorb the magic that is the Pompidou Centre.
This did not go well for our original scheduled dinner time. In our defense, the architecture of the center is overwhelmingly cool, the sun was setting over Paris and we could hear laughter and singing from the young people in the square below. There was some Paris magic going on that in many ways felt remarkably seductive. The art at the Center is rare, so rare for Americans that you can't help but feel you have been beamed into a collection that alternates between the precociously absurd and the incredibly moving, but you aren't quite sure which is dominant but you want to see more so that you can decide.
In the end, I came to the conclusion that I owe those who value and preserve modern art a great debt --- for saving not only the rare artwork that reveals genius, but the contemporary examples of the art that moved genius to create and added to that moment in time (I am referring to art that may not be timeless genius but still...). That's the Pompidou Center, its a lot to take in and well worth your time. There is no place in the world like this.
At any rate, we called at 7:15pm to seek an extension on our 7:30pm reservations. Les Papilles felt all would be better served to simply cancel, which I didn't anticipate and although it makes sense I felt pretty worried about it at the time. My husband was not quite as worried.
It occurred to me that I was free to contact Dans Les Landes, one of the restaurant wine bars I had been unable to work into the schedule. SO so so glad we did. The food is incredible, the service and wine did that amazing dance between phenomenally tasty, hip, romantic and cool that made our evening. Because this is tapas you are not restricted to the standard 2 or 3 or 9 course meal. You get to order whatever strikes your fancy, in whatever quantities, and in whatever order. JOY!!! We had quail, grilled suckling pig, oysters and duck on the half shell, fried polenta and smoked duck, the equivalent of Caesar salad and sardines, and ended the evening with two amazing desserts of madeleines with chocolate sauce AND profiteroles with cream and a caramel dipping sauce. We requested wine that went with the meal from our hosts and enjoyed the Basque house wine, then ordered 2 expressos following dessert and the house created digestif before the espresso.
This restaurant has chefs that create their own amazing dessert digestif of armagnac and what seemed like an incredible raspberry puree. An amazing meal to end our Paris journey and the opportunity to recommend to other Chowhounders is you want a great evening out in the 5e, get thee to Dans Les Landes. It is well reviewed by Le Fooding, John Talbott, Paris by Mouth and others. These guys (easy on the eyes - trust me) started Afaria. It would be great to find out how good that is for the next trip to Paris. At this point I would definitely return to Dans Les Landes, possibly with more people just so I can try more food offerings. Tapas for all!
On your last ---or even first--- night in Paris there should be more than food, and there was. A convivial, hip atmosphere. Knowledgable and joyful wine/food guidance. Impeccable timing, great service and for those of us seated at the bar --- the joy of watching the chef plate and serve the phenomenal culinary offerings.
And again there was more. They all, patrons and chefs alike reached out to us strangers in their Parisien homes. There was a convivial atmosphere, joy and people telling us they love their homes in Paris, but they also want to visit us in our home of San Francisco. SO there was that moment when everyone goes home thrilled, not only having had an incredible evening, but someone asked us about our own lives and told is they wanted to return the favor. Now that is cool.