Paris trip report, 4/20-23/12
I just arrived back home in Berlin after 2 weeks traveling with my parents, finishing up with four days in Paris. We ate EXTREMELY well thanks to Chowhound - here's the scoop!
Day 1: We arrived around 3:30 and had just enough time to drop into Tartine for a quick bite before the opera at the Bastille. The food here was solid - not spectacular, but definitely nice for a pre-theatre meal. We enjoyed their onion soup (a little greasy but good flavor) and open-faced sandwiches. Interesting selection of wines as well.
Day 2: Lunch at Chez l'Ami Jean. I had been here before, and although the meal wasn't flawless, I thought my parents would enjoy the experience. We did enjoy it, but I felt a bit the same this time as last time - things just weren't well balanced. I started with a delicious lobster soup, but my second course, sausage and morels, was far too salty and the sauce obscured the delicate flavor of the mushrooms. My mother's second course, a stewed rabbit, was also overly salty. The 7-hour beef with carrots was a winner, though. Desserts were good but somewhat repetitive (my Paris brest was filled with the same cream that came alongside my mother's cake, which had some of the same flavors as the rice pudding). Not sure I would come back, unless I can find someone who will split the whole roasted foie gras for two with me (couldn't talk my dad into it!).
We weren't in the mood for a huge meal at dinner so we stopped into Aux Bons Crus, just around the corner from our hotel. Very nice salads and torte auvergnate, a decent pate de foie gras and a nice wine list.
Day 3: Lunch at Le Cinq. Wonderful overall experience. They were offering a 3-course prix fixe for 95EU, a 5-course "Spring Tasting" for 145EU or a la carte (the prices of which were simply ridiculous). The 3-course didn't have any options for my mother (who eats no fish or offal), so we did the Spring Tasting, and asked them to substitute meat or vegetarian courses for the fish courses (which they were happy to do). Amuses included a raw shrimp marinated in curry oil (incredible), fried shrimp, pea soup and a couple of creative vegetable things for my mother. First course was a silky tuna tartare with caviar and green apple gelee for my dad and I (exquisite), asparagus in a creamy sauce for my mother. I was surprised by the size of the courses - in NYC, courses in tasting menus would be half or even a third the size of what we were served. Fabulous breads, and the seaweed butter was to die for.
Course two was a huge shrimp with asparagus and a pistachio gelato for me and dad, foie gras for mom (thankfully forgot to mention her "no offal" rule to the waiter). The shrimp was perfectly sweet and tender, and the pistachio gelato was more like semi-frozen pistachio butter - utterly delicious. My mother's foie, though - OMG. It was served with several iterations of strawberries - sauce, compote, etc. Magnificent. My mother declared it the only foie gras she's ever liked - but even so, she deposited half of the portion on my plate (and I wasn't complaining!). I was surprised that they would sub in such a luxurious course for her without an upcharge, and especially surprised by the size of the serving - it must have been a 6 oz piece.
Course three was a lovely light mushroom soup with ravioli filled with chard and lemon. The combination of earthy and citrusy worked wonderfully and the overall impression of lightness was welcome after the rich 2nd course. Course four was pigeon and foie gras for me and mom, arctic char for dad. The pigeon was a breast, stacked with a similarly sized piece of foie and wrapped in a crisp sesame wrapper, served in a pool of savory sauce. Wow. Dad's arctic char (poached then seared, I believe) wasn't nearly as interesting IMO, but he enjoyed it.
Pre-dessert was yogurt gelato with cucumber gelee and olive tapenade - a thoroughly weird-sounding combination that was actually one of the best things we ate the entire trip. Simply sublime. Dessert was their signature strawberry concoction - fresh strawberries, strawberry granita and sorbet, strawberry sauce, vanilla cream and a little cookie crumble. Very light and refreshing.
We didn't have wine but did get suckered into the offer of champagne at the start of the meal - at 33EU a glass, YIKES (it was good champagne, but still!). Tea and coffee were also ridiculously overpriced at 11EU each. Even so, the bill was comparable to what we've paid at similar restaurants in the US, perhaps a bit less, and the food was easily as good as what we've enjoyed at Daniel, Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, Eleven Madison, etc.
For dinner we weren't particularly hungry, so we ducked into Caves des Abbesses for some wine and nibbles after a sunset trip to Sacre Coeur. Charcuterie plate was excellent, cheeses somewhat less so (underripe), but the experience was fun - my parents were WAY out of their element.
Day 4: La Regalade St. Honore for lunch. My parents enjoyed this one a bit more than I did, I think. The food was very good, but I felt a bit the same as I did with CAJ, that things were just not balanced well. Housemade terrine was fine, but very fatty and not terribly flavorful. I started with a squid ink risotto with shrimp - it was competently prepared, but a bit too blandly rich, as was my mother's soft boiled egg with mushrooms and jambon. My father's tuna tart was better - livelier on the tongue. I had the pork belly for my second course - the pork itself was delicious, crisp and unctuous, but the lentils with it were a bit bland and mushy, and the whole dish needed a hit of acid to relieve the fatty monotony. My mother had chicken with foie gras, which again was just too rich, no balance. Dad's lamb was excellent, though - very tender and nicely sauced. Desserts were a too-sweet chocolate concoction, an underripe cheese and a perfect Grand marnier souffle. I should have had the lemon tart - such a rich meal needed a hit of acid, badly!
Again, we weren't terribly hungry for dinner, but my parents wanted to fit in one last meal, so we headed out to Chez Denise. We all split a salad, some escargots and the Cote de Boeuf for two - it should really be called Cote de Boeuf for four. The salad was a huge portion too, quite enough for the three of us, with a delicious dressing. The beef itself was fine but a bit tough - the frites made up for it though. Fun place with a lot of history.
My parents headed to the airport on Tuesday morning and I had some time before my train left, so I did a little food shopping - Oteiza for some chorizo and a couple of cans of rillettes and pate to give as gifts, then Dubois. I bought a wedge of the 4.5 year old gruyere, and after tasting it I wish I had bought a whole wheel - this stuff is out of this world, and unbelievably inexpensive for the quality. I also bought a few other things on the recommendation of the woman helping me, but none of those were quite as good, IMO. A Petit Bee was a little underripe (even though I asked for something REALLY oozy), and the Tomme de Brebis is not nearly as pungent as I was hoping for. However, I was also able to stop at the "Nasty Cheeses" stand in the Marche de St. Quentin before my train, and I bought a perfectly ripe Petit Gaugry Epoisses (YUM), some oozy goat cheese (Vezelay?) and something else that I haven't opened yet. I also bought a very delicious sausage studded with hazelnuts from one of of the charcuterie stands there. Great market for picking up treats before getting on a train!
Anyway, overall it was a great trip with LOTS of great food. Thanks to all you Hounds for helping me with the itinerary!!!!!!
Deluca - I just checked the package on that chevre and the cheesemonger did write "Vezelay" - not sure if he misspelled it? I found this image of Dome de Vezelay online, though, which is more or less what mine looked like (although it had more of a rind): http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/pho... The other one is a Chevrotin des Aravis, which he said was at the end of its season - it is ripe and very pungent, delicious!
As for the Tomme de Brebis, I bought some last time I was in Paris (at Cantin, I think) that was so sharp it made my tongue hurt, so I was hoping for something similar this time. What I got is fine, just not quite as interesting. Maybe what they sold me at Cantin was a Corsican brebis. The Comte makes up for it, though!