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Trip Report, May 10 - 17 (Fish, Le Villaret, Chez Casimir, A La Biche au Bois, Other)

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ScottnZelda May 20, 2012 05:44 AM

With encouragement and help with information from this board, DH and I left our 6eme rut and stayed in the 11eme this trip, just north of Bastille, and we're happy with that decision. Our hotel, the simple but clean and comfortable Best Western Marais Bastille was a true bargain and included a generous breakfast in our rate.

The multiple-location Chez Clement provided dinner on day of arrival. Nothing fancy, but suited our purposes nicely. Good emphasis on fresh veggies, too.

Next dinner was A La Biche au Bois, which we really enjoyed. Steak and lamb chops served with big bowl of frites, all fine, but the stars of the meal were the terrine and cheeses, including a blue that I really enjoyed, Bleu des Causses, from Cave de Peyrelade. Much milder than Roquefort. And, as has been reported by many, a reasonable price on wines. Some Americans, including two dining alone, but the table of 6 next to us were French. Friendly service, congenial atmosphere.

Lunch at Le Nemrod, a great cafe near Bon Marche. Recommended here, and I agree. Croque Madame on Poilane and a nice Brouilly. Nice atmosphere, friendly service.

Next dinner at Le Villaret. Voted best meal of trip. Market based menu. We did not go for the 50-euro tasting menu, and simply ordered starters and mains. The stars of the meal were DH's whole sole from Brittany, that the chef gets directly from Brittany, not through distributors. A real beauty, and quite large. 500 grams for 38 euro. Served with simple lemony butter on side, and cooked to perfection.

I admit I am a fan of sweetbreads, and rarely have them. Le Villaret offered lamb sweetbreads, which I'd never had, so I opted for them, served as a delicious ragout with slices of grilled baby artichokes, slightly charred.
There was one table of Brits and a table of Spaniards near us, but no other American tourists. We'll be back.

Sunday lunch. We'd read about the wonderful "buffet" at Chez Casimir, near Gard du Nord. This was the biggest disappointment of the trip. I couldn't believe it was the same place so many raved about. Awful. Simply awful. The table of traditional crudites (celeriac remoulade, etc) was fine.
But the plunked-on-table-courses were almost inedible. Lukewarm "mushroom soup" that was gray, thin and tasteless. One drumstick. A dessert table of airy desserts tasting only of sugar, akin to what a bad Coach airline dessert might be. No cheese table, only mozzarella and brie on the crudites table. "Water?" "You want water?" "Get it off the bar." Service? None. They obviously are not preserving whatever reputation they had. 26 euro per person, plus wine.

Next dinner: Mansouria. Merguez and goat cheese pastry appy's, followed by chicken tagine for me, meatball couscous for DH. I think the tagine is the better choice, though the couscous portion is enormous. I expected both dishes to be more heavily seasoned, and was surprised by how bland they were. The tiny dish of lethal harissa that is offered is the answer, and it was interesting to observe the different "harissa-adding" techniques employed by customers around us. One added it directly to the couscous grains and mixed it in before adding meat, etc. One added it to the sauce from the veggies and poured it over the couscous. No Americans at our dinner, only French observed. With beer, check was 80 euro.

Next dinner, Fish, in the 6eme. We'd had great meals here on earlier trips, and I'd read some people say it had slipped. I agree. We opted for the 3 course, 35 euro menu, as Fish offers some wonderful cheeses from Marie Quatrhome (sp?). As morilles were in season and I had been searching for them at restos, I opted for the hefty 20-euro up-charge for the "risotto with morilles made with chicken stock and parmesan." This was not as described. I think it was plain rice, not arborio, floating in stock, without benefit of parmesan. A risotto, it was not. But the morilles, ah, the morilles. A generous portion of whole, fresh morilles. Anticipating a delightful cheese course,
DH had the Coulommier, I opted for the Comte, both served with different dried fruit sauces. This was another downer. The cheeses were ice cold, and slim slices. Where had the soft, ripe St Marcellin of my past gone? With all of the reviews that Fish has received over the years, it sits squarely on the heavily touristed trail now. I think the owners may only be present at lunch.

Last dinner: Cafe d L' Industrie (recco'd by hotel). Very close to hotel. Standard bistro fare, but a genuine bargain. Special of the day at 9 euro was, on our night, veal osso buco, and a nice size chunk at that. DH had entrecote, which was also fine. For those not familiar, this place is big. So big, in fact, it occupies several buildings. But has the atmosphere of a cozy hangout type of place (think oriental rugs on floor.) We are decades older than the average customer. They let us in anyway. Recco for very low key meal. An easy walk from Bastille metro.

We booked too late for L'Ami Louis. Will have to do better next trip.

I do not presume that our comments or choice of restos are earth shaking, but Parigi told me, "don't be a jerk-- post a report." So there it is.

Shopping was a joy, as usual. I'm unpacking olive oil from Moulin Cornille Maussane, teas, mustards, lavender honey, honey vinegar, Banyol vinegar, escargot in cans, chicken fond, tarbais beans, lentils du puy, Bordier butter, 36-mo Comte; peppercorns and vanilla beans from Bruno, who has been hospitalized with pneumonia recently; big green pistachios from Detou; lots of doilies/dentilles; new house number, Rhodia pads, raffia ribbon and canning labels from BHV; washcloth mitts; pencils and erasers from museums (which I collect); lots of toiletries/parapharmacy; a lovely 4-part teacup set from Village St Paul; fuschia suede loafers; YSL lipstick #19, fuschia. Oh, and herbs, lots of herbs, including the divine supermarket Fine Herbs that make even an egg white omelette so tasty. Recycled coasters from Gumbs; a lovely serving set from UP; olive wood cheese knife from Simon; some supplies for my annual July 14 fete, including a mask of Francois Hollande and Eiffel Tower cookie cutter. I don't go for fashion. I grocery shop.

Thanks to everyone on Chowhound for letting me stalk the Board and offering kind suggestions and information, especially Parigi, who put me on to the brocante on rue Bretagne. If only we'd had a car with us! So many great furniture pieces to be had. But at least I bought my aged Comte there at Jouannault. Thanks, again!

  1. Parigi May 20, 2012 06:35 AM

    Thanks so much for your great report. You're not a jerk.
    You shopping list is dizzying. Would have done the original Zelda proud. What is UP?

    Sorriest for your Chez Casimir experience. On Saturdays and Sundays it serves a buffet, not the regular meal, which I have not tried. Well you're our guinea pigs (and thus earned your non-jerk status for life).
    Ceci dit, the last real dinner we had there was good but not as great as for example the time we went with Deluccacheesemonger and another hound.Hope this is not a trend…

    13 Replies
    1. re: Parigi
      Delucacheesemonger May 20, 2012 07:29 AM

      Had dinner there last week and thought was good as always.

      1. re: Delucacheesemonger
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        ScottnZelda May 20, 2012 08:35 AM

        If either of you gets to go for Sat or Sun lunch, I'd love to know your comments. As I said, the crudites table was fine, including a fine guacamole. "Served courses" not so much. First, a single slice of smoked salmon, on a wilted leaf set on a slice of bread. With something unidentifiable and tasteless that might have been an attempt at tarama; then the aforementioned gray mushroom soup which might have been pureed raw champignons in water, lukewarm; one drumstick (au vin? couldn't tell). Best dessert was whole clementine orange. Prior reviews mentioned such good stuff, including oysters, shellfish, etc. Not on my day. Maybe weekend lunch is chef's time off.

        1. re: ScottnZelda
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          saticoy May 20, 2012 08:45 AM

          Where are these reviews? On this board, I see one lukewarm rec for the buffet, and a lot of glowing recs with a caveat about a lack of experience at the buffet.

          Glad to hear DCM had a good dinner there - I plan to go for my first night in Paris!

          1. re: saticoy
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            ScottnZelda May 20, 2012 09:07 AM

            Saticoy, I've seen lots of reviews on Trip Advisor (and have just added mine); Eat Shop Paris; a fairly recent 2011? mag article (Travel and Leisure? Bon App?) that I just tossed out. I think if you search this Board, you may find others. Anyway, reccos from several sources, including brunch/lunch.

            1. re: ScottnZelda
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              saticoy May 20, 2012 09:10 AM

              Thanks - I searched pretty deeply on this board, that is why I was surprised.

      2. re: Parigi
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        ScottnZelda May 20, 2012 08:46 AM

        Parigi, UP is Utility and Practical, aka UP. We stumbled upon it when leaving rue Bretagne. I believe it's either on Froissart or Pont aux Choux as you head towards St Sebastian/Froissart Metro. Stylish table ware and other items for the home.

        And thanks for your nice comments on report.

        1. re: ScottnZelda
          mangeur May 20, 2012 09:35 AM

          Great report, but superb shopping trophies. I unload my stash onto the dining room table where I leave it for a week so I can admire it and rekindle the memory of each purchase. But your loot makes mine look like a toddler's trick-or-treat. Good job!

          1. re: mangeur
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            ScottnZelda May 20, 2012 01:39 PM

            Mangeur, thanks on both counts. Most goodies sat on my kitchen island for a day until I could put them away, so I had the sweet memories, too. I'd love to know what your favorite items are!

            1. re: ScottnZelda
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              t14072 May 20, 2012 02:30 PM

              Thanks for a great post which included the good, the bad, and the beautiful! What brocante is on Rue Bretagne? And the basement of the BHV iw wonderful. Sounds like a great trip.

              1. re: t14072
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                ScottnZelda May 21, 2012 11:28 AM

                t14072, I don't know any details about the Brocante which occured over the weekend of May 11-13, but Parigi told me about it, so we went. I'm still kicking myself for not buying the set of mid-century tumblers with a black and gold argyll pattern. My gin and tonics won't be the same without them. And you're so right about BHV. I worked my way through basement , ground floor and part of (second) floor, where their wonderful paper products/stationery are, then ran out of gas and time. It was a great trip, and I accomplished most of my shopping list.

                1. re: ScottnZelda
                  mangeur May 21, 2012 11:33 AM

                  I am impressed with what came home with you. (Read: boggled!) Do you want to share how you got all this stuff home? Luggage allowance? Overweights? Tips?

                  1. re: mangeur
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                    ScottnZelda May 21, 2012 03:38 PM

                    LOL! Thanks! We cashed in points and flew with Air France in Premium Voyager (fancy Coach.) AF allows each pax 2 large suitcases in this special fare type, about 45 lbs each, plus one carry-on. So,eastbound, we used 1 large and 1 carryon/person and packed 2 nylon Sportsac duffel bags in our luggage. We only used one Sportsac on the return, for a total of 3 big bags, total weight --well under our allotment. And remember, we were only packing clothes for a one-week visit to Paris (though I always overpack.) But we could have brought back at least 50 lbs more. A real advantage of Premium Voyager! ( In the former glory days of two big bags per person as the norm, we always tucked the Sportsac in for shopping.) I took some bubble wrap, lots of ziplocks, a plastic shoe box and a small freezer gel (for the cheese and butter.) Some of the other things I bought were dried chanterelles and dried shallots (very lightweight), a bottle of Guerlain scent, peppermill for my special stuff from Bruno, porcelain butter dish, lots of paper napkins (Metro map, etc for Bastille day fete) crystal plastic picks--nice for martinis and a pretty bottle of Cassis. I normally also buy a liquid laundry gel, Genie, that comes in a fat tube (any supermarket) for hand washing. It smells wonderful, and I've used it for years. I still have some and will buy this winter in Fr. West Indies. Designer handbags are no longer on my shopping list, so I shop for other things that make me smile or are useful in the pantry.

                    1. re: ScottnZelda
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                      AGM_Cape_Cod May 21, 2012 06:39 PM

                      Bruno? I will have to look for the pistachios when I am at Detou.

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