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Jun 20, 2012 06:58 PM

Report from a Few Days in Paris Late May

I was in Paris for four days the last week of May--weather was beautiful (though a bit hot for this San Franciscan). I must apologize for the vagueness and length of my descriptions in the following report. It was another trip wherein the pleasures of simply being someplace took precedence over organized dining, note-taking...even sightseeing. Did manage to have some great food, though, thanks to those of you who so generously post on this board.

Au Clocher de Montmartre, dinner first night.
Sistereurope had recommended this as an easy arrival-night dinner with tasty food. We found it to be exactly as she had described, perfect for our first night.

Two of us started with veggie tempura, some pieces were battered, others not: not beets, parsnips, etc., with a few dipping sauces (the tapenade worked best for me). The third person in our party had the gazpacho. I guess we all enjoyed our starters because we finished everything.

I chose entrecôte du boeuf for my plat. This was flavorful and juicy, with a good marrow jus and crispy frites too. Friend ordered the onions stuffed with oxtail and loved it—said it was rich and just what she wanted. My mother had chicken, which she feared would be “boring,” but it was very tender with a nice crispy skin and surprisingly good tagliatelle. I managed to cadge a bite and I agreed, though still preferred my beef.

We shared two desserts, one chocolate something, the other was pistachio and fraises -- these were fine but nothing spectacular.

Three entrees, three plats, two desserts, a bottle of water and a bottle of wine was under 120 Euros. This is a great place if you keep your expectations in check--casual, simple, easy. Friendly staff. I would return. A little worried because it was nearly empty the entire time we were there (say 8:30-10:30 on a Monday evening). After dinner we walked all through Montmartre and down to our apartment by Place des Vosges. A wonderful evening.

La Grande Cascade, lunch.
We all ordered the menu du marche; I would have loved to order a la carte but that would have sent my mom into cardiac arrest. Next time. I started with foie gras with artichoke hearts, cherry sauce and a almond foam(?)-- good, but thought the almond foam was a bit too sweet. My dining companions had smoked salmon with potatoes, fresh dill and olive oil. Rather mild and the portion a little too large according to them.

Friend and mother had daurade royale, very good, but again quite mild, they liked it for lunch but otherwise unforgettable.
I had chicken stuffed with zucchini, pine nuts and herbs. I was afraid this would be boring, but no, it was really good, tender, salty enough for me but not too salty, perfect dice on the stuffing, pine nuts added the right texture. Dessert we had strawberries with mango glace? or something. Our desserts were good but nothing earth shattering. My mom had chocolate-something, her usual, with vanilla glace, promptly the whole thing, and declared it “the very best.” Assorted amuses and mignardises were all good.

I didn’t enjoy this particular menu as much as the last time I visited LGC--flavors a bit too mild for our tastes, perhaps our palates are jaded--but we all loved this lunch because of the service and ambience. It was a beautiful afternoon, and to sit on the terrace there enjoying exquisite service, delicious (though mostly very mild) food, in the Bois du Boulogne is for me the epitome of a Paris vacation. I will always return, Proustian visions in my head.

285 Euros, three menus du marche w/beverages (champagne, wine, water, coffee).

Septime, lunch
We all had the carte blanche. Mom doesn't eat asparagus so she had potatoes and ?? to start.she enjoyed it. We had asparagus with burrata with peas, mint, and some other herbs. One herb we couldn’t identify but I think of it as lawn. The locavore and similar bio/orga/loca movements have been big where I live for a number of years, so I am accustomed to being served lawn.

Two fish courses followed, one was seared tuna and the other was calamari. These were both good but I found them oversalted—and I love salt! Next course was veal, we liked it but were already full. Dessert was an egg glace with strawberries and small meringues.

I thought the food was nice and the atmosphere pleasant, but we were underimpressed and felt we could have had this same meal in California or New York: nice but nothing to cross town for (and we didn’t cross town for it, either). Service was friendly and cute but scattered.

Maybe we hit Septime on an off day or were just too full or it was too warm outside or our expectations were too high. In any case, I probably would not return. I had thought about trying to revisit Le Chateaubriand but wanted to try something new. I wish I had just gone for Chateaubriand again.

3 carte blanche meals, two infusions, four glasses of wine, right around 200 Euros.

Auberge du 15, dinner.
PattyC had suggested this place as a restaurant she had wanted to try but couldn't squeeze in during her last trip. Our favorite! We all loved the soulful food so much that we were able to stretch our stomachs for more more more. Winner starters were the cold fennel? and almond soup with mint. Light, creamy, unexpected. Also loved the lard gras with veggies and vinaigrette, the right amount of fat, salt, acid and healthy-veg ingredients.

For plats two shared the cote du veau and devoured it. I had the lamb--incredible, the juices, the potatoes. Country (?) food elevated. Really, really satisfying. I can’t believe we were the same people who could barely finish the “light/small” food at Septime the day before. The meats at Auberge du 15 are divine. Generous, generous portions.

I had the soufflé for dessert. Mom had the Dame Blanche and my friend had the fraises de bois. All finished in rapid order.

Small, refined dining room. Great service, everything timed well. My mom walked in there a bit cranky because it was way out in the hinterlands according to her. In a mood, she looked at the menu and promptly decided there was “nothing” she wanted to eat. She walked out singing its praises.

277 Euros for a glass of champagne, a bottle or two of water, a bottle of one of their lowest-priced wines, three entrees, three plats, and three desserts. Hit the spot! Will definitely return.

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  1. Fine report. You bring up an interesting point, that Septime provided an experience that you might have been able to have in California or New York. I would pose that some 20 years ago France had an extraordinary influence on modern California cuisine (Chez Panise) and that this influence has bounced back to France (and, shudder to say it, New York). Hence many of the current hot chefs in Paris exhibit the California edge: sourcing, freshness, gentle handling, bringing vegetables out of the shadows.

    1. Thanks for reporting back. I'm glad that you reinforced my views of Au Clocher de Montmartre, I was also concerned about the lack of crowds...maybe because it's such a touristed area? In any event, happy that it fulfilled that first night requirement (as it did me) and glad that you had some wonderful Paris experiences overall. Auberge du 15 sounds marvelous!

      1. Bummer Septime didn't come through for you. I probably should've said don't go there when you mentioned the locavore thing. I'm glad Auberge du 15 worked out. It's now at the top of my list when we return. I think hinterlands may have something to do with why we skipped it twice. Oh and the portion sizes scared me. How ironic you found Septime filling. It's one of the few places I've ever left feeling slightly hungry. Did you guys get back into Paris for dinner on your last night? Sounds like a very well rounded if not completely successful quartet.

        1 Reply
        1. re: PattyC

          Septime was good, not a bummer at all, Patty. I think we should have skipped the carte blanche, though.

          Did not make it into the city for dinner on the last night. Got up in Nairobi at 4:30 that morning! Ate at the Novotel at CDG. A wasted meal but I was exhausted.

          I think I need 16 days in Paris to get through 8 restaurant meals. I just like a break from all the go-here-and-eat, go-there-and-eat.

          Did manage to picnic a few times with cheeses from Laurent Dubois, sausages from the Basque charcuterie (Oteiza?), bread from Eric Kayser. Also squeezed in chocolate eclairs at Dimanche a Paris. And goodies from Gerard Mulot, which was right by our apartment. So it wasn't as if I starved.

        2. I don't understand the references to "mild" food, I assume you are not expecting hot and spicy. Do you actually mean bland?

          1 Reply
          1. re: PhilD

            I think of mild--the word my mother used--as synonymous with bland, but perhaps without the negative connotations of bland. I believe that friend's and mom's problem with their lunches at La Grande Cascade was that they each ordered a light, delicately seasoned dish followed by another light, delicately seasoned dish.

            I didn't taste their food, so I can only surmise that's what they meant based on my conversations with them. My plat had enough contrast between flavors and textures for me, and contrasted with my a harmonious way. I don't really remember my dessert at all.

            Because it was a hot and sunny afternoon, the menu choices that sounded heavier/richer just didn't appeal.

            All that said, it was an intensely relaxing lunch with good food. We all enjoyed it. I really would like to order a la carte at La Grande Cascade, but even if I had been treating my mother would have balked at the prices. I'll have to do that in secret someday. :)