Paris Report: Christmas Week-- new surprises and old friends.
Christmas week in Paris… our 10th. No great revelations and no blow-outs but a couple of surprises along the way...
Pom’ Cannelle, 27 Rue des Deux Ponts, in the 4th.
Brace yourselves and cut me some slack: this may be my discovery of the trip…. Having rented flats on the Ile St. Louis for 9 years now, we’re pretty familiar with all the (for the most part) extremely sub-standard joints, both drinking and nibbling. But having arrived slightly late in the afternoon on a holiday (Christmas Eve) and not wanting to waste too much time, and also wanting somehow to end up somewhere new, we landed at the (seeming) ice cream boite on Rue des Deux Ponts for lunch. Pals, I have to say….Pom’ Cannelle was surprisingly good. Bman had the Lapin Moutarde and I had the Blanquette de Veau, both served with a side of Basmati rice, though there were some other starch “side” options as well. In addition, the regular menu seems daily to have tarts and quiches and other savory dishes and several sweet tarts and Berthillon ice cream for the many visitors that want only dessert. Based on this visit, the warm welcome, the very agreeable price – and the proximity to the flat - I’ll go back. Reminds me of the kind of place that seems to be disappearing… basic standards, thoughtfully executed at gentle prices. We had a bottle of Cote du Rhone and were happily sated when we left. 29€, including the bottle at 10€.
Le Reminet, 3 Rue des Grands Degres, in the 5th
We have learned the hard way that the eve de Noel is the single hardest night out in Paris, second only to July 31st when it falls on a weekend… so we always are careful to make a reservation if we aren’t opting to eat in. It is our first night in Paris, and renting a new apartment with an untested cuisine we opt for eating out. We’ve been here before, thanks to John T. and his invaluable recommendations. Small place, practically en face de Notre Dame, and could easily be a tourist trap but in fact have always enjoyed the food here. Started with some kind of amuse (notes fail) and then I had Crème de châtaignes à l’espuma de champignons et croustillant de Saint-Jacques en kadaïf which was a chestnut cream and mushroom soup centered around a deep fried scallop and topped with deep fried Armenian “kadaïf” noodles. It was presented in tiers, and one was meant (as I asked…) to taste the layers individually and then combine. Didn’t entirely comply but they were very tasty all together. Bman had a Petit pain moelleux au maïs, crème de reblochon et jambon Serranno à la manière d’un hamburger which was a small soft corn cake, reblochon cheese and Serranno ham somewhat assembled like a hamburger. For plats I had the Quasi de veau et son jus tranché à l’huile d’olive fruitée, pressé de pommes de terre au comté, and Bman had the Côte de cochon Ibérique aux carottes glacées, pistaches et oignons nouveaux, purée de panais au beurre demi-sel. It being the holiday we finished with a crème brulée and I had the buche de noël. About 150€ With a Savigny les Beaunes 45€
We’ve had Christmas lunch at Relais de L’Entrecôte in the 8th several times, often after morning mass at the Cathedral Americain, but this year the resto was closed (it is so true, from year to year, one never knows…), sadly, as we had schlepped over quite purposefully to see the Hopper at Grand Palais (also closed… would it kill them to put this on their website, which said “ open throughout the Holiday season”, and having attended many past GP expositions that were open on Noel…) and was tres triste to find it closed this day, and Relais to boot. But, this being a slightly unusual year, we’ve still got wheels from our country touring and we decide to follow the suggestion on the door to go to the Relais on Montparnasse. (101 Blvd Montparnasse, 6th.) I slightly prefer, still, the dining room in the 8th, but the Steak frites was just as reliable as ever, and we polished it off, both rounds. 89€, which included 18€ for a bottle of house Tarn and desserts and coffee
We’ve landed at Chez Paul (13 rue de Charonne, 11th) for Christmas before, not that that is any reliable measure… one really does need to investigate afresh each year to find who is open and who is fermed, but we were able to reserve online and so we did. A slightly rough and tumble place, and we’ve usually been given a warm welcome, somewhat less so this go round. We walked in, and having reserved online (as opposed to by phone) were immediately told we were being exiled to the 1st floor upstairs. I frowned and said no and the M’d barked out a table number and the slightly surly waiter escorted us to the furthest table from the entrance, where Bman was literally sitting on top of the radiator. Allors… the Japanese tourists next to us were friendly enough, and were quickly replaced by a middle aged Frenchman and his mother? Aunt? Granny….? They were very dear, as a couple, and having exchanged a few words en Francais with them and sharing our flashlight phone app so the menu could be read, the waiter seemed to decide we might be all right after all. Leçon: next time I’ll phone instead, as usual… sure the place is rough around the edges but was never treated quite this poorly before. Started with some Kirs, I had œufs mayo and Bman had the Salade aux pissenlits lardons. As is his habit, this was followed by Lapin Farci au Chèvre for Bman, and breaking from my Pot au Feu minor addiction, I ordered Steak au Poivre because I saw those words that always stop me dead in my tracks: Gratin Daupinoise. The grand pichet (100cl) of Cote du Rhone washed it all down. With 2 coffees, the bill was 78€, with the vin being 14€.
Le Rostand, 6 Place Edmond Rostand in the 6th.
Had come to the Luxembourg to see the Cercle de l”art Moderne show and decided to visit this reliable café for lunch. Had an omelette aux champignons (a bit wet) and Bman had the Cote d’Agneau. A bottle of Rose, I think, and coffees and tarts to finish. They didn’t have my favorite, Poire Amande, but their Mirabelle is a close second. Don’t know if they are made in house or come from elsewhere but the tarts here are faboo. Didn’t seem to keep this receipt, but it is a fairly reasonable spot.
Le Grand Palais, 21 Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 8th.
We returned to the Grand Palais to see the Hopper, skipping the line thanks to the Sesame Pass (well worth it, I think). We had decided to see the Boheme show as well and needed a spot of lunch before taking on another exhibition but it was raining. Hard. And it was bitterly cold. So, being sans parapluie, comme toujours, (buying an umbrella on vacation seems somehow like admitting defeat, and long past when we should have, we tend not to…) we ducked into the nearest café and hoped for the best. Possibly for the very same reason (rain and proximity), it was packed: we seemed to snag the last available table. Lots of English on the menu (blast you Champs Elysée!!!) but when I saw there were four different Steak Tartares I decided that they must be somewhat serious on this topic and I decided to give it a whir. I didn’t dive fully in, as I ordered it Aller Retour, with a little sizzle on one side, but the mound of beef was raw enough, for sure, to still qualify. The frites served with were decent too. Began with a soup and Bman had escargot and duck Confit which he said was quite tasty. 65€, 17€ for the 50cl of Brouilly.
L’Atlas, 12 Blvd Saint Germain, 5th
Had read a number of respected recommendations for this place on CH and after a week in Normandy and nearly a week in Paris was finally ready to allow something not Cuisine Grandmere to enter the picture. Seems the seats in the window overlooking the Blvd are very popular and hard to come by without specifying (which we had not when we reserved) so we were seated in the back dining room. The interior dining rooms are a bit bright for me, though the elegantly carved stone arches and walls are beautiful. I started with the traditional Moroccan soup, Harira, which hit the spot on this sniffly wet night, and then had the Couscous de l’Atlas which included merguez, lamb brochette and lamb meatballs. The couscous was fluffy, dry… ephemeral. The meats quite good and the vegetables on the side all very well prepared. Bman had the Tagine d’agneau aux pruneaux et amandes which I tasted and can attest, was pretty sublime. The service is a bit formal and stiff, and I have to admit I far prefer the warm welcome and vibe at Chez Omar but the food here does win for sure. 72€, including a bottle of Provencal Rose 18€.
Dinner Chez Nous, Ile Saint-Louis.
First time in this apartment and the kitchen situation did not look promising so I waited until we were in situ before deciding if I would attempt cookery: a plenty large enough kitchen, but oddly lacking an oven. There was a small toaster oven, and a microwave with a heating element, but no proper oven where there was plenty of room for one. With most wintertime entertaining I prefer some slow braise that can sit in the oven and I can be with guests instead of in the a-la-minute kitchen. But having a nice container of St. Jacques purchased on the quai in Normandy, I decided on a stove top menu. I’d read about this combination in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about a decade ago and have made it several times in Maine but never in France: sautéed scallops, crispy bacon and creamy scrambled eggs. Poor Bman can eat no shellfish, but I figured the lardons and eggs would be enough for him. The verger on the Ile sells very good vegetable soups in jars, and we opted for a watercress variety that we enhanced with a dollop of crème fraiche. First up we had a plate of very good Terrine de Fois Gras that came from the cheese shop on the Ile, Le Ferme Saint-Aubin, some toasted brioche, a few fresh figs, and a small scoop of pre-made celerie remoulade. The lardons were able to be carefully cooked ahead of time, and the scallops and the eggs were both very fast in the pan, which cut down time away from our pals in the dining room. An assortment of small cakes and tarts was dessert, and a scoop of Berthillon pistache (my favorite) on the side. If I didn’t have the scallops, and had an oven, I would have probably purchased a rotisserie chicken and potatoes and built a dinner around that, perhaps with a salad made with pre-roasted beets which are easy to find both at markets and in the supermarche. There are many options in Paris for easy dinners with little or no cooking.
Les Pipos. 2 rue de l’Ecole Polytechnique in the 5th.
Had been for dinner once before and had a French friend coming into town to meet us for lunch and decided this cozy mom & pop place would be a good fit. I was right because once we were seated he recalled coming here late one night after a jazz concert in the neighborhood. We shared a Pot de rillette d’oie to start (mostly me – I love the stuff…) and it being a grey rainy day, I happily ordered the Blanquette de Veau, while the 2 other gents ordered the Pave de Charolais avec sauce au poivre vert and a nice big bowl of crisp frites to share. Coffees all around, and a bottle of Morgon (33€) and we were well and happily sated. 94€ for the three of us.
Pamela Popo. 15 rue Francois Miron, 4th
Had peeked at the menu here several times in our meanderings and had read, with interest, a few kind words on CH so, being eager to break out of our repeat customer status we reserved here for dinner. First floor bar is tres hip, and the upstairs dining room continues the vibe. We were seated on a banquette on the back wall and had a couple of kirs to take in the nice view of the very full and very dim room and the (also hip) crowd. A small gazpacho amuse was offered, and then I started with Risotto aux cèpes and followed with Quasi de veau. Both were tasty, and plates were cleaned. Bman started with Ravioles d’artichau and then Suprême de volaille, served, as was the Quasi, with a mashed qqchose. 122€, 40€ of which was a bottle of Pouilly Fume. Thumpy bass and DJ sound were better during apero and a bit much for me during dinner, but maybe I’m just getting old and deaf…
Le Hangar, 12 Impasse Berthaud, in the 4th.
Had meandered down this alley opposite Beaubourg a few times but had never ventured in. This afternoon when it was getting late for lunch, and after one highly regarded place had turned us away because the hour (13:30??) we popped in here and were greeted very warmly. Not packed, but enough folks still dinning that it seemed we’d be served. Had a delicious châtaigne and potimarron soup and followed that with a pave de bœuf and gratin dauphinoise (it is embarrassingly true: I’d order Old Shoe if it came with gratin dauphinoise). 98€ with coffees and a nice plate of mignardise that accompanied… at least 30€ was for a bottle of wine.
Le Coup Chou, 11 Rue Lanneau in the 5th
Confession time: this has been a crazy year and we have never arrived in France with fewer plans, less research and a nearly empty agenda. The very down side to this was the not-the-most-adventurous meal-taking. I don’t know where, but somewhere I had read about this spot and written it down in my sketchy notes. Again, wanting to press ourselves to try new spots, and in the name of the endless research we came here. Had looked at the website only to determine we wouldn’t starve or go broke. It being winter, entry was gained through a side hall seeming to have nearly nothing to do with the restaurant. It was very reminiscent of Chumleys in New York, if you’ve ever been. All that to say, a sense of mystery, and the unveiling revelations can be a part of the fun. We were led through a rabbit warren of several dining rooms, bars, passageways, all chock-full with small tables and each one filled, including one that appeared to be on the landing of the stairway, and up into an equally full upper dining room. It was incredibly warm, like being inside a hot clothes dryer filled with wet towels (were we above the kitchen?? Didn’t seem to be…) and the only defense against fainting seemed to be to immediately remove whatever layers of clothing one modestly could. Given the crowd, the service was surprisingly prompt, and almost too speedy. Perhaps they were trying to turn tables quickly. I started with the Œufs cocottes crème estragon. I can eat pretty much anything where a runny egg is involved, and Lord knows I love cream, but these two ingredients seemed to me to be merely combined. There was little seasoning, and less flavor. I followed with the Bœuf Bourguignon made with joue de Bœuf. All the traditional garnishments were there, along with some boiled potatoes. It wasn’t the bell-ringer I’d had a Chez Josephine Dumonet, but it wasn’t horrible either… just okay. Bman had the Pave de Veau a la Normande. He liked it, though it didn’t look like much with its tiny mound of rice and mushrooms. We had a 50cl pitcher of wine (don’t remember which) and in what felt like 50 minutes we were out the door, which, given the heat, I was grateful for. 55.50€
Au Chai de l’Abbaye, 26 Rue de Buci in the 6th
An old stand by: could easily be a tourist trap given the crowds on this market street but instead seems (every time) to be frequented by habitués (lots cheek kissing between personnel and guests) and almost always exclusively French folk. Had the very good Onion soup and then the Chou Farci which could easily feed two and I handily finish. Having realized that I’ve had little room for dessert in most of our meals, and we’re now in countdown to exile mode, I have a millefeuilles and Bman has some special dessert of the day which involved macerated berries, pastry, Crème-Chantilly and maybe something else… If he gets quiet and says nothing about what he’s eating, it’s your sure sign that it is super good and to go in fast. I failed. 78€ , which included 2 coffees and 22€ for a carafe of Juliénas.
Tastevin, 46 Rue-Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile, in the 4th.
I’ve defended this place before but Houndies you know it is all sentiment, not palate. The food is always just fine, occasionally delicious, and I know the dollar can go further many other places, but my soft spot remains, even (gasp) though the small room seemed even more full of Yanks than ever before. But I love that cozy small room, the lace café curtains, the dusty bins and shelves of bric-a-brac, the beamed ceiling, and Annick Puisieux always greets us so warmly, and asks after us in our absence. It feels like home base. Started with the Terrine de Maison which was very tasty and then had Cote de Veau. Bman had the Pave de Boeuf and finished with a Moelleux au chocolat , always good here .We drank a bottle of Rully 1ere Cru. Our good friends were spotted dinning in the corner opposite with their French neighbors, including a man that had lived just across the street from here for most of his life. On our way out we swing by their table and have a jolly few minutes in our ever improving French and Monsieur et Madame, having seen us on many of, our annual trips want to know when we’ll be back. Noel prochain, j’espere. Noel prochain. Madame Puisieux kisses us on both cheeks as she hands over our coats. The evening ends my favorite way, the thing I think about most when I’m back home, a quiet stroll around the island taking in the Seine, the sights, the clear evening sky. About 90€.
Thanks, Hounds as always, for your generous and thoughtful guidance.