A week of delicious eating and wine in Paris and Alsace.
We just got back from a great vacation. Thanks to many of you CHers we had a fantastic week. In fact four times during the course of the trip [twice in Paris, once in Alsace, and once in Amsterdam at the tail-end of the vacation] I said to my wife, This is one of the best meals I've ever had in my life! So, very briefly:
Our first night in Paris I knew we would be jet-lagged, so we made early evening reservations at Le Barav in the Marais. We picked it because it was casual, and only a 5 minute walk from our apartment. Plus it has the wine shop right next door. My wife had the tartine chevre with a side salad, and I had the ravioles de Royen. My notes say "absolutely delicious!" We each had a glass of wine. Total bill came to E 32.50. Very friendly service. If you're in the neighborhood, it's a great spot. Not sure I would travel across the city to eat here, but it fit our needs perfectly. http://www.lebarav.fr/
The next night, after a day of tennis at the French Open, we went to Metropolitan in the 4th. w.metroresto.fr
I know John Talbot doesn't care for this place, but I would urge him to go back . . . What a meal. Super friendly service. I had a perfectly fried soft-boiled egg perched atop an asparagus veloute for a starter, and a mushroom-asparagus risotto for the main course. My wife had a perfectly cooked rouget for her main dish. We both had an absolutely amazing perfectly round meringue with fresh strawberries and a strawberry compote for dessert. Incredible dessert. [Photos on facebook!] I'd go back here in a heartbeat; the food was that good. We're still swooning over the dessert!
Our next meal was at Chez Mary Louise in the 10th. Small scale like Metropolitain, but a more traditional menu. My wife had an appetizer with artichokes that she thought were undercooked and not as flavorful as they could have been. I had a delicious appetizer of sliced eggplants. My wife's main course of scallop raviolis was delicious. I had a very good lamb stew en croute. Very filling. Probably a dish eaten best in the winter, as it was on the "hearty" side. I can't recall our desserts.
The next day we went to Jacques Genin's for "breakfast." My advice: if you order the hot chocolate, recognize that it is rich enough for two people to share. We didn't know! We also ordered the pastry of the day, which was a tarte citron. My wife thought it was incredible. I found it a touch too sweet. [Not that I complained.]
That night we went to Le Galopin for dinner. Seven-course fixed dinner. Amazing. Beautiful salad course with flowers. Thai soup. A seafood dish with wonderful squid [something I'd never tried before; they were fabulous]. My wife said the squid were prepared perfectly. Then a perfectly cooked fish dish [pollack] with petite peas. Then a dish of wagyu beef [we did have to send it back to have it cooked a little more - - - their sense of "medium" is what I would call "rare." This may be a difference in cultures/cooking styles. When it came back it was absolutely perfect. Two desserts: one with banana and grapefruit and a host of other tastes: basil, mint . . . and then a dish of fraises with an olive oil ice cream that was delicious. 46e per person, not including wine. Worth every euro. A restaurant I would return to.
By our last night, we were pretty full [plus we had gone to Chez MaryAnn for lunch] , so we picked up the makings of salad and got some cheese at the wonderful Fromagerie Jouannault [39, rue de bretagne] and had supper in our apartment.
In Alsace, one restaurant stands out: Cote Vigne, in the tiny town of Kientzheim. We thought the food in Alsace was generally delicious, but very heavy to our taste. But this restaurant was exceptional: we had the rouget, served with amazing grilled eggplant and tiny zucchini balls (the size of marbles) which were drop-dead delicious. Kientzheim is maybe 10 miles north of Colmar, just off the Route de Vin. Beautiful restaurant and very friendly service. And the crowd was a little younger than much of Alsace.
Finally, we got to spend an hour or so at the winery of Marcel Deiss. We met with Mssr. Deiss himself, who poured seven tastes, including two grand cru Gewurztraminers. He also spent a ton of time with us discussing his philosophy of wine growing [in a nutshell, "terroir trumps varietal"] and also talked about the economics of wine growing in Alsace. The tasting normally costs 15e, which is deducted if you purchase 50e or more of wine. Because we were traveling lightly, we couldn't buy any bottles. But for some reason, he decided to not charge us for the tasting. I've been to wine tastings at vineyards from California to Long Island, and this was right at the very top.
I hope these short reviews will be helpful for people planning their summer/Fall visits to France. If you want to see photos of the dishes/restaurants that I've mentioned, just look me up on Facebook.
[PS Managed to lose 1.5# during the trip. Not sure how I accomplished that!!]
Thanks for the comprehensive report, Barry. I will need to check out Cote Vigne on my next visit.
On the issue of wine tasting in Alsace, I have not found it common for wineries to charge for tastings. Even at some of the best wineries, e.g. Weinbach, Zind-Humbrecht, etc., there is no charge, and the tastings were always more generous than seven pours. Granted you will need to make an appointment, but that is all they ask of you.
But then again, Mr Deiss is known for doing things his own way.
I went back to review my photos, and the dessert at Chez Marie Louise was a fried banana in a caramel sauce, with a side scoop of ice cream whose flavor we simply couldn't identify! Croustillants de banana, sauce caramel laitier. And my appetizer of "sliced eggplants" was topped with a layer of in-house sun-dried tomatoes, all in a pesto sauce. My wife's appetzer was actually an arugula salad with very thinly sliced artichoke leaves. Salade d'artichaut trufee, parmesan et roquette. She thought the artichoke was tasteless and could have benefitted from more cooking. I had a small taste and thought it was tasty. (That was probably the truffle oil I was tasting!)
Thanks for the info, especially the part about Alsace. I'm putting Cote Vigne on my list of places to check out right away, because they have quite a few interesting asparagus preparations on the menu and the growing season will soon be over. I'm just so tired of asparagus cooked in water and served with a plate of ham and the same kind of sauce on side...
In your other thread, some time ago, you mentioned you would be staying in the hotel A l'Agneau in Katzenthal. Did you have a chance to eat there, other than breakfasts? I don't know the place, but the menu looks quite interesting...
We did stay there, and had dinner there our first two nights. The food was good -- in a very traditional Alsatian style, which was a bit on the heavy side for us. [We'd never had Alsatian fare before.] The two amuse bouches that were served were very good: shrimp atop a bed of small lentils, and a delicious yellow tomato gazpacho. I had a lamb dish the first night which I needed to have sent back for more cooking; just way too rare for me. My wife had a chicken dish with spaetzel which she said was delicious, but it was a huge portion and the sauce was [surprise!] on the heavy side. We didn't have their breakfasts, which were huge. (I should add that the owners of the hotel, and the wait staff, were totally lovely.)
Cote Vigne was a much lighter style of cooking.
I'm glad to hear that it went generally well at Hotel/ Restaurant Al'Agneau in Katzenthal. We like little Kientzheim -- especially strolling in the hillside vineyards right outside the town walls -- and so we will add Cote Vigne to our list, thanks. -- Jake
PS, for a lighter and somewhat elegant take on traditional Alsatian fare, I'll mention again a lovely little family-run place I described on one of the earlier threads: Le Pressoir de Bacchus, 50 route des Vins, 67650 Blienschwiller. (No Web site that I can find.) We really look forward to returning there.