Paris trip in progress 2: Le BAT, Le Richer, Buvette, Will, Pirouette, La Cantine de la Cigale
Friday dinner at Le BAT. Pace Parigi, if you show up between 19h00 and 20h00, there is a "happy tapas" deal of one tapa and one glass of wine (one choice of red or white) for 9E, which is a pretty good deal. There were a few people inside but more outside. On the scale of things, if I am going to sit on the boulevard Montmartre on a cold, occasionally rainy day, I expect to be paid for my trouble, not the other way around. Anyway. The interior is quite nice, though I expect it is noisy when full. We ordered three tapas and two glasses of Sables Fauves. Salade de poulpe et coques was light on the poulpe (I saw another plate go by that was better, so maybe we should have sat at the kitchen bar to kibitz) but had a light, fresh flavour. Tartare de boeuf came wrapped in cecina (air-dried beef), sitting on a bed of crème d'artichaut (which thankfully did not interfere with the wine) and garnished with mandolined shavings of raw asparagus. Our third was a small piece of rascasse grillée with a vinaigrette mangue-lime. That was enough, and quite a lovely meal for a pretty low price.
Saturday dinner was at Le Richer. We arrived at eight and got the last table for two; those after us waited, crammed by the door or outside in the rain. (Two of them were the same Americans who had sat next to us at Pierre Sang Boyer.) We skipped entrées, and had as mains gigot d'agneau rôti (three thin slices), ail des ours (pureed and spread in a bright circle), carrotes au pain d'épices, salsifis, and cabillaud roti, orange et soja, épinards which came bathed in a citrus foam. Very nice. The dessert that beckoned to both of us was "comme un macaron", with the cookie halves on top of dollops of almond cream among strawberries macerated with tarragon, vanilla ice cream, and swirls of caramel beurre de sel underneath. A glass of Chinon (the server brought three bottles to the table for me to look at) rounded out the meal. Youthful atmosphere (I'm assuming the '80's pop was ironic), good hubbub in the room.
Sunday dinner at Buvette. Again, we arrived at eight, and got the last table; English was being spoken all around us when we arrived, though when we left at ten, it was mostly French, and no one was waiting by then. There were four specials, which didn't appeal to us (and dwindled to three and then two while we ate), so we ordered off the printed menu. Aspèrges blanches with hollandaise were not as fat as we'd seen in the market (which is good as far as I'm concerned) and had a nice flavour. Brandade de morue, made with house-salted cod, failed to impress, and the addition of chopped leeks did not help. Coq au vin is a dish I have not had in a French restaurant in ages, and this small cocotte had the flavour I remember (though no lardons, and coarsely-chopped white onions instead of pearl onions). Tarte Tatin was less sweet than usual (good) but also had less caramel flavour than I would like, and the crust was a bit leathery (ie it had been inverted some time ago). Mousse au chocolat, another classic, was really well done, and a generous serving (which I was glad that I was sharing). Service was rushed (there was one person working most of the place, occasionally two) and it took something like half an hour to get our cheque, for no good reason. Tables were tiny, which was good, because I had to lean over and place my mouth next to the ear of my companion (and vice-versa) to carry on a conversation. So, a mixed bag. I suspect I would recommend this only to people not comfortable with interacting in tourist French.
Monday lunch at Will (though they are closed Sunday and for Monday dinner, curiously). Room is sparingly designed and pleasant, service is friendly. The formule at 19E allows one to sample small portions of two entrées from the carte plus a plat du jour which is not on it. The entrées focus on the raw. Saumon saisi au sel came with thin slices of two kinds of radish and small cubes of mango. Carpaccio de maigre had some sort of citrus dressing, a ginger vinaigrette, and sprigs of basil. Hamachi came layered with grapefruit sections and a citrus reduction. Tartare de boeuf, the least successful of a spectacular lot, was dusted with gomashio and garnished with shreds of green mango. The plat du jour that day was a magret de canard. I confess to not caring much for duck breast, preferring the leg and thigh (which I have an unnatural fondness for), but this changed my mind. It was perfectly tender, including the surrounding fat, and came with a bowl of ethereal creamy purée de pommes de terre. All that for 19E each. We split one dessert, a panna cotta infused with Thai basil, topped with small cubes of roasted pineapple and a scoop of mango sorbet, all covered with a translucent sugar tuile, for another 9E. This one hit it out of the park, and I would recommend it to anyone.
Tuesday lunch at Pirouette. Well-designed space, friendly and efficient service. The 18E formule had no choice on the entrée, which was an effiloché de paleron de boeuf, soaked in jus and flavoured with soy, with radishes and grilled onions. There were two plats du jour, and each ordered one. The mains were about half the size of the portions we saw at tables that ordered off the carte. Merlu sauvage rôti came with small grilled fennel, large capers, and beurre à l'orange. Onglet de boeuf (requested à point, three small chunks cooked just right) came with small potatoes. I had a glass of the featured wine, a Rasteau, which went well with the food. While at Will we felt we were getting a representative look at the carte, here we felt we were missing out by not ordering à la carte, which would have cost us two to three times as much (still, if I were to go back, this is what I would do). The desserts did not inspire us, so we went off to Sadaharu Aoki and picked up a few items to eat in the apartment.
We were going to eat in for dinner on Tuesday, but our late-afternoon nap stretched a little too late, so we went up to La Cantine de la Cigale. Most of the outdoor tables were full (see comments above on le BAT, really, I find this behaviour in this area inexplicable) and the interior was almost empty. The atmosphere inside was not as convivial as at Troquet Dupleix, and the menu less inspiring. We opted to nibble on three entrées: oreilles de cochon grillée, couteaux, and tartare de boeuf with a soft-cooked egg. All were decent but not really inspiring; the pichet of Côteaux d'Aix rosé was a good accompaniment. Seems like it is worth the long trip to the south.
Other food notes: the kouglhof at Vandermeersch out on avenue Daumesnil is quite amazing, almost a different beast from the one I had from Stohrer in '96, which was harder, less redolent of orange, and more dusted with powdered sugar. This one, on the other hand, cost me more than many of my meals above, though it did last through several very indulgent breakfasts. And Sunday lunch, choice of locals in their neighbourhood, reminded me that there is still terrible food to be had in this town, even though I knew that much better food was steps away...
One more report to come.
"Sunday lunch, choice of locals in their neighbourhood, reminded me that there is still terrible food to be had in this town"
Excellent point. Some of our worst meals were at the suggestion of locals, often hosts. It's particularly difficult when the restaurateur is a personal friend of the recommending party, often the case.
Lesson learned, do your homework, or if time doesn't allow, cruise and choose a place that sings out to you.
Great report! We will be in Paris in September and most of these places were on my short list.
Looking forward to the rest of your report.