Beaunne/Paris (with kids) Trip report
- non sequitur Aug 14, 2014 12:53 PM
Those following closely may recall that I posted that my "Aupres du Clocher" reservation had been cancelled due to an extended vacation, and I was seeking an alternative. As it turns out, fate had other plans: my flight from Miami to Lisbon was delayed, resulting in a missed connection to Paris, resulting in 15 hours of hellacious delay in Lisbon. Not only did I miss dinner on that day in Beaune, I also missed a night of accommodations, my car rental, an airport shuttle to an airport hotel, and even a place to stay for the night! 2 adults and 2 children had no choice but to drive from 12am to 3:30am to Beaune, where we slept in the car in the driveway to our B&B.
We did however make it to our lunch the following day.
The GPS took us on a bumpy winegrower road that nearly gutted the rental car, but after that initial stretch in Pommard, we were happy to find several signs indicating that we weren't completely lost. On arrival the kids enjoyed seeing the pigs, sheep and fowl that would visit many a plate in the future. Being slightly disoriented at that time, my recollection is not pristine, but we enjoyed a cold tomato soup (veloute de tomate et oeuf de poule) followed by guinea hen (Pintade rotie au jus en cocotte), cheese plate (the bowl of cheese was something new and very good) and apricot sorbet for dessert. No incidents with the children in the dining room (despite their fatigue). I was not really "wowed" by any particular item we ate, but the experience of seeing a working farm and how the ingredients come together make it exceedingly worthwhile for the 45E cost.
Later we went to Beaune where we found an open bakery for our first baguette of the trip (excellent), and our first torrential downpour that produced a river in the street. Our hostess at the B&B told us that the cannons they have to prevent hail (not very well it seems, given the 3rd year in a row that the vines were devastated), may lead to these abnormally heavy rains. The baguette and a bottle of "villages" from our base made for enough dinner after that large lunch.
The next day we headed for nearby Gervry-Chambertin, taking a road through the many famous winemaking villages along the way. Vines everywhere! Who ever knew there could be so many grapes.
After a tour of Gaugry Fromagerie (during "production hours", which during our visit was limited only to the room where they give the cheeses their daily rub-down), we headed to Chez Guy for a great value of a lunch. Kids were treated to chicken and a large pile of very well-received mashed potatoes. I had the 3-course lunch for 24E which was as amazing of a deal as the children's menu was for 12E. It included what appear to be many house specialties including a starter of "Jambon persillé maison, câpres à queue, mesclun à l'huile de noix" (a cooked ham in jelly), followed by "Joues de bœuf cuite 12 heures au vin rouge, carottes confites à la cardamome" (beef cheeks that fell apart at a touch after 12 hours braising in wine). Like I say, for the price it was a steal, and I'd highly recommend the place. The interior is formal but the clientele not at all - a pair of gents in soiled and torn clothes looked like they'd just come from tending the grapes.
Across the street we visited the caves of Phillipe Leclerc. Though the caves were a great self-tour, the wines to me all tasted alike. I picked up a bottle of sought-after 2009, but I have the remorse at the steep price (57E). Since they all tasted alike, the smarter move would have been to buy one of the less popular vintages (2009 being very hot, and pricey as a result).
At 3pm (this was a long day!) The 20E Jadot tour was well worthwhile. We saw the amazing production facilities, had a wide variety of samples, and purchased some older bottles that seemed good quality and value. It was explained that the shop had until recently been limited to the trade, and that the bottles there were sold largely at cost, making it a real opportunity for bargains. I know little of burgundy generally, but took 4 bottles (and had one of the 2 tour tickets "comped", making the visit an even better deal). Recommended! Unlike the LeClerc tour in Gervrey, I could detect differences in the wines here.
Because of our lunch reservation at Chez Guy, we couldn't make the one and only 11am tour at Fallot (mustard), but we did go to the shop to at least sample and purchase, only to find it closed. No matter: local carrefour had a large selection, probably at half the cost. Picked up a cassis version for it's strange pink color, without the benefit of sampling it first.
We'd hoped to sample more regional cuisine, but we already knew that summer closures ruled out many popular options (Ma Cuisine, P'tit Paradise, and now Aupres du Clocher). I never even got to eat a burgundian snail (probably not a bad thing for a squeamish Canadian).
I'll update post with Paris when time permits.
Spoiler alert: an enormous surprise at Ciel de Paris and an equal but opposite surprise at Restaurant AT... but which is which? Stay tuned.
Ok, I'll add a bit of Paris now.
We ate on the highway en route from Pommard, happy to find a working wifi on the way.
We had originally planned to visit Fountainbleau on the way from Paris to Pommard, but because the trip was made at 2am instead of 2pm, that didn't happen. We debated stopping in on the way to Paris, before remembering it is closed on Tuesday.
So on to Versailles we went, arriving around 2pm. It was easy to spot as an enormous sea of humanity beneath some gilded buildings. We got close enough to realize that we would never make it close to the inside without a very long wait on a very hot day, so we settled for some exterior photos to prove we'd been there, and little else.
Then to our apartment in the 9th (but really the 1st - who drew these lines?). Traffic was fine until we hit the area nearest the end, near Madeleine. The traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe was a breeze by comparison.
But because this is a food website, not a travel one, let's get to the point: unpacked and weary, we went somewhere nearby where we could get a drink:
We got here literally spot-on to get the "happy hour" from 7-8pm. On the one hand it was a little embarrassing to order tapas and wines 2 at a time, or 3, but the quality of the food and the fact that all the Parisians were sitting outside (and couldn't see us embarrass ourselves) made it the perfect crime.
The 4 of us were able to select from a list of eight tapas (each regularly 7E), with a glass of red or white wine (or beer or soft drink), for 9E:
"croquettes de porc" were one of the few hot tapas: 3 orbs to a plate, not one of the better values on the list but good.
"Carpaccio de Magret de canard" was raw sliced duck breast, beautifully presented and very tasty.
"tartare de boeuf" was one of the better choices, served with (I think) pomegranate seeds.
"thon marine" was a thai-influenced raw tuna (hence, another "tartare") that was enjoyed by all. Sufficiently to order 2 more times in fact.
"tartare d'espadon" was also a tartare, this time swordfish, and almost equal to the tuna.
Reservations were not necessary, and communication (in English) with the restaurant was easy and prompt. Great experience and just what the doctor ordered after a day on the road.
re: non sequitur
Indeed, we want more!
Vis a vis your finds, any egg at La Ruchotte is itself worth the visit. Like you, we were not wowed by other courses, but since our visit was also during an August, for some reason the farm's produce may not be at its best at that time.
You lucked out on the Fallot shop's being closed. We later found the same mustard we bought (Safron) cheaper at Auchon. And the cassis version that you bought is one of my favorite flavored mustards. I used an entire jar myself on pork rillette picnics last visit.
Thanks also for the continued update on BAT.
Get some rest and continue your story...
The next day we really began tourism in earnest. The plan was to visit Notre Dame and Ste. Chapelle in the morning, then have lunch at Restaurant AT. Things didn't go exactly as planned: the line to ascend N.D. was already huge at 10am, and there was a lovely drizzle that made me wonder how I could ever forget an umbrella. Or a jacket. Or a brain.
We descended at about 12:20, and it was a near miracle that we made it to our lunch reservation at 12:40 or earlier, which I consider exactly on time.
Ok, first thing to note is the name of the restaurant is terrible from a marketing POV: it is literally unsearchable on Google, on this board, or even here on Chowhound. Go ahead: go to the top of the page and try and find the place by searching the board.
The lunch menu is 45E, though you are certainly welcome to plunk down 85E for the dinner menu if you dare. There were 10 tables or less in the place, and only 3 of them were filled including our own, so either the press hullababallo has died down, or Parisians just don't honor their reservations when it rains.
Being cold and wet, we ordered green tea (thought appropriate given the venue) for each of us. For some reason we were each brought a separate pot, rather than the more sensible communal pot for all. Stranger still: each pot was packed with sufficent leaves FOR a communal pot. By the second (and final) pour, the tea was so bitter as to be undrinkable.
The food itself was a highlight. In fact it was too much, probably because I had to help our youngest with his meal in addition to my own. We accepted a 20E supplement of an additional foie gras dish (because I couldn't believe we hadn't had any to this point in the trip), and it was spectacular in appearance, despite its dimunutive size (it could be eaten in a spoonful). Everything was artfully prepared: carbon chip (signature item, it would seem), the crab dish (wonderful), veal served with strange tweezers (great texture and unique), raw tuna under radish, the foccacia (I agree with John T that this is completely unnecessary), a matcha-dusted fish with mussels... by the time we got to the lamb chop atop "camouflage", I had really abused my stomach enough.
So for 45E, quite a deal, no? Well, there is a hitch. John T's first review alluded to an attempt to charge for regular water. I took heed and tried to avoid the same mistake (and was too wet and jetlagged for wine), so as noted above, we went with the tea. It left a bitter taste in my mouth, but nowhere near as bitter as seeing it appear 4 times on the bill for 8E each! Because there was a brief cessation of rain outside, we were in a hurry to leave, so I didn't pay very much attention to the bill, and that was a 32E mistake that really spoiled what would otherwise have been a remarkable lunch. I even emailed the restaurant that night to see if it was a mistake, but they were much less responsive after the meal than they had been before it.
Chef Atsushi Tenaka is an obvious talent, but the front office charging the equivalent of US$50 for undrinkable tea is something that could cost the fledgling restaurant much goodwill at a critical time.
For dinner, I had air. I had no room in my belly (or my wallet) for so much as a slice of cheese. Probably had a glass of wine though. Amongst my many discoveries in France is that I could buy a perfectly drinkable bordeaux or cote de Rhone for under 5E at the Monop' across from my apartment. Imagine: A bottle of wine for half the cost of a cup of tea at AT! (just can't resist one final jab I guess - need to get my 32E worth).
re: non sequitur
That tea issue does sound so petty. The AT staff could/should have advised you better, such as suggesting and offering a pot, instead of giving you 4 cups of tea that they knew would soon become excessively bitter.
A defense that is not one: In restaurants in France, you order tea only after you have finished dessert, in the very end, to wash down allthe grease, and therefore it comes in individual cups.
Still, a good restaurant could/should have advised you better.
It did come in a pot: "For some reason we were each brought a separate pot....."
I would also assume I would be asked, I could also assume they may have a tea menu, but I wasn't there so can't guess what was asked for.
It could have been Gyokuro a tea that is brewed for a long period and needs lots of leaves to achieve the flavour as its often brewed at low temperatures - too hot and it extracts bitter tastes. Where I live a cheap one is US$48 for 50g retail.
If it was a gyôkuro, all the less a reason to let it oversteep.
Like you say I wasn't there, and there could have been a lack of pedagogy from the restaurant. If the leaves were packed right in the teapot, that means all the water has to be poured out in one service and replaced later for second steeping. If they were packed in a filter, the filter should have been removed after steeping. Usually the service informs the customer of such things. Or that means deliberately spoiling a 50€ tea serving.
Agree - tea is often thought of as a simple drink but fine teas are complex requiring specific preparation and service.
The restaurant may assume the diner understands how to treat the tea, and the diner may not be aware of the correct process. The result can be a poorly brewed tea and thus disappointment.
Nearly nobody serves Asian teas properly in Paris (and I'm particularly thinking of the artsy, systematic green tea or white tea, individual iron kettle crowd) but I too am rather surprised that a Japanese chef should indulge in the French tea inanity, serve it in a way that it oversteeps and become undrinkable, and charge a fortune for it.
I was contributorally negligent in basing my expectation on other asian restaurants that may not be good guides: Hakkassan (expensive London-based, though perhaps chinese and not Japanese now that I think about it) serves us an entire pot for the equivalent of 5E less than the price of a cup at AT. That prior experience led me to believe tea would be an inexpensive alternative to paying for water.
The point is: AT staff need to better explain the beverage charges up front (water, and now tea). When I opened the pot the amount of leaves was a little shocking, and they were pretty jammed in there. Maybe it was something special, but if so it wasn't explained to me (and should for sure have been topped up, but then would I be paying for THAT water?).
The lesson for me: stick with wine. Cheapest bottle is fine. It is a better pairing, and maybe even keeps the kids quiet (ha).
re: non sequitur
I think the name you find on the internet is "Restaurant A.T Atsushi Tanaka" if you use the full name it comes up.
Reference the tea. What type of tea was it? The Japanese take their tea very seriously and some of it is very expensive - more expensive than wine. In my experience better Asian restaurants serve in smaller individual pots, big communal pots are more common in the large mass market ones. Did they not have the price on the menu? Did they not provide hot water to balance the strength of the tea in the pot?
"I think the name you find on the internet is "Restaurant A.T Atsushi Tanaka" if you use the full name it comes up."
They really need to play up the "Atsushi" part of the name and downplay the "A.T." or "AT", because the latter simply don't work for searching at all.
"What type of tea was it?"
I just asked for green tea. Not on the menu.
"Did they not provide hot water to balance the strength of the tea in the pot?"
Shame on me for not asking the price I guess (if you have to ask, you can't afford it... even when it comes to tea). The funny thing is that I had actually mentioned the fact I'd read 2 reviews (one of them John's) mention being charged for tap water, but fore-knowledge was of no help to me when it came to tea.
re: non sequitur
Maybe a lesson in going "off piste" in restaurants in France. It's not the norm so as you found can be expensive. I see from John's blog that the water is not tap but filtered - his second review says it was €2. I wonder if they do unfiltered tap - which I thought was the legal requirement in France.
With minecraft acting as the babysitter, and all hyper on my afternoon coffee, I continue:
This was perhaps the meal of most anticipation of the trip, and with me that is always a fatal thing: inevitably, it cannot live up to the months of fantasizing, and so it was. I had read so many conflicting reports about the wine pairings (from euphoric praise to ... well Jeremy Holmes' review). Still feeling the pinch of the green tea hijacking (I really do brood), we opted to not take the 60E gamble on the pairings.
We began with a tomato soup with frozen chevre and a meaty ice cream (and by meaty I mean, literally, ice cream flavored like meat). This was interesting, and one of the only real feats of creativity in the meal. Next came a mackerel tartare with lots of greens - I'm sure they were all very organic and special and perhaps even rare, but I'm more focused on substance than style (the mackerel itself was quite good). Next there was another fish, this one white, cooked and flaky, and served with bits of corn, a leaf of red and white cabbage, and foam.
I'll pause here to note that the problem with a 'no menu' place is that I am a mess at trying to describe everything unless it really makes a profound impression, and I guess at Saturne this wasn't the case.
After the 2 fish dishes came a meat dish (my description is just devolving completely at this point at this point, no?) with lots of skinny root vegetables and pretty greens. Again, it was well-prepared, but almost something I could make myself if I had pretty enough weeds growing outside the house - alas, mine are all ugly and probably poisonous. We ended with a rhubarb-and-raspberry concoction that was refreshing but not particularly inspired.
Some online reviews pointed out that I would be offered a starter of ham (I wasn't, probably being so close to the summer closure) and a cheese plate which would consist of a mound of comte shavings. Forewarned, and not hungering for comte, I declined. The table with 2 asian women next to me were not so lucky: a heaping plate of the stuff descended on them, and they obviously struggled to finish it while the waitress taunted them ("are you going to sleep with that?" and "shall I take a picture and post it on facebook?"). Due to the double language barrier (French to English and English to Japanese), I don't think the guests took much offense, though I did. It was just one thing that contributed to Saturne being a disappointment.
2 side notes, for those who followed my prior posts:
No, we didn't bring the boys, and this was a wise move on many levels (cost, enjoyment, lateness and the food itself).
No, I didn't wear a jacket: I brought one to France just for this meal, and then forgot to wear it. And a damn good thing too: the room was BOILING, even for a guy from Miami. I read a review from 2013 saying air conditioning was coming soon, but apparently not. Had I worn a jacket I would have expired half way between my second fish dish. There was nary a jacket in the house, so for those concerned about dress code, worry not.
re: non sequitur
Where did you get the idea you need a jacket at Saturne? It's a pretty hip/casual modern restaurant - no dress code at all......? I also thought they give you a copy of the menu at the end of the meal to take with you - did you not receive one?
Am I missing something about the conversation about the cheese....?
"Where did you get the idea you need a jacket at Saturne?"
I think it was one of the last things I asked before leaving. A sport-coat was suggested as not being out of place, but not mandatory.
Copy of the menu: no.
The conversation about the cheese: well to me the tone of the waitress was very condescending. Perhaps that doesn't come across in writing. She was being pretty insulting to these people who didn't seem to detect the insult. That's all. I'm just glad it wasn't me sitting in the heat with the pile of cheese.
While minecraft babysits my children (it's a computer game, John), I'll continue...
On Friday we went to a different part of town to see Invalides, war museum and the Rodin museum (which would have been much nicer in the NOT-rain). That took us to Montparnasse, and the biggest culinary shocker of the trip:
CIEL DE PARIS
I arrived combative: I'd made my reservation as early as possible, 2 months, and I was determined to get a seat by the window after walking in so much rain (the clouds, I swear, gathered whenever I breathed the air outside). No need to fret: we 4 were seated right next to the glass with a beautiful view of Mr. Eiffel's glory (and the periodic rains that clouded it).
We expected a view from this tourist trap, but what was so unexpected was the value and quality of the 30E (2-plat) menu. The kids (who I expected to also pay 30E for), got a surprise 24E menu that included a bottle (!) of Lorina lemonade or coca-cola, which I'd come to learn is an expensive indulgence in paris. They began with an enormous salad and proceeded to either a wonderful chicken with mushroom pasta, or equally wonderful fish with beurre blanc, each with tiny carafes of the most delicious sauce. Both finished with a plate of THREE sorbets, each seated on pistachios and topped with wafers. FANTASTIC! Kids were in heaven, and given the elevation and perspective, this was entirely appropriate.
I began with a celerac muillefeuille in remoulade sauce, topped with summer truffles. Refreshing and delicious (though the summer truffles didn't add much other than being truffles and sounding fancy - we all know it's perigords or bust, right?). My wife had the duo de tartare: cod and salmon with a spinach salad - WOW! That would be my choice next time.
Next she had the dish of the day, which was a sizeable braised lamb on polenta - very good. I had the "guinea fowl pastille with mushrooms and foie gras leaks, meunieres style" - YUM! The foie here was in the sauce, not hunks and chunks, but still the earthy pocket wrapped in pastry was delicious.
We didn't go with dessert (though available for 9E more), because we saw that the coffee came with macarons, which was more than enough after this surprisingly large meal. We had planned to go to Petit Colbert for dinner, expecting this to be a small lunch, but ended up cancelling!
So just as high expectations torpedoed Saturne for me (it wasn't bad, it was actually very good, just not great), low expectations elevated Ciel to the top of the heap this trip - Absolute shocker.
Either I was still euphoric from climbing 670 stairs in the Eiffel Tower the day before, or you Paris hounds need to give a second opinion. If I was right, I doubt it will be 30/39E for long.