About

"The reluctant Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Au Petit Tonneau -- Restaurant Review




Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

3.25 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 3 - Bell

Having returned to France from our winter break, for whatever reason I wanted to go to a classic old-school French Bistro. Et voila, I recommended to our friends that we go to this restaurant in 7th. It's in a "nice" area of Paris the 7eme. In fact, it's not too far and on the same block as 1-starred Michelin restaurant David Toutain (see my review of "David Toutain").

20 rue Surcouf, 7eme
Tel. 01-47-05-09-01
Metro: Invalides or La Tour-Maubourg
Closed Monday


It's not a large restaurant it harkened to the old days of typical classic bistros. The tables had the red and white checkered tablecloths of yesteryear, and the tables were snug next to one another, so they had to be pulled out if you were against a wall so you can be let it. So, let's say it was cozy.



They had a nice menu, good selections of old French classic dishes. The menu was 2-sided, in French on one side, and English on the other side.  Some of us were concerned about it being quite heavy and hardy, but I figured we don't do it often, so why not.


















They also had a prix-fixe lunch menu that was reasonably priced at 24€ for a entrée + plat and 29€ for all 3-courses. Three of us opted the lunch special and one opted a-la-carte.

On the tables were already some dried sausages and cornichons, and some sliced radishes, which I assumed served as the amuse bouche.







ENTRÉE


Oeuf poché, pleurotes à la crème et jambon de pays (Poached egg, oyster mushrooms and local ham). This was a great start. The egg sat atop of some cream. Scattered at the bottom were oyster mushrooms, and sitting atop of the dish were slices of local dried ham. The eggs was perfectly poached, and at first bite I thought it needed salt, but as I dug into the dish, the addition of the ham brought a nice saltiness to the dish. And, the mushrooms were a nice accompaniment and bonus. Overall, an excellent entrée.




Salad with Blue Cheese. A salad made with frisée. It was a great salad with nice big chunks of Roquefort cheese, and it had the added crunchiness of walnuts. The dressing was a bit on the tart side for my taste, but JJ loved it. Overall it was a good basic salad.










PLATS


Filet de Daurade Plancha, écrasé de pommes de terre aux agrumes. (Filet of Sea bream pan fried, served with smashed citrus potatoes). It's not a particularly attractive dish. The fish was nice and tender, unfortunately, the skin was not as crisp as I would've wanted it to be, but still delicious. The combination of the citrus to the potatoes was a good idea, it gave the fish a little more freshness.  The dish could've definitely needed something green to liven it up.



Veal Kidney served in a madeira sauce.  JJ ordered the kidney. The kidney came alone and you can add (4€) an accompaniment of several greens such as a salad or haricot vert or potatoes. JJ opted for another salad. I like kidneys, but not a big fan of it. I did taste it and I have to say it was very good. The kidney was covered in a madeira sauce that incorporated mushrooms, onions and some slices of bacon. It's definitely not a light dish, but overall a very good dish.





DESSERTS 



And, for desserts, the three each had classic french desserts:  tarte citron (lemon tart), tarte tatin (apple tart), and Mousse chocolat (chocolate mousse).  All very good, but nothing out of the ordinary.


WINES

RED -- La demoiselle d’haut-peyrat Haut Medoc 2012 -- A red wine from the Bordeaux area. Expert describe this wine as having tasting notes of dark fruits and berries such as plum and blackcurrant. And, the tannins tend to be relatively high in these wines, giving them a firm structure.

WHITE -- Pascal Jolivet attitude 2015 sauvignon blanc 2015 -- A wine from the Loire Valley. Experts describe the taste as having delicate aromas of lime, green apple, kiwi fruit and some vegetal notes. Mineral notes give the wine a pleasant mouthfeel, balanced with good acidity and a citrus fresh finish.


SUMMARY

If you're craving for old school, retro French food, then this is the bistro for you. The restaurant provided quite an array of old French classics. With the exception of one person, we all wanted a lighter fare, so three of us chose the fish dish. We all enjoyed the entrée of poached eggs. The salad was good. And, I did notice that there wasn't much greens being offered, unless you ordered a-la-carte. So, I guess it was a good thing that JJ ordered a salad for an entrée and also for an accompaniment to this main course of veal kidneys since the portions were large and we were able to share them. The restaurant serves very good old French classics. The service was excellent. It is definitely above average, but nothing outstanding. Would we go back, pourquoi pas?

With 3-prix-fixe lunches with 2 ordering the 3-course meal, and I ordered the 2-course meal., 1 a-la-carte of veal kidney and 1-dessert, with 1-bottle of wine, 2-glasses of wine, and 3-coffees our bill came to 181€ for 4-people or 45.25€ per person.

Monday, February 13, 2017

L'Escudella -- Restaurant Review


41 ave de Ségur -- 75007
Tel: 09.82.28.70.70
email: Escudella18@gmail.com
Metro: Ségur (10) or  St. Francois-Xavier (13)
Closed: Saturday and Sundays

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

4.25 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 3 - Bell

We're back. Returned a week ago from our winter break in the U.S. and back to exploring new restaurants. Our good friend J is also in town and recommended this restaurant. This restaurant promotes French cuisine with a new "inventive" twist, and I would agree with that.

The interior is cozy enough. It's not a large restaurant, I counted 28-seats.






The menu had quite a nice selection.  It appears the menu changes, since it was basically a printout presented to us on a clipboard. They did have a "plat du jour" which was a pintade (guinea fowl).












To begin, we started out with an amuse bouche which was Japanese inspired. It was a wrapped tourteau (Atlantic crab). It was presented like nori-maki sushi with chopsticks. There was no rice, it was basically crab folded with mayonnaise. It had a light taste and not overwhelming, so it was a good start.






ENTRÉE

Chorizo de boeuf wagyu (Beef Chorizo). This was from their "tapas" section of their menu. This dish was inspired by Spain. We got this to share. At first I thought, what a waste using wagyu, probably because I associate this with very high high-end beef served as a steak. Wagyu beef is now farmed locally in France, so much easier to obtain. It was very, tasty and the fat level was perfect, not too oily and the heat (spicy) level hit at the end, but was not overwhelming. Excellent.




Carpaccio de betterave crapaudine cuite au gros sel, mousse de betterave et condiments (Carpaccio of beets cooked with coarse salt, beet mousse and condiments). For France, this was quite a hearty entrée. The beets were beautifully presented with sliced beets and a mousse of beets. Atop sat toasted pine nuts, crumbled hard boiled eggs and some thin olive slices which elevated the dish. Overall, a very well composed dish.



PLATS

Pintade (guinea fowl). Two of us got the special of the day. It was lightly roasted served with an "au jus" and topped with greens. And, it was served with a side of mashed potatoes. To me guinea fowl tastes like a cross between a chicken and turkey. The meat is very lean, and I find the meat much more flavorful and moist than other fowls. In its simplicity, the dish was very good.





Poitrine de cochon confite, jus aux couteaux, wakame, pâtes à l’encre de sèche [Confied pork belly, gravy, wakame (seaweed), pasta with dry cuttlefish ink].  I am going to assume that this dish is Italian and Japanese influenced. I ordered this dish. I thought it was an excellent dish. Now this dish isn't for everyone, since pork belly can be extremely fatty. But this had to be one of the best roasted pork bellies I've ever had. It had a perfectly crusty salty exterior, and the interior was melt in your mouth, albeit fatty and rich. The black pasta was a nice accompaniment. Overall an excellent dish.



DESSERT

Paris "Carcassone" (Paris Brest).  I had no idea that there was a Paris "Carcassone", now I know the "Paris-Brest" so I assume that they might have a variation from the Carcassone region. I had a little bite of it, it was extremely light and airy, unfortunately I did bite into one of the more well done hazelnuts, burnt actually, so it did have a little bitter taste, otherwise it was a good dessert.





WINES



As usual, we ordered a bottle of white and a bottle of red. The white was from the Languedoc region, a Chateau de Valflaunès, "Pourquoi Pas". We had to laugh at the name, "pourquoi pas", why not? It's a white wine known for it's dry, herby ripe-fruit flavors from Pic Saint-Loup. It's not a heavy wine, light and refreshing.

Chinon “Les Terrasses," Lambert.  It's a light red wine using 100% Cabernet Franc. It's known for its wild musky nose, dense fruit, and the terroir of calcareous clay atop the region's famous tuffeau. It can be served with a slight chill and suggested to drink young!


SUMMARY

They tout themselves as serving French cuisine with an "inventive" twist. I would have to agree. Their cuisine was influenced from Japan, Italy and Spain. I have to say, all the dishes were beautifully presented and excellent. The service was excellent. It is a small restaurant, so once it filled up it got a little noisy and hard to hear. The only complaint I have is the hazel nut in the dessert was a bit burnt, which gave it a bitter taste, otherwise the other components of the dessert were delicious. Would we go back, absolutely.

For 2-entrées, 3-plats, 1-dessert, 2-bottles of wine, 3-coffees our bill came to 47.50€ per person (there were 3 of us).










Monday, December 5, 2016

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!




Let us celebrate all that connects us to one another
Célébrons tout ce qui nous lie les uns aux autres
Celebremos todo aquello que nos conecta uno al otro

I wish you a Happy New Year 2017, full of success, joy and health for you and your family.
Je vous souhaite une bonne année 2017, plein de success, de joie et de santé à vous et votre famille.
Ich wünsche Ihnen und Ihrer Familie ein frohes neues Jahr 2017, Gesundheit und Erfolg.

l'année prochaine

(Please note, I will not be posting until I return from my US hajj to Paris in February 2017

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Montée -- Restaurant Review


9, rue Leopold Robert 75014
Tel: 01.43.25.57.63
Metro: Montparnasse 

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

4.25 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 2 - Bell

The 14eme is close to our home, so we often go to the heart of the 14eme, Montparnasse, to meet friends for drinks. Today our friend J recommended we go to a new restaurant called Montée. As we got close, we thought we were lost because there was no signage. But there was a familiar looking restaurant that we had been to before called "Sur le Fil". Turns out it was bought out by Chef Takayuki Namesura and his wife and they haven't been able to change the signage yet. Knowing France, it takes an act of God because of all the bureaucracy to change a sign, so I think it'll remain "Sur le Fil" on the canopy for a bit.


This is not a large restaurant, based on what I counted there were 28 seats in total, some in the front, the hallway cubby to the back, and back area. Small, but did not feel crowded.



This restaurant offers only a tasting menu. There were 8-courses, without an a la carte menu. However, they will ask you if you're allergic to anything and they will easily change it out.



















Before we began our tasting menu, along with aperitifs we ordered, we were given an amuse bouche of caramelized walnuts. I never really considered having a sweet morsel for an amuse bouche, but it was actually good with our aperitifs.








1st course -- Morue.  It was a cod mixture with a mayonnaise based binding agent. It was served with a wheat bread. Surprisingly the bread was not heavy and was quite light. The crust was crunchy, just the way I like it. We all agreed this was a simple and delicious start and the cod was delicious.




2nd course -- avocat/thon/asperge verte. Now this dish was beautifully composed. Imagine using avocado as a casing around asparagus. I would be nervous about the avocat turning brown. Atop of the roll were black shaved truffles with edible flowers. Inside is chopped tuna which gave the dish a nice surprise, and the the asparagus was perfectly cooked. This dish was not only beautiful presented, but was very refreshing, since it is served cold.


3rd course -- Calamar/noix de coco. This was a calamari served with bulgur wheat and a side of "shiso"  liqueur foam. What interesting flavor combinations. First of all the calamari was perfectly cooked tender, not rubbery at all. And, the bulgur gave it a nice starch element. But what was really surprising was the Shiso liqueur foam. Shiso is a green herb similar to mint. It was really a nice surprise to the palette. It literally tickled your palette because it is effervescent and a nice unexpected flavor explosion.





4th course -- Turbot/oseilles/coque.  I have to say, the Japanese know how to prepare and cook fish really well. The turbot was poached and topped with fresh julienne oseilles, which gave it that added freshness. It was also served with leeks and a thin slice of cockle. I thought the whole dish was excellent, but our friend J was not as enthused as we were with the leeks. 



5th course -- Cochon/lentilles germées.  A pork dish. Interestingly to note, at every single course they changed out our utensils, as they should, but we got to choose the color knifes we wanted for the meat course. Very playful. At first I thought it was pork belly, but it wasn't fatty enough. The pork was succulent and had a little sweetness to it. And, what I particularly liked was the sprouted lentils. Oftentimes lentils are cooked til they're mushy, these had a bite to them. I also believe he added a little citrus to cut some of the fat. I loved this dish.


6th course --  Pomme/safran/cidre.  I was so impressed at this stage, I said, pourquoi pas (why not) have dessert, so I did. And, am I glad I did. The 4-tubes encasing the apples was actually one piece. The casing was a light crispy wafer, how he baked it into one piece and filling it without cracking is genius. The flavor profile combination was great. Fruit, crunchy and soft (vanilla ice cream infused with saffron). It wasn't overwhelmingly sweet, which I liked, so it was worth breaking my dietary no sugar rule.


7th & 8th course -- Marron & Oreillettes.  At the end of this amazing feast we had a candied chestnut and eaten with sugared delicate wafers. The chestnuts almost tasted like it was a jellied candy. How he achieved this is anyone's guess. Overall, I don't think we needed the last 2 since at this point I was already full, but they certainly were good.









WINES -- Medoc and two glasses of their house white wine. J and JJ both liked the red wine. This particular medoc is known for their soft tannins and a little spicy and some describe as having smoky black cherries flavors.

I had 2-glasses of their house white wine, they featured 2-choices. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask what they were. But they did let me taste the two different wines so I could make a selection.










SUMMARY

This is an unassuming small restaurant tucked away on a small side street of the otherwise busy Montparnasse area of the 14eme. It's only been open for 3-months. Amazingly enough Chef Takayuki came to France just a year and half ago. Imagine opening up a restaurant and learning French real quick. Very impressive I must add. Now onto the food. It is a tasting menu, and there was no a la carte menu, but you can make substitutions. At first glance, you're thinking, there's no way I can finish 8-courses, but the portions were perfect. I'm not a big eater but I was surprised that I was able to finish all the courses. The food is excellent. The service impeccable. Imagine changing out the silverware 8 different times. What was very playful was when the meat course came, they asked us what color knife we would like. I have to say I pretty much liked everything, but didn't think it necessary to have 7th and 8th course. Although the Japanese know how to prepare and cook fish perfectly, if I had to choose which was my favorite, probably the pork. Would we go back, ABSOLUTELY.  I highly recommend going before it becomes difficult to get a reservation.

For 3-people, 3-tasting menus, 1-pastis, 4-glasses of wine, a bottle of medoc and a coffee our meal came to 207€ or 69€ a person.

Note: Since we were the only customers for lunch, I couldn't gauge the noise level; however, based on my experience with "Sur le Fil" I rated it accordingly.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Table -- Restaurant Review



Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

3.80 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 3 - Bell


This restaurant was recommended by my good friend E.M. It's in the 12eme arrondissement which is quite a schlep for all of us since we live on the "Rive Gauche" (left-bank).  It's a pretty tight restaurant (packed-in), and the focal point of the restaurant is the very long open kitchen. In fact, there is a stainless steel bar along the kitchen where you can dine and at the end, where we were, juts out side-ways so it can accommodate 5-people easily. You literally sit next to the chef's preparing your meal. Personally, I love this because to me a well run kitchen, which this was, is a sign of good things to come. The bar seats were difficult to move, but once seated they were very comfortable. There are also tables available, if you don't want to be that up close and personal with the chefs.


The kitchen was staffed by the Chef/owner himself Bruno Verjus who was an entrepreneur, blogger and even a food critic before becoming the head chef/owner.


We perused the menu, they did have a prix-fixe lunch or what they called "menu rapide", which means "quick menu" probably for the folks who have to work. Two courses for 25€ and 29€ for 3-courses. They had a very good selection on their lunch menu. And, it looks like it changes daily because the date was printed on the menu. Oddly enough, the prix-fixe came from the regular menu, and ordering a-la-carte would've been very expensive, so the trick is to order the prix-fixe, so that's what we all did except I had cheese versus the sweet dessert.  We did however have to ask what was on the prixe-fixe as they only tell you if you ask. 

ENTRÉE

Topinambour toasté en volouté (Jerusalem artichoke toasted soup).  The soup was served lukewarm, whether intentional or not, the soup itself was very tasty. The soup was topped with toasted cocoa beans and a parsley olive oil drizzle. At first, I took a little piece of the cocoa and thought they were toasted peanuts roasted with cocoa powder, it was strangely bitter and had a bit of a burnt quality, but in combination with the soup it was ok. Overall, I liked the soup, but not so much the toasted cocoa beans. Personally, I think toasted nuts would've been better, but the others in my group liked it.






PLATS



Lotte de L’ile de’Yeu (Lotte fish from the Island of Yeu).  Lotte fish or monkfish is otherwise known as a poor man's lobster, since it's a relatively meaty fish. I thought the fish was cooked really well. It was extremely moist. I along with one other person had bones (we were 5), but that doesn't bother me at all, since I know how difficult it can be to bone fish. It was topped with "kelp" which if one has not tasted it is somewhat rubbery in texture, but I happen to like kelp. This particular kelp did not have the characteristic saltiness; either way I would've still liked it.


The brussel sprouts were al-dente, some would find this undercooked, but I like a bite to my vegetables. The fish was also served with a cannelle shaped mousse of pureed cauliflower. I really liked it because they used seeded mustard to give it a little kick. And, they also used a sprinkling of raw purple broccoli to add some freshness. And, it also had a splattering of capers, to give it a little saltiness. Overall, I really thought this was an excellently composed dish.



DESSERTS

Ananas bouteille du Bénin (Bottle shaped pineapples from Benin). One of things that this restaurant is known for is their rotisserie. And, as we entered we all noticed a whole pineapple being roasted. My friend thought it was a good dessert. But, I got the impression from them that it was good, but nothing outstanding. It was served with a vanilla ice cream drizzled with a caramelized sugar.








Assiette de fromage (cheese plate). As we entered I saw a board of whole cheeses in the middle of the bar. So, of course I had the cheese plate. But they gave me such a large portion I shared it with the whole table and we still couldn't finish it. The cheeses were great. They were all firm aged cheeses. All delicious. Like I always say, you can never go wrong with cheeses in France.






WINES

The restaurant actually has a resident sommelier. After perusing the large, many pages, wine menu, which by the way, they have quite an extensive selections of wines displayed along their walls,  JJ found a red he knew, whereas, I asked for a recommendation for a white.

Carco -- a red wine from Corsica. I'm not normally a red wine drinker, I tasted and really enjoyed it. It's a lighter red and has some fruitiness, but not sweet. So, this Corsican wine went well with our meal.

Brand et Fils -- I really liked this wine. Two of us had a glass of it. I asked the sommelier for a recommendation. I wanted something that was not too dry but smooth. And, that's exactly what this wine was. I'm not by any means a wine expert, but the only way I can describe this is that it had a wet quality which almost quenches your thirst. I really enjoyed this wine.

The two of us who ordered the white asked for another round during dessert. Unbeknownst to us, not asked or told, we were given a different wine because the sommelier decided we should have a slightly sweeter wine. At first I was perplexed and annoyed, but after tasting the wine, we agreed it with better with the e.g., cheeses.


SUMMARY

This is the closest you'll get to eating at a "Chef's table," assuming you ask for a seat at the bar. I happen to enjoy this style of eating, because what goes on in a kitchen tells me a lot about how the food is prepared and the cohesiveness of the staff also tells me a lot.  Now onto the food, my favorite dish was the fish along with the different side dishes. I liked the soup, but in all honesty to my friends, they could've used regular nuts, and not cocoa beans. For me it oddly had a burnt, bitter quality to them, which is characteristic of roasted cocoa beans. But the soup itself was delicious. The pineapple and ice cream I was told was good. The cheeses were excellent. As for the service, with the exception of the sommelier being a bit presumptuous deciding what we should have with our cheese/dessert before asking, it was EXCELLENT. The maitre'd could not have been more accommodating and helpful. And, since we're practically in the the kitchen we spoke with the sous chefs who were very friendly, and helpful by serving us the main courses. Also, you can have Chef Bruno cook for you personally a tasting menu, which you have to pre-book. The restaurant is noisy, and at times it was difficult to hear. It was a fun experience, and we agreed we'd go back.

With four 3-course prix-fixe, one 2-course prix-fixe, cheese plate, 2-bottles of wine, 4-glasses of white wine, several bottles of water it came to 53€ a person. Note: the wines are expensive.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Carré des feuillants -- Restaurant Review


14 rue de Castiglione – 75001 Paris
Tél : 01 42 86 82 82
Metro: Line 8 & 12 (Concorde)
Website:  http://www.alaindutournier.com/wp/carredesfeuillants/visite/

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

3.25 - Star......................................................€€€€......................................................... 2 - Bell

Because of the tourist drop in Paris, many Michelin starred restaurants are trying to recoup losses by offering lunch specials at "reasonable" prices. Reasonable being subjective. For example, what would normally cost 200€ for lunch would now costs under 100€ without wines, coffee etc.

A good friend recommended we try this restaurant, so it was the first for all of us. At the helm is famed Chef/Restaurateur Alain Dutournier, who also owns 3-other restaurants throughout Paris. This is a two-starred Michelin restaurant. We were seven and given a private room, the main dining area was not full at all. The restaurant is comfortable and beautifully appointed with artwork and comfortable table and chairs. What was being offered was a lunch special for 68€ which included a "starter", entrée (3-choices), plat (3-choices), and dessert (3-choices).

These are the dishes I had:


Amuse bouche.  We were presented with beautiful spoonfuls of various tidbits of e.g., foie gras in a cookie like encasement. An edible balloon (ala molecular gastronomy style cooking). Each were tasty and unique, so a very good start.
















Starter.  Brandade légère de haddock en rouleau végétal. (Light Haddock in a vegetable Roll).  I actually enjoyed this dish. At first I thought it tasted a little bit like tuna, but lighter. It had a pleasing texture and I'm going to assume the casing was some type of thinned out turnip. The sauce a nice accompaniment. Overall, it was a good dish.




ENTRÉE


Persille de raie, legumes confits, quenelle crémeuse. (Skate fish, candied vegetables, creamy dumplings).  The skate fish was created in a terrine mold and was served as a slice. Normally I find these type of terrine molds to be very off putting since they're heaving with the gelatin. However, this had the right balance and it was perfectly balanced. I did like the vegetables, especially the artichoke hearts and the "quenelle", which was nice and light and a nice accompaniment. Overall, a very well composed dish.  However you would have no idea that skate was used in the dish.






PLAT


Filet de veau poêlée, champignons sauvages étuves, macaronis forestiere. (Pan cooked filet of veal, wild baked mushrooms, macaroni forest). Interestingly enough, the waiter never asked us how we wanted our veal cooked. One of my friends asked his veal to be served "rosé" pink (rare). However, those of us who ordered it all came out with either medium well, or close to well done. Although the veal was "overcooked" it was extremely tasty and tender, but then again veal is characteristically tender. The macaroni was a good accompaniment, but was nothing special. And, the mushrooms were delicious albeit they had a tiny little grit in them, understandable, since mushrooms are typically brushed cleaned rather than washed.


DESSERT


As usual, I had the cheese plate. Got 3-nice choices. As I always say, you can't go wrong with cheese.







SUMMARY

This menu is from their website. Our menu had a slight variation

We did have 3-choices for the entrées, plats, and desserts.  I reviewed only the dishes that I had. My friends had varying opinions on the dishes they had. For example, JJ loved the fish whereas my friend K, did not like it. I tasted the lamb dish, it thought it was excellent.

I have been to a few Michelin starred restaurants in my life-time, so I have some point of comparison. Although over-all I thought the food was above average, I honestly have to say, for the price range, I was underwhelmed. And here are some of the reasons why. When we ordered our veal they never asked us how we wanted it cooked, and when one told them how he wanted his done, it was ignored. We were not all finished with our entrées, yet they started clearing the table, did they forget what was taught to them in their basic french serving 101 class?!  When we were served cheese, we were NEVER offered more bread, fortunately I still had a quarter of piece of bread left. It's these subtleties that separates a true Michelin restaurant from the rest. I am truly surprised they received a 2-star Michelin rating. Would I go back? probably not, especially at these prices.

They had an extensive wine list.  For the prix-fixe lunch and a bottle of red from the Languedoc region and a white from Burgundy with 1-coffee and 3 teas our lunch came to 101€ per person.




Friday, October 28, 2016

Le Petit Varenne -- Restaurant Review


 57, rue de Bellechasse, 7eme
tel: 01.42.73.60.72
Closed: Sundays and Mondays
Metro: Rue du Bac (12)


Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

4 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 3 - Bell

At a recommendation of our friend J we went to a relatively new restaurant opened by Jean-Baptiste Varenne who seems to be the quite the entrepreneur, opening 3-other restaurants in Paris (Laiterie Sainte Clotilde, Chez Graff and Gare aux Gorilles) with some business partners. This restaurant is located across the street from the office of the prime minister, so don't be alarmed when you see several armed military around the premises.

 57, rue de Bellechasse

The interior is nothing special. In fact very stark with just tables and chairs. No ambiance to speak of. It is a small restaurant, hence it can get quite noisy, but what's nice were the large windows which brought in lots of light and made the restaurant appear larger. As we entered the restaurant for lunch at about 12:45 pm, there was only 1-other table that was occupied, but that changed quickly. It appears the lunch crowd is later and they start trickling in after 1 pm. There were no prix-fixe menus, everything was a la carte. The Chef de cuisine is  Rémy N’Guyen of Prince de Galles and Burgundy.


ENTRÉES

Gnocchi, champignons et emulsion au parmesan (Gnocchi, mushrooms and parmesan emulsion). We really enjoyed this particular entrée. Gnocchi can be very heavy and sometimes even "gummy", but these were very light and almost had an airy quality about them. The accompanying mushrooms were a great addition to give the dish an earthy component. As many know, I'm not a fan of emulsions, but this parmesan emulsion was extremely flavorful, light. And, topped with a parmesan wafer, it gave the dish a nice crispy textural component. An excellent composed dish.




Terrine de boudin noir (black pudding terrine). I was expecting it to be a traditional sausage, but then I re-read the description and it is a terrine versus a sausage, which the latter is more typical. It was served in pie slices. Blood sausages are very common in France, but this did not have that "irony" flavor. It was actually quite tasty accompanied with the sweet sauces from the apples as well as the beets. Also, a very good composed entrée.



PLATS

Poire de boeuf, pommes grenailles et échalotes confites (Pear beef, new potatoes and candied shallots). "Poire of the beef" is reputed to be one of the most flavorful and tender parts of the beef. It's actually the inner thigh of the beef, so less muscular. I was in the mood for a good steak, and this did not disappoint. The meat was succulent, tender, and delicious. This was probably one of the best steaks I've had in a long time. I thought the potatoes were perfectly cooked, crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. I wasn't a fan of the shallots, it had a bitter aftertaste, but I'll overlook that since the steak was so good. It was topped with some leafy greens tossed lightly in vinegar and added to the overall flavors of the dish.




Merlu poche, tombée d’épinard et emulsion au cresson (Hake, spinach and watercress emulsion). It wasn't a pretty dish, since the fish looked like it was buried under all that foam, or should I say emulsion, but the fish was moist, very tasty and with the accompanying spinach and watercress was a nice addition. And, surprisingly all that emulsion actually had quite a nice flavor profile.  The citrus atop the fish completed it.



Canard de Rouen et caviar d’aubergine (Rouen duck and eggplant caviar).  Although this plat was delicious, this was probably my least favorite. And, this had nothing to do with flavor profiles, more so for personal preference. Our friend J asked for the duck to be cooked very rare, and very rare it came out. I just found it to be too rubbery. I'm confident though, had the duck been medium or even medium rare, based on the other two dishes, it would've been perfect. The accompanying eggplant caviar and carrots was a nice accompaniment.



DESSERT

Chocolat, orange confite et noisettes grillées. Glaces artisanaux (Chocolat, orange confite and roasted nuts.  Artisanal ice cream .

The first dessert, the chocolate with orange and roasted nuts was a bit overwhelming sweet for me. But then again I don't normally eat sugar, and I just had a taste of it. It tasted like a whipped ganache topped with nuts. It was a good dessert and it would definitely be a chocolate lovers dream, but not for me.

The second dessert was less sweet. They were artisanal ice creams. The pistachio was my favorite. The two ice-creams complimented each other and it sat atop crumbled butter cookies and nuts. Very simple, but refreshing.




WINES:  We had a bottle of Clos de l’Amanaie Langedoc and a bottle of D’auphilac Lou maset Languedoc.  Both wines were from the Languedoc region of France. The white was light and crisp and citrus notes, whereas the red was lighter and fruitier.












SUMMARY

Jean-Baptise Varenne (proprietor)
What a great find in the 7eme. It's not a pretty restaurant, very stark in decoration, and no ambiance to speak of,  but who needs decoration when the food is the star attraction. You don't see many tourists in this area of Paris primarily since it's across from the Office of the Ministry. and there aren't that many shops or attractions nearby. And, from what I gathered from the lunch crowd, its clientele was very officious. So, I assume they were government employees.  The owner Jean-Baptise chatted with us a little bit, and he actually had read many of J's restaurant reviews. He interacted with several of his clients as well, which to me is always a good sign.

Onto the food, as I said, the food was the star. The food overall was excellent. My favorite entrée was the gnocchi, and my favorite main was the steak. By far, one of the best steaks I've had in Paris.  You definitely don't come here for the ambiance. Would we come back? ABSOLUTELY!




For 3-entrées, 3-plats, 2-desserts, 2-bottles of wine and 1-coffee our meal came to 186€ for 3-people or 62€ per person.

NOTE: the wines were bit on the pricey side, so brought our overall costs higher; however, the prices of the meals themselves are quite reasonable with average entrée 10-12€ range and the mains in the mid-20€ range.