"The evolving 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)!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Baieta -- Restaurant Review

tel: 01 42 02 59 19
Metro line #10 (Maubert - Mutualité)
Check operating hours on website
Website: https://www.restaurant-baieta-paris.fr/

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......................................................€€€......................................................... 2 - Bell

At a friend's recommendation we went to Julia Sedefdjian's restaurant, Baieta in the 5eme. I am very familiar with the Chef's work. I was first introduced to her cooking at the well known French celebrity chef Christian Constant's restaurant "Les Fables de la Fontaine" in the 7eme. Please refer to my review "Restaurant review--Les Fables de la Fontaine"

Shortly after we went to Les Fables de la Fontaine, Chef Julia won a Michelin star.  At  21-years old, she was the youngest women in history to win, refer to this article,  "Michelin star awarded to Julia Sedefdjian". Afterwards, she opened her own restaurant Baieta.

The restaurant is centrally located in the 5eme, close to the Seine. As you enter, it looked very simply styled, but cozy. Although they did have air conditioning, for some reason they didn't have it on. They did however have a fan close to our table that we could use. As I mentioned in past posts, as a general rule the French have an aversion to air conditioning. The fan and sitting by the open door may have been a factor in our trouble hearing each other, so I'll let this pass.

MENU. The menu looked really interesting. A little bit pricey, but they did have a pre-fixe menu of 29€ of an entrée and plat (dessert not included) of their recommended  dishes, which today offered a gazpacho, and a choice of beef cheeks or fish.

I sent a note earlier to say that one of my friends is a vegetarian, apparently they didn't get the message, but they were able to quickly modify the dishes to make them vegetarian.

And, they had an "Initiation" menu, sort of like an introduction menu or tasting menu of some of their dishes of the day, which I eventually decided to do. But I asked for cheese instead of a sweet dessert, which they easily changed out for me.

NOTE: I am not going to review all the dishes we ordered, since I had the mini-tasting menu, but will provide a brief summary of the dishes below.

AMUSE BOUCHE. Although it was just that, a complimentary amuse bouche, this was my least favorite dish. It was a focaccia topped with caramelized onions ala "pissaladière" a French pizza of onions and anchovies found in the south of France. I found the bread portion to be quite dry around the edges. My friend who was a chef and I both surmised that they must've left it out too long, which created a dryness around the exposed area of the focaccia. I think they need to get rid of this dish or replace it with something else.  But my compliments to the chef as the waitperson indicated that one of the pieces was made without anchovies to accommodate our vegetarian. 

The focaccia was accompanied with a broth of tomato and celery. The flavors were intense, but not "trop"--too intense,  and distinctive and quite good. We were told to drink it after the focaccia, we decided since the focaccia was so dry we'd have it with it. And, it worked out well. Our guess is that they either boiled the vegetables down to get the intense flavor, or dried and reconstituted it, to get the intense flavor.  Regardless a very good broth that I could've continued drinking.

ENTRÉE, Gazpacho.  This soup was really refreshing. It was a soup made of watermelon, tomatoes and balled cantaloupes, what we believed to be a dollop of the soft center portion of burrata cheese. It did have a little saffron, which we all liked.

I absolutely loved this dish, although it sounds complicated, it really isn't and for a warm summer's day, perfect for the body and tastebuds. A hit.


NOTE: I did have 2-plats since I ordered the "initiation" menu.

Fish.  Our wait person told me that it was a "Saint Pierre fish", which we know as john dory fish. The fish was accompanied by a fennel mash, with a thick creamy broth with a taste of saffron. It was served along side with an aioli butter and toast also with a dab of saffron.  Let me just say I loved this dish. The fish was perfectly cooked and all the flavors blended well to compliment one another. Even though it was accompanied by a creamy soup base the flavors were distinct and crisp.  I would definitely have this dish again.

Beef cheeks. Although the beef cheeks did not look very attractive because of the long braising, it was absolutely delicious. The beef cheeks were so tender and had just the right amount of fat that prevented it from drying out. It was accompanied by creamy pureed carrots and crispy sweet potato chips so you had the juxtaposition of something smooth and creamy and a crispy textural element. This was my 2nd plat so unfortunately I wasn't able to finish it, because I was already getting full. In retrospect I probably should've just gotten 3-courses, since I'm really not that big of an eater. Anyway, this dish was a hit and will be a hit for any carnivore.

DESSERT. Cheese. I try to stay away from sweets so I asked them to substitute the sweet dessert for a cheese plate, which they easily accommodated. They had a wonderful combination of cheeses for me: aged gouda (surprising since it's not french), camembert and blue. With it came confiture of rhubarb as well as an orange compote. It was accompanied with what looked like a sweet/savory toast of pistachios and dried fruit, which I've never been fond of because they remind me too much of dried fruitcake. Regardless the cheese was delicious. Like I always say, you can't go wrong with cheese in France.


1. Octopus
2. Vegetarian (melange)
3. Skate fish

Although I was not able to taste the dishes others ordered, they did all give me an overwhelming thumbs up. Especially for the Octopus and the skate fish.

Mignardise. I'm not sure if these little cakes were trying act like a yeast cake used in baba rhum. My guess is they were made with baking powder. Personally I found them very sweet and way too heavy and dense after such a big meal. But then again, I'm not that fond of sweets anyway.

SUMMARY. "I've always been a big fan of Chef Julia when I was introduced to her cooking in Les Fables de la Fontaine." I went a few more times and found it consistently good. With the exception of 2-insignificant courses, the amuse bouche and mignardise, the food was excellent. The tomato/celery broth was intense, refreshingly clean and cool. The gazpacho reflected a nice summer soup with fresh melons. I had the surf and turf, and both the fish and the beef cheeks were delicious and I would definitely have them again. Would I go back, ABSOLUTELY!

Now to the service. That's a different story. Although the wait staff were very nice, they really didn't seem to be fine tuned with the food. For example, one person asked for a "lemon pressé", she said OK, what came was water with lemon in them? I had pre-arranged a vegetarian meal, but no one got the message. I had to ask for ice 3-times to 2-different wait-staff. And, our gazpacho was served, but we had no spoons, so had to ask for spoons?

So, overall, I would've given it a much, much higher rating if not for the service being erratic, and not for the insignificant dishes of the amuse bouche and mignardise, which I've discounted in this overall review. As I always say, dining is about the whole experience.

For 3-prix-fixe menus, 1-initiation menu (tasting menu), 2-a-la-carte dishes, 2-bottled water and 2-coffees our bill came to 229€ or 45.80€ per person.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Dude Restaurant -- Restaurant Review

84 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis
Metro line 4 (Chateau d'eau)
Tel: 01 45 89 40 24
Website: www.thedude-restaurant.fr
Closing July 31 so make reservations now.

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

This restaurant is located in a funky neighborhood of the 10eme that is up and coming, but can still seem a little seedy. I was debating whether to review this restaurant or not since they are closing the end of the month and rebranding themselves to build a new restaurant. Well I decided to write a review #1 to give them the accolades they deserve, and #2 we can follow the chefs to their new restaurant which will probably be opened around September after "La Rentrée," so hopefully this review will give you a sense of their food sensibility.

INTERIOR.  The interior is quite lovely, very sleek clean and welcoming. I was a bit surprised that only 3-tables were occupied, but our wait person told us they're not as busy for lunch as they are for dinner. The restaurant was opened by Geoffrey Rembert and assisted by chef Lucie Martin.

AMUSE BOUCHE. In the meantime, we got an amuse bouche of "panisse" which is a dish from Provence, typically served in fingers (almost like fries), it has a crispy exterior, and a creamy almost custard-like interior, reminiscent of polenta. And, the good thing about these nibbles is that they're low in carbohydrates and gluten free, for those watching your figure.

MENU: Just in description alone, the menu was quite eclectic and very creative. So, I was anxious to try all the appetizers, but decided it might be too much.


Pastèque (Watermelon). I loved this entrée, it was slightly grilled with a brushing of olive oil and salt and pepper. It was served with dollops of creme fraîche, which gave it some creaminess.  In its simplicity, it was quite refreshing and naturally sweet (no sugar added), perfect for a warm summer day.

Pain Gua Bao (Salmon steamed buns).  This dish really surprised me. It was quite creatively constructed in that it was a deconstructed bao with ingredients not normally associated with steamed buns. First of all, at first glance the buns were black, because they were made with squid ink. But the texture and taste was typical of a steamed bun, with slight ink taste, but not overwhelming. The salmon was gravlax and it was interestingly different since bao is normally served steaming hot, but actually in combination was delicious. I loved this dish for its uniqueness and creativity.


MAQUEREAU. This was the fish of the day. Normally mackerel has a very strong, for a lack of better word, "fishy" smell and taste. But this mackerel was very mild and quite tasty. The skin was perfectly cooked and the vinaigrette sauce was a nice combination to cut some of the oiliness of the fish. The greens and apricots gave it some freshness. So, overall it's a well conceived dish.

POITRINE DE COCHON. (Pork Belly). I ordered this dish. Wow, it was a rich dish, in a good way. The meat was extremely tender, but this dish might not be for everyone since typical of pork belly, the fat is also eaten and not omitted. The fat was like butter. The peanuts added a nice texture to the overall dish. What I wish it had was a vinaigrette sauce or a salad added since it was quite fatty. But the meat itself was perfectly cooked.

SARDINES. This had to be one of my favorite dishes of the day. Hard to see from the photo, but the sardines were made into rolls and sat side-by-side atop some mildly flavored hummus, with a few sprinkling of peas. Typically, when you think of sardines, you think of canned sardines with its brininess and strong flavors. This was fresh, grilled and very tasty with a mild marinate. I would definitely have this again if I go before they close.


We decided to share two desserts.:

BLACK FOREST CAKE. What a surprise. Who knew that basil would be a good match with chocolate. And, what a creative dish. It was a deconstructed "black forest cake" with sweetened marinated cherries, whipped cream with a chocolate mousse sitting atop a crumbly chocolate cake, which I could immediately tell was made of lots of egg whites because of the crumbly texture. So, texturally it had all the components of a very good dessert for chocolate lovers.

RHUBARB TART. Beautifully constructed was a rhubarb tart sitting atop a meringue type of crust. It was topped with some rhubarb cream and various cuts of rhubarb. The rhubarb itself was tart, the way it should be, and the sweetness from the crust along with the cream balanced it out.

These desserts were so extraordinary that Jack ran up to the pastry chef to ask if she was single because he would like to marry her!


This find was bittersweet. What a great little restaurant in a funky neighborhood. The dishes were very creative, tasty and well balanced. All the dishes were good, only suggestion I would have is to add something citrusy or vinegary to the pork, to cut down on some of the fattiness. My favorite dish was the sardines, full of flavors, none overpowering the other, but very well balance.

Unfortunately, this restaurant will close end of July and rebrand itself after "La Rentrée" (September). So go soon and be on the lookout for these very talented chefs. I will post an update. If this is a sampling of their food, would I go to their new restaurant, you betcha.

For 2-entrées, 3-plats, 2-desserts, 2-bottles of wine, and 3-coffees our bill came to 131.70€ or 33€ per person, what a great deal.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

General tourist information about Paris

It's that time of the year again, where throngs of tourists will descend on Europe and especially the most visited city in the world, Paris. Jack put together some information that might be helpful to first time visitors as well as those returning.

In no particular order:

SAFETY.  In general, Paris is very safe; violent crime is rare however pick-pocketing is epidemic, and scam artists (typically Roma girls) are always hovering around tourist areas. Women walking alone at 3am generally will be ok.

Refer to my tips on avoiding being pickpocketed.  Click on following link. "Pickpocketing"

MONEY/CASH. The Euro (€) is used throughout most of the EU and of course in France.  You will most likely not be able to use any other type of money.  The exchange rate varies widely but the Euro is stronger than the US dollar so if something costs 1€ it will translate to you as costing more than $1.  The small value coins are called centimes in France (but their legal name in Euro cents).  Prices are typically written 2€50.  The best way to get Euros is via an ATM rather than using an exchange counter. French banks rarely have cash; people wanting cash get it from an ATM.

ATMs. ATMs are everywhere but check with your bank if they have partners or networks they participate with, and how much is your daily limit.  I don't think French banks charge a fee but many American banks do and some American banks charge a fee (eg $5) per transaction plus an additional % (eg 3%) on the exchange rate!  But you will get the best rates using ATMs.  I do not recommend getting Euros ahead of time at a US bank as they give terrible rates, frequently take several days (you can't just walk in at most branches), and it is so easy to find ATMs in Europe.  Safety is not usually an issue (cover the keypad when entering your pin so the code can't be seen).  And of course using a credit card to get cash is very expensive.  ATMs will usually ask you what language you want.

CREDIT CARDS.  You should have no problems using your credit cards.  Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, American Express less so, Diners almost none, and Discover not at all.  Hopefully you have a credit card from an issuer that doesn't charge the extra fees for international usage, eg Cap 1, Schwab, certain Citi, the Costco Visa card, etc.  If your card does not have a chip however there are some automatic machines like in train/metro stations that might not work at all, and some may not work even if you have a chip but no pin.  But if there is a ticket counter you will not have a problem.  However some online merchants have problems with US credit cards.  Do let your credit card and ATM providers know of your travel plans.

AIRPORT.  At the airport, if you are planning on taking a taxi do not use anyone who approaches you..use the regular taxi rank (some touts stand at the entrance to the taxi ranks; ignore them). Taxi fares FROM the CDG airport to Paris are fixed 50€ to the right bank and 55€ to the left bank.  Uber FROM the airport is not much better and more difficult to arrange the meeting point.  There are lots of other options such as buses and trains and shuttle services.  Given Paris traffic, the train may be fastest (when not on strike) but with luggage and the stairs, and the potential of pickpockets, it may not be the most pleasant.  And then you need to get from the train/bus station to your lodging.  Going TO the airport taxi fares are also fixed (same price point 50/55€) and Uber might be a better solution for you if you are not taking public transit.  CDG (Charles de Gaulle) is around an hour north of Paris and is the principle international airport and you need to know which terminal your flights arrives/departs (terminal 1, 2A,2B,2C,2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, and 3). ORY (Orly) is around 45 minutes south of Paris and has 2 terminals (Orly-sud/south Orly-ouest/west).  Fixed taxi rates to/from Orly are €30 to the left bank and €35 to the right bank.  Rynair flies out of Beauvais which is reachable only by bus and is quite inconvenient.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.  Paris has an extensive network of various integrated public transit systems, with the metro being the easiest option for tourists.  Once you are used to the way the metro works it is quite easy and will get you almost anywhere you want to go in Paris.  The public buses are difficult for tourists as the routes are somewhat byzantine.  The suburban trains are called the RER (or the Transilian) and you probably won't be using them. However the RER does have several stops within Paris and could be used like the metro.  Although the same tickets in Paris are used on all the Parisian transports, the tickets are paired differently with the Metro/RER being one pairing, and the busses/trams being another.  This is only a concern when transferring between modes; e.g. you cannot use the same ticket to transfer from the metro to a bus, but you can use the same ticket to transfer from 1 bus to another bus or tram, or from a metro to a Paris RER.  Within the metro system you can transfer between lines at stations where lines intersect (transfer is called correspondance). Tickets on the metro are good only within the system; once you exit a station that ticket is no longer good.  For the buses the ticket is good for 90 minutes.  Fares are 1 price on the metro, and within Paris on the RER and buses; fares going outside of Paris are variable depending on where you get on and get off.  You need a ticket to get into the transport but only need the ticket to exit the system on the RER/Transilian. However keep your ticket until you exit the system in case there is an inspector.  In general it is best to buy a 'carnet' of tickets (10 tickets) rather than individual tickets for a better deal and you get 10 tickets which you can distribute as you please (ie you and your travel companions can use the tickets; you don't each need your own carnet but you each need your own ticket).  Tickets bought from the driver on a bus cost a bit more and are not good for transfers, so buy your tickets from a machine or ticket agent at a metro or tram station.  The ticket machines are somewhat confusing and some only accept coins.  Some machines won't accept American credit cards but many do.  If there is a ticket agent and the machine does not accept your card then you can buy your tickets from the agent.

MOBILE PHONES.  Check with your cellphone provider on coverage and costs and making sure you have the international option turned on.  European cell networks use GSM (ie what ATT and T-Mobile use) but most smart phones usually have multiple protocols.  And be sure to turn off data roaming as you can run up huge bills very easily.  You can also get local sim cards if you wish.  To call US phone numbers on your cell use +1 and then the area code/number.  For French numbers use +33 plus the area code and number (remember to drop the leading zero, eg if the French number is you would dial +33612345678.  The plus sign is generally found on the zero key on your phone.  French cell number start with 06 or 07 and calls to cell phones are charged extra.  Paris landlines start with 01 or 09.  There are a variety of 800 type numbers but they are generally not free and work more like 900 numbers in the US.  If you are on a fixed line, for calls to the US dial 00-1-area code-number.  In many lodgings (not hotels) calls to most of the world, including the US, are free.  Unlike the US, calls to customer service lines (eg airlines, online merchants, etc) are charged per minute despite being an 800 type of number.

FOOD/RESTAURANTS.  Most restaurants prefer reservations, which can be made the same day (unless you are talking about someplace famous), so if you see a place that looks interesting on your walk or someone has suggested a place, make a booking.  Remember most restaurants vs cafes/brasseries do not open until 7:30pm for dinner.  If you do walk into a restaurant and you don't have a reservation, and the place is half empty, don't be offended if they say they are full..the tables are probably reserved for a later time and they will not seat you in case you decided to linger.  Please refer to this blog, www.parismissives.com with restaurant critiques. At fancier places lunch is generally cheaper than dinner but is mostly the same food.  There are online booking systems (eg thefork.com) for many restaurants so you don't have to try to book on the telephone (in French).  Although the French might be famous for food, food in Paris is a real crapshoot.  You usually will eat well at good restaurants outside of Paris but in Paris you really need to avoid the tourist places.  Anything Rick Steves has written about is the kiss of death.  If you like spicy food forget Paris (and most of Europe) as they hate spicy food.  If you do go to a Thai or Indian place be sure to tell them you are not French and to make it they way they would eat it.  And never go for Mexican food in Europe; as you will HATE it.  Maghreb food (Moroccan, Tunisian, etc) is pretty good (couscous, tagines), as is Middle Eastern (Lebanese).  Paris probably does not have as big a choice of ethnic places (avoid Chinese, but Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese are good) because, as the French would say, if you can eat French why would you eat anything else?

The biggest question often asked, do we tip?  Please refer to this link "Tipping etiquette in France". New to France, at some restaurants there is a space for "tip" on your credit card receipt, leave it blank. If you must leave a few Euros, leave it in cash to ensure it goes to the server and NOT the restaurant. Service, which for us would be "tips" by French law is included in the overall bill. Remember anything extra is a token of appreciation and not to supplement income since servers earn a living wage.

ONLINE TICKETS.   For many popular places like museums, Versailles, theatres, etc it is always
better to reserve ahead of time so you can skip the lines waiting for tickets.  But of course you then need to know, and are committed to, a particular date and time.  And some online systems might not accept a US card.  In general you will need to have a printer to print the ticket as not all places will accept a photo on a mobile phone.

TRANSPORT OUT OF PARIS. Trains (not so much the suburban ones around Paris) in France are excellent and the TGVs are fast.  EasyJet is a good low cost airline (although their carry-on policy is a bit strict).  Ryan air is super cheap, charge for everything, but they fly out of weird airports; eg Paris Beauvais airport is way out there and can only be reached by a long bus ride, whereas EasyJet flies from both deGaulle and Orly.  If you make bookings way in advance the Eurostar chunnel train is excellent, fast, and affordable, city center to city center (eg London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord), similarly the Thalis train between Amsterdam and Paris.  The Thalis train to Brussels is only 90 minutes... you could go there for lunch and back!

MUSEUMS.  Going to museums in the mornings tends to avoid the longest lines.  The first Sunday of the month many museums are free (not true for the Louvre Apr-Sep) and packed so a good time to avoid.  I think students 18-25 who can show residency in an EU country are also free.  If you are interested in seeing several Paris museums in a short period of time there is a museum pass.  The museum passes are great IF you plan to hit several museums in a row as the multi-day passes are for consecutive days (I am not familiar with the Paris Pass but in general they are usually not a good deal).  The Louvre and the Orsay are open late on different days so if you do a museum pass you do some of the minor museums during the day and then the Orsay or Louvre late afternoon.  Most museums are closed on Monday, some on Tuesdays (Louvre), and some have late hours certain days during the week.  Almost all the museums have a website, usually with English.  Also, most museums have an online ticket/reservation system so you don't have to stand in the long entrance lines to purchase tickets; look for a special entrance/line if you already have your ticket.

Our favorite museum is the Musee d'Orsay and it is doable in 1-day and the building is beautiful.
The Louvre is a zoo... way too big and really can't be done in a day.  If you go, plan ahead.  Figure out what type of art you like (eg period/region, Flemish, Italian, ancient Egyptian/Greek, objects d'art, etc) , where in the Louvre it is, and see what's of interest to YOU first, then if you have time and stamina, see other things.  The Mona Lisa is usually a madhouse and you might not even get close to it.  There is a terrific wing of objects d'art from Louis IV or VI if you like porcelain, crystal, etc, and the Napoleon Apartments.

The Rodin has a large garden with sculptures but if it is rainy that's probably not the best place.
The Carnavalet (history of Paris) museum I believe is free.
The quai Branly has 'primitive' art (Pacific Islander, totems, figurines, etc).

There are several Jewish museums but we find them very depressing.

SEINE CRUISES.  I always recommend if tourists want to take a Seine cruise, skip the Bateau Mouche/Bateau Vedettes/etc that just ply the Seine, and go on the Canal St Martin cruise (ParisCanal.com).  This boat starts (or vice-versa) at the Parc de la Villette up on the 19th district, floats down a series of locks on the Canal St Martin, goes UNDER Paris for 1.5 km, enters the Seine by Bastille and ends up at the Musee d'Orsay. It's 2.5 hours, smaller boat with only 3 languages (the big boats have hundreds of passengers and speak 10 languages) and is relaxing. Paris Canal fills up so it is almost mandatory you reserve in advance.

PLACES OF INTEREST OUTSIDE OF PARIS.  Versailles is stupendous but also a zoo and you should try to get tickets ahead of time online.  It is a short train (or bus) ride from Paris.

Giverny (Monet's garden) is also a nice day trip, as is Chartres.

Avoid the Marche aux Puces Clignacourt/St Ouen unless you are going to the very expensive antique part located behind the racailles who sell stolen clothes.

PRIMARY TOURIST ATTRACTIONS. Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, walking by the Eiffel Tower/Trocadero (I don't think it is worth it to go up the tower), see the Pont Alexandre III bridge, walk along the Seine at night, see the Opera Garnier both during the day and when it is lit up at night.  There are lots of parks/gardens in Paris; the Jardin de Luxembourg is really nice and large, and Buttes-Chaumont is interesting, also the Palais Royal and Place des Voges. If you have young children the Jardin d'acclimatation and Jardin des plantes have animals.   A place that most tourists don't see/know about is the remains of a Roman amphitheater (arenes de lutece).  I don't like the Champs Elysees but the Arc de Triomphe is there but should be avoided it at night.

Don't forget you can generally reserve online for most things so you don't have to stand in a ticket line.

MOST OF ALL, HAVE FUN in our adopted city.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Restaurant Mumi -- Restaurant Review

14 Rue Sauval
Phone: +33 (0) 1 40 26 27 54
Metro: Line 4 (Les Halles)
Website: https://www.restaurantmumi.com/
Operating hours: Open Tuesday - Saturdays

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+)

4.75 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 2 - Bell

I was looking for a restaurant where we could have a nice lunch for a special "bon voyage" party for a dear friend of ours. This restaurant was put on my list of places I wanted to go last year, but was unable to.  It opened about a year ago and chef de cuisine is Angelo Vagiotis. It's centrally located, so very easy to get to.

The interior was quite lovely. It's a small restaurant, but nicely appointed. They had a reflective ceiling above which made the rooms appear even taller. And, in the back of the restaurant is a quieter area, but I preferred sitting in the main dining area.

We were greeted very warmly by the staff, as we waited for our friends. They do serve aperitifs, but we just wanted water. They have an in-house water service that can provide you with both sparkling or flat water.

It was a warm day, so it was comforting to know they have air-conditioning, a rarity in Paris.

Menu. We perused the menu, very simple, and very reasonably priced. As I've always said, I like small menus, it tells me they concentrate well on a few items, rather than have an extensive menu and everything is done quick and out the door to meet the varying demands.

Amuse bouche. I don't normally like just plain broths, but this was a warm inviting tasty (not hot) tickle to the palate light mushroom broth.

Accompanying the broth were parmesan crisp with a pepper jam. Very light, and a big contrast to the broth since the jam was sweet, but not overwhelmingly sweet.

So as an amuse bouche goes, a very good start.

Note: I'm only reviewing dishes that Jack and I had.


Lettuce/Bagna cauda/kumquats. I always think of bagna cauda as being very rich and very heavy, it can be a tad salty due to the anchovies, and of course warm. So, this dish was nothing like I expected. It was a much, much lighter and escalated version. The bagna cauda sauce was almost like a foamed mayonaise, no one flavor overpowered the other. It was very subtle and nice blend. It was accompanied by blanched then seared lettuce, with some sweet balsamic and a nice very thin crispy chicken skin wafer, which gave another textural element. I absolutely adored this dish.

Mackerel/Greek yogurt/cucumber. This dish had 3 mackerel slices each prepared differently, a greek yogurt sauce, and, somewhat hidden in the picture, a single small out of the shell mussel on a flavored seaweed mound.  All pieces were delicious but the mussel was extraordinary; one of the most delicious items ever!  But it is a mystery what made it so.  Jack and the others who ordered this all agreed on this.


Pork from Auvergne/Cereal/Sprouting Broccoli.  I don't know where to begin, this pork was delicious. Amazingly it was braised for 12-hours, but it wasn't stringy, which can happen if you braise meat too long and not correctly. However, it was moist, succulent, the meat was perfect, and the skin was nice and crispy. It was topped with a demi-glace which went perfectly with this dish.  It was also served with a side of barely. This is probably one of the best pork dishes I've had in Paris to date.

Catch of the day/Fennel/Bisque. The catch of the day was lieu jaune (Pollack).  The fennel was slightly charred and delicious.  The bisque was very flavorful but not overwhelming. The yellow dab in the back of the picture was like a very, very rich mayonnaise but almost like a pure egg yolk; yummy! The dark item in the front of the picture was a chopped form of some type of pork although we thought the waiter said it was homard. For Jack it was quite salty, but for me it was fine.


Cheese. I, of course, had the cheese course. Like I always say you can't go wrong with cheese in France. I had a nice variety of cheeses of Camembert, a medium Comté, and a mild blue cheese, served with apple and apricot confiture.

Kiwi/Fresh cheese/macadamia nuts. A nice and light finish to the meal.  Good but nothing extraordinary.  The chopped macadamia nuts gave a nice crunch.

Wines:  They have quite an extensive cocktail list as well as a wine list. We opted for a "Petit Chablis Sycomore" from Bourgogne. It's characterized as a wine with more acidity than fruity. It was perfect for a warm summer day.  Jack, who drinks no white, had a glass of Crozes-Hermitage, a Syrah from the Northern Rhone region.

Mignardise. We had a nice little party sweet treats of raspberry sitting a top a nice sweet wafer filled with creme.  Quite satisfying.


This is now on my list of one of my top favorite restaurants for 2018. For some odd reason, I thought the chef was Japanese, probably because of the seaweed and because the plates were beautifully presented and almost had an Asian flair to them, especially the way the pork was prepared and cooked. It turned out the chef is Greek. I cannot fault any dishes that I had, they were all executed well and the flavors were spot on. Only complaint some had was the wine could've been served earlier, after we had ordered it.  But in their defense, the waiter did say he would chill it a little bit, and it came back decanted and well chilled. Unless you have an extremely refined palate, I wish the menu could've been more descriptive.  If you're a big eater, this is probably not a place for you. But if you like flavors and textures, rather than volume, then this is a place for you. Would we go back, in a heartbeat.

For 6-people: two 2-course, four 3-course, sparkling and flat water, 2-bottles of wine, 1-glass of red, 3-cafés, our bill came to 312.50€ or 52€ per person.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Signature Montmartre -- Restaurant Review

12 rue des trois frères
Tel: 01-84-25-30-00
Metro: Line 12 (Abbesses station)
website: https://signature-montmartre.fr/
Call for operating hours
Reservations can be made on "La Fourchette" 

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+)

4.8 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 3 - Bell

This restaurant came highly recommended by a friend who lives close by. The restaurant has only been open since December of last year. I'm very familiar with this area, since I literally used to live a block away. So, for those that don't know Montmartre, it is quintessentially French. The restaurant is small, but had a nice cozy feel to it.

I met the owners Victor and Sukwon the chef, they could not have been anymore welcoming and accommodating since we were a large group (8), and we came at various times because of personal issues. But it appears they don't turn tables, so good for us. Regardless they accommodated us and we drank until the others arrived.

Sukwon, the chef, has quite the impressive resume. He is Korean, but  graduated in French cuisine (Cordon Bleu and Ferrandi). He has worked in several gourmet restaurants and Michelin starred (Ze Kitchen Gallery, Ibaji, House Rostand), and I will tell you I'm a big fan of William Ledeuil of Ze Kitchen Gallery, Bis and also Kitchen Terre. (refer to my previous reviews)

As many of you know, I like small simple menus. It tells me two things, it's manageable for the diner to select, and the fewer dishes on the menu are generally cooked well. I remember that the late Anthony Bourdain once said, consistency is key in a restaurant, and one way to achieve that is not to have a novel as a menu.

This review will be a little different since I'm only going to review the dishes that I had which were two, and it would've been impossible for me to taste everyone's dishes. Also, to be honest the wines were fabulous, but so many different wines came out I couldn't keep track.

Tartare de boeuf au couteau à la coréen -- sauce beurre de cacahuetes, soja et gingembre -- Tempuras légerès de légumes -- pickles maison.  (Beef tartar hand cut in the Korean style  - peanut butter, soy and ginger sauce - Light vegetable tempuras - homemade pickles)

As a general rule I don't eat tartare, because I've gotten sick from the unsanitary conditions of some kitchens, especially if they're machine chopped and not hand chopped. But last night I made an exception, since it's hand-chopped and I am so glad I did.

Let's start with the whole platting. You have a "Ying-Yang" of cold raw beef coupled with a warm cooked tempura. You've got 2-textures, 2-temperatures and 2-elements.  The beef was out of this world delicious. It had some wonderful spicy elements to the dish, and it actually had a kick, but not overwhelming.  As they say in French "beaucoup de gout, pas fade" (a lot of flavor and not bland). So this dish brought the tartare to a new level that I haven't had before. I think I will make this my go to place for tartare, because to be honest, I'm not big on the French style of making tartare since I find it bland.  As for the vegetable tempura, true to their word it was light, crispy and not spicy, so you can a balance again with spicy and not spicy. Overall, I thought this was an A+ dish.

Ongsimi (gnocchis coréens) et gambas -- Sauce tomate -- Vierge au kimchi -- Panure à l'ail -- Tomates confites.  (Ongsimi (Korean gnocchi) and prawns - Tomato sauce - Virgin kimchi - Garlic breadcrumbs - Tomatoes confit).  

Another very well balanced dish. You have the soft texture of the gnocchi sprinkled with a crumbly texture of the garlic breadcrumbs and topped with 2-meaty prawns and the smooth texture of the sauce that brought it all together. This was delicious as well, and I love it when the whole prawn is served, because I'm one of those that love "head mustard". The kimchi was a mild kimchi, not the spicy "heat", but more of a flavorful kimchi. Definitely  packed with lots of flavor, but combined to make a very cohesive dish. Plus the confites of tomatoes added a nice element. Another great dish.

I did not have dessert, but was told their pastry chef Lim Kim has her own philosophy of desserts is that it shouldn't be too sweet and have a nice balance. I regretted not trying it. If you're interested she has a blog of her recipes and philosophy of pastries at https://kimshii.com/


I have to say that although I only had 2-dishes and was unable to try the other dishes, I was blown away with what I had. The owners are very, very personable and they know their stuff. They have a nice collections of wines reasonably priced. What I liked about the dishes, they were balanced, spiced, and had different elements of "Ying-Yang" in their food. It's a small restaurant, but as word gets out, I'm sure they'll start getting really busy. It can get noisy after it fills up, or maybe it was just us being loud. This is one of only a few restaurants that I gave an almost perfect rating. Would we go back? in a heart beat.

As for the prices, for a 3-courses = 40€; 2-courses (main/dessert) = 32€; 2-courses (entree/main) = 35€. Very, very reasonable prices.