5 rue du Nil, 2eme
Rating Standards: 4-Stars = Extraordinary; 3-Stars = Excellent; 2-Stars = Good; 1-Star = Fair; NO stars = 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 (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
Update: I encourage you to read the comments. There's no denying Chef Marchand has talent, but with popularity/fame comes customer service complacency. I wished he cared about his customers as much as he cares about the food.
When Frenchie opened more than a year ago, it got rave reviews. As a matter of fact, every one and their mother wrote about it. Unfortunately, by the time I had heard about it, it was too late to get a reservation. It had gotten so popular that it took an average of 6-months to get in. And, in an earlier blog (Food for thought), I was not pleased that they didn't even answer their phone. So, last night our good friend Ms. W. called and said she had 4-seats available as a result of a cancellation and would I be interested, I jumped on it immediately. I called all my friends in Paris and figured whoever I got in contact first would join us, so Jose and Pablo were able to join us. More out of curiosity I wanted to see if Frenchie's still had the "it" factor after more than a year of all the hype.
Our reservation was for 8:30 pm so we picked up our friends who lived nearby and walked along one of my favorite streets in Paris, Rue Montorgueil. For an August night I was quite surprised to see Rue Montergueil teeming with activity, it was down right busy.
It was a pleasant walk, and as we got closer to the restaurant the neighborhood changed dramatically, it's in the old "garment" district of Paris in the 2eme arrondissement. Not at all what I expected. We walked around the neighborhood a little bit, just to get a feel for it. The neighborhood still had alot of wholesale shops, and didn't particularly have a residential feel, but hey, I don't have to live there I just want to eat there.
The restaurant was in an alleyway more than a street next door to a Thai restaurant, very unassuming and simple. It's a small restaurant, maybe seating for 22 people. As we entered, we noticed the interior was also very unassuming and simple, exposed stone walls. It was very comfortable and surprisingly homey. I think alot of it had to do with the wait person, she was very warm, welcoming and had an inviting smile.
I could see the Chef through the pass through window, checking out to see who his "audience" will be for the night. Chef Gregory Marchand worked in the US and UK for both Danny Meyer's at Gramercy Tavern and also worked at Jamie Oliver's 15 before that. In fact, his nickname was Frenchie; hence, the name of his restaurant, clever eh?
Jose and I started with apéros of champagne, as Jack and Pablo checked out the wine list on a chalk board to see what we would later have for dinner. Jose was going to order one of the wines, but the wait person said, you probably don't want it since it's white and it's also quite sweet. The restaurant manager recommended a bottle of 2008 Alian de Ros, and it was perfect. This was a good sign, since the wait staff helped us navigate through the wine selection.
We studiously looked at the menu, and the prices were quite reasonable. For the entrée + plat or plat + dessert was 31€. the entrée + plat + dessert was 35€, and all 3 plus a cheese plate was 42€.
Some people may not like this, but I prefer a small menu. First of all, the kitchen can concentrate on a few items to make them well, versus an encyclopedia like menu where everything is just mediocre. And, since Chef Marchand does all the cooking I'm sure he wants to make the food come out perfectly. So, you had a selection of 2-entrées, 2-plats, and 3-desserts. The menu also changes each week.
As we were sitting a nice surprise, a friend Alex walked through the door with his entourage. He told us that he had made reservations 2-months ago, and needed 2-additional seats and was able to get them. I explained they had last minute cancellations as a result of our mutual friend. So, we sat next to each other.
|Bouillon de tomate|
For the entrée, we had a choice of one of two, either the soup or the mackerel. Jose and Pablo had the Bouillon de tomate acidulé, groseilles, chorizo. It was a cold soup. The guys let me taste it, it was really good. And, the way it was served allowed you to sip the broth and also taste the different components separately, or you could "melange" it and have a combination of both. It was an excellent starter.
Jack and I had the Maquereau fumé, piquillos, lard salé, citron amer. I love mackerel. Even though mackerel has a strong flavor, the sauce et.al. was quite subtle. As I bit into it, I had a nice little surprise, a little slither of pork fat. I think I mentioned in previous blogs, the French are not afraid of fat, and neither am I, since I've been known to carry quite a bit of it on the old body. All-in-all, I thought this was a hit.
Now for the plat, you had the choice of the fish or the duck.
Surprisingly, we all ordered the same plat, Canard, betteraves chiogga, framcoises, jus au miel et aux épices. This to me tasted like a de-constructed French sweet and sour duck. The duck was cooked perfectly, still pink. There were the sweet components, the beets and raspberries, and there was the sour component, the pickled onions. Jack absolutely adored this dish, and Jose and Pablo liked it as well. Jack likes anything tart. I on the one hand liked the dish, but am not a big fan of very tart things, but the dish was very well thought out and constructed well. Although we didn't have the turbo, Alex's friends had it, and they said it was excellent.
Even though we were feeling quite full, we couldn't pass up dessert. For dessert you had 3-choices: Chocolate tart, a panna cotta, or a 'Napoléon' which is a brebis (sheep) cheese rather than what we think of.
Pablo had the Napoléon, miel, piment d'espelette. This was the Chef's interpretation of a napoléon, a thin wafer sprinkled with honey covering a slice of napoléon cheese and chilis dotted the bottom of the plate. This happens to be one of Jack's and my favorite cheeses. I loved it, and the combination of the sweet and spicy was a home run for me.
Jack, Jose and I had the Tarte au chocolat amer, caramel au berre salé. It was a very simple tart and the caramel sauce complimented it nicely. Also, with the added touch of crystal salt sprinkled on top, it truly enhanced the sweetness of the bittersweet chocolate.
In summary, after more than a year of all the hype, Chef Marchand has not lost his "it" factor. the menu is limited, but then again I like this, I personally feel that the cook(s) have time to perfect a dish, rather than doing a lot of dishes mediocre. The food was excellent, the service was impeccable, and yes the Chef was actually cooking rather than overseeing the food! I'm not sure an expansion of his restaurant would necessarily be a good thing. Chef Marchand seems to take pride in making sure his customers eat his personally prepared food. Would I go again, absolutely. Would I wait 6-months, I can't even think 30-days in advance, so probably not, unless someone in a friend's group canceled, then I'd fill in.