"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)!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Les Cocottes- Restaurant review

135 Rue Saint-Dominique
75007 Paris, France

01 45 50 10 31
(closed Sundays/no reservations)
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 (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  4 - Stars................................................................................................3 - Bells

Since we’ve returned to Paris almost 3-weeks ago, we’ve been doing nothing but eating out and catching up with friends. It’s not a bad thing, but the waistline, that’s another story.

We’ve been experiencing really warm fall weather in Paris. It’s been hovering around the low 80’s, but with the humidity it seems even warmer.  So, last night friends Matt and Elissa were giving a tour of the 7ème to show Matt’s mother Patty around, who recently arrived for vacation.  I recommended we go to Christian Constant’s “Les Cocottes” which is very close to the Eiffel tower.  For the locals, you may recognize his name, he’s one of the judge’s on “Top-Chef” France. Since they do not take reservations, I suggested that we meet there at 7:30 pm to ensure that we would get seats.  We could’ve actually gone later because it was quite warm and on warm Parisian nights most people like to eat later, and al fresco, so what were we thinking?

The restaurant is a small long narrow restaurant.  You can eat either at the bar or long tall tables to be shared with others.  You sit up high on “high-chairs”,  hence, because you sit up high, you look the wait-staff eye-to-eye, I kind of like this. It was quite warm in the restaurant since there was no cross-breeze, and as most of us know, it’s rare that a restaurant is air-conditioned in Paris.

Staub cocotte
The names cocottes usually refers to a cast-iron pot.  This restaurant uses “staub.” There is a blackboard with the menu written but you also get a the menu in either English or French at table which helps if you can't see the blackboard.  They also have listed on the black-board that evening’s special. 

We started out with some cold rosé to literally cool down from the heat.  As we perused the menu, we decided on the following:

“la vraie salade de César Ritz.” I believe it’s his interpretation of a “caesar’s salad”, it came with either chicken or anchovies. Patty ordered it with chicken.  It looked nothing like a Caesar, in fact, it had slices of hard boiled eggs on it. It didn’t look very appealing, and honestly after seeing the plate, I’d probably never order it.

Matt got the "emietté de thon, caviar d'aubergines et gelée de tomates".  We all tasted this dish, and this one was a hit. It was nice and creamy and surprisingly had a little kick to it as you got to the bottom of the dish. Imagine, what French Chef would think of adding a little “spicy heat” to food?

Elissa ordered the “velouté de champignons, chantilly parfumé au foie gras”. Elissa said the soup was OK,  but had very little foie gras taste, but very strong mushroom flavoring. So, for mushroom fans, this would be a soup for you.

Jack had the entrée of the evening, and by this time with a few drinks the name of the dish escapes me.  It was a fish filet atop a toasted baguette. I loved this dish, but Jack just said it was just good.

I had the oeuf “poché aus lardons croustillants, belle salad de roquette”. I loved this dish, but then again, who wouldn’t like bacon. The bacon was crispy and carmelized with balsamic.  It had a slight bitter taste, as a result of the carmelization, but with the argula and the egg, overall it was a nicely composed dish!

For the main courses:

Elissa had the “ravioles de langoustines, mousseline d'artichauts”. This dish came out bubbling hot.  It was listed as an entrée, but we asked the waiter if they can make it a “plat” (main dish) portion, and they obliged.  It looked very rich, but Elissa said it was very good.

Patty had the special of the evening which was a “porc avec haricot blanc”. This dish looked very French country, with pork sitting atop of white beans, almost like a simple cassoulet. Patty liked the dish.

Matt ordered the “palombe farcie au foie gras cuit sur son crouton”. At first glance I thought it was a quail, but it turned out to be “ring dove”, which is known for their more delicate and tender meat than a quail.  Matt thought the dish was very good.

Jack had the “cabillaud à la plancha, lentilles liées a jus de viande”.  The fish sat atop small green lentils. I tasted the dish, I liked it, but Jack thought it was just a bit bland. The restaurant does provide a small condiment of red crushed peppers (note: very unusual in France), Jack added the powdery spice to his dish and said, “it made it very good and tasty”.

I had the “pommes de terre caramélisées farcies au pied de porc”.  This was probably my favorite of all the dishes I tried. It was basically pig trotters de-boned sitting atop a poached potato with a nice salad of greens, so I had the contrast of the hot and cold. The trotters were perfectly cooked, very tender.  It was extremely tasty, definitely a hit.

Desserts: at this point we were all feeling pretty full, but we got one order of the “fromage basque, configure de cerises” and “la fabuleuse tarte au chocolat de Christian Constant”.  The cheese was a brebis (sheep cheese) since it is our favorite cheese, we were happy. The chocolate tarte was excellent, very rich and decadent.

In summary:  this is not a restaurant you want to go to for an intimate romantic dinner, nor a place to be seated with your own group, since you will share a table or a bar with strangers. In the U.S., we would call this type of restaurant, “down home cooking” well this is French “down home cooking” à la Basque.  What we had ranged from good to, as Edwina would say, “absolutely fabulous”.  And, honestly, for the price (dishes range from €7- €28) and the quality of food, you can’t beat it.  Even though they do turn tables, you don’t feel at all rushed. I understand that they oftentimes have lines out the door because they do not accept reservations, with that said, go either earlier or later, and I also suggest you not go when it’s warm, since it is not air-conditioned.

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