"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)!

Monday, February 13, 2012

La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix--Restaurant Review

La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix logo

Address: 53 boulevard de Grenelle, 75015
Nearest transport: Dupleix (6)
Hours: Open every day 
Reservations: Not accepted
Telephone: 01 45 75 98 00

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............................................. (a la carte)............................................3 - Bell
This restaurant has only been open for little more than a week.  As a general rule, I don't go to new restaurants, but made an exception. Our friend Mary, who is visiting from the U.S. and with her limited availability, we were able to set a date for dinner with friends, but dinner would have to be on a Sunday night.  For the uninitiated, Sunday night dinner out in Paris for a “good” meal is like looking for a needle in a haystack. So, I went to my favorite “go to” place, "Paris by Mouth"  which lead me to "John Talbott's Paris"  review,  who I trust explicitly and to my surprise John recently went to La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix and highly recommended it.

Fancy napkins with their logo

The restaurant does not take reservations, so we decided we’ll show up at 7:30 pm and hope for the best.  The Restaurant is literally a block away from Metro Dupleix (line 6) in our own neighborhood. We notice as we got closer that it was pretty crowded and our other friends were already waiting. Fortunately, they already told the wait staff that there would be six of us and they were able to secure a table for us.

The restaurant is quite tight, there’s an area for coffee and apéros, than they have a long restaurant area which dead-ends to their kitchen.  You can actually watch the Chefs prepare your meal. So, it was good to know that I didn’t see any frozen packages being re-heated.

With the exception of Just Jack who had beer, we all started with a kir.  We perused the menu, to me it was quite confusing. Some seemed more like appetizers rather than plats and also the reverse. I think the intent was to give the restaurant a more “tapas” atmosphere.  Oh well, it just confused me and the waiter couldn’t really explain to us the differences. 

Afterwards, our waiter came and told me that 2-items on the menu were no longer available.  He sort of seemed young and inexperienced, and it dawned on me it is a relatively new restaurant.  First he went around and asked us for our entrée order, and it turned out several items were also not available such as the “couteaux à la plancha" (razor clams) that I was so looking forward to, oh well.  So, we had to rethink our orders.  Then as we proceeded to give him our “plat” order, turned out that they were also out of more dishes such as the cabillaud, but fortunately Steve who ordered it was able to replace with a espadon (swordfish).

So, we concluded that Sunday night probably wasn’t a good night to go. Regardless, we were excited to try the dishes they did had:

Oreilles de cochon grillées

Marie had the Oreilles de cochon grilles (grilled pigs ears). Those of us who like pigs ears tasted it and it  was delicious, served over a bed of greens with a little citrus in the salad to cut out some of the fat.  The meat and cartilage was quite tender. The cartilage lends itself to creating a sort of gelatin effect, but in no way made it gelatinous.  A hit.

Salade de St-Jacques

I ordered the Salade de St-Jacques, parmesan. It was a very, very simple dish of pan seared scallops with a nice accompanying salad.  It didn’t wow me, and it was nothing out of the ordinary, but it was good and well executed.

Terrine de boudin

Jack had the Terrine de boudin, although the name implied that it’s a form of blood sausage it didn’t have the familiar strong flavors of a traditional boudin.  Jack actually found this entrée quite boring and uninspiring. I liked it, since I would find the traditional boudin too heavy for a first course, and this seemed a little lighter.

Mary and Steve ordered the “crevettes à la plancha” this seemed to be the big entrée hit of the night.  It was DELICIOUS.  It was coated in a nice flavorful oil, not spicy. Although it was “à leur façon” (their way), my guess is that it was quickly sautéed in “piment d'espelette” a typical basque pepper used in that area. 

Crevettes à la plancha

Remoulade de céleri, gambas

Davis had the “Remoulade de céleri, gambas” she loved the dish and those were not just gambas, they were the size of chicken wings.  For some, the head is quite tasty and can taste like the “mustard" or "tamale” found in crabs or lobsters. It’s not for everyone, it was definitely a strong, strong flavor, but I loved it.

Onto our plats:

Chou farci pied de couchon
Marie and I had the “Chou farci, pied de cochon” (pigs trotters stuffed in a cabbage leaf). We loved this dish. The trotters were deboned, which made it easier to eat. The meat was quite tender, and not at all “rubbery” which can sometimes happen if not cooked well. Pigs trotters are not for everyone because the textures can be strange for some, but we thought it was not only delicious but well executed.

Tartare de saumon

Just Jack had the “tartare de saumon vinaigrette d'agrumes” (salmon tartare with citrus vinaigrette.  He felt the same way I felt about my entrée. It was good, it didn’t wow him, but it was good, well executed dish.

St. Jacques céleri

Davis and Mary had the “St. Jacques, céleri” (scallops on a bed of puréed celeriac).  Davis liked the dish, since she’s a big scallop fan, and the puréed celeriac was good, but she thought it was lacking texture.  We all agreed it could’ve used another layer like a few watercress or maybe even some greens.  But overall, it was a good dish.

Steve had the “espadon” (swordfish). It was a very good dish. I found the tomatoes a bit on the tart side and felt it could have used maybe a pinch of sugar to tone down the acidity; however, Jack, Marie and Steve liked the little tartness of the tomatoes. Steve did think there was too much of it and overwhelmed the fish. 
We had heard that their fries were really good, so we ordered a large plate of it to share; unfortunately, the fries came as we were finishing up our meals, oh well.

Onto desserts:

Fromage des Pyrénées, configure de cerises noire

I had the “fromage des Pyrénées, confiture de cerises noire” (cheese from the pyrénées with cherry preserves). I am a big fan of a semi-hard cheese a little on the salty side with jam or preserves, so this was a hit for me.

Davis had the “Clafoutis ananas” (pineapple clafouti). It was not at all what she nor I expected. It was more like a brulée with pineapples than a true clafoutis. If it was called a brulées ananas, then I would have said it was excellent and delicious. But a a clafouti, I think not! (Note: I forgot take a photo of this dessert)

Gâteaux Basque

Just Jack ordered “gâteaux Basque” (Basque cake) which can be made with either pastry cream, cherries or with both.  In Jack’s he had cherries, it tasted more like a clafoutis.  In fact, Jack thought it tasted more like a cherry pie with a lot ofbeurre salé” (salted butter caramel). And, he said the crust was a little on the stale side. He was not a fan of this dessert.

Riz au lait
Mary and Steve had the “riz au lait” (rice pudding with a little cake).  The both liked their dessert; however, on the one hand Mary thought that the pudding could have been a tad sweeter.  Both like the accompanying “buerre sale.”

Bol de fruits

Marie had the fruit salad with an accompanying cake.  Marie thought the fruit dessert was a perfect ending to her meal. And, it looked like there was a lot of it.


In summary:

It’s a neighborhood restaurant, and lucky us it's in our "quartier."  One out of six of us thought the food average, while five of us thought the food was excellent. It was a good deal for the money.  With apéros, 3-courses, and 2-bottle of house wines at 20€ each, we paid 44€ a person. 

It has only been open for a little more than a week, considering this, they're doing an excellent job.  I'm confident they'll work out some of the kinks, especially their service.  

We all agreed we would definitely go back, and for me I'd go back just for the shrimps, but probably not on a Sunday night, since week-end deliveries are non-existent, so your choices will be limited. 

Chapeau to Chef Christian Etchebes!

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