"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, June 21, 2012

L'Hédoniste -- Restaurant Review

14, rue Léopold Bellan. 75002 Paris. 
M° Sentier ou Chatelet/Les Halles
01 40 26 87 33.
Website: http://www.lhedoniste.com/

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 - Star....................................................................................................................................2 - Bell

We have friends visiting from the U.S. and we wanted to eat close to the 1st arrondissement where their apartment is located.  This restaurant came to mind. I’ve had several friends over the years who have made this their must go to place for good food. So, I went online and found that they have an email “booking” system. Note: not through “La fourchette” (online booking similar to “open-table” in U.S.),  but their own private online booking system.  I’ve not had good luck emailing reservations online, but thought I’d give it a try. Much to my pleasant surprise, within a few hours of my email, I got confirmation that we had our table for 6 reserved.

On the evening we went, It was quite warm and humid, but since it’s been raining the past couple of days I didn’t even consider asking for an outside table, oh well.  The indoor is quite charming, typical Parisian restaurant. The doors into the restaurant opened pretty widely to allow air circulation, this can be good, but can also be bad, as we later found out. Someone by the door was smoking some type of strong smelling cigarette or cigar. By law you cannot smoke inside the restaurants, but you can smoke outdoors. And, as typical of almost all small Parisian restaurants, I don’t believe it was air-conditioned.

They have a daily “suggested” menu of entrée, plats, and dessert. Only one of us got the suggested plat special.  Note: the prix-fixe formule is only available for lunch, dinner is à la carte.

There were 3-entrées, the special of the day which was “”gaspacho melon chorizo” (cold melon soup with chorizo), and the other two which were “ceviche de maquereau” (ceviche of mackerel), and the “croustillant saumon, melon jaune” (crispy salmon with young melons).

The “ceviche de macquereau” were filets of mackerel served in bed of citrus juice. I believe it was a combination of orange juice and lemon juice.  The fish was very good, and there was no doubt it was sitting atop a citrus base. The people who had it loved it.  I liked it, but I found it a bit too sour for my personal taste.

The “croustillant saumon” were served up like miniature tournedos of salmon. The covering, which I believe was partial salmon skin and phyllo dough, lost a little bit of its crispiness when it was served to us, but it was a beautiful dish, and quite tasty. The accompanying cubed sweet cucumbers gave the dish an overall nice balance. 

For the entrées: On person got the special. “suprème de volaille fermier, petits pois, ravide de chèvre” (farmed chicken with peas and chèvre cheese). Our friend who got this dish said the meat was cooked well, moist and succulent. Although the menu said it was accompanied with “petits” (small) peas, they actually looked like they were on steroids, but I was told they too were delicious.

One person ordered the “agneau figahelli, jus olive” (lamb with pasta and an olive sauce).  When the lamb came out, it was beautiful, but I immediately noticed it was cooked “bleue” (very rare). So, I asked my friend if he had ordered it that way, and he didn’t recall if he ordered it any special way. Typically, restaurants will always ask how you want your meat cooked.  Our friend does not speak French, so I don’t fault the restaurant; he could have asked and our friend probably didn’t realize he agreed to this recommended doneness. Note: French lean more to the very rare.  But turns out he likes it somewhat rare anyway. So, all was well.  Interestingly, along with the dish came miniature balls of melons. I found it to be like a little nice gem, sort of a nice surprise.

The remaining three of us got the “merlu” (hake fish).  I thought this fish was cooked perfectly. The skin was crispy and the meat was extremely moist. It sat on a bed of purple rice risotto, and a foamy/creamy parmesan sauce. I haven’t always been a big fan of foamy creams, but I’m starting to enjoy them. I find the thick butter creams too rich, so this was actually a nice accompaniment.  We all agreed this was a winner.

Onto desserts. The restaurant got busy, and they forgot to get our dessert orders, so one of us asked about it and they immediately came and got our order.  They had a cheese plate, and a special of the day which was a minestrone of grenadine and cherries.  We ordered the “abricot, amande verveine” (apricot, almond and verbena) and a “ganache chocolat noir, menthe” I asked the waiter what it was and specifically asked if it was a cake. He said there was a little cake. Turned out it was a very, very soft pudding with a foamy cream topping and no cake.

When I first got the ganache chocolate and I took a bite I sort of liked it, because it was so light and I was a little full from the previous courses. However, the more I ate it, and becoming more objective, the more I disliked it.  The consistency was odd, almost like thick soup, and it had a little bitter after-taste, probably from the chocolate.  And, the foamy whip cream was way too light to be sitting atop a soupy chocolate. It was just too soupy. On top of all that was julienne mint, which actually was quite stringy and got caught between my teeth. It was also accompanied with a little side of jellied fruit, and a fried mint leaf, which I actually enjoyed.

The saving grace for the dessert was the apricot dessert. It was beautifully presented, albeit a very small portion, and it was actually quite delicious. Two types of apricots with an almond paste cream.  This was a hit.

Summary:  The restaurant does not have a large selection, which I prefer. For one it’s easier to make a decision and secondly you know they’re concentrating on making the fewer dishes well done, versus a lot of dishes mediocre.  Aside from the strange chocolate dessert, everything was excellent.  With 3-bottles of water, a glass of white wine and a bottle of Corsican red our bill came to almost 300€ for 6 people.  Would I go back, absolutely!


  1. I should mention that this is a great alternative to "Frenchies," the hard to get into restaurant, they're not too far from each other, and definitely on the same par, food-wise, but without the difficult reservations, and without the surly and rude attitude...

  2. "The French lean more to the very rare".... an understatement! It does all sound delicious but really, two teensy apricots?? I hope they didn't charge you for that meager plate.

    1. Oui, but it was really all they wanted. It looks small, but very satisfying with strong flavors, especially with the accompanying cream.

  3. Had lunch there last year with a certain restauranteur shortly after they were named 'bistro of the year' by that annual guide (le petit... something) It was really good. Don't know why I haven't been back because the whole experience was enjoyable.

    Am loving your review style Randy...

    1. Merci, I'll go back with you a tout de suite!