"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)!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Restaurant review -- Abri

Address:  92 rue du Faubourg Poissonniere 75010
Open:  Monday - Saturday
Metro: Line 7 (Poissonniere) 

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....................................................................................................................................3 - Bell

A gem in the 10eme

We haven’t even been back to Paris a week and already we’ve had two great meals with friends.  Comme habitué (as is common) we met our good friend John for a lunch at a new place in the 10eme. I’ve been feeling under the weather because of the jet-lag, so this was a nice way to get back into my routine of eating my way through Paris, when I’m suppose to.

Finding the restaurant was difficult because there really isn’t a sign, and the signage out front says, “City café sandwiches”, afterall, it was once a sandwich place.  It has now been taken over by a Japanese team of Chefs and servers.

It’s a really long narrow restaurant with the kitchen smack dab in the middle and probably took up half of the restaurant.  It’s a really small restaurant, with at most tables for 20-people. So, as we were sitting we saw several people being turned away for lunch. I’m partial to eating near a kitchen where I can see the action (kitchen ring-side), so for me it was the perfect atmosphere. In fact, we were so close to the kitchen I could actually feel the heat from the stove top once they cranked the gas over 15,000 BTU’s.

The menu was on a clipboard. Interestingly, on Monday and Saturdays they serve a lunch meal of sandwiches, probably to retain some of the original history of the place.  On other days lunch for 22€ for a prefix lunch of 2-entrées, a meat or fish dish, and dessert. And, for dinner they have a prefix for 38.50€ for 3-entrees, a meat and fish dish, as well as dessert.  In addition, all the drinks are “bio” (organic)!

As we were perusing we thought we had choices for our entrée/plat/dessert, but I did not understand the waiter at all. I kept on thinking I’ve only been away 2-months, I couldn’t have forgotten all my French that fast, but turns out none of us understood our server's French.  Basically, we later found out you get the 2-entrées du jour and you can select either the fish or the meat they’re serving that day, in our case it was lieu jaune (Pollack similar to cod) or the veal and the dessert du jour.
Our first entrée came and it was the mackerel marinated in citronelle, and "kombu". Right away, you could see they’re big on presentation and the simplicity of Japanese aesthetics.  On top of the mackerel was a kombu nicely softened so it almost melted in your mouth. It was a bit on the tart side, so if you like tart, you will love this dish as did our companion. All-in-all it was a nice, simply composed and delicious first entrée.

Our second entrée was the variety of tomatoes, served with dollops of flavored oils.  It was served beautifully and tasted delicious even though it’s the end of growing season. One person commented that both dishes were a bit on the salty side. My comment was, in my experience I find most Asian chefs heavy handed with the salt, as the French are with pork dishes.  Again, in its simplicity it was a very nice entrée.

Now for our plats. Two of us had the lieu jaune. It was served with a coco-citronelle beurre blanc foam. You would think from the sound of it that the coco would be too strong for such a fish, and would need to be spiced up to hold up to the fish, but it was quite subtle and a great sauce. I have to say the fish was cooked perfectly. It was on the medium-rare side, just the way it should be. The only thing I didn’t like about the dish was the wilted green leaf which I think was a "komatsuna" a mustard spinach leaf. It looked like it was boiled and not pretty, I think if they had put some oil or something in the water, then there’d at least been a nice sheen to the leaf.  

The veal dish was equally delicious. It was cooked perfectly. It was so tender it melted in your mouth. It too had the funny wilted "Komatsuna"; a little dab of oil would've given it visual appeal.

For dessert we got a simple chocolate tart. The crust was a bit on the hard side, the filling was a bitter-sweet chocolate ganache over a caramel that got just a little too firm from the cold plate, but none-the-less delicious. It was also accompanied by a small scoop of chocolate ice cream.  Very rich and very good. Thank God they didn’t give us a large portion, than it would’ve been too much. It was a perfect ending to a great lunch.

Summary: This restaurant has only been open for 3-weeks. The service is excellent, albeit their French is a little hard to understand. With a bottle of “pompom rouge”, a glass of rosé, and a café, the bill came to under 30€ each.  Great food, great deal, great service.  I like the atmosphere, it’s definitely tight and cozy! But then again, you’re going for the food. The portions by American standards are quite small, but we thought they were perfect, we did not feel overwhelmingly full, and trust me, I just came back from the U.S. and I always felt like a blob of weights and so bloated when I walked out of a restaurant. Word has already gotten out in the food world that it’s a hit. So, make reservation “a toute de suite” before it becomes impossible to get into.

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