"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, October 28, 2016

Le Petit Varenne -- Restaurant Review

 57, rue de Bellechasse, 7eme
Closed: Sundays and Mondays
Metro: Rue du Bac (12)

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 (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

4 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 3 - Bell

At a recommendation of our friend J we went to a relatively new restaurant opened by Jean-Baptiste Varenne who seems to be the quite the entrepreneur, opening 3-other restaurants in Paris (Laiterie Sainte Clotilde, Chez Graff and Gare aux Gorilles) with some business partners. This restaurant is located across the street from the office of the prime minister, so don't be alarmed when you see several armed military around the premises.

 57, rue de Bellechasse

The interior is nothing special. In fact very stark with just tables and chairs. No ambiance to speak of. It is a small restaurant, hence it can get quite noisy, but what's nice were the large windows which brought in lots of light and made the restaurant appear larger. As we entered the restaurant for lunch at about 12:45 pm, there was only 1-other table that was occupied, but that changed quickly. It appears the lunch crowd is later and they start trickling in after 1 pm. There were no prix-fixe menus, everything was a la carte. The Chef de cuisine is  Rémy N’Guyen of Prince de Galles and Burgundy.


Gnocchi, champignons et emulsion au parmesan (Gnocchi, mushrooms and parmesan emulsion). We really enjoyed this particular entrée. Gnocchi can be very heavy and sometimes even "gummy", but these were very light and almost had an airy quality about them. The accompanying mushrooms were a great addition to give the dish an earthy component. As many know, I'm not a fan of emulsions, but this parmesan emulsion was extremely flavorful, light. And, topped with a parmesan wafer, it gave the dish a nice crispy textural component. An excellent composed dish.

Terrine de boudin noir (black pudding terrine). I was expecting it to be a traditional sausage, but then I re-read the description and it is a terrine versus a sausage, which the latter is more typical. It was served in pie slices. Blood sausages are very common in France, but this did not have that "irony" flavor. It was actually quite tasty accompanied with the sweet sauces from the apples as well as the beets. Also, a very good composed entrée.


Poire de boeuf, pommes grenailles et échalotes confites (Pear beef, new potatoes and candied shallots). "Poire of the beef" is reputed to be one of the most flavorful and tender parts of the beef. It's actually the inner thigh of the beef, so less muscular. I was in the mood for a good steak, and this did not disappoint. The meat was succulent, tender, and delicious. This was probably one of the best steaks I've had in a long time. I thought the potatoes were perfectly cooked, crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. I wasn't a fan of the shallots, it had a bitter aftertaste, but I'll overlook that since the steak was so good. It was topped with some leafy greens tossed lightly in vinegar and added to the overall flavors of the dish.

Merlu poche, tombée d’épinard et emulsion au cresson (Hake, spinach and watercress emulsion). It wasn't a pretty dish, since the fish looked like it was buried under all that foam, or should I say emulsion, but the fish was moist, very tasty and with the accompanying spinach and watercress was a nice addition. And, surprisingly all that emulsion actually had quite a nice flavor profile.  The citrus atop the fish completed it.

Canard de Rouen et caviar d’aubergine (Rouen duck and eggplant caviar).  Although this plat was delicious, this was probably my least favorite. And, this had nothing to do with flavor profiles, more so for personal preference. Our friend J asked for the duck to be cooked very rare, and very rare it came out. I just found it to be too rubbery. I'm confident though, had the duck been medium or even medium rare, based on the other two dishes, it would've been perfect. The accompanying eggplant caviar and carrots was a nice accompaniment.


Chocolat, orange confite et noisettes grillées. Glaces artisanaux (Chocolat, orange confite and roasted nuts.  Artisanal ice cream .

The first dessert, the chocolate with orange and roasted nuts was a bit overwhelming sweet for me. But then again I don't normally eat sugar, and I just had a taste of it. It tasted like a whipped ganache topped with nuts. It was a good dessert and it would definitely be a chocolate lovers dream, but not for me.

The second dessert was less sweet. They were artisanal ice creams. The pistachio was my favorite. The two ice-creams complimented each other and it sat atop crumbled butter cookies and nuts. Very simple, but refreshing.

WINES:  We had a bottle of Clos de l’Amanaie Langedoc and a bottle of D’auphilac Lou maset Languedoc.  Both wines were from the Languedoc region of France. The white was light and crisp and citrus notes, whereas the red was lighter and fruitier.


Jean-Baptise Varenne (proprietor)
What a great find in the 7eme. It's not a pretty restaurant, very stark in decoration, and no ambiance to speak of,  but who needs decoration when the food is the star attraction. You don't see many tourists in this area of Paris primarily since it's across from the Office of the Ministry. and there aren't that many shops or attractions nearby. And, from what I gathered from the lunch crowd, its clientele was very officious. So, I assume they were government employees.  The owner Jean-Baptise chatted with us a little bit, and he actually had read many of J's restaurant reviews. He interacted with several of his clients as well, which to me is always a good sign.

Onto the food, as I said, the food was the star. The food overall was excellent. My favorite entrée was the gnocchi, and my favorite main was the steak. By far, one of the best steaks I've had in Paris.  You definitely don't come here for the ambiance. Would we come back? ABSOLUTELY!

For 3-entrées, 3-plats, 2-desserts, 2-bottles of wine and 1-coffee our meal came to 186€ for 3-people or 62€ per person.

NOTE: the wines were bit on the pricey side, so brought our overall costs higher; however, the prices of the meals themselves are quite reasonable with average entrée 10-12€ range and the mains in the mid-20€ range.

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