Thursday, October 20, 2011
The 10 best things we ate in Paris
The week we've just spent in Paris was not a great gastronomic pilgrimage. We actually went to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and to check out the flourishing natural wine scene in which we're both interested. We deliberately didn't make advance reservations or hit any two or three star restaurants, preferring the casual informality of bistros and wine bars. But we still ate well and here are - in no particular order - the 10 best dishes we had.
Steak frites at Café des Musées
Every trip to Paris should include a classic steak and chips and this was a cracker. Admittedly there was more fat than the average steak you'd get in a British restaurant but the taste was superb and the accompanying sauce béarnaise and very crisp hand-cut chips just perfect. The only thing that spoilt it were the loud Americans on a neighbouring table.
Radis beurre at Aux Deux Amis
Another French classic given a contemporary twist by including heirloom varieties at Aux Deux Amis, a tiny bistro on the Oberkampf (11e). Beautifully presented - I also love the whipped butter and the smoked sea salt. An ideal light start to a meal
Brandade and salad at Aux Deux Amis
OK, this doesn't look much but you have to trust me. Brandade which is made from salt cod normally comes as a sloppy purée you have with toast but this had been turned into a deconstructed fish pie. The old fashioned lettuce salad with it was the perfect accompaniment. I'm going to try this at home
Hake with crushed jerusalem artichokes, mint and olives at Rino
My husband who is more of a carnivore than I am probably wouldn't agree but this was the best dish at the best meal we had all week - at a tiny modern bistro in the 11th which serves a very short set-price lunch on Fridays and Saturdays for 20€ for two courses. A wonderfully subtle, imaginative combination of flavours. We ate it very slowly to make it last longer.
Red mullet with grains at Rino (top of post)
This was the first course at the same meal - red mullet with what they described as a 'soupe' of grains and lentils and some chard. Again, very clean and pure with a slightly Asian twist I couldn't quite put my finger on.
Joue de veau at Le Baratin
Le Baratin is probably Paris's most famous natural wine bistro - with a reputation for famously rude service as you can read here. But we found them politeness itself and the food was great. There were two main courses involving cheeks - ox cheek and veal cheek - both stellar. The ox cheek was better with the wine we ordered but the veal cheek was the lighter and more elegant dish.
Saucisse en cocotte at Vivant
Vivant, in the rue des Petites Ecuries in the 10th, is the new up and coming rival to Le Baratin. You can read my review here but I particularly liked this dish of robust Toulouse sausage served with all kinds of amazing root veg - beets, radish and turnips - steamed in their own juices en cocotte. Much lighter than the classic sausage and mash.
Oxtail croque at l’Avant Comptoir
We were pretty pleased with ourselves at squeezing into a small corner of the bar at Yves Camdeborde's ultra fashionable L'Avant Comptoir but it took a while for us to work out how to order. You think at first there's just the regulation charcuterie but there are lots of imaginative small dishes or tapas listed on cards that hang from the ceiling. This was my favourite - an oxtail 'croque' (fried sandwich) with horseradish chantilly (whipped cream). Totally delicious.
Poached pear at Philou
As you may have gathered we're not great ones for desserts - and were eating so much it was probably just as well - but this was a really lovely poached pear with salted caramel with some kind of baba-ish thingy we ate at a newish bistro Philou, just off the Canal St Martin.
Pistachio eclairs at Gosselin
And finally we did succumb to the pastry shops just once when we'd had a lighter than usual lunch, picking a pistachio eclair (at the back) from the multi-coloured selection at Gosselin in the rue St Honoré. So much more stylish than a cupcake. Just as well we didn't make patisserie the main focus of the trip . . .