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May 07 – Fables, Rich, l’Office, Autour, M, Breizh

John Talbott

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May 07 – Fables de la Fontaine, Rich, l’Office, Autour de…., M comme Martine, Breizh Café, Dan Bau, Café de la Paix, Chez Papa, Drouant

You can go home again, even when it gets a star and is turned over to the loyal lieutenants.

7.0 Les Fables of Fontaine, 131, rue Saint-Dominique in the 7th, 01 44 18 37 55, closed Sundays and Mondays, was recently taken over by two of Christian Constant’s folk (Sebastien Gravé and David Bottreau) as Laidback reported a month ago. So as someone, who except for one aberrant meal, has done very well, indeed, there, I had to revisit, this time with a charming guest from one of the Southern states. The décor, etc, is the same, and M. Constant came in at 12h30 in mufti to greet the regulars, check in and chat with the staff. As before, everything is on the ardoise but to my eyes the prices are a bit higher and there (again by me) seemed to be more plain fish. The amuse gueule was/were a creamy “soup” of parmesan and asparagus and my guest started with what was called a beet gazpacho with shrimp, but was a huge funnel-shaped glass, both echoes of Les Magnolias, with chopped shrimp on the bottom with some mango below it and on top; both were top of the line – but as we glanced at the other tables, they looked to be doing just as well. Then I had the halibut fixed the same way (asparagus with sauce and a slice of crispy jambon/jamon) as the lieu on the carte but 10 € more; while my dining partner had the bar with jamon/jambon and confited eggplant. Both were worthy of a one-star resto, even though the decor, napery, flowers (lack thereof), etc are not. My friend finished with a banana mascarpone with black cherries. Both the bread and coffee were pretty good and the wine comes by the glass, 25 or 50 cl carafes or bottle and is reasonably priced – 21 €. Our bill with two prunes was 117 €.

Should one go? For the one-star quality fish and inventive starters alone.

The October surprise (and it’s only May)

6.0 Rich, 14, rue Cadet in the 9th,, menus at 25 and 30 € (the big boys say, but I only saw the menu-carte for three courses at 35 €), but running one up to 70 € a la carte without wine, is located in the old bourse where precious stones are or were polished/prepared/sold/who knows? It is elegance itself. Wow! Upstairs is a baccarat-gaming/etc tabled bar/boite and downstairs a hip bar but on the ground floor is one of the nicest looking places I’ve been in, in years. When I first read about it in Figaroscope, I thought – ho hum, 2 hearts, and 3 blocks by Toinard was equally unrevealing, but when it placed second in the running (to Spring natch) in Figaroscope’s ratings of new places this spring, that caught my attention. So off to the center of precious stone-kosher resto-land. It’s just across the street from Le 7eme Sens which has a great chalkboard sign saying: “We speak English or at least we try.” Anyway, Rich is rich, in a great setting, warm welcome, fab home-made bread. Good signs. I chose the fried gambas (4) with two sauces (spicy tomato and spicy vinegar) that exceeded the Bistrot Cote Mer 1990’s standard. Then I had the breast of chicken with a satay sauce and terrific rice (flavored with tea or jasmin or both.) (P. Gagnaire was correct, Asian influences are all over and Choukroun, Ledeuil and the Fooding bunch are to be commended for this.) NB: there were lots of other choices: soups, salads, fish and meat courses as well as cheeses and desserts. Since I had some wine left (no ½’s but glasses are 6 and bottles start at 24 €,) I had two huuuuge slices of Corsican tomme with a wonderful fig confiture and a generous salad – just great. Open 7/7 (therefore, a great Sunday lunch place). Bill with 2 glasses of wine and coffee = 49.60 €. Have I nothing bad to say? Sure: they have those stupid hand dry blowers in the loos.

Q. Go? A. The New York Stone mart should have such a place.

Another surprise and at terribly reasonable prices

5.0 L’Office, 3, rue Richer in the 9th,, closed Saturday night and Sundays (despite what Figaroscope says) is just besides Le Jardinier and near a ton of hotels, making it a great destination for tourists on the prowl for a great, reasonably priced meal. Entering I thought it was quite nice, small (20 covers) but outfitted quite well. Like Spring, which is just up the hill, it’s a one-man band with a teeny kitchen, I mean one oven and a frig and that’s it, forced “menu” at lunch and one server. However, the chef is flexible; after announcing the menu and seeing my face fall, he said of course we can also do…….. and so essentially we did have two choices for 1sts and 2nds which we took. I chose the first from the “menu,” a spectacularly tasty beef bouillon with shreds of omelet, baby onions and fresh halved room-temperature baby tomatoes; my long-lost college classmate – three well-cooked, lovely shrimp on a bed of sautéed onions and something crunchy (Jerusalem artichoke, bleached fennel, hum). Then he had the menu’s stewed pork on a bed of potatoes with a superbly spiced sauce; me – the onglet again cooked to perfection, sliced, sauced, on the bed of potatoes. The dessert was a delicious three layered thing: currant brioche, apricots and a light creamy topping. When the guy asked for our coffee order I said “serre” and he replied “ristretto” – Illy it was. Wines begin at 14 €. Our bill was 48 € for two, that’s correct, for two. At night, the “menu” is 25, but even a la carte is only 30-35 €. Any problems; if pressed, I’d reply that the toilet is small. Otherwise, this is where to send the next person wanting an inexpensive but good meal.

Best value of the spring season!

Yet another surprise and a pleasant one.

5.0 N* Autour de.…, 397, rue de Vaugirard in the 15th, right near the Porte de Versailles and Convention Center, 01 45 30 18 47, menu 25 € and a la carte around 35 €, is open everyday and has a terrific long “terrace” facing an essentially empty square. I went because the only person I recall reporting on it, Richard Hesse of Paris Update, was quite positive about the new chef’s productions. I had a great starter of sautéed chipirons that, with spinach leaves and fried parsley and anise and dressing, was a terrific combo, which mopped up with good bread was terrific. My main was/were fresh sardines accompanied by asparagus, artichokes and baby tomatoes. I finished with a moelleux of chocolate and salty caramel ice cream – nickel! (And the maitre d’ clearly had read my comment on eGullet last week about the window of time to cook a mi-cuit because he announced it was between 5 and 7 minutes.) The wines run 4+ a glass, 15.50+ for ½ liter and 19+ € a bottle. The subtitle of the place is “Saveurs de Terroir et Autres Histoires” and it really was. Only hitch: they screwed up the initial bill and charged me $10 more than they should of (I had the “menu.”) The second bill presented was 48.50 €.

Should one go? If you’re at the Parc des Exhibitions, as I was for the horrendously, awfully big “Foire De Paris,” it’s a better bet than the Restaurant du Marche and nearer than the great Beurre Noisette, so why not?

The perfect example of a neighborhood (gay friendly mind you, too) resto you wish you had in NY, LA, Chi or (ouf) Baltimore.

4.3 M Comme Martine, 33, rue Cardinet in the 17th,, closed Sundays and Monday dinner, has been written up a fair amount, enough to keep reminding me, like a scab asking to be itched, to go. So I went, and it made such an impression on me that I revised my numbering/rating system, see below, because it was so much an honest neighborhood place serving honorable, good food – no less, no more – that I felt I could not do better! Anyway, it’s nowhere (Villiers, Wagram, etc.,) but it’s been done over very nicely; a la Sarko – Cool, Zen, Calme! The host and hostess are very welcoming – as equally to me (an unknown) as the other folk (well known to the house.) It’s small, 32 covers, has a 30 € menu all the time, with wines from 6 a glass and 19 € a bottle up and while not presenting a terribly interesting carte (eg 1sts of a tartare, terrine, salad, etc; fish like tuna and bar, meat like duck, beef and leg of lamb and desserts such as crème caramel, vacherin and clafoutis,) prepares everything perfectly. I ordered a tartare of marinated tuna with sesame seeds and an acidic sauce that was great product, well-prepared and seasoned but just a tad too cold (cf my comment on the oysters at the Breizh Café.) My main was a rolatine of confited veal, crispy dark on the outside edge, then fat, then another layer of meat and fat and inside wonderful veal; all atop spring carrots, perfectly cooked. And finally, a pas mal tiramisu a la Martine (named after, I assume, the woman of a certain age with the whiskey/cigarette voice who greeted me, took orders and helped me don my jacket (a first in fifty years in France) but was a tad too much in your face.) With wine and coffee and no bottled water it comes to 45 €.

Should one go? As I say, if you live/rent/hotel in the 17th, I envy you. Go.

An upscale crepe or the revenge on Wolfgang Puck

4.1 Breizh Café, 109, Rue Vieille du Temple in the 3rd,, closed Sundays and Mondays is a really different kind of place than I and I daresay most French eaters have ever experienced and therefore is really unrateable. Why? Because it does to crepes what Wolfgang Puck did with pizza; it turns them on their head; is the third branch of a Japanese outfit; and has two Japanese cooks who turn everything out effortlessly. The décor is what might charitably be called Breton-dock-ferry terminal waiting room modern, that is, strips of unfinished wood. The tables are functional and the menu huge. There must be 20 crepe varieties divided into simple (such as one with one of three Bordier butters), complex (that start with an egg and usually have cheese, a meal/fish and something else) and the daily chalkboard specials (with provincial names like Auvergnate, Cancaloise, etc. that are also composed of a regional cheese, fish or meat and other items.) We started off with 6 Tzarskaya oysters (apparently a favorite of the Tsar/Tzar) that were great with a “simple” crepe schmeared with smoked (correct) butter and not over-chilled (my friend and I simultaneously agreed). Then we shared a platter of four different kinds of pig sausage/meat; quite good. Then to two fancy crepes: one with herring, warm potatoes and herring caviar; the other with egg, ham, cheese and confited onion; both again quite good. With them, of course we had two different “bio” ciders (but NB, they also have unique beers and some wine by the glass and bottle). Dessert was another crepe with gariguette strawberries and what was called Chantilly but was firm not saucy and an ice-creamy yogurt. Our bill = I have no idea. My buddy owed me a meal and settled up for us and was out the door while I was in the men’s so I never saw it. But Rubin says to count on 20-30 € per person without liquid.

Should one go? Well if you’re staying in the Marais, you’ll eat at a place of which there are only two others in the world and they’re in Cancale and Tokyo.

Ethnic – horrors, I don’t do ethnic in France

3.0 Le Dan Bau, 18, rue des Trois Freres in the 18th,, never closed.

As my loyal and not-so-loyal readers know, I don’t report/review ethnic places in Paris because unless I’m here for a year plus, I’m perfectly happy sampling new and old French places. But, but, but, I decided today (actually last week) to eat tonite at a Viet Namese (yes it’s two words) place in the nabe because I was bushed after a flight across the seas, my regular 1st dinner rotisserie standby was closed and Richard Nahem of Parisist, a relatively new site that promotes itself as run by ex-New Yorkers, raved about it. What my readers don’t usually know, however, is that for Viet Namese cooking I have very high, impossibly high standards – having eaten out and had a cook-in chef in Viet Nam while protecting our nation from the dominoes of Communism. (Sidebar, two members of the Elite Sai Gon De Luxe Eating Club were the recently late and very great reporters, Johnnie (RW Jr) Apple and David Halberstam). Oh sure, I ate at Viet Namese places in Paris as a student, hey, they were cheap, good (what did I know about authentic ethnic cooking then?) and convenient. In any case, to my meal. Located on a “happening” street, just away from tourist central on Montmartre (La Famille par exemple) it’s only got 27 covers and has surprisingly terrific wall-art. The menu (carte) looks not much different from any other Viet place in Paris; but the food, the food? I started with the pork nems and couldn’t have been happier - crisp, great mint and lettuce leaves, too hot in temperature, but hey. Then I had the Pho, my sustaining breakfast in Viet Nam; bland but with perfectly undercooked (eg raw) beef (albeit a poor cut) and noodles and interesting lemon grass, etc, but wait, what’s that beside it; what my culinary guiding family (we term them Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-il) call “Big Red,” except that in Viet Nam there are legions of such sauces. That was it! With wine (1/2 bottle or 50 cl, it didn’t matter = 8.50 €.) My bill = 20 €. I challenge you on that. And they were turning people away. A downside – Don’t go if you’re subject to light-flashing induced seizures from light string fixtures – wow.

Should one go? If one is on Montmartre, in need of ethnic food and not seizure-prone, definitely!

Good chow in tourist central?; it’s possible, maybe.

2.5 Café de La Paix, place de l’Opera in the 9th, 01 40 07 36 36, open daily, with menus at 25 (1 course), 35 (2 courses) and 45 € (three), a la carte about 50 €. Who on earth would go to this tourist trap, best known as an after-opera/ballet dessert spot ? Me, after I learned that its new chef, Laurent Delarbre, was a MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) and intended to modernize the menu. I picked May 1st when openings/closings can be dicey and after weaving my way through/past dozens of sellers of lilies of the valley, plunging through Jean-Marie LePen’s manif and talking my way past the security guards (the poor restaurant was forced to hire two of them per entry door to keep the racist riffraff out,) I found myself back inside a place I haven’t been inside since the Jerome Robbins’ memorial at the Garnier almost a decade ago. To my eyes, I saw not much change in décor but in the menu yes. The good news – my eating partner and I both had pretty good mains (me a perfectly undercooked and pretty tasty duck breast with shredded stewed duck morsels covered with julienned spring veggies; she three or four generous slices of joue de boeuf with fava beans and petit pois) and she loved her dessert of strawberry cake and ice cream. But the firsts were pathetic (a tasteless, poor quality piece of marinated/singed tuna with tasteless shaved cucumber strips and a carrot soup with chicken strips); the bread was either old or store-bought; the service (you know what I mean) glacially slow and the 6 € apiece for (albeit good) coffee, an outrage. Wines began at 25 € but even so the bill was 117 €/2 and we weren’t even able to see the Front National’s street theater although the cute little mouse scampering across the floor at the end of the meal was a pretty good show.

Should one go? Hummm. As always, if you’re hungry after the ballet.

Just past Pollywood is Papa (read on - everything will be illuminated)

0. Chez Papa, 185, rue Marcadet in the 18th,, never closed (well, except for Christmas and New Year’s Day) is a chain – oh, they have places in the 14th and 15th, for which Pudlo gives different costs. In any case, I was walking either to the #1 2007 baguette place in Paris or Le Winch, the other day from Pollywood (you know Hollywood and Bollywood but we have Pathé Cinema’s studios in the vibrant 18th - known by some as Pollywood). As I was saying, I was walking and saw a sign for Chez Papa and since the demise of Chez Tony, which was guaranteed to supply you with your quota of the food pyramid of wine, fat, foie gras, gizzards and duck, we’ve missed out on that last night South-west fat feast. So I scoped the menu, talked to my cardiologue (to reassure me that my cholesterol needed a boost) and booked a table for the night before I had to speed back to the US to attend to pressing business (isn’t that what they all say when fleeing the sheriff ? ) Anyway, I entered (this is, by the way, walking distance for me) and it was terrific – bright, welcoming, no-smoking (all night) and thoroughly delightful. My favorite 18th Arr. bloggeur/food writer said that this chain was a place for young kids to get cheap meals, so I was forewarned. Lots of great Southwestern stuff; everything from v. expensive foie gras to cheap tripes. On entering, I lowered the average age to about 80. Oh oh. But soldier on, there’s no other option. I’ve cleaned out the frigo, the larder is empty, the garde mange vide. Menu huuge. Had a green salad – huuge but good greens and passable dressing (bread pathetic). Then the cassolette Papa, huuge, ate a few bites; watery, beans tasteless, duck equally so – awful, nul, gargh. How to exit gracefully; ah hah, I forgot to mention that Papa of Chez Papa, looks exactly like me, when my beard was black and I didn’t have the silly beret. So I made some sort of mention of our genetic heritage and exited. Wines: 2.60 a glass up, bottles 14.45 € up, my bill, it’s here somewhere, ah yes – 29.50 €. Can’t beat that, but……. PS, they had a questionnaire on the placemat assessing your proclivities: eg, your gender, how you found it, quality of product, etc., but no place to give your real opinion about the food - as indeed, they’ve prevented me from voting for Frederic Nihous of the Fish, Game and lovely French Culture and Tradition Party, tomorrow. The only other food-guy running, Jose Bove, who loves Roquefort but hates McDo’s, is out as well. Oh well, France says it loves food but that love doesn’t apparently translate into votes.

Should one go? The waitress was the best of this decade despite her dreadful tattoos, the range of SW stuff great, the product unblemished and fresh, but I/you/your partner/your enemy can do better easily at home.

Gross forfaiture on my credibility. A freebie drink, indeed two, and nibblies!

HS* Drouant,16-18, place Gaillon in the 2nd,, open everyday for lunch and dinner and for cocktails 5:30-7:30 PM. OK, confession time. Small, indeed, tiny fish that I am, I pride myself on paying my way, not being announced/recognized and taking no freebies, since I’m convinced from the literature (references provided on request) and my prior life, that it affects one’s judgment. But, but, just this one time, I will not be tempted again, I promise you, when I got an invite addressed to me specifying that I represented the august eGullet Society (they, Drouant, must read us too) at the opening of their new « Aperospace », I fell for it. So, Phyllis/Felice and I went for a free apero in their new thing. What can I tell you ? Phyllis finked out and just had a white wine (which with great envy, I must say, was fabulous) and I had a « cocktail maison » with crushed strawberries, kiwi, rum, gin, soda and god knows what else – more fabulous. They didn’t want us to go hungry so they provided four (usually Drouant does things in threes) plates of almonds, ham (jamon, jambon – top of the line), bread and pig’s snout (well, it’s better than it sounds.) Our bill = you weren’t paying attention. These are the perks at eGullet: endless yogurt promises and the once every five year free cocktail. Thank you Mssrs Westermann and Clémot and Fat Guy, I guess!

As former Attny General and campaign mastermind John Mitchell famously said to Helen Thomas: "Watch what we do, not what we say" ah, no, that’s the wrong moral, well, you know.

New improved revised scale (subject to fickleness and change):

10 – The best you’ve ever had, eg Giradet in the old days.

9 – The places you went/go to because they’re destinations, eg Pere Bise

8 – The places that did their best in their prime Robuchon, Ducasse, Loiseau

7 – The places today beating the competition Ze Kitchen Galerie, Spring, Constant x3

6- The old reliables Repaire de Cartouche, Thierry Burlot, Bistro du Dome

5 – Fun neighborhood places Le Winch

4 – Places to go on cook’s night out Terminus Nord

3 – Places if you’re really stuck 2 Pieces Cuisine, Le Truc

2 – A pick-up meal Sale + Pepe

1 – Really hitting bottom le Nord-Sud

0 – Never again Auguste, The Place

Ø- No kidding, you can’t drag me Iode

HS* = outside classification, unfair to rate

N* = a place that if one lived nearby in the neighborhood (N) would be a great place to go but gets a lower grade due to the schlep (perhaps unfairly).

NN* = a place that if one lived nearby (N) in the neighborhood (N) would be a great place to go but gets a lower grade due to the horrible, immense, unpleasant schlep.

NNN* = If I lived nearby it would tilt to the bigger grade.

John Talbott

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  • 2 weeks later...

I followed Dr. Talbott's smash review of the restaurant Rich on rue Cadet and was happy as usual in following his crumb trail. The place is very impressive, decor, service and cuisine. The decor is modern elegance, no expense spared. semi-privacy curtains between tables made from cut suede with matching lampshades and custom carpet made to resemble tiles both contribute to noise dampening which is something I wish more places would aim for.


We started with chicken nems with precisely matched lettuce and mint leaves in which to wrap them


and yet another superb beef and mushroom carpaccio with caper berries and shaved parmesan.


Our main courses were croustillant de gambas with 2 dipping sauces


and a rib steak cooked as ordered with Bearnaise sauce and some of the most unctious mashed potatos this side of Robuchon; probably about one third each of cream, butter and potato with a drizzle of good olive oil.


Dessert was a pedestrian pineapple baba au rhum and an exemplary tarte fine aux pommes.


For you high rollers there is a posh card room upstairs.

Thanks again John for another good recommendation, and while we are thanking, here is a big one to Chocolat and Zucchini for a gem of a chocolate shop on rue de la Fontaine just south of the Pigalle tease/sleaze called l'Etoile d'Or.


It has been in this location for many years, run by one of the real characters of the neighborhood, Denise Acabo. Even if you can't afford it or don't like candy you should stop and chat. She is the sole purveyor of Bernachon chocolate outside of Lyon and also carries LaRoush caramel beurre salé, which some feel is about as good as cbs gets. If you don't like it don't blame me; I even will eat a Kraft caramel if nothing else is available.

Edited by Laidback (log)
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Merci Laidback for taking the time to report back and for the photos. I hadn't really given much thought to trying Rich but from both your and John's reviews, I think I will. It looks great.


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  • 1 month later...

Three of us had dinner last at Rich.Not too many restaurants are open on mondays as many of you know, so based on a # of positive reports we headed to Rich.The restaurant is above a small casino and looked like a modern version of a 1950 las vegas supper club

WE started with the langoustine with phylo dough that comes with 2 sauces.Asian influenced and quite good, another entree was tomatoe with buffalo mozzarella,tasteless and very cold.Mains were carpaccio of limousin beef which was tender but lifeless,a bland cod with mashed potatoes was another choice.

The last plat was chicken with rice and satay sauce which was declared by our london curry expert as boring. Desserts were tartelette de pommes,similar to what one gets in a nondescript boulangerie.

IT seemed to the 3 of us that a few of the dishes were prepared previously and finished upon order.

This was a disapointing meal .specially after a week eating at spring,au goumand and le bistral

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Many thanks for another review Pierre. I am trying to think of a new place to go next week with a friend who is in town from the States and was considering Rich but probably won't thanks to your review. I would love to hear about your latest meal at the Bistral, I haven't been in some time.


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Many thanks for another review Pierre.  I am trying to think of a new place to go next week with a friend who is in town from the States and was considering Rich but probably won't thanks to your review.  I would love to hear about your latest meal at the Bistral, I haven't been in some time.

The food at Le bistral is quite sophisticated,specially for a hole in the wall.The wine list is also decent and the owner loves what he does and he is there to greet you and help you with the menu.

Actually direct ownership invovement is a key reason for the succes of spring,au gourmand and Le bistral.Rich was very institutional in that respect and meant for the gamblers from downstairs.

At Le bistral make sure you ask for a table close to the bar ,otherwise you'll end up in Siberia.

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