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Bistrot La Minette


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Ok dagordgon and Holly, I know I poo-poo-ed your early-adopter mentality at Parc, but we were first in line at the new jawnz and we were extremely impressed.

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While we know there are other people on this board who may be more knowledgeable about French cuisine there are not many (hi Tarte Tatin and beau) who are more excited about it. We've both opened up a few restaurants so we know a few things about how it goes; I worked at Pif and she at Caribou so while they may be on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to French bistro fare we have some experience there as well. On to the good bits...

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The space is long and thin, with floor to ceiling pillars and tin ceilings. The walls are a soft yellow and banquets in a micro-fiber burgundy somehow manage to not make you think of McDonald's-despite this being one of her least favorite colour combinations. The general decor is thoughtfully contrived and does not, unlike Parc, force you to think about how many workmen it took to recreate some fanciful ideal of an authentic French bistro.

The tables have white marble tops and clawfeet. There are photographs nicely framed on the wall and some authentic accoutrements are present without being overboard. The bar in the front has no seats but there are a number of two-tops at which couples can sit without being in the mix of patrons at the front door. It's cozy and despite being completely packed at 60 diners in the main room manages to be very comfortable for normal conversation with your dining companion(s).

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After ordering our apps our table looked like this (in preparation for the paté):

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There was a crock for some nice dijon and a deeper one for cornichons which, though kind of silly to have to dig them out, was kind of fun. The bread is housemade. While it smells deliciously fresh and yeasty it was smallish and chewy. It was a bit hard to take apart. Slices of a bigger baguette would be easier but this was fun. It had a hard crust that I think may have been salted on the outside.

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The picture also depicts her Lillet, which had too many icecubes but was nice to start, and my classic martini, which was perfect and served with a twist (Bluecoat). The butter was plain and not that mythical Pif butter (whose only difference was that it was served with the pink sea salt, by the way). We had arrived at 6:30, our optimal dining time unless you have the ability to dine at 8:00 or later. The dining room looked like this:

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The paté was wonderful. 2nd best I've ever had. It was moist and textured, mild and tangy from the pickle bits. Just about as good as it can get. Very obviously homemade and simply presented with the mustard and cornichons. The brioche was odd, to me, but also housemade, fresh and warm. The textures all went together very well and honestly if they're going to continue to serve it with brioche I'll be happy as a clam at high tide. Different to me but pleasingly so.

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The tomato tart, much to my surprise (as a not-huge fan of tomatoes in certain forms) was the highlight of the evening. The crust was stunning. It had that perfect crust formulation where it goes from extremely crispy and flaky on the outside to sublimely lardy and moist below. Just above it was a layer of creme fraiche and on top of that were some skinned grape tomatoes. The tart went beyond my expectations by far and had a tangy and sweet and salty and buttery meld in every bite. Just as highly recommended as the paté but even more so. It was accompanied by a lightly-dressed green salad that was a perfect counterpoint both texturally and visually.

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We took a look towards the open kitchen and noticed a beautiful array of (badly-photographed) copper pots. You could hear the cooks going back and forth from 12 feet away but it was more of a ballet than a caucophony; it blended in with the ambient music and the local conversation very nicely.

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I have never had flammenkeuche (sp?) before so, being in the heady post-cocktail pre-prandial state of bliss that I was, I did not realize that it was a bit undercooked. It was a very thin pizza-style dough that was topped with boursin, caramelized onions and lardons. The lady was right in pointing out that the dough itself and the lardons were a bit undercooked but I didn't notice myself. I thought it was sublime.

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I should point out here that the bar was incompletely stocked. The restaurant decided to serve a white house bourdeaux and a red house bourdeaux free of charge. Both were fine table wines. The white was dry, tangy and crisp and the red was bold enough to stand up to the entrecoté and the rabbit without being too huge.

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(the colours here are due to the camera; it's not so bad in real life. apologies to philadining)

The rabbit:

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The rabbit was, for me, the least enjoyable. I found it a bit dry and the pasta too al dente for my tastes. It was to have been with a mustard sauce but I am a lover of the strongest of flavours and I thought there could have been much more mustarditude. She pointed out that perhaps some fresh tarragon could have helped it out of its mildness.

The entrecoté

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We asked for this MR but it came out R, which is acceptable in our book. Better R than M. But even though we know a ribeye tends to be fatty this seemed to me like it could have used some trimming. Honestly one of my favorites bistro dishes ever is a nice au poivre. If they could get a nice sear on a killer strip I'd be stopping in once a week. Still this was a really quality piece of meat and served with a good, though watery au gratin.

The clafouti:

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Uh, I have nothing to say here other than they should serve this only to individuals, not couples. We had some Gran Marnier each and were fighting over this with our silly tiny spoons. They should serve this with swords so that the fighting can really get down to it or at least knife and fork. Caramel ice cream and plum clafouti on a homemade pastry? ReDunkULous.

and finally the bathrooms:

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Classy! Pernod bottles turned into soap dispensers. I can dig it.

Get going now before the eGullet crowd gets there.

Edited by mattohara (log)

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matt o'hara

finding philly

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I saw an early copy of the menu and thought it looked good. But $27 for lamb SHANKS is a bit outrageous. Chops perhaps, but not shanks. $23 for Trout is pretty steep too. Looks pretty inside, but pretty pricey as well. $18 (:blink:!) for salt cod brandade?? Really?? I thought a bistro(t) was supposed to be:

A bistro, sometimes spelled bistrot, is a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting. The concept developed in Paris, France. Bistros are defined mostly by the foods they serve. Slow-cooked foods like braised meats are typical.

The word bistro may derive from the Russian быстро (bystro) which means quick. According to an urban legend, it entered the French language during the Russian occupation of Paris in 1815. Cossacks who wanted to be served quickly would shout "bistro."

definition courtesy of Wikipedia

It seems that no one seems to be getting it right any more. Brasserie Perrier isn't a brasserie, and all the places claiming to be bistros are just overpriced small French restaurants. A bistro in this town seems to be more about decor than about what you're serving and the price point. All I'm saying is if you're going to call it that, then get it right. It isn't just about the gilt mirrors and soap dispensers. :rolleyes:

Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Oh right. I forgot to mention that. Yes, it was expensive. It wasn't outrageously so, but it definitely wasn't Pif prices. You're definitely paying for the mirrors and the brass cookware that hangs unused.

If this post seems a bit over the top it's because I was pretty inebriated at midnight when I wrote this. :D

Also they have a private dining room with a giant farm table in it. Very cool and seats up to 24.

Edited by mattohara (log)

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matt o'hara

finding philly

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Oh right.  I forgot to mention that.  Yes, it was expensive.  It wasn't outrageously so, but it definitely wasn't Pif prices.  You're definitely paying for the mirrors and the brass cookware that hangs unused.

And Pif's prices were not exactly bistro prices in the first place (though in its early days they came darn close).

I took a look at the whole menu, and damn! Those prices put this place in fairly exalted company...

I think it's going to work against them: I know I revised my expectations upward as soon as I laid eyes on that menu. And this is still a tough economic patch for a lot of folks: even people who aren't all that affected seem to be fairly cautious. And Cochon is just around the corner, and Ansill, and even Coquette could seem attractive to some, given the price differential...

I'm going to guess that either they have room in the books to revise those prices downward, or they're going to have a very rough time surviving.

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Not sure who'll be serving you at Coquette. Seems the whole staff defected to La Minette....

I have sort of an unspoken rule about food pricing in restaurants. I don't begrudge anyone their profit margin, heaven knows I've worked in restaurants long enough to understand that arithmetic, but I really have a problem being charged more than 5 times what something cost them to make. There's no way that Salt Cod Brandade cost more than $1.50 to make that plate. Maybe $2.00 on the outside. The salt cod is cheap (and doesn't go bad) and potatoes are cheap too. $18 for a plate of salt cod and potatoes is usurious.

Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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There's no way that Salt Cod Brandade cost more than $1.50 to make that plate.  Maybe $2.00 on the outside.  The salt cod is cheap (and doesn't go bad) and potatoes are cheap too.  $18 for a plate of salt cod and potatoes is usurious.

Sacre bleu! Eet ees zee highway robbery, I tell you!

Everything looks delicious, but yes, tres cher.

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On the way to Cochon last Tuesday, we passed by La Minette, and it, indeed, looks very pretty from the outside.

And, the pictures you took, make the inside look great too!

WE HAVE BEEN DYING for a good flammekuche (sp) since we've been to Alsace, many years ago.

Alas, not Olivier St. Martin, nor the Alsatian place in Manhattan on the east side-, nor even places in Paris make it as incroyable as those few weeks on the wine route in Alsace!!

Even Paris makes it as sort of a touristy version...

It's really a thin crusted onion and lardon pie, very little cheese, and definitely not boursin. Maybe it was creme fraiche? Just to die for, especially the night we watched the "Fete des Vendages". They were crowning the Queen of the Grapes in Molsheim, I believe, and the pretty girls who were the runners up were part of the local beauty contest. Unfortunately, the girl who won was the Mayor's daughter or something and wasn't very pretty. ANYWAY, the homemade flammekuche that night kept flowing and the local young red wine (OH, our heads the next day!) was flowing too. We were the only tourists in the town hall where the local MC had the young teens gaga over him. I need to write it up into a story, it was a trip out of Twin Peaks.

ANYWAY, yes, the memory of those pies were amazing.

:smile:

I love going off on a tangent.

Philly Francophiles

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  • 5 months later...

Still, nobody's been? Below is an email they sent out to their list. We should really get a big group together to get the private room and the 65$/person menu. Check out the link to the private dining options at the bottom.

To friends of Bistrot La Minette,

There is no doubt that winter is really here. We have added a number of warming, satisfying dishes to our menu that will help keep spirits up and light up the dark days until spring. You can see the whole menu at http://www.bistrotlaminette.com/menu.html. Here are some highlights:

First Courses

Soupe Parmentier, a winter root-vegetable soup with fried leeks and a drizzle of white truffle oil.

Caille Farcie aux Saucisses à l'Ail: boned quail stuffed with garlic sausage and served with spinach and its jus.

We are also offering Escargots — Burgundy snails — served in special individual snail "pots".

Main Courses

Charlotte Morbier: a savory "bread pudding" made with Morbier cheese and served with a beet salad and Jerusalem artichokes.

Cassoulet de Toulouse: the classic winter white bean and lamb stew of southwest France, served with duck confit and house-made sausage. It is served in individual casserole dishes of traditional design made for us by potter Charles Grosjean in Franklin, Maine.

Desserts

Tarte au Citron: lemon tart with house-made cassis sorbet

Beignets à la Canelle: cinnamon "doughnuts" with a fromage blanc (fresh white cheese) sorbet and raspberry sauce.

We are also offering a superb Crème Brûlée made with Tahitian vanilla.

Valentine's Day, Saturday February 4, is fast approaching. We will offer our regular menu plus a number of festive specials to celebrate the day of love with your special someone, or even just a good friend. 

And while winter slowly works its way toward our beautiful Philadelphia spring, why not get a group of friends together and enjoy each other's company over a French Family Dinner. You can review sample menus here: http://www.bistrotlaminette.com/private-dining.html. Chef Peter is happy to discuss your menu wishes with you. For French Family Dinner reservations, call Brad Histand at 215-925-8000 or email him at brad.histand@bistrotlaminette.com

--

matt o'hara

finding philly

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We went to Bistrot La Minette last Wed.

The atmosphere and server were super.

We each had flammekuche, which was the highlight of the meal. If you go, split one, that's plenty. Sit at the bar and have one with a pichet of wine. Delicious.

It's full of wonderful lardon and copious amounts of carmelized onions, and although it was really really tasty, the richness of this dish affected our digestion the next day. TMI, I know! No creme fraiche that we could see, should have had a bit....the crust was very good.

Their bread is tasty and homemade too.

We had two pichets of white ($18 each), which was cheaper than a bottle and the same quantity. No taste to it really. We should have just ordered a good bottle.

Mr. TT had monkfish. He says, "Monkfish was supposed to be drizzled with a hazelnut oil - No taste of that. And there was an 'American' sauce under the monkfish, a really thin shrimp sauce. Should have been lobster and much thicker. There were hazelnuts and the pomme puree was good, though under seasoned. Brussels sprouts under the monk fish were good."

I had the entrecote, which was about 1/3 fat. Yes, I know that cut of meat is fatty, but this piece really was gristly and lots of it unedible. I told the waitress I usually like rare meat, but to let the chef cook it the way they like. Surprisingly, it was just medium rare. That's fine, just interesting. The meat was tasteless. Perhaps I tasted a bit of vinegar? It came with dauphenois that was oh, so delicious, but way too watery. Also on the plate were haricots verts wrapped in more bacon! Nice beans, but with the steak perhaps the big thick slice of bacon was overkill? (not to mention the tons of lardon on our apps).

Desserts we heard, were supposed to be the best besides the apps. My beignets were really heavy, the fromage blanc sorbet didn't taste of anything,

Mr. TT said, "The cassis sorbet on the lemon tart was pretty melt-y like it hadn't spent enough time in the freezer. The chocolate butterfly with gold leaf was pretty but 'pedestrian'. It wasn't lemony enough. Needed more zing. It was like lemon meringue pie without the meringue. I use a pate sable/sucre variation. Chef used a VERY GOOD pate brisee. If he used a sucre and upped the lemon acidity it would have been a much more interesting dessert."

It was $168 plus tip. Rather expensive, we thought. Some really good points. Like I said, we'd go again and sit at the bar and order the flammekuche and wine.

Philly Francophiles

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We went to Bistrot La Minette last Wed.

The atmosphere and server were super.

We each had flammekuche, which was the highlight of the meal. If you go, split one, that's plenty. Sit at the bar and have one with a pichet of wine. Delicious.

It's full of wonderful lardon and copious amounts of carmelized onions, and although it was really really tasty, the richness of this dish affected our digestion the next day. TMI, I know! No creme fraiche that we could see, should have had a bit....the crust was very good.

Their bread is tasty and homemade too.

We had two pichets of white ($18 each), which was cheaper than a bottle and the same quantity. No taste to it really. We should have just ordered a good bottle.

Mr. TT had monkfish. He says, "Monkfish was supposed to be drizzled with a hazelnut oil - No taste of that. And there was an 'American' sauce under the monkfish, a really thin shrimp sauce. Should have been lobster and much thicker. There were hazelnuts and the pomme puree was good, though under seasoned. Brussels sprouts under the monk fish were good."

I had the entrecote, which was about 1/3 fat. Yes, I know that cut of meat is fatty, but this piece really was gristly and lots of it unedible. I told the waitress I usually like rare meat, but to let the chef cook it the way they like. Surprisingly, it was just medium rare. That's fine, just interesting. The meat was tasteless. Perhaps I tasted a bit of vinegar? It came with dauphenois that was oh, so delicious, but way too watery. Also on the plate were haricots verts wrapped in more bacon! Nice beans, but with the steak perhaps the big thick slice of bacon was overkill? (not to mention the tons of lardon on our apps).

Desserts we heard, were supposed to be the best besides the apps. My beignets were really heavy, the fromage blanc sorbet didn't taste of anything,

Mr. TT said, "The cassis sorbet on the lemon tart was pretty melt-y like it hadn't spent enough time in the freezer. The chocolate butterfly with gold leaf was pretty but 'pedestrian'. It wasn't lemony enough. Needed more zing. It was like lemon meringue pie without the meringue. I use a pate sable/sucre variation. Chef used a VERY GOOD pate brisee. If he used a sucre and upped the lemon acidity it would have been a much more interesting dessert."

It was $168 plus tip. Rather expensive, we thought. Some really good points. Like I said, we'd go again and sit at the bar and order the flammekuche and wine.

Disappointing. With all of the new French bistros that have opened since the closing of Pif, I had high hopes for a replacement. None so far.

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it doesn't seem the new bistro style places in philly are even close to the quality of brasserie beck or central. both realitively new places in washington, dc.

Have you found Cochon disappointing, Bill? I've liked it pretty well all along, and recently they seem to have made another solid forward stride. Some of the Usual Suspects had maybe the best Cochon meal yet, overall, last Friday. Odd to think, or even say, but they had a suckling pig variation on the pork shoulder that was way better.

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i have not been to cochon. it certainly sounds very good.

it's interesting to me that the current day take on the bistro seems to be thriving in wash dc with beck,central and bistro du coin. holly- you'd love bistro du coin, they serve uninterrupted all day and late into the night.

maybe washington has more of a demand for bistro style food in a fairly traditional french setting. the concept seems better carried out a couple hours to the south.

just one person's observation thrown out there for discussuion.

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  • 4 weeks later...

My wife and I enjoyed a belated Valentine's Day dinner last week at Bistrot La Minette and were very impressed.

The "pichet" red wine was a rustic French red - a pinot noir, a little rough maybe, but with a sturdy body and not too much fruit. We shared the escargots, nine plump snails, each in its individual crock, with garlic-herb butter and a tiny crouton round. These were delicious, certainly the finest I've had in this style in Philadelphia. We also ordered the macaroni-and-cheese gratin as a first course, which was a terrific success, a great upscaled version with strozzapretti and a salty, tangy cheese sauce -- with bits of brie rind, even, a touch I appreciated -- baked in a porcelain crock to a bubbly golden brown tinge.

As befit a cold February evening, we kept it hearty with the mains -- the rabbit in mustard sauce over house-made tagliatelle, and the cassoulet de Toulouse. Both were excellent and in ample portions. The mustard sauce especially pleased my wife, who is not always a mustard fan. It had all the character of a good Dijon but with just the slightest hint of bite, fading into creaminess. The rabbit was a half bunny, leg and saddle, which provided a nice mix of textures, the firm saddle meat a contrast to the meltingly tender leg meat. Not gamy at all, and perfectly sauced. I hold cassoulet to a high standard, and I was not disappointed. Two confit duck legs floated invitingly in the crock with little white beans (tender but with a bit of bite, a mark that is hard to hit with cassoulet), a hunk of garlic sausage, and a hunk of lamb. This cassoulet was the best I've had in a restaurant outside of France.

We had the lemon tart with cassis sorbet and found it quite tangy and exciting on the palate -- no complaints there, either. Complimentary house-made chocolate ganache truffles capped a beautiful dinner in a beautiful spot. The service was attentive and unobtrusive, and the tab ran to $125 with tax and tip (though we didn't have much wine, just a small pitcher).

Comparisons to Cochon, just a few blocks away, are hard to avoid. I'd say the menu at La Minette is less daring and more classic French -- there was no offal to be had at La Minette, though the chef was running a sardine appetizer as a special -- but the atmosphere and service are a bit fancier. Can't knock what appeared to be a reasonable French wine list, either -- we'll explore that more fully in the future, I'm sure. I for one welcome any and all new French restaurants in Bella Vista. Keep 'em coming.

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  • 5 months later...

Bistrot La Minette is now open for lunch - and a great value. I had the express prix fixe menu - $14 for appetizer, entree and beverage. A few dollars more includes dessert.

I like the water presentation. Others may be doing it, but first time I've seen Philadelphia water served in a bottle.

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First course - a simple green salad, lightly dressed with a vinaigrette.

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Entree was oeufs en meurette - eggs poached in red wine. Two eggs on toast sauced with sauce meurette, lardons, mushrooms and onions.

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I don't recall ever have oeufs en meurette before - I can't speak to authenticity, but no reason to doubt it. It was delicious.

Sat outside under an umbrella - a very nice way to spend a summer afternoon.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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My wife and I tried Minette last night. The decor is fine though I do not care for the Disney-fide version of a French restaurant, pronunciation guides for French on the wall reminded me that this was an exercise in pretend. I just got back from Paris (where I have not been in over ten years) and this was a little much. So were the waiters' immaculate little costumes.

We had the flammekuche. I have nothing to compare it to. It was tasty, but probably was one of several factors that contributed to both my wife's and my stomach upset. My wife enjoyed her wine, I, my beer.

She had the fluke and I had the lamb. We ordered the mac 'n cheese on the side. I did not try her fluke, she said it was good. My lamb was tasty, I asked for it rare and maybe that was too much. But all the ingredients seemed too clean and nothing blended. I would not be able to write this had I not just been to Paris and eaten in numerous middle-level restaurants. The lamb itself was flavorless for example. Its potatoes were undercooked. The mac n' cheese was over-the-top rich. We had some frozen dessert that no French restaurant would have served, too hard to eat. Nothing was French, it was French-style. I think I am back to not liking French food (I generally prefer ethnic food but this trip to Paris changed me I thought).

Service was warm with gaps, the staff seemed easily overwhelmed by relatively few people. I went with the hope that Minette was a Philadelphia brasserie (anyone who read my earlier thread on this knows I have "brasserie on the brain" at this point) and that is my own fault, obviously Minette coins itself a "bistro" not a "brasserie." But I hoped.

I much preferred the food to Cochon but in all fairness I have only eaten at either place once now, so that is hardly a fair comparison. I also am prejudiced against BYOB's (obviously I am an angry hateful person). In some sort of endless Heavenly coda to my rained-out-with-the-dog experience there was a torrential deluge as we left necessitating borrowing the restaurant's umbrella. We returned it of course: $70/person, which I thought reasonable.

Edited by brescd01 (log)
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We had some frozen dessert that no French restaurant would have served, too hard to eat. Nothing was French, it was French-style. I think I am back to not liking French food (I generally prefer ethnic food but this trip to Paris changed me I thought).

i love france it's people, bistro and brasseries as much as you do but, there is alot of bad food to be had in paris. i'm sure there's plenty of whatever the french version of sysco is making deliveries in paris.

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