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Oct 08 Agapes, Miroir, Dos Baleine, Memere, Dujour


John Talbott
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October 08 – Agapes, Miroir, Dos de la Baleine, Memere Paulette, Au Gout Dujour, Cavesteve, Fermin le Barbier, Moulin a Vent, Zebra Square

6.0 Pretty good under new management.

Agapes, (not mind you Agapé in the 17th), 1, rue des Fosses St Marcel in the 5th, 01.43.31.69.20, closed Sunday dinner and Mondays (ergo, open Sunday lunch as it was when it was Equitable,) formulas and menus from 16-33 €, wines from 16.50 € up, is as good if not better than it was when Yves Mutin was “discovered” here by the New York Times a decade ago. My food god Atar and I went with no expectations; I mean, altho’ Alain Fusion had noted that the chef had passed through the kitchens of Senderens and Vigato, we’d heard that before; I mean, he coulda been peeling potatoes. The amuse gueules were tasty dips of fromage blanc with chopped chervil or chives, I should remember shouldn’t I?, and a curried puree thing. He had the tete de veau with gribiche, carrots and cabbage that was about the best I’ve ever had and I had a lentil soup with whole lentils and a nice morsel of sautéed foie gras, equally impressive. He tried the daurade on spinach with mushrooms and smashed potatoes, sacrificing his body, I suspect, to ascertain if he could bring the Missus next time and I had a huge joue de boeuf with a wonderful foie gras sauce and for a potato-insensitive person, a most fine potato loaf. I had a chocolate crème brulee with a shot glass of Magnolias/Carte Blanche-type stuff. With a bottle of fine Rousillon and two coffees but no bottled water = 86.90 €.

Go? You betcha, the schlep is well worth it.

5.5 Rather good and worth the schlep (After all it’s only a couple hundred meters from Spring.)

Miroir, 94 rue des Martyrs in the 18th, 01.46.06.50.73, closed Sunday night and Mondays, formula at 18 for lunch and menus at 25 & 32 € is “the” hot place this month, touted by both the established press and bloggers and with good reason, it’s terrific. {Time Out Here: if I give a place over a 5.0 it’s doing something, indeed, most things right, it’s not a bad mark. That it’s not Giradet, Bocuse or Bise at their height isn’t the issue. Ok, that settled, let’s go to the meal.} I went alone because my favorite “last night before I travel” lady was otherwise occupied and my two other possible “dates” had engagements. Alors, I arrived at a rather ordinary place on the rue des Martyrs, more or less empty, while all around places were full to bursting. Oh oh. I entered and was seated and more or less conducted a continual conversation for quite some time with the front couple. They’ve been open 6 weeks, they turned away 3 groups while I was there, starting at 8:08 PM, none of them tourists (despite the location) and the art on the walls met my exacting standards. I had a superb salad of artichoke hearts and herbs and then scallops which were quite good (3 € supplement) but were surpassed by the veggies including divine cepes, beets, navets, etc., served aside. As young people entered they said “Good Day/Evening” to me and I them which hasn’t happened inside Paris in 50 years. Whoa! Something is different about this place. To be sure I wasn’t being scammed/tricked, I order a poached pineapple with lemon-flavored meringue bits on top for dessert – ethereal. Extra points – the bar/front room/waiter guy tasted a bit of wine from a bottle to be served by the glass, found it wanting, and emptied it out. Was anything wrong – yes, like a book reviewer, I gotta find something wrong – the front door latch wasn’t working – ahhhhhhh, so what? My bill with 3 courses and no coffee or bottled water and two glasses of wine = 42 €.

Go? Are you kidding, you will not be able to get in in a month, depression or not.

5.0 Interesting place but totally local.

Le Dos de la Baleine, 40, rue des Blancs Manteaux in the 4th, 01.42.72.38.98, closed Saturday lunch, Sundays and Mondays, with a 20 €, 3-course limited choice (3-3-2) menu at lunch, but 40-50 € at night with pricey wines by the bottle, but a bargain by carafe at lunch (7 € for a ½ liter of Merlot). It was recommended to me by a critic friend whom I trust and I went with mixed expectations, since my meal there under the last management was quite disappointing and I’m never sure if the curse or karma gets exorcised. There is no regular carte at lunch just the 3-3-2 choices but I was happy nonetheless. I started with an excellent slice of terrine de campagne with a large portion of rocket nicely dressed. Then I had what was called an onglé, not an onglet mind you, of beef, cooked to perfection and accompanied by the best darn sautéed halved finger potatoes I recall (and I’m no potato man). Dessert was/were simply microtomed slices of pineapple – perfect as well. With said wine, no bottled water, a superb Illy coffee and not bad bread at all = 29 €. Goes on my cheap eats list immediately.

Go? As I said, it’s no destination for eGullet experts, but if you’re a local, go!

5.0 Americans would love this place, why haven’t they flooded it?

Memere Paulette, 3, rue Paul Lelong in the 2nd, 01.40.26.12.36, 2 courses for 15 and 3 for 17 € (that’s correct, it’s not a misprint), closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday, has TMK really only been touted by Francois Simon in his blog of September 9th, although there are all the appropriate stickers of guidebooks in the windows. It is a hole in the wall, decorated in 1920 bistro style (Lebey says 1960 and has a staggering wine list, a staggering menu and serves staggering portions of each item. It was #3 on my hit list for October so when a staggeringly wonderful food critic suggested it for today, I was on. We both had Pastis 51 aperitifs (3 €): they put the bottle on the table to help yourself; I was in love immediately. I had the museau starter and my friend the roasted paté with mustard; both classic, huge and good. Then I had an incredible portion of ox tail in red wine with carrots and potatoes and he an entire box of warm vacherin Mont d’Or with ham and potatoes. We both will enjoy our spirited away leftovers for dinner tonight, it was that much. I ended with a classic baba and he a big lemon tart, again they left the rum bottle on the table so digestifs were unnecessary. With a bottle of fine red and two coffees plus the aforementioned aperitifs, our bill was 73 €.

Go? As Simon says (sort of) “Tired of frou-frou; this is the real thing.”

5.0 Pierre45 you are my new food bloodhound (open only since August and you found it).

Au Gout (Denis) Dujour, 12, rue Beaugrenelle in the 15th, 01.45.71.68.36, closed (I forgot to find out), forced menu at 20 € for three courses (rocket and parmesan salad, boeuf bourginon and a vanilla crème brulee, which I seriously considered) or 25 € for three courses off the menu-carte which had lots of choices and specials. I chose to go with a first of risotto (I know, I know, you cannot get risotto except at that place 15 km. north of Modena) with mushrooms and parmesan and it was rather alright. Then I had the special which was described as a parmentier but was really a dish with layers, bottom layer pig pieces (hure or pied, depending on who the charming waitress was telling), then the potatoes, and topped off with slices of Jerusalem artichoke, lemon bits and rocket) – delicious. Finally I had a unique dessert, a round that tasted like the following: a very light and fluffy mousse of chocolate with banana, topped with some stuff like corn kernels and then sprayed with truffle spritz (I know, it cannot be, but it worked) and dribbles of coffee and chocolate. The Lavazza coffee and (? Banette) bread were equally good. Wine comes by the glass, 25 cl pitcher (7 €) and bottle (15 € and up). With the 20 € menu and 7 € wine pitcher one exits at 27 €.

Go? Do, it looks like it’s lost in this street of Korean, Pakistani and Thai places, but it’s found.

5.0-2.0 Wine great, food less so.

Cavesteve, 15, rue de Longchamp in the 16th, 01 47 04 01 45, closed Sundays, running one 30-50 € a la carte, with wines from the racks at price, plus 10 € corkage. I’d heard about this place from an inveterate wine maven and he, I and a chef about town had lunch (on a Monday mind you) at two adjacent tables. They only have about 10 covers upstairs, 8 downstairs at a common table and 4 outside, so go early (they open at 11). The place (and its Bastille twin) are really sleek and trim and not named after an American named Steve but a French guy yclept Jean Christophe Esteve. The firsts are wine bar usuals: Spanish ham and terrines but they had about five hot daily special mains. We started with terrines of foie gras and lapereau that, with a tart salad, were really great. But I thought the mains of lievre a la royale and beef cheeks were made off the premises and underheated before serving. The bread was blah but the coffee superb. Our first wine, the server-guy’s rec, was an OK Rully but when the wine guy arrived, he ordered a Pernand-Vergelesses that was supreme.

Our bill for two was 116 € but the wine poobah’s musta been much more.

Go? Sure. Why Not? At least to their dazzling website http://www.cavesteve.com/

3.5 And Figaro gave it three hearts, no way, say it isn’t so Joe.

Firmin, le Barbier, 20, rue de Monttessuy in the 7th, 01.45.51.21.55, closed Monday and Tuesdays, lunch formulas at 18 and 23, a la carte 40-50 €, is a place Figaroscope listed first this week in their recs for Sunday lunch, so I was so looking to test it out for Colette’s next visit. After digging into Figaroscope’s new website, {which, by the way I hate, after their most helpful pdf version, it’s back to 1956’s “Glitter and Be Gay,” which as you’ll remember Bernstein’s wonderful take on Candide intoned - “Here I am in Paris, France, Forced to bend my soul, To a sordid role} and finding it rated 3/5 hearts, unusual for those folks, I bent the souls of two food writer friends to go. As you approach from the street on the Bon Acceuil side, it looks noting like a resto, except for the chalkboard, but it certainly is when you enter. We three drifted in at different times, so I ordered a bottle of 17 € Les Baux Provencal red, which wasn’t half-bad. It took forever for the order to be taken, an eternity for the dishes to arrive and an infinity for the check. Let’s just say that surgery may prepare you for cutting quickly before you have all the facts, but not to run an efficient resto - our patron-chirurgien (recall the sub-name of the place le Barbier) - turned into an obsessive psychiatrist somewhere along the way. Since most of us were eating out tonight we tried to order conservatively. First, we shared a magnificent fricassee of mushrooms (which are now in full flight) and their level wiped out the long wait for them. Then one of the experts had a big slice of rare gigot with potatoes that I thought was quite good (the lamb, that is) and Madame had the gigot medium cooked, with incredibly good veggies (asparagus, beans, broccoli and kohlrabi) while I tried the perch. nicely browned on the skin but really not much of a much. Madame then had (and we shared) an opera that was respectable. With a second bottle of wine (a Cotes du Rhone), 3 coffees and no bottled water the check worked out to 68 € for two. So John, what’s wrong with this picture? Everything sounds fine if not great and reasonably price? Well I asked for votes from these grizzled experts, 0-10 being the scale, having written my number down so as not to cheat too much. Madame says 7, then 6, then 5, Monsieur a 5.5 and me a 3.5, averaging out 4.5. Then I ask the killer F. Simon question;

“Will you tell others to come/go?” He answered the equivalent of “if it were across the street maybe.” But in truth, no way.

2.5 The beef was better in Romania.

Moulin a Vent, 20, rue des Fosses St-Bernard in the 5th, 01.43.54.99.37, closed Saturday lunch, Sundays and Mondays. My best food-finder pal Atar, long an inspiration to me had tested it a couple of times and found it quite acceptable. We started by splitting the frogs legs provencal (we had wanted/ordered the scallops but unfortunately too early in the season apparently) and they were standard – thus OK. Then we eyed the cote de boeuf at 60 € but due to our different cooking preferences, settled on an entrecote with shallots for him and faux filet Patron with wine sauce for me. Both were tough as tire rubber, but mine was slightly more tasty and chewable. The bill, splitting the first, each having a beef main, one bottle of Chinon and two coffees comes to 116 €.

Go? You mean to Bucharest for Argentinian beef? Sure.

2.0 Not disgraceful, but for Thierry Burlot, one expects more.

Zebra aka Zebra Square, 3, pl Clement Ader in the 16th, 01.44.14.91.91, open 7/7, with two lunch formulas on weekdays only at 28 and 30, a la carte 60 €. A woman answered the phone cheerily and when I asked to reserve Sunday at lunch said “You know it’s not brunch,” “thank you Lord” said I. But it was just the “snacking menu” although it contained real dishes (steak, fish, scallops) in addition to Italian ham and pasta and the like. I went with a friend who lives just across the river and we both entered about the same time and had the same reaction; it was kinda dark and decorated like a cocktail lounge/whorehouse, not at all the cheery, bright branché place I recall, but then I knew it had had a facelift and talent infusion by Thierry Burlot, he of the creeping prices. At first blush one blushes, the alcohol/wine list is three times as long as the carte and three times as pricey, good ole Thierry, hasn’t lost his touch for touching your wallet. My pal ordered brochette with mozzarella and tomato that was quite OK and my rocket with parmesan and balsamic was OK too, but we’re in deep Italian territory here, where’s the French stuff? So we both then had the only main on the carte that sounded interesting – scallops (3) on their shell with some sliced vegetable, pureed mushrooms and a generous slice black truffle, again not bad but not heaven-sent either. The bread was blah except for mopping up the sauce but the coffee ristretto was proper. Our bill, with one bottle of watery white Cote de Rhone and no desserts or botled water was 82 €. The service was attentive except for pouring the wine and picking up the check, when it hibernated.

Go? Want pizzazz, want branché, want Burlot? Unh unh.

John Talbott

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John,

again thanks for sacrificing your body for the edification of e-Gulleteers. One small addendum to Miroire; on Sundays they have joined the noxious (to me anyway) trend of only serving a no-reservations brunch rather than the normal menu. This seems to be a popular, and probably, profitable device judging by the crowds I see in the street in front of Le Café Qui Parle every Sunday.

We have just missed each other in the last 2 months at Table d'Eugene, Epigramme, La Véraison and who knows where else.

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I enjoyed the brunch there a few weeks ago, but I was hoping to try their bistro fare....

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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  • 2 months later...
6.0 Pretty good under new management.

Agapes, (not mind you Agapé in the 17th), 1, rue des Fosses St Marcel in the 5th, 01.43.31.69.20, closed Sunday dinner and Mondays (ergo, open Sunday lunch as it was when it was Equitable,) formulas and menus from 16-33 €, wines from 16.50 € up, is as good if not better than it was when Yves Mutin was “discovered” here by the New York Times a decade ago. 

What a difference! Today I dragged Colette and we both were very disappointed. The first bad indicator was that we were alone for most of our meal. Then my "raviolis" of lobster were not really raviolis but quenelles, which of itself is no sin, but they didn't dazzle. I then had a "traditional" cote de veau with pleurottes, wherein the veal needed salt, pepper and Lord knows what else and the sauce was strange, like not-quite-truffles-tasting-but-trying. At this point I had a flash-back to Jadis and the book I'm reading on Careme and thought, is this attempt to recreate the great old recipes the "new" thing? Colette's bar with a brown sauce was a la vapeur, not my favorite preparation, but even she didn't rave even with its raw endives. She finished with her classic thermometric gauge, the rice pudding; which she said was "OK" but not gold standard and I had a decent gourmandise. Coffee and wine were also OK. Bill = 89.90 Euros. Oh yah - final note: the men's room door wouldn't latch but since the place was still 85% empty, it hardly mattered.

John Talbott

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