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John Talbott

Feb-Mar 09 MBC, La Maree, Mon Oncle, La Bodeguita

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Feb-Mar 09 – MBC, La Maree, Mon Oncle, La Bodeguita du XVIIème, Petit Champarret, Barbezingue, Le Bistrot de l’Entrecote, Le Petit Ampere, Bar a Huitres, Au Bistrot d’a cote, Le Gorge Rouge

7.0 Gilles is back and I hope for good.

MBC, 4, rue du Debarcadere in the 17th, 01.45.72.22.55, closed Saturday noon and Sundays. Well, where to start? At the end, of course – Gilles Choukroun is back to his old level achieved at the Café des Delices and before that the La Truie Qui File in Chartres and come in from the cold of “consulting/overseeing” at the Angl’Opera, Café Very + MiniPalais, plus other ephemeral gigs. He’s at the piano, at least in the evening, and the results are the old standard (for him). My charming eGullet co-host and I went for lunch today and did very well. I was first struck by the stark new décor and the badly placed column that blocks easy entry into the door but that was soon forgotten. The amuse bouche was classic Choukroun, heavy on flavors, spice, baie/peppercorns, etc. although containing dried tomatoes and olives. My first was a divine creamy lentil soup with chunks of dry sausage and Madame had his divine signature MBC (here mint, basil and coriander rather than mango, basil and coriander as it was at the Café Very) wrapped up in foie gras. Then she had 3 divine scallops (simply perfect product) with the most unexpected contrast – boudin noir and mashed potatoes while I had a divine dish of sliced grilled eggplant covered with a mixture of spices, sardines, nuts, chickpeas and herbs, topped off with a pork filet. For dessert my partner had a citrus “soup”, was it on ice cream or cold yogurt, anyway, divine. The bread rolls were excellent, the wine reasonable, the coffee good and the bathroom the best of the year. Our bill = 108 €.

Go? Finally a place I can take Colette to.

6.8 Boy this Golden Oldie has really come back!

La Maree, 1 rue Daru in the 8th, 01.43.80.20.00, is a place I last went to with Colette and a great local friend, MF, a good 20 years ago. It was a special place then, charming, good, reasonably-priced and I don’t know how and why we fell out of love with it. But we did and I’ve passed it many times and wondered how it was doing. But nobody seemed to talk about it much and the prices seemed to creep up (the Pudlo 2009 gives the lunch menu as 65 € and a la carte 140.) In looking at said Pudlo, I see he mentions its transfer from the Trompier family to the Blanc stable but it wasn’t until Francois-Regis Gaudry called it the address of the week two weeks ago that I took notice. The price alone caught my attention – 35 € for three courses (29 for 2), morning or night. It’s the same old place, same old voiturier, same old glass windows. But the food, John, boy! The amuse bouche was a potato soup with chestnut bits, bland enough but a classic for pre-fish stuff. My eating partner and I glommed on the same dishes and had ample tasting of all six. He started with coques mariniere that were classic and good, but I think I scored better with a marmite of shellfish and leeks, including an ample scallop in a terrific ginger and lemon sauce. Then I had a bourride with three fish filets (daurade, monkfish and rouget) again with a great shellfish sauce and he, two big fat, toasty quenelles with a classic langoustine sauce (they called Daru). He chose the cheese which was a smart move; all three, especially the camembert, were excellent quality and perfectly affinated. Then we finished with a dense chocolate mousse topped with toasted almonds. Our bill (with coffee, wine and no bottled water) would have been under 100 € if we hadn’t “had to have” some red wine with the cheese.

Go? Quickly before the big boys blow it out of proportion.

6.7 Totally local folk until the Russian oligarchs and their babes arrived.

Mon Oncle, 3, rue Durantin in the 18th, 01 42 51 21 48, supposedly closed only Saturday noon and Sunday night and Monday but they fooled the USA’s #1 food critic and I one Friday so double check. I reserved (again) for myself alone (sob, Colette was not available) and arrived very early Paris dinner time (20h00) because they had a private party moving in (they have 30 covers, but 14 in the “back” room can also be reserved). The front guys (man and woman) were really nice and while she was curious why some Dude from the nabe who hardly spoke the tongue was there, she only pried a little bit (enough with the finger-nail pulling that I admitted I came on the advice of the RFC.) The menu is quite interesting and I immediately glommed onto the l’os a moelle (that has surprisingly (for me) been on everyone’s menu this week) – strange! It was plain fab. Then I had the veal bits with a cilantro sauce that were heaven. I had a very interesting wine too – a Bois sans Soif, Côteaux d'Ensérune, which if I understand it, means something I shouldn’t be doing. In any case, here, even at night, in full Tourist Heaven, 2 courses are 23 €, 3 are 27 € and my bill was 30 €.

Go? To find a place on the Mont(martre) that’s this good, my lord.

6.2 An exceptional opportunity but essentially a local hang-out.

La Bodeguita du XVIIème, 14, rue Rennequin in the 17th, 01.47.6317.17 used to be the Club Professionals du Vin, whose wine inventory they inherited, but which they will change over the next few weeks/months. I was invited to lunch with/by two wine critic-writer-geeks and it was some experience. They warned me that it was new (3 weeks), untested, and "just a wine bar" but oh boy! Coupled with the restaurant/wine bar owner and a winegrower from the base of the Jura, we five blew a whole afternoon on wine, politics, movies and food/wine criticism. (I have no idea what one would pay for such a lesson at OFF, say, but this wound up after 2 bottles and lots of tasting glasses to be just 45 Euros a person). We started off with bread sticks and a chili (I swear it was truffles) vinegar. Then we shared a generous platter of chorizo, dried beef and a large galantine of turkey (again I would have guessed rillettes of pork), baby tomatoes and pickles with not at all bad bread. Next, two of us had a splendid confit de canard with broccoli and salad and a big potato and the odd man out, the andouillette with the same accompaniments. We finished with two great affinated cheeses (a St Nectaire and Machecoulais).

Go back? I could never get these four dudes to waste an afternoon again, with the likes of me. Seize the day!

5.8 Hey Ma, It’s me John, and I’m having fun.

Le Petit Champarret, 30 rue Vernier in the 17th, 01.48.80.01.39, closed weekends, got one of those 3/5 dots in ANP and 2/4 hearts in Figaroscope, like a thousand other places, and next week will be the (?lead) resto in l’Express. How do I know? Because the photographer was snapping today and I chatted him up, so my anonymity may be blown, but Ma might be happy if my photo is not just on the Post Office wall. Now I’m not saying that this is this spring’s Spring, Afaria, Grand Pan, Au Goût du Jour etc., but my first meal there (there will be more) was a home run. It’s another new place in the Pereire/Champarret area (Clocher Pereire, l’Idee etc.,) that has a good client base and not too much haut competition. So I come in, the place is already hopping at 12h45 and I get the primo table by the window. The host greeted 80% of the folk warmly and it’s clear that after 3 months this place is “the” place. They had a very tempting 22 € menu of pumpkin soup, scallops (6) on a celery puree and a millefeuille with pistachio fluff. But yesterday’s scallops spooked me and instead I went for the carte. I started with a most intriguing sounding dish, cooked veggies (eggplant, onions, zucchini, etc) served cold atop which sat a sliver of sautéed daurade – it was superb, the tartness and spice and crispiness of the veggies perfectly offset the daurade’s fishiness. Then I had a rabbit in the Corsican style (huge beans and Corsican charcuterie) that again allowed the accompaniments which were spicy and flavorful to offset the usual dryness of the rabbit. Rarely do I have dessert after such a meal but I had to, but the two things I should have ordered in advance (the chocolate and the tarte tatin) were outside my time-frame so I had the awful-looking millefeuille with pistachio fluff. It was pretty adolescent, but I rationalized it by saying I was testing it out for my 10 year old grand-daughters’ meal later this month. The bread was better than it looked, the coffee passable and the Getz/Gilberto “Ipanema” terrific. My bill was 42.80 € with two glasses of a very surprisingly good Touraine.

Go? For sure, I already talked up the host about it with the 10 year olds whom he said he’d bend the rules for.

5.5 No one who reads this will ever go, so I can make up anything I want.

Barbezingue, 14 bvd de la Liberte in Chatillon (yes, Chatillon, 15 minutes walking, 10 minutes busing from the Chatillon Metro station), 01.49.85.83.50, closed Mondays, is a place discovered by Sebastien Demorand of Le Fooding and since written up by tout le monde and is Thierry Faucher’s fourth place (after l’Os a Moelle, la Cave de l’Os… + Les Symples de etc and is oddly or logically a combination of all three: an oyster shuckery (outside), a resto (on the ground floor), a wine bar (southwest) and a table d’hote (upstairs). My intrepid food cook book writer pal and I were in the resto and I was seated in a dental chair, which luckily I forget about or the drilling (which she teased me by starting) might have spoiled the meal. It’s got a 30 € tasting menu, that’s right, you didn’t misread it, 30 € for 4 courses. We started: she with the hot lentil soup with beautifully toasted pine nuts and foie gras, a bit watery but excellent, and I had the cold mussel cream soup with crunchy croutons, also excellent. Then she had the daurade (daurade for a first – wow) with shredded beets and I the slice of hure of sanglier with shredded cabbage; both well worth it. Next, she had the rabbit leg and back with beans and I the pigeon with salad and a nifty, spicy sauce (we could each have had either). Finally we both had the baba with ample rum; classic, good, did the trick. The wine, interesting story: they have no list, only bottles in bins one chooses from. I had scoped them out waiting for her, but she, having spent weeks recently in a famous wine region, was the expert and I made her choose: a pétillant Cerdon Rosé. Our waiter, picking up our conversation, said “You realize that’s an aperitif?” She said “It goes well with anything.” He (with his eyebrows raised and body language (to me) indicated) “We’ll just see about that.” We discussed more, then he returned to make sure. She said yes, and “John, if you don’t like it, I’ll cork it and take it home, I love it.” He brought it over, I tasted it, Jim Jones Juice if ever I had any. So I ordered a carafe of Luberon that was a mere 11 € and she took home the rest of the 17 € sparkling Koolaid. Our bill, even with all, that was only 95 €.

Go? Yes, but you won’t, you miserable stick-in-the-mud-central-Paris-devotees.

5.0 I thought I "gotta have it."

Le Bistrot de l'Entrecote, 10 pl du Marechal Juin in the 17th, 01.46.22.01.22, open 7/7 is the 10th such like named (according to the Pages Blanches) not counting Miami and Geneva, rivaling the number of Original Ray's Pizza joints in Manhattan. But, but, but, it's different. The standard formula is a red awning with "gold" lettering, a rigidly fixed "menu" where one is asked "How do you want it," thas it. I know, I've eaten in three, in as many months. Why did I go? Well, after leaving Paris three weeks ago (in the slush and bone-chilling cold) on my Grand Tour of Switzerland, Northern Italy and the Mid-Atlantic, I arrived this morning (in bone-chilling cold) thinking only of Spike Lee - I "Gotta Have It" - it being French beef. Now why French beef is different is the subject of another essay, but it's definitely different from Colorado beef or Kobe beef, etc. So I'd read of this place opening a coupla weeks ago and while the esteemed Emmanuel Rubin gave it only 1/5 hearts, it sounded like his rating was due to his having ordered a "pathetic" squid fricassee and "sad" pot au feu, which was not what I craved, nor what they "do." The place is really newish looking and the walls are covered with faux-bookshelves, reminding me of a place on the Upper West Side in the 1970's called the Library, most memorable for the waiter who asked Colette, not me, to taste the wine. This location, though, is really trendy and while tables are jammed and full (economic crisis?), it's not cramped. They do have the famous 25 E formula, but not of a salad and an entrecote (a downer for me, that's what I wanna'd), but a salad with nuts on top and steak tartare with frites. So to the carte. I started with a most excellent salmon mousse and even better bread crisps. Then I had the entrecote (ordered blue, delivered rare) with a gelatinous looking bowl of Bearnaise which despite its appearance was spectacular and frites that were, well, Paris frites - somehow the frites god jumped from Belgium to the US of A, bypassing France. Then, since I had a lot of Ronan wine (it's a Bordeaux, I didn't recall its origin, either) left, I had a plate of Ossau-Iraty which was (gasp) room-temperature with an incredible cherry confiture. My, oh my. My bill, without bottled water (nor did many others, that's a sign of the times!) but with coffee, my bill was 45.50 E.

Go? It scratched the itch, what more does one want?

5.0 This is a nice, good-product, cheap place for your backpacking relatives; no less, no more.

Le Petit Ampere, 3, rue Ampere in the 17th, 01.42.27.89.92, is right beside Philippe Detourbe’s l’Ampere, where ironically I last ate with my dining companion, could it have been a decade ago? Anyway it got top billing in A Nous Paris this week and we went in horrible rain but were warmly welcomed. It’s a jumble: part wine shop, part counter take-out, part restaurant with about 5 different chalkboards making reading them all a bit neck-turning. My friend ordered off the carte (2 courses = 20,50) and I the formula (2 courses and wine = 18 €), both pretty good deals. They started us off with an amuse bouche of charcuterie and pretty darn good bread. Then Madame had lentils with a poached egg and I a crostini of tomato and mozzarella (toasted); both of which were quite good. Then she has the endless brandade of haddock (which I always find too fishy and smoky) and I a paleron with a rich, great wine sauce and properly al dente carrots and other winter veggies. With 50 cl of house wine, 2 Illy coffees and a carafe d’eau our bill was 52.50 €.

Go? I don’t want to imply that this is the Bristol, or even l’Ampere, but for what it is, it’s honest and straightforward.

3.0 Nice enough but one can do better just about 100 meters away.

Le Bar a Huitres Ternes, 69, ave Wagram in the 17th, 01.43.80.63.54, open 7/7 is where Goldenberg’s used to be but is totally new, nautical, with wonderful fish and bivalve drawings on the wall and a display of live such inside – there’s a fetching Citarella-like display outside as well. It has 2 course menu at 20 or 25 € for three, but I wanted the 39.90 one with scallops recalling how fabulous my partner’s were at MBC. Mistake! The product despite what one reads of lower prices and great opportunity now, was just not good. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First came some bread (dreadful) and rilettes (fine) and 9 #4 creuses (OK). Then the scallops with coral and weird looking pasta with a forgettable sauce but great sundried tomatoes (strange eh?) The meal was saved by the cheaply priced wine and excellent crepes facon Suzettes as good as those at the late great Bistro Cote Mer. Milk is opening here this week and in honor of Harvey (God Bless you wherever you are) and Sean Penn I had an Irish coffee to which I was introduced in San Francisco at the Buena Vista a very long time ago; PS it was perfect and the cream did float atop. The bill was 55.60 €

Go? Not with the Brasserie Lorraine + l’Huitrier so near.

2.5 The old “U” shaped meal problem; great start and end, poor centerpiece.

Au Bistrot d’a cote, 18, rue Lalande in the 14th, 01.43.20.00.28, closed Sundays, got a stinking one-heart review from Emmanuel Rubin but raves from two of my trusted pointers. So….., I had to go, with the oldest friend I have in Paris (55 years and counting). (Back story: Colette and I were sitting, but separated, in bulkhead seats in Economy en route to Paris in the late 1980’s and we asked a nice guy if he’d switch seats to allow us to sit together; sure, and subsequently, he told us he was heading “back” to Paris to eat that night at a fabulous new place opened by Michel Rostang next to his primo place in the 17th. We went, we loved it and frequented his series of other off-shoots, including the Bistro Cote Mer, for years). I entered ahead of my old pal and it looked terrific; the chalkboard was ample and the prices correct. We decided to share the pounti d’Auvergne that is commonly described as a pork meatloaf; but that’s most inadequate; it’s a mix of pork, prunes, etc (Clotilde’s Chocolate & Zucchini has a great recipe). It was great. Then we both (I know, I know, big mistake ordering the same thing) the gigot of lamb with beans – (1) they didn’t ask us how we wanted it, (2) the meat was tough, poor product and full of connective tissue and (3) the beans almost made up for it. Finally we had one of the best ever tarte tatin’s with both ice cream and whipped cream. With a pot of Bourgeuil (via my favorite folks the Bretons), one coffee and no bottled water = 63.50 €. Oh yes, the addition was delivered in a mousetrap, that’s an extra 0.5 points.

Go? If you can figure out how to avoid the middle, yes.

2.0 “We call it a train wreck.” (4 for the food; 0 for its delivery.)

Le Gorge Rouge (neat name eh?), 8, Rue St Paul in the 4th, 01.48.04.75.89, open 7/7, was my “Plan B”, “fall-back” place when the Villa Pereire, whose pubs and website said was open Saturday lunch, was definitely not. So I made it from the extreme Northwest of Paris to the full Marais in 30 minutes (no cheating by running either.) I entered to a mixed-age crowd – two octogenarians and five Gen X’ers – and the welcome was most welcoming. Nice place. Nice full menu (despite its advertising itself as a wine bar). Nice setting. Everything cool cool, calm calm, zen zen. Despite my inclination to order the foie gras crème brulee, Choukroun’s signature dish that I missed yesterday, I decided that if my cardiologist ever found out that I’d had foie gras twice in one meal, he’d fire me, so I opted for the geezers. By this I mean the microtomed gizzards, cooked to a wonderful crisp and with a sauce deglazed with raspberry vinegar, along with a salad and chives and finished off with ground baies roses (pink peppercorns) – quite wonderful. I was then sitting with my wonderful wine reading today’s Figaro and anticipating my “Perigord hamburger.” And I sat, and sat, and sat, and sat….well you get the idea, like the airlines that never tell you what’s wrong and how long it’ll take to fix it, I sat there, raising my eyebrows occasionally at the waitress, and sat. Now, luckily, Le Figaro today was really chock-a-block full of information, and my wine already poured in a carafe was like that of Jesus serving loaves and fish to 5,000, it lasted forever. Then I started to compose an essay on “When do you walk out,” and ask for the check (no one else had been served for 20 minutes either, and we were a total of 14 in a place seating 26) – when the “hamburger” appeared. The bun was actually pretty good, indeed, when I tried to eat the confit of duck, cepes and foie gras separately – it didn’t work and I went back to the “burger” approach, Dr. Barry Sears be damned! The potatoes and salad alongside went barely tasted but mainly untouched – I just wanted out. Afraid I would be there forever, I ordered a coffee serre (Illy) and the check - and my wonderful waitress said (for the third time) how was it? Now, my wife, friends and puzzlingly loyal readers know I’m a coward and always say, ”OK,” “excellent,” “thank you” or some such, but never the truth. However, today was a life-changing moment and I said – “Well, the food was quite good, when it came, but the time I waited was not.” Did I get struck with a thunder bolt? No. Did she spit in my soup? No. Did she tell the chef? Certainly not. But she did offer me a digestif. Did the “Prune” repair all? No. But I was at least a bit mellower. My bill = 61 € (in fairness, they do have a three-course forced choice menu for an astounding 13.50 E and a plate of charcuterie with a glass of wine for 15 E and the foie gras etc., I had did cost more than the average dish.) Ah, the “train wreck” reference. I once asked my buddy, the cellist in a major symphony orchestra, what the deuce had happened in the second movement of a symphony the night before and he said – oh, you mean the “train wreck?”

Go? To the worst price-quality place of the calendar year?


John Talbott

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I am confused by MBC's menu. Is the (longer) list of choices at the top of the page only available at lunch? Everything that sounds interesting to me is in that section, but we would be reserving for dinner. :huh:


eGullet member #80.

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I am confused by MBC's menu.  Is the (longer) list of choices at the top of the page only available at lunch?  Everything that sounds interesting to me is in that section, but we would be reserving for dinner.  :huh:

If memory serves me correctly (Phyllis chime in) there is a very different menu at night, one of whose items is among the lunch choices.

This could be another example of why lunch is preferred.


John Talbott

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Yes, dinner is quite different (they even change the settings and uniforms I believe) and you choose either 4, 6 or 8 courses from the dinner menu (which is indeed the bottom part of the link you posted) and then the chef chooses which dishes to send out. You can of course let them know what you don't want/like.


www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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A word of warning about Mon Oncle.

For the second time in two months I've made a reservation and shown up and they've been closed. The first time it was with my pal A. and freezing cold and we bailed out to a most unsuccessful 2nd choice. Today with Colette, it was slightly more clement, and I had three backups and we did very well, but I'd advise you to have a back up plan in any case.

I stick by my rating of my one successful meal - but you cannot trust their days/hours of openings/closings.


John Talbott

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