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pierre45

Review of 4 Paris Bistrots

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The new york times Mark Bittman wrote about Les Papilles,L'Epigramme,L'Itineraires and Le Gaigne in last sunday's edition.He characterized the Paris Bistrot scene as an improvement from the past with "reliable and affordable food ,inventive but not silly and in cozy and small places ".Its interesting to note that for the past year on egullet, we have discussed these restaurants.Some of the thoughts expressed here, support his viewpoints but I believe there were more insights and depth in our discussions.

Its interesting to note that Mark Bittman went to bistrots that are family run and how suprised he was about how well orchestrated every thing was.

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I agree!!!


Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly....MFK Fisher

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Here's the NYT article, titled Alive and Evolving : The Paris Bistro by Mark Bittman.

WHETHER the Parisian bistro is dead depends largely on how you define “bistro.” If you need pigeonholes for your napkins, no wine choices because the owner’s brother-in-law makes Beaujolais, a dependable blanquette de veau every Tuesday, and the neighborhood plumber sitting in the corner, you’re out of luck. But if you want a small, cozy place, reasonably comfortable, with reliable and affordable food, it may be that the choices are better than they have been in years.
... Some of the thoughts expressed here, support his viewpoints but I believe there were more insights and depth in our discussions ...

Are you implying that Mark Bittman is "minimalist" in his reviews as he is with his cooking? :rolleyes::rolleyes:

And the snips at Pierre Gagnaire and Alain Ducasse ... Do they remind him of his friend Gary Danko?


Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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I can see his relief that the Paris bistrot has been de-bistroized, or so he thinks, giving a bit too much credit to the outer look of things.

Although he's quite thankful that the local plumber is out of the way (no news really), there is still more than little condescension in his article.

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It's interesting how different eyes view similar experiences. In both cases (Mark Bittman and us) we're visitors to Paris, and so form our opinions on fewer visits than locals might but we reached quite different conclusions. We've eaten at three of these places (not L'Epigramme) but when we make suggestions to friends our order of recommendation would be quite different. (I guess we're not too far apart though because we'd happily recommend all of the three we've been too, just in a different order.)

The one we've enjoyed the most - and which everyone we've recommended it to who's then been has uniformly reported back on with pleasure - is Les Papilles. The things that mildly irritated Mark Bittman didn't worry us at all when compared with the quality of the food, the appeal of the wine list and the convivial atmosphere. We think it's one of Paris's best value dinners.

We also enjoyed his favourite Le Gaigne. Excellent service, including great tolerance, via email, as we changed the number of people in our booking twice, which can't have been convenient for such a small restaurant). But, despite that, it didn't inspire us as much as Les Papilles, and we'd have it as the third choice in this lot. I think it seemed less sure of what it wants to be. There was quite a bit of variation in the style and feel of each dish. Some were pure bistro and others quite complex with aspirations to grandeur. I'm sure this variation made us less comfortable with the whole experience.

More proof that daring to comment about restaurants is a very subjective game.

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It irritates me to see traditional and inventive bistros set up for a "let's you and him fight" scenario. But of course there's no news without conflict, so when it doesn't exist, it must be manufactured.

Sometimes I'm in the mood for a fresh new experience like Spring; sometimes I just want a plate of super gambas and frites at L'Ecurie done exactly the way I've eaten them there for years, ever since they were recommended by an up-market chef and his family who always ate there on a Sunday night. They were "the best in Paris", he claimed. Was he right? I couldn't care less; they were delicious and reasonably priced, and I didn't regret the absence of an expensive infusion drizzled around the edge of the platter.


Edited by John Whiting (log)

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Nice to see more coverage of the 'neo bistro' scene, but Bittman's article is hardly cutting edge. Wonder who gave him those address?


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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What I would like to know is whether any of the bistros mentioned in Bittman's piece fall into the "bistronomique" categorie. To my surprise, despite the fact that there's even a topic in the French dining forums entitled "The economy and French restaurants: 2008-9", very little has been written here about the bistros serving gastronomy at friendly prices, which are now being called "bistronomiques".

Not sure what that means? To quote the New York Times, which did a story on Barcelona's "bistonomicos", they are "dedicated to offering high quality, contemporary — and yes, occasionally clever — cooking at reasonable prices. (...) A combination of bistro (a nod to the traditional dishes that form the starting point for these chefs) and gastronomia (a reference to the haute cuisine techniques used to update them) produced bistronomia. "

As docsconz wrote in the forum mentioned above (about the impact of the recession on French restaurants), "Good quality (though not luxe) ingredients and creativity are more important than ever. Anyone with skill can make a tasty dish from luxe ingredients, but creativity is important to make interesting dishes with mundane ingredients, thus the rise of the bistronomic phenomenon."

Another thing bistronomiques tend to favour is nose-to-tail cooking, where the pig or cow is bought whole and butchered in-house, thereby lowering food costs - and then the different parts and cuts used creatively throughout the menu.

Yves Camdeborde of Le Relais is generally considered the father of this trend.

But in reading Bittman's piece, I got the impression that Itinéraires is a definite bistronomique. It's got the low prices, the inventive menu, "gorgeous food", which, according to Bittman, "is also mysterious, which is not always something I like, but here the experiments are restrained and flavor remains paramount."

Could Itinéraires in fact be considered a bistronomique? And which are the other good bistronomiques in Paris?


Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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Look around the board - TONS has been written about the bistronomique trend- it is the prevailing culinary movement in France for the past few years..


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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I would not put that much stress on categorizing when it comes to the bistrots-restaurants of today. More than ten years after the supposed beginnings of the bistronomique trend ("bistronomique" is above and before all a word created by Sébastien Demorand, and it soon came to encompass quite a few different things), the category has lost much in way of clear edges, as have categories in general. "Bistronomique" as a word is hardly ever heard in Paris anymore. For one thing, despite its many flaws, Bittman's article does not fall into that trap.

It seems that the desire to serve good food at reasonable prices, regardless of the genre, has become stronger than the urge to categorize, and what I hear is now more often "restaurant" than "bistrot", and I believe that has to do with the general rising of the prices. L'Ami Jean is no longer cheap.

When Guy Savoy, followed by many others, started the "chef bistrot" trend back in the 80s, what was served was pretty close to what was described later as "bistronomique". What Camdeborde did was more imposing a style of his own - which he (and Stéphane Jégo) always did better than anyone else - than setting a trend. Le Châteaubriand would have been put in the category a few years ago, but today that would seem beside the point. And would a restaurant like Caïus be described as "bistronomique"? Certainly not. But the elements are there. IMO the trend is gone, the restaurants are still going.

Maybe because, with the help of economic realism, the accent is now primarily on food.


Edited by Ptipois (log)

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Ptipois, I am not sure the trend is gone. I, for one, hear the term bistronomique more and more. You say "Maybe because, with the help of economic realism, the accent is now primarily on food."

But... bistronomiques are ALL about the food! Basically, the true bistronomique is a place where the chef prefers to spend his dollars on ingredients and kitchen labour, and not so much on service or décor. A simple-looking, casual place where... it's all about the food!

So I don't see why such resistance to "categorizing" and calling some places bistronomiques...

It's interesting to note that in Brazil, where I'm from, certain places are opening and calling themselves bistronomiques - they are PROUD to be categorized as such. And yet in Paris you say the "trend" is passé. Is it?


Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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Ptipois, I am not sure the trend is gone. I, for one, hear the term bistronomique more and more. You say  "Maybe because, with the help of economic realism, the accent is now primarily on food."

But... bistronomiques are ALL about the food! Basically, the true bistronomique is a place where the chef prefers to spend his dollars on ingredients and kitchen labour, and not so much on service or décor. A simple-looking, casual place where... it's all about the food!

So I don't see why such resistance to "categorizing" and calling some places bistronomiques...

It's interesting to note that in Brazil, where I'm from, certain places are opening and calling themselves bistronomiques - they are PROUD to be categorized as such. And yet in Paris you say the "trend" is passé. Is it?

I would say the term has become so diffused that it has lost it's meaning. In many respects they style of cooking/food it sought to categorise has become mainstream. Maybe in our universe of well regarded bistros the old style ones are the minority and should be called out and labelled whilst "bistronomiques" are now the norm, and are a broad group, so are not worth calling out.

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Ptipois, I am not sure the trend is gone. I, for one, hear the term bistronomique more and more. You say  "Maybe because, with the help of economic realism, the accent is now primarily on food."

But... bistronomiques are ALL about the food! Basically, the true bistronomique is a place where the chef prefers to spend his dollars on ingredients and kitchen labour, and not so much on service or décor. A simple-looking, casual place where... it's all about the food!

So I don't see why such resistance to "categorizing" and calling some places bistronomiques...

It's interesting to note that in Brazil, where I'm from, certain places are opening and calling themselves bistronomiques - they are PROUD to be categorized as such. And yet in Paris you say the "trend" is passé. Is it?

Absolutely. It has lived its rightful (short) time by the standards of Paris trends. Besides, it was not depicting anything sufficiently original, substantial or new to be a long-lived concept. Everything that may be gathered under the "bistronomique" trend existed before and will exist - hopefully - long after the word is gone.

Also, if you allow me, the fact that the word "bistronomique" has escaped the initial geographical context is a surefire sign of RIP in the birthplace.

Adding to Phil's words, it is not only mainstream now, it was mainstream before. It's just that a likable word was thought up by someone at some point and it was the right word at the right moment. The word was much newer than what it described, and much more short-lived, too.


Edited by Ptipois (log)

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But... bistronomiques are ALL about the food!

I meant that the accent was now primarily on food, not on words.

However, I do not think 'being all about the food' and what follows in your definition is accurate for 'bistronomique'. The word is simply a contraction of bistrot and gastronomique, and thus refers to a place where a combination of bistrot food with some elements of high end cuisine (plating, culinary research, 'innovation') are served in bistrot surroundings, which are not necessarily simple.

Defining it as "being all about the food" would imply that the other categories of restaurants are not based on the same principle, which may be true for individual cases in any category but not for categories as a whole.


Edited by Ptipois (log)

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The current trend in Paris is informality,modern cuisine and

reasonable cost.Modern cuisine could be traditional with a twist or with some creativity, and informality translates to small places with 1 or 2 servers.Wine is from small independent vineyards and also reasonable.So one eats well .

For instances even in the 15 arrodissement you have some examples; i,e Afaria,Jadis,Le grand Pan, Le beurre noisette,L'os a moelle, etc ,etc.

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But... bistronomiques are ALL about the food!

I meant that the accent was now primarily on food, not on words.

However, I do not think 'being all about the food' and what follows in your definition is accurate for 'bistronomique'. The word is simply a contraction of bistrot and gastronomique, and thus refers to a place where a combination of bistrot food with some elements of high end cuisine (plating, culinary research, 'innovation') are served in bistrot surroundings, which are not necessarily simple.

Defining it as "being all about the food" would imply that the other categories of restaurants are not based on the same principle, which may be true for individual cases in any category but not for categories as a whole.

Ptipois, I beg to differ. Bistronomiques are all about the food - and yes, more so than most other kinds of restaurants - in the sense that not as much money or effort is spent on other aspects of the operation.

The décor, for example, often takes a back seat. The space is often sparsely or simply decorated, and speaking of space, it is usually small and not grandiose. Bistronomiques also do not put much emphasis on service: oftentimes, one of the co-owners will serve all tables alone or with little help.

In the other hand, other fine cuisine restaurants, in general, place equal emphasis on food, service and ambiance. That does not mean that bistronomiques are the only places that care about the food - not at all - but rather, that at bistronomiques food takes an uncommonly large share of the investments and efforts of the chef-proprietors. Oh, btw, that's another key characteristic of bistronomiques: they're always owned or co-owned by the chef. Never an outpost of a famous, absentee chef's global empire, for example.

Authoral, innovative and refined cuisine + chef who's a proprietor and always present + informal and maybe even understaffed service + small space with no-frills décor = BISTRONOMIQUE.

:)


Edited by AlexForbes (log)

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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My quibble would be the timeliness of Bittman's article. A potboiler, perhaps? Not only the nomenclature but the addresses have been around for some time. At least a year or so for most and quite more than that for Les Papilles. This is not news.

I won't get into my disagreement with his assessments.


eGullet member #80.

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The word is simply a contraction of bistrot and gastronomique, and thus refers to a place where a combination of bistrot food with some elements of high end cuisine (plating, culinary research, 'innovation') are served in bistrot surroundings, which are not necessarily simple.

I disagree again. Bistronomique refers to a place that has a bistro-like SETTING - maybe a bit cramped, informal, simple if compared to a high-end white tablecloth restaurant - and NOT bistro food at all,but rather, authoral, inventive cuisine that may, here or there reference bistro classics but is not at all "bistro food". A bistro serving gastronomie is a bistronomique. A bistro serving bistro food is... a bistro!

Or, in the words of l'Express, "De la grande cuisine dans un petit restaurant, des prix serrés et des idées larges: inventée au début des années 1990, la recette, qui mêle esprit bistrot et audace gastronomique, fait des émules dans la France entière"

And when you say "Also, if you allow me, the fact that the word "bistronomique" has escaped the initial geographical context is a surefire sign of RIP in the birthplace.", I say actually, the initial geographical context was not exclusively Parisian.

A similar movement started in Barcelona at around the same time, and has long been called bistronomia.

And, funny thing, I spoke today to the man who coined the term bistronomia (its Spanish version, anyway) - the food writer Pau Arenós -, and he says the movement is alive and kicking.

So I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.


Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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I disagree again. Bistronomique refers to a place that has a bistro-like SETTING - maybe a bit cramped, informal, simple if compared to a high-end white tablecloth restaurant - and NOT bistro food at all,but rather, authoral, inventive cuisine that may, here or there reference bistro classics but is not at all "bistro food". A bistro serving gastronomie is a bistronomique. A bistro serving bistro food is... a bistro!

Your describing under bistronomique the trend i outlined earlier.To be honnest it does not matter what a new approach is referred to.Someone comes up with a clever term to coin a phenomena.What counts is the new approach reflective of the change in our society.

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Ptipois, I beg to differ. Bistronomiques are all about the food - and yes, more so than most other kinds of restaurants -  in the sense that not as much money or effort is spent on other aspects of the operation.

The décor, for example, often takes a back seat. The space is often sparsely or simply decorated, and speaking of space, it is usually small and not grandiose.  Bistronomiques also do not put much emphasis on service: oftentimes, one of the co-owners will serve all tables alone or with little help.

In the other hand, other fine cuisine restaurants, in general, place equal emphasis on food, service and ambiance. That does not mean that bistronomiques are the only places that care about the food - not at all - but rather, that at bistronomiques food takes an uncommonly large share of the investments and efforts of the chef-proprietors. Oh, btw, that's another key characteristic of bistronomiques: they're always owned or co-owned by the chef. Never an outpost of a famous, absentee chef's global empire, for example.

Authoral, innovative and refined cuisine + chef who's a proprietor and always present + informal and maybe even understaffed service + small space with no-frills décor = BISTRONOMIQUE.

:)

Well — you just defined the French bistrot. To the smallest detail.

I disagree again. Bistronomique refers to a place that has a bistro-like SETTING - maybe a bit cramped, informal, simple if compared to a high-end white tablecloth restaurant - and NOT bistro food at all,but rather, authoral, inventive cuisine that may, here or there reference bistro classics but is not at all "bistro food". A bistro serving gastronomie is a bistronomique. A bistro serving bistro food is... a bistro!

I envy your ability to see things in such a clear-cut way. In decades of studying French food, its history and the restaurant scene at various periods, I have never met anybody who was able to define things so precisely, with so much certainty. Ahh all that wasted time!

So if I understand well, the difference between 'bistrot' and 'bistronomique' is that, in a similar setting, the bistrot serves just bistrot food and not 'gastronomique' food, and the bistronomique serves 'gastronomique' food and not 'bistrot' food? Is that right?

You understand that if either category happened to serve a combination of the two, there goes your theory.


Edited by Ptipois (log)

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What I would like to know is whether any of the bistros mentioned in Bittman's piece fall into the "bistronomique" categorie. To my surprise, despite the fact that there's even a topic in the French dining forums entitled  "The economy and French restaurants: 2008-9", very little has been written here about the bistros serving gastronomy at friendly prices, which are now being called  "bistronomiques".

Actually as Fresh_A mentionned, we have discussed "bistronomiques", néo bistros, and gastro bistros in many different threads, it's just that they are not all in one place and weave into several topics.

I did a quick search and found the following where we discussed the difference between traditional bistros and néo or gastro bistros.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=37806&hl=

If you scroll down a bit in this thread, you will find favourites in each

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=107995&st=50

To my knowledge, the first mention of Bistronomique, as Ptipois pointed out above, was by Sébastien Demorand for the Fooding awards in 2004, with the Meilleur Bistronomique going to Mon Vieil Ami.


www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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We had one of the worst experiences i have ever had in Paris at L' Itineraires. I would never ever consider it again. They must have known who he was.

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We had one of the worst experiences i have ever had in Paris at L' Itineraires. I would never ever consider it again. They must have known who he was.

MY experience 6 months back was average and that's the reason why i never reviewed it.Could you elaborate a bit as to why it was terrible.

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We had one of the worst experiences i have ever had in Paris at L' Itineraires. I would never ever consider it again. They must have known who he was.

MY experience 6 months back was average and that's the reason why i never reviewed it.Could you elaborate a bit as to why it was terrible.

I went soon after it opened (July '08) and it was dire. Service wasn't great, but the real problem was bad food. However, recent reports suggest it has got over he early teething problems and is now quite good.

I would love to hear from someone who also went in the opening weeks and has been recently to confirm it has indeed improved.

The team had a great pedigree and the space was good so it should be good.

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Must've known who who was? You think they'd purposely be bad??


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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