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Review of 4 Paris Bistrots


pierre45
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My exact notes from August 2008 read:

"Itineraires: Gaspacho (superb!); foie gras with apple butter; lapin with tarragon + celery root puree; cabillaud in nage. Split one dessert: fennel confit with chevre glace. 2 glasses Vouvray; 1 CdR white + 1 croze hermitage red."

The gaspacho was indeed superb: actually, it was filtered gaspacho, or gaspacho water surrounding chopped vegetables with pearls of basil emulsion suspended in the clear liquid. Exquisite.

My husband's foie gras was nothing to get excited about.

Tarragon completely overwhelmed the rabbit, and the cod just sat in its broth.

Even with a description, I can't recall the dessert. What I do remember is that tables were terribly close together, conversation hardly private and service was at a snail's pace. The above very simple meal took well over two hours. There were gaps of over a half hour between courses. I also remember that many selections were served in silly glassware, several martini presentations. And that the menu descriptions didn't reflect what was served, eg, a meat braise served as an emulsion in said martini glass.

I'm sure they have matured in a year, but we've not considered returning.

eGullet member #80.

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This has evolved into an interesting and useful discussion about theory and nomenclature. But somewhat lost have been the four places themselves. Do they deserve the attention that Bitmann and powerful New York Times focused upon them?

On a recent trip in June – just before Bittman’s article came out – we independently scoped out and visited three of the four he mentions, but because of timing and scheduling issues, we could have dinner at only one: Le Gaigne.

We enjoyed this tiny purple place very much. Mickaël Gaignon, the young chef, produces edgy and contemporary dishes. The titles for each dish are simple -- for example, to start, “Le Petit Pois” turned out to be a chilled sweet pea velouté (a velvety cream sauce made with stock, flour and butter), mackerel tartar and chorizo chips -- wow! “La Morille” was fresh morel mushrooms in a pearl barley risotto, topped with crispy parmesan slices -- fantastic. Our main courses were slightly more traditional, but rendered with flair: “Le Boeuf” was skirt steak (from France) with shallots, rosemary-flavored vegetables and marrowbone; “La Raie Française” was skate (fish) stuffed with capers and grain mustard, and incredible creamy potatoes.

The wine list was quite reasonable; we bought a bottle each of red and white, and (as the wine carte encourages) we simply corked the remainder to take back to our apartment. (By the way, what a lively and hopping gay scene there is on rue des Archives at about 11:00 p.m. on a warm Thursday in early June!)

Additional notes: (1) Other listings on the carte looked great but ordering that way would have nearly doubled our bill. We were happily confined to the 39 euro menu, which offered three or four entrees, plats, and deserts, for a total bill of euros 125 (this, immediately prior to the VAT reduction of July 2009, included aperitifs, two bottles of wine, sparking water (Puits Saint Georges), and expresso for one). (2) Make sure to visit the unisex bathroom to see interesting plum-colored lighting, emanating from most unusual locations. This also allows you to use the unique sink, and to take a peek through the kitchen door’s small window to survey the cramped and bright cooking quarters.

--Jake Dear ( http://parisandbeyondinfrance.blogspot.com/ )

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This has evolved into an interesting and useful discussion about theory and nomenclature.  But somewhat lost have been the four places themselves.  Do they deserve the attention that Bitmann and powerful New York Times focused upon them? 

On a recent trip in June – just before Bittman’s article came out – we independently scoped out and visited three of the four he mentions, but because of timing and scheduling issues, we could have dinner at only one:  Le Gaigne.

 

We enjoyed this tiny purple place very much.  Mickaël Gaignon, the young chef, produces edgy and contemporary dishes.  The titles for each dish are simple -- for example, to start, “Le Petit Pois” turned out to be a chilled sweet pea velouté (a velvety cream sauce made with stock, flour and butter), mackerel tartar and chorizo chips -- wow!  “La Morille” was fresh morel mushrooms in a pearl barley risotto, topped with crispy parmesan slices -- fantastic.  Our main courses were slightly more traditional, but rendered with flair: “Le Boeuf” was skirt steak (from France) with shallots, rosemary-flavored vegetables and marrowbone; “La Raie Française” was skate (fish) stuffed with capers and grain mustard, and incredible creamy potatoes.

 

The wine list was quite reasonable; we bought a bottle each of red and white, and (as the wine carte encourages) we simply corked the remainder to take back to our apartment. (By the way, what a lively and hopping gay scene there is on rue des Archives at about 11:00 p.m. on a warm Thursday in early June!)

Additional notes: (1) Other listings on the carte looked great but ordering that way would have nearly doubled our bill. We were happily confined to the 39 euro menu, which offered three or four entrees, plats, and deserts, for a total bill of euros 125 (this, immediately prior to the VAT reduction of July 2009, included aperitifs, two bottles of wine, sparking water (Puits Saint Georges), and expresso for one). (2) Make sure to visit the unisex bathroom to see interesting plum-colored lighting, emanating from most unusual locations. This also allows you to use the unique sink, and to take a peek through the kitchen door’s small window to survey the cramped and bright cooking quarters.

 

--Jake Dear ( http://parisandbeyondinfrance.blogspot.com/  )

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“Le Petit Pois” turned out to be a chilled sweet pea velouté (a velvety cream sauce made with stock, flour and butter)

Jake are you confusing two different things here? The traditional velouté is indeed a meat/fish stock thickened with a roux. But the fresh vegetable velouté found on many restaurant menus as an amuse or accompanying dish isn't the same and doesn't have the roux base. I believe they are usually pureed vegetables lightened with a little stock and cream. The intensity of their flavour comes from the simplicity of the dish.

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Responding to George Baugh and PhilD:

Good points, both.

First, although “cutting edge” is a relative term (and at the time I wrote those notes, we were coming off two weeks of dining in the countryside and brasseries that were far from cutting edge), I should have used the term “edgy” – in the sense of daring to be different, which I think describes the concept of this individualistic place.

Second, re: “velouté”: Usually, my 17-year-old son is the one who reveals my confusion. Your post sent me scurrying to consult with my resident chef and wife, Mo, who pulled out a couple books (including Patricia Wells’ “The Paris Cookbook,”) and with a big smile confirmed your comments. In mitigation I will say that “velouté” was the term used on Le Gaigne’s own carte, and I later made the mistake of looking it up in Larousse Gastronomique, Vegetable & Salads (2004 ed, p. 266), which I should have realized might not be the best source for newer trends! (This illustrates that a little knowledge goes a wrong way.)

-- Jake

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  • 5 weeks later...

We visited Les Papilles twice during our September stay in Paris. And once again, an excellent meal followed Bertrand's warm welcome. The first evening, the soup was a cool and refreshing cucumber gaspacho garnished with mint, dill, lardons and mini-croutons. The cocotte held rare duck breast with baby potatoes, carrots, snow peas and braised garlic. We opted for some frizzie salad rather than the suggested cheese course so that we'd have room for coffee creme brulee.

On our second visit, the soup-plate was stunning 3966251603_8d0d5af4ea_m.jpg even before the mushroom gaspacho was added.3967030644_5a98db440a_m.jpg

Rosy cote d'agneau cut into chops for easy serving sat atop ratatouille in the copper pot. Two chops per person. Tender as love and delicious.

3967034498_6baf580ee5_m.jpg

The cheese was St. Nectaire served with salad and fruit compote, dessert was mirabella panna cotta. Lovely and we are definitely "saite". What a bargain at 31€ for the four courses! As usual, we let Bertrand choose wine for us from his interesting collection. (7€ corkage and you can take back to your hotel what you don't finish.)

We can't go to Paris without at least one meal at Les Papilles. We love this place.

eGullet member #80.

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