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Orleans


Pan
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The place where it seemed like the food was most uniformly good on our trip through Paris, parts of southern Ile de France, Burgundy, and the Loire Valley: Orleans. We were there all too briefly (just 2 days and, therefore, our positive impressions should be viewed with caution), but lucked out. Orleans is a sizeable city (the Michelin Red Guide says 113,126 inhabitants in the city and 263,292 in the metropolitan area), it's very diverse and funky, and has an active social scene at night. I liked it, and look forward to going back someday.

After a somewhat hellish night in a Novotel in the middle of nowhere, outside of an industrial park some 13 km outside of Orleans ("La Source"), we escaped to the Centre Ville and stayed at the Hotel Jeanne d'Arc, a pleasant, somewhat faded luxury art-deco hotel with real character (it was luxurious then and is quaint and classy but inexpensive now). Right across the rue de la Republique was the best Boulangerie/Patisserie we found on our trip. Look on the east side of rue de la Republique just before you get to Place d'Arc. All of the stuff we had there was sensational (and we took things with us on our trip to Tours, the next place we went to), but don't miss their chocolate pastries!

On my trip to France, my father made us eat a few times in Chinese restaurants because he's on a restrictive diet that is among other things very low-fat, and he found that when French chefs were cooperative and took out the butter and cream, they took out the taste. Unfortunately, some of the Chinese restaurants we went to in other cities were disgusting, and one made my brother and me really sick to our stomachs (it was in Tours, but I don't remember its name or exact location). The thing that the bad Chinese restaurants had in common was that they all claimed to serve at least one other Asian cuisine (e.g. Vietnamese, sometimes Thai) in addition to Chinese. But in Orleans, even the Chinese restaurant we went to was very good - so good that, if it were in New York's Chinatown, I would make it part of my rotation. I don't remember the name, but it's on the southeast corner of Place d'Arc, and you really can't miss it. We inquired and found out that the chef and ownership are Cambodian Chinese, but the restaurant does not advertize itself to passersby as serving both cuisines. Instead, it serves really fresh, well-cooked, tasty Chinese food; some dishes have Cambodian touches (one of our dishes had lemograss in it - either the shrimp or the chicken), and a few Cambodian dishes are on the menu. We had a very nice whole fish, steamed with ginger, scallions, and a brown sauce to my father's order; a very tasty shrimp dish; a chicken dish; and some plain vegetables (for my father). It was satisfying.

For lunch one of the days we were in Orleans, we came back from some morning sightseeing late and most restaurants were closed already (it was about 2:20, I think). We ended up in a bar. And even in the bar, most of the food was good enough to merit at least a solid star in New York Times ratings, except that it is absolutely impossible to find a bar in New York where you could get the kind of food we got at this bar, let alone to have good food of this type, cheaply. My brother had a salad with excellent confit de gesiers de canard (duck gizzard confit), I had a tasty tournedos cooked very nicely in a brandy-cream sauce with mushrooms (at something like 9 Euros 50, the most expensive dish on the menu). I forget what other people had. Since I was in a bar, I took advantage of that to buy a hard cider. The meal was cheap, the owner (justly proud of his bar) and his mate were friendly, and we were satisfied (except for my father who I believe ordered a fish dish and found it a bit fishy). I don't remember the name of the bar; sorry.

So we didn't go to any fancy restaurants in Orleans, but we were impressed that even a meal in a bar and a Chinese restaurant were much better than we had any reason to expect. I don't know whether that reflects on the food in that city generally, but the fact that we were across the street from what turned out to be a spectacular patisserie also suitably impressed us.

So, to sum up: (1) That boulangerie/patisserie is sensational! Search it out if you're in Orleans!

(2) If you do happen to be around Pl. d'Arc and feel like having Chinese food (for a break, to save money, whatever), look for that place, which might have been called something Imperial or something like that.

And have fun walking around the old city.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Thanks for an interesting post that reminds us that even when one doesn't come anywhere near a starred restaurant, there can be something special about just having a bite to eat in France.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Glad you liked it, Bux.

I've got more posts coming, some about restaurants that have Michelin stars or/and mentions in Gault Millau.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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