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Chez Gramond and La Maison de l'Aubrac


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Saturday night, my wife and I made our first visit to Chez Gramond. It might just be my favorite restaurant in Paris.

The Setting: Chez Gramond is extremely small. Ten tables, I think, but all spaced rather well. It is traditionally elegant. Lace tablecloths, sterling silver, proper china and crystal etc. In short, the study kind of elegance that transcends time. This place is serious about food -- and the setting sends that messsage from the begining.

The Food: There was no game on the menu, a disappointment. We had escargots, navarin d'agneau, and Grand Marnier souffle. Yes, we ordered the same thing, but that's how it goes sometimes. The escargots were the best I've ever had. The garlic and parsley were such clear flavors and the snails were very plump and flavorful in and of themselves. There was remarkable restraint in the use of butter and oil here, quite unusual, and made for an excellent starter. The lamb stew was textbook -- a real throwback dish. Very welcome on a cold winter's night. The souffle was also textbook -- not an overly airy thing, and not extremely sugared. Perfect texture throughout.

Wine: This is a real wine list. About 20 Burgundies and 30 Bordeaux offerings (and a few other regional wines of little interest). There were few, if any, bottles younger than 10 years. Many of the Burgundies dated from 1971. There were many Bordeauxs from 1982 and 1985, among other star vintages. The list was very good value, but not inexpensive. There were no Burgundies under $100, but many in the $150 to $250 range. We had a 1982 Haut Medoc for $88. Decanted into a lovely antique glass/silver jug, the wine was perfectly preserved, with very nice fruit, and very long. A perfectly balanced wine in a style that the New World can't fathom, yet alone execute.

Service: This is where Chez Gramond stands out. Mme. Gramond runs the front room and is the only server. M. Gramond is in the kitchen, but pops out from time to time to make small talk with diners. There is a genuine feeling of hospitality here that I thought was only reserved for travel narratives. The Gramonds are hosts of the first order.

On Sunday, we dined at La Maison de l'Aubrac -- another entry for your Sunday dining options list. As the name implies, this is a steakhouse, first and foremost. It is also very casual -- paper on the tables, etc. But the food is remarkably good value for the area (rue Marbeuf) and the wine list is spectacular. I had a very good entrecote (excellent by French standards) and my wife had a less successful, but still good fillet. We had a cheeseboard each and split a proper creme brulee (hot on top, cold underneath). Perhaps the best coffee I've had in Paris followed. We drank a 1998 Solen from the Languedoc, which was very well priced at 30 euros. The list is very strong on Languedoc and Rhone wines. The bill was 114 euros.

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As previously discussed by Steve P and me, Maison d'Aubrac has several advantages: (1) nice aligot (potato preparation from Massif Central's cuisine (spelling), elasticky), (2) nice selection of La Turque and related Guigals, (3) late opening hours, (4) sampling of Aubrac beef in Paris, and (5) easy accessibility by Metro. (Before it also used to have the advantage of being very close to Kurova and Herme's pastries.)

I used to like the beef tartare, but it appeared unduly sweet on my last visit.

Edited by cabrales (log)
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Check out the new restaurant by the owners of La Maison d'Aubrac, "Devez" at the place de l'Alma... it's a sort of contemporary Aubrac, with tartare, burgers, and beef in all its forms.

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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