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La Regalade, Paris


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But surely by that time everyone will be onto the next "in" Parisian bistro...

Perhaps, but it's a pity Paris has to come to that. There have been many wonderful improvements in Paris, but the loss of reputable and dependable local bistrots is a great loss for both the inhabitants and the locals. The important thing is to know a local bistrot that is good and which will not become the next "in" restaurant.

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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Perhaps, but it's a pity Paris has to come to that. There have been many wonderful improvements in Paris, but the loss of reputable and dependable local bistrots is a great loss for both the inhabitants and the locals. The important thing is to know a local bistrot that is good and which will not become the next "in" restaurant.

Amen, brother!

eGullet member #80.

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Are we destined to kill that which we love by sharing it with others indescriminantly or should we be less sharing and more selfish with our information? I had a drink the other night with a member who is a resident of Paris at least part of the time. He expressed a reluctance to publicly recommend some very small restaurants frequented almost exclusively by local residents. I was reluctant to write about Au C'Amelot after we were taken there by locals and before others mentioned it here. I know of one professional culinary journalist who sadly witnessed the negative effect of said journalist's article listing some bistrots in Paris that proved unable to cope with the tourism that resulted from an article in an American food journal.

I know we have a remarkable audience here on eGullet, but I also know there's no test to read and pass on information posted here, and there's no test to act on it. I understand the interest travelers have in wanting to visit local places and in eating in the very restaurants that cater to locals, but I've also been in at least one restaurant in Paris where I had to restrain myself from pummeling some tourists who were disruptive to the functioning of a local restaurant in the way that only those who were totally unprepared to eat there could be by abusing the time of an overworked workstaff and returning dishes which were adequately translated and explained well beyond what one should expect in a foreign country. I often think eGullet serves a better function when it carries abstract information and discussion useful to a travelers than when it reveals secret restaurants.

With that in mind and under cover of the knowledge that L'Ami Jean has already been recommended in the glossy American food press, I'll pass on a very positive reaction from two trusted gastronomes and chefs. This is another bistrot that's been opened by someone who reportedly was a sous chef at la Régalade. The card for L'Ami Jean reads s'appelle maintenant Stephane et on continue de s'y régaler!

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.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Risking sounding like an evangilical, I repeat, "Amen, brother!"

Bux, I jealously guard names of several back-street neighborhood dining rooms. But I need to explain that it is not only because blending into these anachronistic treasures is one of the major reasons we go to France, but because praise for many of these can be so easily misconstrued.

What brings us delight can easily be a small, crowded, smoky, dingy room with sketchy service, no flowers or candles. Perhaps to us the food is ethereal; perhaps to those who follow our endorsement, the food is unremarkable, or, quel horreur, worse, eg, andouillette!

I would love all of us to share all of our finds all of the time, but this is simply not practical nor is it wise. I read the French press religiously, and try to visit likely prospects as soon as I locate them. And as soon as they hit the American press, I feel that they are free game.

In the meantime, I can only say, enjoy your finds. Share them with kindred souls who can blend into the woodwork and not alter the ambience, and publish when the end is apparent.

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Margaret,

Most people who frequent EGullet, would find out about Ourcine anyway. I think this is a self-educated group who make it their business to find out where to eat! Now as for Ourcine and Gourmet, John Talbott is probably right as are you, that it will be overwhlemed.

On that note, I am back in Paris tomorrow night, but I think I will be by myself. Regardless do you thing if I walk in around 8pm there is a high possibility of being seated? I don't want to make a reservation at the moment as I really do feel strange making reservations for one.

Thank you.

Edited by raisab (log)

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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Margaret,

Most people who frequent EGullet, would find out about Ourcine anyway. I think this is a self-educated group who make it their business to find out where to eat! Now as for Ourcine and Gourmet, John Talbott is probably right as are you, that it will be overwhlemed.

On that note, I am back in Paris tomorrow night, but I think I will be by myself. Regardless do you thing if I walk in around 8pm there is a high possibility of being seated? I don't want to make a reservation at the moment as I really do feel strange making reservations for one.

Thank you.

Do as F Simon suggests, make a reservation for 2 and say your friend missed his/her train -

"Lesson #46: Eating alone at a restaurant: 10 ways to beat your fate,

that is, of getting stuck at the worst table. Reserve for two persons, confirm it, shampoo and primp, take a good book, say not a word until seated (at a good table), announce with sincerity that your friend missed his train, when the other tables stare, you keep your cool, put the staff in your pocket by seeking the sommelier’s advice, smiling at the maître d’, etc, order three desserts and leave triumphant...."

John Talbott

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"....I am back in Paris tomorrow night, but I think I will be by myself. Regardless do you thing if I walk in around 8pm there is a high possibility of being seated? I don't want to make a reservation at the moment as I really do feel strange making reservations for one...."

 

Hoping that you took John T's good advice, I hope that you will let us know if you did try L'Ourcine and how you found it.

eGullet member #80.

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Are we destined to kill that which we love by sharing it with others indescriminantly or should we be less sharing and more selfish with our information?......

I know we have a remarkable audience here on eGullet, but I also know there's no test to read and pass on information posted here, and there's no test to act on it. I understand the interest travelers have in wanting to visit local places and in eating in the very restaurants that cater to locals, but I've also been in at least one restaurant in Paris where I had to restrain myself from pummeling some tourists who were disruptive to the functioning of a local restaurant in the way that only those who were totally unprepared to eat there could be by abusing the time of an overworked workstaff and returning dishes which were adequately translated and explained well beyond what one should expect in a foreign country. I often think eGullet serves a better function when it carries abstract information and discussion useful to a travelers than when it reveals secret restaurants. .......

With that in mind and under cover of the knowledge that L'Ami Jean has already been recommended in the glossy American food press, I'll pass on a very positive reaction from two trusted gastronomes and chefs.

I've been struggling for two days over how to frame what I want to say without sounding snotty or superior or blasé. First - keeping places secret. I know that most food writers (Remy, Claiborne, etc) keep one or two in their pockets that they never write up. But when I signed on to eGullet I felt that its purpose was to be helpful to others, be they experts at digging out the back-alley places or novices intent on having a good meal (recall Gault and Millau's caution that a meal is, after all is said and done, just a meal) so I've not held anything back in either the Digest or my reviews or my responses to inquiries.

Second - who are we kidding?; yes, it's true that Simon says in Chapter 46 that Americans are better informed than French folk on restaurants but how many "secret places" are really secret? My experience duplicates that given by Margaret above, that often I go to the "secret or favorite or undiscovered place" of someone else and I have trouble being gracious when I'm asked "how was it," because it was inevitably not the same for me as the "finder." In addition, I'm surprised at how many "secret places" are actually places that have been listed in Lebey for years.

Next, I think most abhorers of tourists, esp American tourists, are eating in well-known restaurants at night in easily findable parts of Paris. I'll repeat what I've said many times before - I could hardly get anyone to go to the 19th to eat Frechon's food after he first opened because of where it was; ditto Les Magnolias and many places in the deepest 13th or 15th. And even when a place (take L'Equitable) is written up in the NYTimes it's still all-French everytime I go. Then the bad, indeed horrible folks that Bux ran into; they must go elsewhere when I'm around, because after 50 years I can count the number of truly bad mannered tables on my hand; most of the time the foreign diners are struggling to understand the menu, the waiters are trying to be helpful, and there's little disturbance. Do I help out when the diners ask the waiter what "a la plancha" means and he turns to me for help in translating - you bet. (and sometimes afterwards I've heard the Americans say, "see the French really are nice.")

Then, there's the matter of abandoning the "secret places" when written up in the US. Well, my sense is that we all have a grace period from the time a review appears in the French dailies and weeklies until the guidebooks appear in December; then it's time to move on anyway, you've tested the kitchen, you know what he/they can do - with 5 restaurants a week opening or renovated or with new chefs - there's much work to be done.

Finally, regarding L'Ami Jean, I think I ate there two weeks after it was reviewed in an April 2003 Figaroscope and if Bux had written it up then, here, I would have respectfully disagreed that it was all that good - I thought that while the chipirons and crème catalane were good, that the tables were incredibly tightly fit and the confit de cuisse de canard was "watery" (and my second visit a few weeks later did not correct my first impression.) Now, maybe Bux's review would trump mine, with good reason; maybe folks who've read both our postings and figured out our differing likes & dislikes would decide whom to trust, and maybe they'd find a tie-breaker review or friend, etc.

In any case, I'll go on calling 'em as I see 'em. As Mort Sahl used to say, "Is there anyone out there I haven't offended?"

John Talbott

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Wow, I went to Ourcine last night and can understand why anyone would want to keep this place a secret! I ended up going with two other crewmembers.

This place is fabulous! I haven't enjoyed a meal like this in a long time!

I am not great at describing but I will try. As an entre I had Papillotes de Confit de Lapin garnished with a Medjool Date sauce. My companions had Bisque de Crustaceans avec Creme Leger et Chorizo, and Saumon Marine with exoctic Spices. All you heard were moans and sighs as we enjoyed our appetizer. For my Plat I had Caneton, the sauce eludes me but it was heavenly. One companion had Cod, the other lamb. Sorry I don't have better descriptions but my goodness they were all so good.

For dessert they had the Cabecou, while I had the Pot de Creme. All wonderful.

Wine list was very resonable, service was very very good. Madame was there with her new baby, and everyone was so pleasant.

Please please do not give the name of this restaurant out to anyone! I did ask them about the Gourmet article and they are anxious for it to appear. But I couldn't agree more that these people will be slammed! I hope they survive!

This is my new favorite bistro!

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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John, we agree that there are very few secret restaurants. Too many people report on Paris for a living for a restaurant to escape notice. I keep harping on the fact that it must be the best covered restaurant scene in the world.

I don't really understand how clueless people can be about French food and I'm always surprised by how many well dressed properous people our age are at sea in a Parisian restaurant and really not on a wave length that makes helping them easy. In Benoit, while we were able to make some suggestions and describe what we were eating to the folks next to us, they soon found a foursome that was more of their social and economic persuasion and had more fun sharing their amusement than in anything else. Maybe I'll get to expound on the Benoit thread.

For the record, we did not eat at l'Ami Jean. It was another younger couple who are far more opinionated as well as professionals. They liked it a lot.

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.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I don't really understand how clueless people can be about French food and I'm always surprised by how many well dressed properous people our age are at sea in a Parisian restaurant and really not on a wave length that makes helping them easy. In Benoit, while we were able to make some suggestions and describe what we were eating to the folks next to us, they soon found a foursome that was more of their social and economic persuasion and had more fun sharing their amusement than in anything else. Maybe I'll get to expound on the Benoit thread.

Watch out, Bux. You are beginning to sound a lot like me. Seriously, I am ceaselessly amazed at the number of people we encounter who can't navigate a serious menu in French. Moreover, I wonder why they have so inconvenienced themselves by coming to a neighborhood place that probably has a simple ardoise, which, granted, is better than the old purple mimeographed sheets that no one, French included, could decode.

There is a very simple machon in the 6th that we have used for over a decade, Machon d'Henri. It is tiny; really, really, "whose hand is that on my knee" tiny. The food is classic Lyonnaise of an very ordinary quality. The service is competent but not really service by any purist definition. We like weeknights better than weekends, but they are open on Sundays, which is a failsafe for us. My husband goes for the 7-hour lamb, I for andouillette. We use this place as a comfort address when we are tired and overfed and just want to be someplace familiar.

Last time we were there, a couple of weeks ago, two different couples left after trying to read the chalkboard. When a third settled in and started showing signs of stress, my husband told me to give them a hand. I suggested that because of the peculiar angle of their table to the board perhaps they could use some help reading the board. They accepted with gusto, then begged us to translate as well as read to them. When we were finishing dessert, the husband leaned toward us and asked what we had had for dessert. I told him strawberry tart. He said, "No, in French".

How do you get to France and not be able to figure out which of 4 or 5 dessert items might be the strawberry tart you are drooling over?

This little machon is frequented mostly by regulars from the neighborhood. I have questioned how this is possible in the middle of the touristy 6th. My husband' answer: They don't make it easy for people who don't speak French.

Interesting.

eGullet member #80.

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Seriously, I am ceaselessly amazed at the number of people we encounter who can't navigate a serious menu in French. 

On the other hand, when I'm in Greece or Germany (and German was my first language) I'm totally lost reading a menu and totally dependant on "the kindness of strangers." Are we too tough on Americans who don't know rudimentary French?

John Talbott

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Menus are so loaded with idioms that they can be hard work, even if you have a knowledge of basic high-school french.

On our first La Regalade visit five or six years ago, part of our first grown-up trip to France, we recognised the odd word on the menu, but not much more. We ended up opting for the chicken ("coq" was an easy one to spot) and the veal ("veau" - pretty straightforward as well). We were a little surprised (but too aware of our linguistic shortcomings to show it) when scallops ("coq st jacques") and an enormous whole roast kidney ("rognon de veau") were delivered to the table. Both were superb, by the way, and we had a great meal. But we also resolved to make a point of improving our food vocab tout suite.

PS

Edinburgh

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One has to develop priorities in life. I'm fond of telling a story about the time we were taking a night train across Switzerland and had to make a change in some forsaken location at an ungodly hour of the morning. Fearing I'd fall back asleep and miss the stop, I stood in the corridor of the comparmentalized trains the predate TGV like trains. A young Swiss student approached and asked a question in German. I replied that I didn't speak German and she asked if Zug was the next stop in perfect Englilsh. Language has always been my weak suit and I'm impressed by people who are fluently multilingual, as opposed to Mrs. B who I claim is the opposite having the ability to speak French, English, Spanish and Italian in a single sentence if need be to communicate her thoughts. :biggrin:

The young woman was changing trains with us and also headed for Zurich. There at the bar counter she overheard my ordering coffees with and without milk, and various breakfast items. She turned to Mrs. B and said that she thought I didn't speak German. My wife replied to the effect that I was very fluent in many languages when I was hungry.

Early in our travels, I came to the conclusion that there were no bad travel days if they all ended with a good dinner. I'll miss trains and arrive at importan museums on the day they're closed with fond memories and amusing stories if dinner is rewarding. On the other hand, if we really eat poorly for dinner, Mrs. B will avoid me the next day.

The answer to John's question about being tough on those who can't order in Franch is "yes." It's hard to justify my unfairness in attitude on this matter, but I think I've said a few words on that in a parallel thread that we've probably left too long to merge.

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.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Watch out, Bux.  You are beginning to sound a lot like me.  Seriously, I am ceaselessly amazed at the number of people we encounter who can't navigate a serious menu in French.  Moreover, I wonder why they have so inconvenienced themselves by coming to a neighborhood place that probably has a simple ardoise,..

I know your machon as well by the way, it's very ordinary and quite special. :biggrin:

Now I just hope we don't have some casual reader of this thread looking for a good ardoise and wondering if it's better braised or poached. :laugh: It was the florid script that was so hard to decipher on those purple menus. In fact, dishes I learned to recognize in the handwritten form were unrecognizable in print to me. You bring back fond memories of old times.

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.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I guess I am showing my age, John, as in "menu comprehension and decoding is womenswork"! :laugh: Before our visits to Greece and Italy it was my job to become proficient enough to navigate reservations, check-in and meal-ordering. Perhaps it was because of these stressful times at table that for a decade I steered us to Great Britain before venturing back to the continent.

When I think of the opportunities missed because I was afraid to tackle French! :sad:

I think that we are talking about two kinds of traveler here. There are those like PS who find themselves in a peculiar situation, make the best of it and dedicate themselves to learning more about the culture, and there are those like the people Bux tried to help who were much happier when they could meld with a group that was equally ignorant and provincial. There is no amount of help we wouldn't give the former.

eGullet member #80.

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  • 2 months later...

For Camdeborde watchers: this morning's Metro gave a big more info than Felice had posted in her Food Events thread about Yves Cambdebord's temporary restaurant which is located this week in a butcher shop turned resto - Christophe Dru, 20, rue d'Aligre in the 12th. He'll start serving at 9 PM each evening and he'll serve things such as raviolis of daube of beef and souris of confited lamb. One must reserve, and as Felice indicates, it's here.

John Talbott

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  • 2 weeks later...
Another note of interest, where Yves Cambdeborde describes his upcoming establishment as a 35-seater brasserie, in the same mould as La Régalade.

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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  • 4 months later...
Another note of interest, where Yves Cambdeborde describes his upcoming establishment as a 35-seater brasserie, in the same mould as La Régalade.

Latest news in today's Figaroscope is that it has only 20 covers and has been previously mentioned: is familial, 50E priced, no reservations or telephone. I make no promises but the verbs in the interview are present tense. It's not posted on the website yet, sometimes it takes days to go up, sometimes never - key words if you try to search later are Yves Camdeborde and Colette Monsat (who did the interview). Title: "Nous voulons une ambiance tres familiale." As was also previously reported, it's called the Comptoir du Relais, 5, Carrefour de l'Odeon in the 6th.

John Talbott

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We went by the Comptoir du Relais again on Monday and there is still no indication of a change; the same limited carte, not at all Regalade like.

No to complicate things, but in Saturday’s Figaro, in a section titled “En bref,” there is yet another announcement that Yves Camdebord is in business, which contradicts the buzz that said he would not be cooking until mid-May- NB: once again, present tenses are used (e.g., “s’est installe, lui officie”), 20 covers, no reservations, 40E a la carte, no telephone.

John Talbott

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  • 4 months later...
  • 2 years later...

I took my granddaughter and her husband to La Regalade for their first dining experience. This was arrival day, so, I made early, 7:30 reservations. One other couple ahead of us. By 8:30 the place was full. I would say that we were the only non French there. Yes, the tables are close..it did not seem to bother us. We had champagne..I had a very tasty asperagus, foie soup. Really very good. I had a seabass special. I also enjoyed it. My dessert was an apple crub sort of thing with caamel ice cream. The kids had veal for one and checken for the other. They looked good and they enjoyed. They had Grand Marnier souffle and a strawberry/cheese thing. The total for 3 was 170 euros. I would definitely return.

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  • 10 months later...

Hello,

please click here to read the full review with photographs from my dinner: HERE

La Régalade is somewhat of an institution. It is also synonymous with Yves Camdeborde and if you know much about Paris bistros, then you know much about him.

The eighties were the heyday of Paris’ haute cuisine scene. These halcyon years saw upscale kitchens become crammed with hungry, young men attracted by their success and the promise that they offered. With each, came the inevitable aspiration to eventually own their own restaurant. The turn of the decade however brought with it recession. This meant that these impatient chefs no longer had the means nor the market to support the sort of restaurants they had become accustomed to. Their only option was to tone their ambitions down. This is exactly what Camdeborde did. In 1992, he left Les Ambassadeurs, found a little café in the 14th, bought it and relaunched it as a no-frills bistro.

Camdeborde had good pedigree; he had just won the Delice D'Or from Maîtres Cuisiniers de France and before Les Ambassadeurs, where he worked under Christian Constant, he was at the Ritz, Maxim’s and La Tour d’Argent. Bringing the technique that he was taught in these kitchens to rustic recipes, he unwittingly became a ringleader of the ‘Bistro Moderne’ movement.

‘In France, many chefs have forgotten that to eat well is to eat simply. So I decided to ameliorate this situation with La Régalade. I don’t want to play the chef’s role in a white toque every night. I want to cook!’ In addition to just cooking, he was extremely generous, always allowing guest to help themselves to his brother, Philippe’s, homemade pâtés, sausages and hams as well as ensuring that prices remained reasonable. When the restaurant first opened, Joël Robuchon himself came to scout it out, claiming afterwards that it would never work. Unfortunately for him, it did; soon enough, it became one of the hardest reservations to procure in Paris. It also inspired many of today’s chefs bistronomiques including Stéphane Jégo (Chez l'Ami Jean), Thierry Faucher, Thierry Breton and even his former mentor, Christian Constant, to follow in his footsteps.

By 2004, after a dozen years of running La Régalade, Camdeborde had become exhausted and decided it was time to sell; ‘I wanted to move on before I got lazy. I needed to discover new things. It’s the same with food and wine: there’s more to eat than lobster, more to drink than Bordeaux.’ The chef who bought the restaurant from him was Bruno Doucet.

Chef Doucet came from a similar culinary past to Camdeborde. A native to the Touraine and born into a ‘family of hunters’, he chose cooking over astronomy (he was rather good at mathematics) and at fifteen, started as an apprentice at Charles Barrier (3*) in Tours. Two years later, he went to train with André Lenormand (MOF) in Orléans. Two more years on and he joined Fouquet's in Paris under Guy Kreuzer, then Prunier's with Gabriel Biscaye, where he worked his way up from kitchen assistant to sous chef, before moving to Pierre Gagnaire (3*) for a year. In 1998, he became Jean-Pierre Vigato’s second at Apicius until 2001 when he transferred to Natachef as head chef for Vigato’s wife.

When Doucet took over La Régalade, he had some big shoes to fill. He decided to keep the spirit of the bistro alive and continued with the reasonable prices, large choice, generous canapés and relaxed atmosphere. He started off well, impressing critics and winning Gault Millau’s ‘Young Talent of the Year’ in 2006. He has made it a point to balance the old with the new, eschewing modern kitchen machinery, but always looking for new ideas and ingredients too. His favourite tool is a knife; his favourite ingredient, salt.

La Régalade resides on avenue Jean-Moulin. The nearest métro is Alesia, but nearest does not necessarily mean nearby. So after some stroll, one eventually reaches a quaint, stylish, little shop front that pouts out upon the pavement; from under a copper canopy, bright lights beckon the famished inside. Within, pastel tea green walls are lined with burgundy banquettes behind small wooden tables. The room revolves around a single, circular table and central serving station, on top of which the specials boards hang. The back wall features a wide mirror whilst windows draped with lace curtains form the restaurant’s front. Eclectic, but restrained artwork and coverless cupboards carrying jars of olives, pickles and more grace the walls. To the right as one enters, a wooden bar stands before another mirror, this one crossed with shelves of wine glasses and bottles. By the bar is a bread rack holding fresh loaves that will be sliced and brought to tables later. Large orbs floating overheard offer a fluorescent, unnatural light. There are maybe forty covers in all and usually all are taken. It can be crowded, but not cramped. There is an intimate bustle and jovial hubbub throughout.

For tonight’s dinner, we – Aaron, Amir, DB and I – had to decide between La Régalade and a return to Chez l'Ami Jean. The latter had been undeniably special, but like everyone else, never happy with what we already had, we opted for something new, the former and were it all started. Deciding what to eat was a little easier than where. We saw truffle (actually, we saw truffe) and we wanted it: La Menu Truffes à la Régalade.

Canapés: Pâté de campagne ‘La Régalade’ et cornichons. Soon after we were all settled, an ‘amuse’ of homemade pâté was presented in a white porcelain terrine, implanted with a knife. The instructions were blunt – eat as much as you can want. However, being made from pork meat, its fat and herbs, I had to disobey the house and instead, get by with tiny pickled gherkins and sweet and sour onions that came in a considerable clay crock.

Les Pains: Pain de campagne. The crusty, fluffy, rustic country bread was excellent, but then it was Poujauran. Creamy beurre d’Isigny, a golden butter made in Baie des Veys, Normandy, accompanied. We had only just given our order, but our table had already been filled – an auspicious beginning.

Entrée 1: Ailerons de Volaille jaune des Landes, bouillon de Paimpol et truffe Noire. Deboned corn-fed chicken wing, placed on a pile of parmesan croutons, coco de Paimpol and trimmed with black truffle, was poured over with a bouillon of the same bean. This surrounding sauce was slightly nutty, light and frothy yet substantial too; it would have worked delightfully with the truffles had these had any force. At least the chicken was tender whilst the croutons added crunch.

Entrée 2: Saint-Jacques de Bretagne rôties en coques au beurre de truffe Noire. A threesome of Brittany scallops, swimming in chive and truffle butter and coupled with croutons, were roasted then served still attached to their shells. The Saint-Jacques, cooked evenly throughout, were soft with buttery texture and decent flavour. Chive foam had heavy herbiness that suffused through the scallops nicely, however, the truffle was again utterly innocuous.

Plat Principal 1: Saint-Pierre de Bretagne rôti sur la peau, brandade à la truffe noire. Roast John Dory, also from Brittany, was balanced on brandade de morue mixed with black truffle; the fish was drizzled with veal jus and a dollop of herb butter. With a sticky, succulent skin and subtly sweet meat, the Saint-Pierre was quite lovely. The brandade, a traditional dish from Nîmes of salt cold purée, olive oil, milk and sometimes mashed potato (like here), was good with a coarse consistency that came off well. Rich jus de veau provided a nice punch. Each element of this dish was faultless and toothsome, but there seemed to be something missing, something to link everything together. Once again, the truffles may as well have been absent.

Plat Principal 2: Suprême de Volaille jaune des Landes, foie gras de Canard, truffe Noire et légumes d’hiver. A brace of ballotine Landes chicken breast fillets, filled with a farce of foie gras and lined with black truffle, rested on a bed of winter vegetables bathing in Albufera sauce; chives peppered the plate and an asparagus plank was poised over the poultry. Finally. Truffle. For really the first time, its fragrance was felt. The sauce - strong, a little creamy and flavoursome – also pleased; this velouté, classically made with suprême sauce to which meat glaze is added, was named by Carême in honour of Marshal Suchet, the Duke of Albufera, after his defeat of the British in Spain during the Napoleonic wars. The vegetables – turnips and Jerusalem artichoke – were soft and rather nutty. What let this dish down was the fact that the chicken, though meaty and tasty, was disappointingly dry.

Dessert 1: Quenelle et Moelleux au chocolat Noir, crème Anglaise au thé vanille. Sizeable scoop of dark chocolate ice cream, crowned with an orange tuile, covered dark chocolate sponge that lay in vanilla crème Anglaise. The cake, with a crisp crust and soft centre, was very good as was the ice cream; both were nearly bitter and had a savour that lingered pleasantly. Runny crème offered a little respite against the chocolate whilst the tuile was very crisp, but not at all orange.

Petit Fours: Madeleines au coqulicot. To finish we were proffered poppy-seed madeleines. These were very agreeable; moist, sweet, crisp around the edges and clearly fresh.

This would have been a sensible time to pay up and head out, but we were not yet ready to leave. Do not think that we had not had enough food, but we just felt like we could do with a little more. We had all seen that famous house Grand Marnier soufflé floating around the room during the night and it simply would have been very out of character for us not to want to try it. However, by the time we managed to ask for some, it was around midnight and the kitchen had closed.

Our despair was blatant. But the people at Le Régalade are of the sympathetic sort…

Dessert 2: Pot de crème Caramel. Four clay pots brimming with crème caramel were brought to our table. Our mercurial misery melted away immediately.

The soft, rich caramel cover conceded to my spoon, disclosing creamy, milky custard, which was amply encircled with vanilla seeds. The consistency and sweetness were pretty perfect – we were all left licking our cuillères clean.

During dinner we drank, 2007 Domaine Arretxea Irouléguy Hegoxuri. This French Basque wine, made with Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Corbu grapes, had intensity, complexity and character. Both flower and exotic fruit flavours came through and its golden colour was beautiful.

Service was great. The staff were clearly very busy on the night, but obliged us to no end. Courses came in good time, glasses were refilled when required, whims indulged – and all with smiles. The hostess, whose name we did not get, was patient, sweet and very friendly. Once we had finished off our (second) desserts, we were the last table there, but there was no hint of a wish for us to depart; instead, we were allowed to take out time. In fact, whilst they tidied the restaurant around us, we began to chat and got on rather well, ultimately leading us to return their hospitality with various goodies we had purchased earlier that day that had made their way with us to the restaurant – Arnaud Larher macarons; Eric Kayser financiers; and, the show stoppers, sfogliatine, zaeti and amarettini from Pasticceria Rizzardini which were freshly-made in Venice that morning. We eventually stumbled out after one in the morning, freezing cold, the métro having closed and needing to get from the ‘wrong’ end of the 14th, back to the 1st.

The cooking met with mixed results. We all agreed that ordering the truffle menu was a mistake – not because the plates were bad, but because we were paying simply for the pleasure of seeing truffles (as opposed to actually smelling/tasting them). Ignoring this detail, I thought the dishes, were on the whole, conceptually good, filled with decent flavours and visually pleasant. However, there were some simple errors in execution, chief amongst them being the overcooking of the chicken.

Ingredients were all (except those truffles) faultless, which is no surprise given that Chef Doucet buys from Paris’ best butcher, Hugo Desnoyer, and roams Rungis market, selecting the choicest produce himself. I found both the John Dory and cod quite delectable and I am sure the quality of the volaille jaune would have impressed if it had been prepared better. Our menu was unforgivingly French, which appealed. It also boasted decidedly bistro dishes - Coquille Saint Jaques rôtie en coquille and crème caramel – in addition to classic regional staples like brandade de morue and coco de Paimpol. The sauce Albufera may have been a hint to the chef’s haute cuisine history, but I say this after only having seen Alain Ducasse pouring it over his poached poultry.

I liked La Régalade. Regarding the fare, there was room for some refinement, but the flavours and ideas were already there – maybe rustic is the appropriate adjective – and I would certainly not rule out a return.

One measure in which I hold great stock is generosity. This can take many forms, great and small, discreet and open – but when I see it, it endears me to a restaurant. And I saw it constantly here: the staff were liberal in their attention, patience and friendliness; the all-you-can-eat terrine at dinner’s start was a very nice touch; and there is no skimping when it comes to portions. Such little things matter a big deal.

As readers know, memorable meals are not always made only by memorable food. Here, the dishes were satisfying, the kitchen was generous, the restaurant had charm, the service was excellent and the company, terrific. Surely that was enough?

It was, but there was more. One memory more. As mentioned, it was past one in the morning and we were stranded on the avenue Jean-Moulin – the opposite side of Paris to where we were staying. Our only solution…to vélib’ it. FYI, vélib’ refers to the free bicycle rental system in the city – basically one can borrow a bike when they want to and if returned within thirty minutes, not a penny (or cent) need be paid. This is just what we did.

For six or so kilometres, at minus six or so degrees, we raced across the French capital, ignorant of all ‘codes’ of traffic and all road signs. Surprisingly, we did not get lost, even more remarkably, we did not die. We made it back in half an hour – just – and saved ourselves one euro. Each.

Edited by Food Snob (log)

Food Snob

foodsnob@hotmail.co.uk

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