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April - 11 New Ones: Meating, l'Instant Gourmand


John Talbott
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April – 11 New Restaurants:

Meating, L’Instant Gourmand, Goupil, Louis Vins, Tandem, l’Ecalier/Music Hall, Bas-Fonds, l‘Auberge Bressane, Refectoire, Chez les Anges, l’Echappee

Do you read restaurant and movie reviews like I do, first paragraph first, then last sentence, then decide whether to read farther/further? If so, read no farther/further, because April was a pretty fallow month for new places (some readers have queried why I’m active some months and not others, for the answer read the footnote*). However, here are the details:

Let’s start with Meating, another new “theme” restaurant (along with Pomze, Spicy, Rouge Tomate, etc), which is, you’ve got it, devoted to meat and meeting important people. It’s way out in the 17th, at 122, avenue de Villiers, 01.43.90.10.10, (the ex-Apicius space, ah, but that’s another story), chef’d by a young Rostang-ite. You ask - Why on earth would I, who am basically a non red meat type, usually refuses to eat at non-French places in Paris and can have the best US beef in America for a pittance, or any American, be bothered with the French version of American meat (the menu gives you a whole rap about importing American stoves and ovens, serving US BBQ sauce, etc, etc, etc.). Well, as I indicated above, April’s been a cruel month for new places; it was Saturday lunch and the choices were few; it was rainy and I needed comfort food; and the reviews hadn’t been all that bad. So out I schlep to the PC and enter a very fancy place (voiturier at Saturday lunch, no less). Oh oh, budget in trouble. But all I wanted after my magnificent meal of stir-fried broccoli and beef last nite was a light tartare and voila, instead of paying 50E without wine, I had the “menu” with two tartares (first tuna and then beef, the beef tartare prepared properly and wrapped in thinly sliced carpaccio of beef, quite good) for 31E. I loved it. And, the other stuff I saw served; e.g. firsts of thinly-sliced avocado stuffed with crab, 7 or 8 veggies in a broth; seconds of beef in all its forms, included the biggest bone on at cote de boeuf I’ve ever seen, looked equally good. The frites were about average for the US or France, which means pretty bad. The bread, wine (a serious international list) and coffee were quite acceptable, however. Will I return? Not with Colette (although there were 4-6 fish/fowl dishes - beef is clearly their biz). And here I experienced a first in the US or France, the “management” came over to tell a guy yelling into his “mobile” to tone it down – of course, 3 tables of French folk and I had already asked him to, but still….

Give full credit to Francois Simon (founder of the Figaroscope’s foodie section/idea ten years ago, according to my food historian friend, who is seen by some as over the hill) for finding places that no one else has. In this case, l’Instant Gourmand, 113, rue Louis-Rouquier in Levallois-Perret (92), 01.47.37.13.43, closed Sat lunch and Sundays. It’s accessible by 4 buses (the 53, 94, 165 and 174) but it’s (horrors) 400 meters outside the peripherique, so I’m sure no one reading this will ever go, unless they’re staying at the Sofitel; too bad! Like other places a bit distant, for example, Les Magnolias, it’s outside the normal traffic patterns; like La Table des Blot, it serves honest good food in a grand manner in a nice setting; and like Les Trois Marches, it combines the good old and the inventive new. But it’s in Levallois-Perret, where, you ask? You enter the area (at least in April) surrounded by flowers, flowering trees and plants and while the high-rises (with a few HLM’s thrown in) are a bit disconcerting, it’s like the country. Ok, how about the food?; very, very respectable. An amuse-bouche of a veloute of carrot (delicious), bread that looks like Banette but is not, a starter of small chicken nuggets sitting on beds of forcemeat with wonderful fresh spring herbs in the center; a main of quail cooked two ways with much too much wild grain (is it just me that thinks the French are overdoing the purees, grains and pasta sides or am a too much a child of the Zone?); a wonderful, broad, informed wine list, decent coffee, and fine mignardises. 2 dishes = 29; 3 = 31 E, my bill was 42 E. Defect, I couldn’t find one. Thanks M. Simon.

Goupil Le Bistro, 4, rue Claude-Debussy in the 17th, 01.45.74.83.25, was another unexpected delight. Why? It’s in another weird location, e.g., near the Caserne de Pompiers, up from the Palais de Congres and the Porte Maillot, almost no one has written it up, its chef’d by a 23 year old - but it was packed and with suits. We had the tuna tartare (nice and thick and well-seasoned, e.g. just the right amount of spiciness) and boudin wrapped in not as crisp as they should have been, packets; then pintade that was done to perfection and rougets that were fresh and tasty when eaten with the tiny green asparagus whose bases were wrapped with microtomed bacon; the St Marcellin was also just right and the pear sorbet with eau de vie topped it off. Wine (Cote d’Auxerre) excellent; bread and coffee banal. Bill somehow crept up to over 100 E for 2.

Louis Vins, 9, rue de la Montagne-Ste-Genevieve in the 5th, 01.43.29.12.12, open everyday, formula 23, menu-carte 26 E, has really gotten all the critics’ applause and there’s much to praise about it. First, it has girl-food (I know, I’m a sexist, but I can’t eat alone all the time). Second, there was a big no smoking section. Third, the décor is spectacular, the host formidable, with a great moustache/beard, but then I’m partial to that. And, they have interesting food, a fine wine list and for the present, not a lot of customers (but wait ‘til the Americans find this place). The amuse bouche of liver pate was straight from the ‘50’s (that’s good), the white asparagus was correctly cooked but with a truffle sauce I didn’t love, the veal liver was like it used to be at Chez les Anges, accompanied by rounded out spring potatoes stuffed with potato (that’s right) and they cure their own camembert (it’s much like that at L’Auberge Pyrenees Cevennes in the old days,) and it is terrific. The place is best described as a cross between the new Le Regalade and the old Chez Catherine. It is not the Cinq Mars, but it may be April’s next best and is worth another visit. The bill = 47.50 E.

You know how at the Cannes Festival (topical reference; starts next week), some movies are shown outside the competition. Well, some eating places should be too; principally, “natural” wine bars; there are so many are opening in Paris that it’s difficult to track them and rate them. (I hope Figaroscope does a “Dossier” one day on all the new ones.) The latest, for me anyway, is/was Tandem, 10, rue, de la Butte aux Cailles in the 13th, 01.45.80.38.69, closed Sundays, run by two brothers (Tandem, got it?), next to the Café Fusion, which serves wonderful unfiltered, unsulfured, etc. wines (I had one of four Auvergnes), decent food (a so-so salad with gesiers {but there was also six other choices from sardines to chevre} and a marvelous platter of six assorted French and Spanish charcuteries {there was also fish, boudin and assortments of cheese}) and coffees made to order (short, strong = just right) - they also had a clafoutis of kiwis, mousse of chocolate and pot au crème. It’s a charming place, which, if I lived nearby, I’d drop by occasionally to have a quick aperto and a little ham. My bill – 32 E.

“Grazing,” while old hat in New York, is new to Paris. A few years ago, my oldest food finder friend suggested that we and our charming wives go to Nantes to eat at l’Atlantide, when it was just in ascendance, but improvised that in the late morning, while they were off doing gardens or cathedrals or whatever, we put down a few dozen oysters. It turned out to be a capital idea. Thus, when my newest food finder friend said that two new places in Paris were interesting, but for different ends of the meal; I thought “good idea.” Thus, I started at L’Ecaille de la Fontaine, 15, rue Gaillon in the 2nd, 01.47.42.02.99, closed weekends, where I had the amuse bouche of periwinkles and then a half-dozen each of Specials #2 and Creuses with a wash of white wine. The oysters were very good, not up to the Utahs at l’Ecaillier du Bistrot, but holding their own with the Specials Fine de Clair at l’Huitrier. The price of your meal, of course, depends on the oysters you want/order (18-36 E a dozen), but they also have everything from bulots to clams to langoustines; the formula (9 creuses, a tarte [today fraises] and a glass of wine = 19 E) and a big platter of everything for two was 62 E. They also had a salmon tartare and raviolis of langoustines and 4 desserts. Half-liter carafes started at 14 for the white; 10 for the red. The setting is post-modern but very bright and nice; it’s small (if you want big, Depardieu and Carole B’s other place - La Fontaine de Gaillon, 50 feet across the square, has not bad prices and a lot of shellfish and other seafood); and while I usually detest the brown bread served with oysters, this was excellent and toasted. OK, good start. Then, schlep across town, not far, to Music Hall, 63, ave Franklin-Roosevelt in the 8th, 01.45.61.03.63, open everyday all day except 6-8 AM and 10-11 AM, well-reviewed, especially for its deconstructed desserts. You know how when entering a place, you know you’ve made a big mistake and spend the rest of the time trying to figure out how to extricate yourself. You got it! I’d been warned, I’m a consenting adult, but these were all 8th Arr. Bobo’s without a touch of the bohemian. If they didn’t know food, neither did the hapless staff. Can a place be both pretentious and inept? ‘Fraid so. The women wait-people were young, eager actress-types, wearing fashionable, skin-revealing dresses; the men alternated between stodgy malfitting suits and hip malfitting Eurotrash stuff. The one female waitperson serving inside (there were many tables outside) kept colliding in mid-course with three equally eager busboys, no one knowing what dish went where. Meanwhile, two young folks who looked like the son and daughter of the syndicate’s principle owner were either (she) preening herself and (he) looking dopey (I’ll leave you to imagine why) or talking to other managerial staff, while this colliding dance of underlings went on in front of them. What did I eat in this theater of the absurd?; a dessert of macaroons filled with lemon curd accompanied by a sweet dessert wine; not bad, but not worth a return visit to see if they’ve got it together. The menu was reasonable and dishes I saw delivered did not look bad; but no one was there to eat; this place is for business and/or to be seen. (Oh, yes, the Music Hall theme includes dressing- table lights, flashing colors, etc). Can I say anything nice about it? Yes, they offered a carafe of water without ice and 70% of tables had it, not the higher-priced spread.

Les Bas-Fonds, 116, rue Amelot besides the Cirque d’Hiver in the 11th is great looking; big open front windows, lovely place settings, nice (well-priced) wine, including California ones, displayed all over. I had what was called a shrimp pickle but was really a quite good nem with a sweet-sour cilantro sauce; then a huge but OK piece of cod with a very intriguing puree of potatoes with tiny shrimp and herbs. It was so huge that even without finishing it, I couldn’t face dessert. Nothing was bad, nothing was disgraceful, nothing sent the heart racing, however. Bill = 41.50 E.

A few years ago, my then-French teacher (yes, in a fit of madness I thought I’d learn the language of Moliere rather than blunder on forever) asked me, after a long rant about how Paris was ruined by the Tour Montparnasse, Beaubourg and Pyramide du Louvre, if I really wanted the city to be a museum. “Yes” I said without hesitation. And indeed, I did and there’s a museum of a restaurant that reminds you of what they all were like 30-40 years ago. While l’Auberge Bressane, 16 av de la Motte-Piquet in the 7th, 01.47.05.98.37, has recently undergone a change of management and/or chef, its décor and menu (looking like it’s typed on your Grandmother’s Remington) are perfect. Unfortunately, the food is only OK, but no more so. Two of us ate there; first we had escargots with a rich sauce and potatoes and tiny fried lake fish (like lisettes) with an herb I couldn’t identify; second, sautéed foie gras that was properly swimming in fat and veal cooked correctly as well, but both products were not up to the price; finally, I had the chocolate souffle, which had little character. We had a great aperitifs : cerdon du Bugey, plus a wonderful wine : Chorey les Beaune and a splendid calva, but one doesn’t pay what we did for the boisson alone. One could have the menu for 29 E and probably get out for 50-60, but we didn’t. If you’re lodging in a nearby hotel, go and prove us wrong, almost nothing would make me happier.

Some eGullet member very nicely suggested that I was a restaurant critic, but no real critic (that is, gainfully employed to review restaurants), would eat at a place like (Le Refectoire, 80 bd Richard Lenoir in the 11th, 01.48.06.74.85, open everyday with menus at 12, 15 and 17 Euros), well-reviewed by real critics, on a Sunday when there was only one dish available in addition to “brunch” (which I hate in Paris, but I knew it, so there was no misrepresentation there). However, it was Sunday lunch (e.g. few choices among new places), and despite my steadily rising disappointment with the La Famille gang, I went for the chicken and fries. (Digession for two stories: first, Bocuse, (indeed, it was probably Point, if not Escoffier or even Vatel) was reputed to say you can best judge a resto by its sliced tomato, so why not judge Le Refectoire by its plain chicken? Second, I took a close French friend to America’s best restaurant at the time (Alice Water’s) and was chagrined to have to inform him that, that day that we were forced to have steak and fries, so why not fries?). Anyway, here, I deserved what I got. They were very nice, young, unprofessional, clueless but enthusiastic types who, one would know, in Greenwich Village, were your college roommate’s grandkids. The place is terrific, facing the marvelous Richard Lenoir parklette, bright, airy and welcoming. And, they had a nice wine list and, at least the host knows his stuff about wine and advised me correctly about an assertive, interesting bio wine (which he insisted I sample first). OK, as my kids say – “get to the point!” The chicken was OK, about what I can buy on my street for 5 E, but nowhere near what the pintade was at Goupil Le Bistro; with it came inviting looking, thick fries – however, they were banal and tasteless, but also – surprise – it came with great roasted cherry tomatoes. I was about to fold my cards and leave when I saw a great looking dessert of chopped fruit. Mistake! They were an homage to the cold, unripe, diced fruit United Airlines serves at 5:45 AM as you zero in on Charles de Gaulle. Bill = 25 E. But, I gotta say it – they have the coolest restaurant bathroom in Paris, almost worth the 25 E.

Chez les Anges, 54, bd de la Tour-Maubourg in the 7th , 01.47.05.89.86, closed Saturday lunch and Sundays, a la carte 45-50E, ex-Michelli, ex-Chez les Anges. Oh boy, did I want to love this place, for several reasons: (1) in the late 1960’s, Colette and I used to hop off the plane and head here for the tremendously thick, melt in your mouth, almost raw liver, (2) it has been taken over by Madame and some of the bunch from Au Bon Acceuil, (3) my two best food-finder pals ate there earlier and loved it. So, I must have ordered the wrong thing, it must have been an off day for the chef, it must be my taste buds, it must be the pollen on the Esplanade des Invalides, etc, etc., etc. The first hint of trouble came when they didn’t have the lisettes starter, clearly still on the menu. Then the vichyssoise of lobster was funny tasting, as if the bottom of the pan had burned; the ris de veau was enormous and (properly) crisp on the outside and (properly) almost raw on the inside, but, you’ve got it, it tasted funny; and finally, the chocolate mignardise was funny tasting too, but this time – it was a delicious taste. The topper came when they couldn’t locate the digestif I had ordered. My bill; a gentle 37.50 E and not a whiff of smoke. I must have ordered the wrong thing, it must……..

l’Echappee, ex-Chez Jean (Jean has departed, thus Echappee, got it?), 38, rue Boyer in the 20th, 01.47.97.44.58, closed Mondays (lunch is Weds-Fri; dinner Tues-Sun), menus at 18.50 E (lunch) to 23 E (dinner), 01 47 97 44 58, has several strikes against it and let’s start with these: it’s to hell and gone in the 20th and unless you’re familiar with Menilmontant which I am (don’t ask), it’s a bit out of the way; it’s not haute or even demi-haute cuisine, it’s a sort of 1950’s N6 truck stop food (that’s not bad, just descriptive); and the cooking while not dishonorable, was not impressive; e.g., the home-made terrine was only passable and the bread on which to spread it was horrible, the boeuf bourguignon had a very dark brown sauce (good) that tasted like, let's say, yesterday's laundry (bad) and the creme brulee with lavender is the same that everyone in Paris this spring seems to be doing, OK. The reggae music was a bit much too, but when it shifted to Latino, things got better. How about the great bio wines? – fine for the Corbieres I had. Now the other side: they are really nice, nice, very nice people, they have good, good, very good prices, more than good wine, a great calva for 4 E and coffee for 1.50 E. The rest? As I said - they were very, very nice people. And I’ll bet when the chef has a few more years under his belt, he’ll be stunning. He has good ideas, they’re not stamped out of the Paris new bistro book; and as someone said about the M6 TV chef, Cyril whatever, he needs time. But, if you’re in the area, want a 8.50 E main, 3 E glass of wine and a 1.5 coffee and no Bobo’s or Yanks, drop by/in. Bill = 29 E.

*Most months I search out new places, but four times a year, I’m with my wonderful wife and best friends and tend to eat at “golden oldies;” eh voila.

John Talbott

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Simply wonderful.

A few years ago, my then-French teacher (yes, in a fit of madness I thought I’d learn the language of Moliere rather than blunder on forever) asked me, after a long rant about how Paris was ruined by the Tour Montparnasse, Beaubourg and Pyramide du Louvre, if I really wanted the city to be a museum. “Yes” I said without hesitation. And indeed, I did and there’s a museum of a restaurant

Sometimes the atmosphere alone makes a place with just OK food better. For some reason I want to go here and try it after your experience. We'll put the Auberge Bressane on our list for July.

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What a marathon .What was the lenght of time? Thank you for your well written and humerous report.

I agree completely with you about L'auberge bressane and chez les anges.

The food is boring at l'auberge and downright bad chez les anges.

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