5.5 Les 36 Corneil, 36, rue de Rochechouart in the 9th, no apparent telephone, no evident reservations, no wine list, (Métro: Poissonnière or Cadet), open - whoops I forgot to ask, has been around for about nine months. A friend, who is an inveterate flanneur of the 9th scene, said she’d found this French tapas (aka canailles) place nearby and we should go.
I thought maybe she was conflating it with either La Canaille in the 4th which I concluded was in a “Godforsaken spot, [and] godforsaken place, [serving] godforsaken food” or the one in the 9th which I thought was “a perfect bistrot du quartier.” But no. It's essentially a wine bar, with many wines open and others in wine bins and whatever you hanker for is easily found.
The ardoises outside, inside and by the bar listed different prices (indeed, we were charged yet another tarif than listed) for the canailles, in any case, they run from 3-5.50 E. depending on which board you read (our 5 were 22 E total on the bill). We had 5 of the 7 offered today - going clockwise, the razor clams with a sauce, shallots and ecrevisses on toasted bread, divine, spectacular slices of tomato with ecrevisses dressed to perfection, a sort of ratatouille with mozzarella bufala mini-cassolette (our second best favorite), chicken with ginger and chives and salmon rillettes.
For dessert we passed by the savarin and had the mi-cuit of chocolate and red fruits - both quite respectable.
With a bottle of wine, tap water, ok bread and 2 superb Illy coffees our bill ws 58 E.
Go? Look, it's no big deal, but for a nice supper or an after the theater eat, it's perfect. Good product, fine wines, friendly service.
6.5 Le Clarisse, 29, rue Surcouf in the 7th, 01.45.50.11.10, open 7/7, (Metro: La Tour-Maubourg) is yet another French place newly chef'd by a Japanese guy. In October 2007, I reviewed it, gave it 3.6 and subtitled the review: "Reaching for a star and….ah….falling." My friend Richard went shortly thereafter and wrote that "Chef Mene is quite clearly headed for Michelin stardom...[which]...is one of his ambitions."
Well, the poor fellow over-reached and crashed and recently was replaced by Sadaki Kajiwara who worked in Japan and here at Kong, Au Bon Accueil and Les Anges. And what a difference.
For an amuse bouche we had two ethereal bites; one of a meaty thing the other fluffed carrot. For firsts, my hostess had the soup of cold petit pois with a scoop of foie gras, something that truly did not taste of liver and I had what they called a tartare of salmon but was the essence and more of such.
While her daurade with veggies was very, very good, I thought my inventive sausage-like wrap of Bresse chicken with apricots was one of the best uses of chicken ever, simply wonderful.
My friend chose the largely chocolate dessert (tarte and ice) with rice pudding which again I thought was quite good but I loved my cooked cherries on top of cream which itself was on top of a moka granite even better.
Our bill, which she picked up based on some fiddle-faddle about paying me back for using my photos on her web-site, for a bottle and glass of wine, no bottled water but two coffees (pretty good but not great bread), was 118 E.
I’m walking down my street in the 18th this week and I feel a tap on my shoulder (something that has not happened to me in 57 years in France) – “Monsieur, Monsieur, excuse me, but…” I turn, it’s my newslady, from whom I buy 4.40 E’s worth of news every morning, “I’m so sorry, but I forgot to give to the supplement that goes with the International Herald Tribune today.” “Ah, what is it?” say I, immediately suspicious that it’s one of those worthless Sunday NYT things that has a few real articles, a lot of fluff and so many watch, jewelry and European property ads that I know that for much of the world, there has been no Great Recession. An “agenda.” Well that doesn’t help, but she’s so earnest, I promise to pick it up that day or the next. And frankly I forgot all about it. Until I walked into the news shop the next day to get my fix – “Here, Monsieur, I’m so sorry.” “Pas grave, Madame, pas grave.” As I leave, I look for the nearest Vigipirate trash bag to toss it in but get distracted by the bums on the street trolling for cigarettes, money or restaurant tickets; they know not to approach me but bock my route anyway. Get home, toss it on the floor, ignore for three days.
And then I pick it up, hoping to clear up the debris for my wife’s arrival and wow, this “thing” is first rate. This “thing,’ edited by Serge Schmemann, whom you may recall won a Pulitzer and an Emmy and whose byline graced the front pages of the Times for years, has several simply wonderful articles on the theme of “Shifting Power.” The article by Matthieu Ricard, son BTW of Jean-Francois Revel (ring a bell)), an ex-cell-geneticist, now a Monk in Nepal, is the most sane article I’ve ever read on global warming; an article by Katrin Bennhold, another European transplanted to America and the NYT, on the FB Generation reveals such technological generation gaps between herself (36 yo) and students at her German high school (19 yo) (not to mention their parents and grandparents) you despair; and a panel of folks who are not your usual talk-show or op-ed folks discussing America’s Lost Power (or maybe not) are intelligent and way above the level of discourse now polluting American politics.
I can only hope they give old Serge the money and support to continue doing these; this is what the print folks (including me) should be doing; serious analysis, thinking and presenting. To read these articles you have to go here and click on each one of the authors. Sorry. That technology they haven't mastered.
I realize there’s a gender issue here and a cultural one as well. Women, who are alone on business, or pleasure for that matter, often have difficulties eating alone; they’re looked down on, hit upon, groped or ogled, ignored by wait-folk, etc. And in places like New York, where tables are turned like Dutch windmills on steroids, one lost cover is a lost margin of profit.
I’ve been eating and traveling alone for over 50 years, not only because I’m anti- or un-social, which is a paradox for a psychiatrist or food critic who has many friends, but because I (gasp) enjoy eating and traveling alone.
Why? Let me count the ways, that’s Browning BTW, the distaff one, probably in the longrun a far better writer than Bobbie. 1. One can concentrate on the food without having to make nice, pretend one cares about things other than the sauce or sorbet, and focus. 2. You can growl at others making noise. 3. You can eat at your, not your co-eater or waitperson’s pace, and 4. Writing on your microscopic pad, recalling, finishing Figaro, all can occur without being impolite.
However, there’s the downside: 1. You only taste what you ordered, unless of course you whimper when a dish goes by and the sensitive waitperson, a former psychologist, asks if he brings you a portion, you’ll stop crying. 2. You are on your own with no one to correct your crazy impressions of dishes, be they positive or negative, as my cherished wife of 50 years, yclept here Colette, is able to do with great grace and divine diplomacy. 3. You’re done in shorter time than dining with another and find yourself, if you’re headed for a movie, somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle between the 14.00 and 16.00 showings.
OK, so I’m often asked “Where can I eat alone?” Well, my answer is, despite the predatory priests, politicians and evangelists who are looking to take advantage of you, wherever you want. I mean, get a grip.
Do we not eat in San Francisco, which is ripe for a 8.0 Earthquake; do we not try the occasional raw oyster or steak tartare with Brother E. Coli buried deep within, do we not forget to wash fruit with chlorine or ammonia or Purell, or whatever we're supposed to be using this week?
I used to call restos in Paris and lie that I was reserving for two and then on entering apologize that my wife/dining partner/whoever was delayed by a strike – in Paris a sure thing excuse. Now I proudly say – I’m reserving for one, I’m alone, the tone of my voice implying “You gotta problem with that.”
And, because I always/usually arrive a bit early, I’m seated at the primo aka window table.
Comfortable? You bet.
Where to eat alone: L'Antre Amis
9, rue Bouchut in the 15th, (Metro: Sevres-Lecourbe) T: 01.45.67.15.65 Closed weekends Lunch menu = 32 E
Rating impossible, Les Ambassadeurs, 10, place de la Concorde (thus in the Crillon), 01.44.71.16.16, closed Sundays and Mondays, is one of those iconographic places that has seen the comings and goings of so many famous chefs, some for short and others for longer stays - Bonin, Constant, Bouchet and Piege - and has had Christophe Hache at the helm for about a year we figure; Hache himself went through the houses of Briffard, Senderens and Frechon picking up some of the folks who staff the kitchen and salle now, many of whom my eating companions knew well.
Three of us ordered exactly the same choices on the summer lunch menu (at 68 E.) usually a major error but probably not a bad idea here. However, we had so many extras along the way, six if I'm counting correctly, it hardly seems worth describing each dish, from the first raddish in cibolette to the last chocolate, so instead here's a gallery of photos:
Everything was very good but the standout items (by me) were the chunk of room temperature sashimi-quality salmon with broccoli & cauliflower emulsions/mousses/concoctions and the most delicate/tasty/moist pintade I've ever had with teeny tiny small wild mushrooms and petit pois.
Our bill, with one, count it 1, glass of champagne, a bottle of "mystery" wine (which the wine expert among us guessed the origin of within 100 km I figure), 2 Chateldons and three expressos was - ah here we return to J.P. Morgan's or at least his apocryphal reply to the inquiry about the cost of maintaining one of his (many) yachts - *"If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it." But I'm a blabber-mouth so I'll blab - 348 E for three, thus 216 E a couple.
Go? OK, it's an experience not a meal. An evening at the ballet is 138 E, a R/T TGV to Geneva 172 E and a primo match at Wimbledon 100 pounds. Has to be done every decade especially if others pay.
5.5 Chez La Vieille (Adrienne), 1, rue Bailleul in the 1st, 01.42.60.15.78, closed Saturday lunch and Sundays, has undergone several chef changes since Adrienne Biasin retired; first the peripatetic Michel del Burgo spent a few weeks before taking his usual bunk, during which time he got good reviews and bumped up the prices; then a Senegalese, Agazi Kpohou took over holding the same carte and prices and presumably pleasing the patrons but recently a young (of course to me everyone looks like a teenager) Japanese guy took over without fanfare and I got an early warning bat-signal from Spring country that I should visit.
The amuse bouche that came with our 38 E 3-course formula was a fluffed soupie thing of melon with a light marshmallow type square. Ethereal but not really showing where this guy was going.
My dining partner had the pressed beef tongue which brought back memories of his grandmother and I had the sweetbreads with mushrooms which corrected the recollections of all the crummy ones I've had in my life; perfect product, perfectly prepared.
Then he had a nice piece of St Pierre with a spiky batter (such as I had yesterday - a trend?) on a white creamy sauce and I was delighted with my sliced duck with artichokes, it was succulent and proper. Both came with lots of summer veggies.
Finally he had a pressed peach dessert and I the red fruits with rhubarb - both with a very tasty scoop of ice cream.
The bread was just fine as were the coffees.
The bill with three coffees (my partner's partner showed up for coffee), no bottled water but a bottle of light rose, our bill was 115 E.
Go? If I lived in the Spring country, I think this would be a close third to Spring and Regalade.
Monday-Tuesday, in A Nous Paris, Philippe Toinard reviewed and gave 3/5 dots to C’est Mon Plaisir, 42, rue St-Louis en l’Ile, gaspacho and crab in a cucumber but didn’t like the service or declinaison of lamb; meanwhile Jerome Berger gave 3/5 dots to Le Sauvage, 7, rue du Roy in the 8th, 01.45.22.22.46, closed weekends and Monday and Tuesday nights, costing about 50 E for beautiful products like eggs and an onion compote, white asparagus, daily fish, entrecote, duck and chocolate mousse.
Tuesday, Louis Daboussy of Le Fooding reviewed the Japanese tapas place, Lengue in the 5th.
Wednesday, Emmanuel Rubin reviewed his usual five new restaurants in Figaroscope’s “Les nouveautes a la carte” and two merited two hearts: Elysees du Vernet, coordinates known, where a young chef presents a 39 E lunch “menu” (although a la carte is 80 E) with items such as frogs legs’ tempura, mackerel and veal and the Italian Sassotondo in the 11th. Two other places got one heart: Le Bistrot de Maelle et Augustin II, 39, ave Duquesne in the 7th, 01.47.34.67.27, closed Sundays and Mondays, with lunch menus of 17 and 21 and a la carte 35-45 E for items such as oeufs mayo, farm chicken and profiteroles and the Lebanese Mezze du Liban. A broken heart went to the Italian l’Altra in the 11th.
Figaroscope’s “Dossier” this week dealt with places serving small dishes aka mets: Braisenville Dans les Landes….mais a Paris L’Avant Comptoir Sakebar Youlin Spring Buvette Aux Deux Amis Assaporare la Vita Le Dauphin Jambon Jambon by l’alycastre Liza
And Francois Simon’s Hache Menu concerned Jaja, coordinates given before, which he thought was too expensive and doesn’t urge you to hurry over.
In addition there was an article on Neuilly that mentioned several restaurants: Chez Papinou, Café du Parc, Polly Maggoo, Vivin, La Boutarde, Zinc Zinc, Guinguette de Neuilly, Jarasse, Sebillon and the pizzeria Il Giardin.
Thursday, in l’Express, Francois-Regis Gaudry reviewed Le Floreal and the Asiatic Carnet de Route in Paris, both coordinates given before, as well as La Grenouillère in La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil ; Pierrick Jegu reviewed Le Petit Trianon, ditto, and L'Auberge du Champ-de-Mars. 18, rue de l'Exposition in the 7th, 01.45.51.78.08, closed Saturday lunch and Sundays, costing 25 or 32 E at lunch for a poêlée de calamars, filets de rougets à la provençale, and a cherry clafoutis ; and Charles Patin O’Coohoon covered L’Ane & Mule, coordinates given before.
Saturday, in Le Figaro, Francois Simon, in his Croque Notes, wrote a nice essay on Alain Senderens who sounds like he’s slowly relinguishing control.
And Sunday, in the JDD, Aurelie Chaigneau reviewed Le Cafe des Musees (5/10), Septime (8) and the Cafe Cartouche (6) and in its version femina Astrid T’Serclaes Qui Plume La Lune which she says to rush to. All coordinates given before.
5.0 37 m2 or Trente-Sept m2, 68 rue Rodier in the 9th, 01.48.78.03.20, closed Sunday nights, Mondays and Tuesdays is a place that has intrigued me since it opened. Why? Supposedly themed as Taiwanese influences/French recipes (I'd say Taiwanese recipes with French influences), not too far away, open Sunday lunch and fascinating concept - plus a Chinese-American who lives in the 9th had been and promised to hold my hand when we ordered so I wouldn't get pummeled like I did at Les Delices de Shandong for extreme ignorance, bad ordering and generally culturally-unsophistocated reactions.
The Sunday lunch/brunch is more limited than the weekday evening carte but still has plenty of options.
But first we ordered the wine - you gotta love a place that has a Provence rose labeled Miss Vicky wine. But they had lots of other interesting-sounding drinks, cocktails and bubble teas.
We ate family Chinese style, starting with the margret de canard smoked in black tea and covered with prune dust (left), white raddish with chorizo and black mushroom cake (right) and pearls of sticky rice around pork morsels (ahead). Delicious; I thought we'd struck gold, but then................
....after too long a wait since there were all of 7 folks eating, we had tempura-like gambas battered with angel-hair (top rear): OK not great; fried chicken with salt and pepper (middle); too dry for me; and more rice pearls (bottom) which were the hit of the mains, zucchini stuffed with pork and 1 gamba with some tofu bits in soup which with three of us, made division impossible.
We had no desserts or coffee but did have one bottled water and a bubble tea (I think), a bottle of Miss Vicky and our bill for three was 93 E, thus 62 E a couple. Oh and one of my companions likes my mentioning the bread - so I'll add that she judged the rice, way ahead of your usual rice cooker stuff.
Go? If in the neighborhood and if there are more appetizer choices, go wild with them.
Who knew there was a Maison des Amériques at 3, Rue Cassette in the 6th? Not me. Right now until October 7th, they're showing a handful of apparently previously undisplayed photographs by Ed Feingersh taken in 1955. They're quite fresh and wonderful.
5.3 Le Charivari, 143, blvd Raspail in the 6th, 01.46.33.82.02, open 7/7, opened in one of the Oh Poivier sandwhichier places (mercifully the chain must have over-expanded, but the spaces they occupied are semi-cursed). This new incarnation has received mixed reviews (the print guys largely damning it with faint praise; the webbies rather liking it).
You'd think with the name and menu items - tomatoes & mozzarella, risotto, tiramisu, it'd be italian but they had stuff like basque boudin and Belle Ile fish. The clientele was mixed as well: 7 un-wedding-ringed, presumably heterosexual 60 year old women from East of here, rapper Dudes, businessmen in ties, a gay couple on their presumably first date, visitors and locals. And the service was mixed as well; most waitguys smiling, trading stations but one clueless woman.
I'll quote Mr Lung here a bit (so as not to over-reach copyright rights): "but thank god, now everything is in the right place thanks to the Charivari. Wooden tables, original tiles old fashion menu, everything is frenchier than thou." I mean cool carte cover and all, eh?
Mr Lung is quite correct when he says that the "selection of Belle Îloise sardines [is just].....a can of sardines. And even if they’re reputed the best in the country, served with Poujauran bread, I just don’t want to pay 6,90€ for a can." OK, fair enough, but I went in with my eyes wide shut and I rather liked them, esp. when Breton butter with grains of salt were schmired on the toasted (on one side; a nice touch) Poujauran bread. And the marinated raw carrot slices and spicy onion slices with cardamom seeds (or were they bay seeds?) were a perfect offset.
I fussed over my choice of a main forever, but finally settled on a filet of bar (from the Dome fish store, a few meters away if one J-walks). It was perfect product, perfectly cooked, perfectly crisped skin and very imperfectly dressed: the olive oil and herb sauce was horrible; the veggies, luckily, were blanched, and so long as they didn't get near the sauce, were fine (however not nearly up to the C'est Mon Plaisir level).
I held off finishing the vegetables, since my mother's no longer around to hound me, and moved to dessert. I was impressed by the caramel beurre sale and moka from Ethiopia ices and they, with the tuile, were a quite fine end to the meal.
They had a equally divided list of open (glass, small and large carafe) and to-be-opened bottles of wine and with that, minus bottled water but plus a coffee, I exited only 45.90 E lighter.
Go? As I said - Like* no.
*An explanation. Recently, I've gotten to know a real English Professor and it has started me thinking about what would have happened to me if I'd gotten a PhD in English rather than taking the easy way out by going to medical school; these were my career choices at 22. In musing about this, as I walked from the resto to an exhibition of previously unseen photos of Marilyn Monroe (about which, more later) I was passed by 4 girls, sorry, they were girls not women, privileged, probably rich, bright, well-educated in Ivy-League schools, well-dressed in the sloppy way of such types, speaking 1980's Valley Girlspeak; every word or phrase had the verbal tic of "like" or "ya'know" or "like" or "whatever" or "like" - before and often after it. I crossed to the other side of the street. Where are their mothers, English Professors, inner Jiminy Crickets?