Got me. After going thru the Neue Museum, where there’s a splendid show on Vienna 1900, the Met, where the 11 Franz Hals they own were on display along with paintings/etc., to set them in context and a huge number of Lyonel Feininger’s people (superb) and cityscapes (not so) were on display, I decided that adults text and talk on the phone to have a social experience that looking at art does not supply. Tant pis.
Colette and I had to be at a grant-awarding meeting in New York (this is a fun part of my day job) so we went up early to do food and art.
Lunch was at Rouge Tomate (no rapport with that in the Marche St Honore) with our dearest friends from downstairs in Paris. They have a $29 “business” lunch which if you’re in the mood for it, is a terrific bargain. The others ordered off the carte at a bit more – about $42 for 2 courses, $50 for 3.
My starter of heirloom tomatoes with burrata and peach bits was just what I needed and wanted and the two friends’ crudos of walu and char were perfectly set up.
Then I had the un-confited duck leg with cherries (yes) while the others feasted on tagliatelle with seafood, halibut and “chicken salad” like your Mother never made.
For dessert, a strawberry/banana/banana-cake “terrine” was Colette’s choice from my prix fixe and the bread pudding was equal to it.
Coffee was pathetic, bread was good and with a Martini, beer, bottle and glass of wine and 2 espressos the bill before tip was $254.76, thus $127.38 a couple. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For dinner we ate together at Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel and had another fine meal.
I ordered the highly-recommended-by-our-waiter, not always a good thing if they’re trying to get rid of something – salad with microtomed piggy and giant black and white beans with a dressing of lemon and EVOO that cut through everything to give you a crisp, fresh taste, which both of us sopped up with the really good bread.
For a main, Colette ordered the pasta with a Bolognese sauce and I the pasta with clams – both nickel.
Dessert: Colette went with what was called pine nut tarte with lemon caramel sauce and glaze and I had some excellent grappa to settle the stomach before heading out into the threatened tornados.
With no coffee nor bottled water but a bottle of super Tuscan, our bill came to $102.34 without tip.
WARNING AND UPDATE: This is article published in May 2008 and thus is wildly out of date; but I wanted to reprint it for several reasons, not the least of which is as an historical archive. That said I must update it and note that several things have changed: - We’ve fallen away from eating at Cinq Mars, Gaya and Le Club simply because too much else is going on like: - The opening of Le 122: Bistrot d'Hier et Aujourd'hui and the Japanese Yuzu as well as the revival of a place that’s perfect for garden dining when the weather’s nice – Le Telegraphe.
- And the ever-climbing prices at Tante Marguerite.
Thus my list now consists of:
Le 122: Bistrot d'Hier et Aujourd'hui 122, rue de Grenelle in the 7th (Metro: Solferino) T: 01.45.56.07.42 Closed weekends, open for lunch Mondays-Fridays, dinner weekdays except Thursday and has an "afterwork apero-dinatore" from 6:30-10 PM except Thursdays. Lunch formula at 16,50, menu-carte at 35 and 20 €.
Yuzu 33 Rue Bellechasse in the 7th (Metro:Solferino) T: 01.47.05.28.84 Closed Sunday lunch. A la carte about 55 E.
Le Telegraphe 41, rue de Lille, 7th, (Metro: Rue du Bac) T:01.58.62.10.08 Open everyday for lunch only Menus at 24.50 and 29.50, a la carte about 50-60 €.
------------------------------------------------------------------------ Another area where it’s tough to find a good restaurant just outside a touring destination is around the Orsay Museum. Essentially one must either head West towards the Rue du Bac or Southeast past the Assemblee Nationale.
Westward one has several opportunities. My most recent favorite is Cinq Mars on the Rue de Verneuil where the hearty fare include such things as a huge sausage on a huge bed of mashed potatoes and a huge chalkboard of wines from all over (France of course.)
An old favorite that (as Yogi Berra said) nobody goes to anymore because it’s too crowded to the Restaurant (le Club) of the grand ecole, the Ecole Polytechnique. It’s open to the public, but full of politicians of all stripes and if you’re a fan of the 8 PM news, you’ll see the cast of characters enter and exit the private rooms periodically. I’ve been talking about it for years but to my knowledge no one I’ve recommended it to has ever gone; it probably intimidates.
Just a bit farther are two seafood places, the older, Gaya Rive Gauche, now under the management of Pierre Gagnaire, is stark but elegant, the other 35º Ouest, which by my reckoning is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, simpler and also pricey. I’d also tout you off the Ferme St Simon, which is under new and in my opinion, less successful, management.
Heading the other way out of the Orsay resist the impulse to plotz at the nearest bar-brasserie and head over in back of the Assemblee Nationale to the Rue de Burgogne where the 2nd of Bernard Loiseau’s Tante restaurants lies. Loiseau, of whom it was said he never tired of inventing and pushing, died 5 years ago, but his wife has successfully managed what was a complex and complicated empire quite well and the standard of this pl ace – Tante Marguerite, had apparently held up although its prices have crept up.
I would discourage you from seeking food further up the street, because I had a horrid meal at Auguste and a meal at Arpege will take all afternoon, albeit a pleasant afternoon.
My favorites if you must eat exiting the Orsay are:
Cinq Mars 51 rue de Verneuil, 7th (Metro : Rue du Bac) T : 01.45.44.69.13, Metro Rue du Bac Closed Saturday lunch and Sundays Lunch menu 21,50 €., a la carte 35-50 €.
Gaya Rive Gauche par Pierre Gagnaire 44 rue du Bac, 7th (Metro : Rue du Bac) T: 01 45 44 73 73 Closed Sundays A la carte 55 €.
Restaurant le Club Maison des Polytechniciens 12 rue de Poitiers, 7th (Metro: Solferino) T: 01.49.54.74.74 Closed Weekends A la Carte 35-60
Tante Marguerite 5 rue de Bourgogne, 7th (Metro: Assemblee Nationale) T : 01.45.51.79.42 Closed weekends Lunch menu 34 €, dinner menu 40 & 65 €, a la carte 60-65 €.
8.0 Sensing, 19, rue Brea in the 6th, 01.43.27.08.80. Guy Martin (three stars at the Grand Vefour,) has placed chef Rémi Van Petegen in the kitchen and kept front-room lady Sophie Jousseaum (from its predecessor Dominique,) in this hot spot near Vavin/Le Dome, etc. and my, oh my, it’s some combo in a dazzling remake of the space.
Aside from ultramodern furniture, there is a wall of glass containing a “museum” of Baccarat crystal behind it. Two of us ate there its third day and while the service is not yet seamless, the cooking is.
My partner started with a mixture of appetizers that looked like sushi meets mezzes (salmon, tuna, etc) and I had a halved lisette with an incredible sauce of confited fennel and some revised version of crème fraiche – both divine.
Then we split (1) a pigeon (which we agreed was the best we both have ever had) with a sauce that had either coffee or chocolate and (2) veal with pasta “cigarettes” stuffed with mushrooms, simply beyond description.
Then she finished with a panacotta topped with sliced apples and granny Smith ice cream and I had a baba-like cake au rhum.
The bill = 135 €. Go back? You bet! But for how long will one be able to reserve easily?
So, if you’re pretending you’re a food critic, how do you disguise yourself, presuming you want to?
Gael Greene of the New York Magazine, was famous for wigs, hats, etc. Francois Simon, of Figaro and Figaroscope, thinks he has never been recognized (although, the rumor mill has it that his picture was taken once at a food award ceremony and has been widely disseminated among Parisian kitchens.)
Sebastien Demorand when he was reviewing for Zurban, dressed and appeared so “normal” that no one guessed. Gilles Pudlowski, of his eponymous guides, says it doesn’t matter, he reserves under his name. Others, largely Anglophone, if Simon is to be trusted, want to be known and advertise themselves in advance to get free meals, drinks, aperitifs, etc.
Me, I used to just do a little summary of my eating experiences in France for my friends and friends of friends. So I figured I was unknown. Then, I began to write for the web with a real photo of me as my atavar or avatar, (I’ve never truly known whether it is an avatar, that is, “a handle or appearance used to represent (yourself)” or a Hindu avatar, that is, “an incarnation of a deity.”
In any case, faggetit.
Turns out, there’s this thing called Google and one can get the damndest things, including pictures of critics, on it. So, once I began to have chefs approach me after I wrote positive reviews about them (I don’t go back to awful places, well, that’s not totally true), I blurred my image.
But then, how do you make a reservation? For years, I’ve just called and because I speak (I’m being generous) French like a Spanish cow, I’ve said “this is Mister Talbott, like the car (Talbot) or the wine (Talbot FR or Talbott California/US). But then I found my critic friend(s) asking me to make reservations, so I thought, hummmm.
So I tried to come up with another catchy name that I could remember time after time (how do these CIA guys do it?) and would have the same car/wine type recognition, and indeed Morgan kind of works - right? I mean, Morgon is a great Beaujolais and Morgan, not a stretch, was a decent car from 1910 on, but what beats you is “caller ID.” Because I called to make a reservation today and was giving the day, time, number of covers etc. when the guy on the other end of the call said “yes, M. Talbott, John” - and that was the end of the disguise – forget “Morgon/Morgan.”
OK, so I did a survey. Do the big boys call from cell phones or phone booths or do they always get secretaries, executive assistants or dupes (like me) to reserve? Answer: they use a variety of easy to recall names: such as middle names, maiden names of wives, names of people at places they’ve worked at, etc. The trick is recalling which name you used for which reservation.
Recently, I republished a review from 2008 of Christophe in the 5th and got a very nice comment from philippe whose email revealed the fact that it was really from Christophe Philippe, the chef, who said "vous devriez revenir" to which I replied "Ah Christophe, then I wouldn't be anonymous anymore, would I? At least to you. I have heard others say they love Christophe though."
So after circulating this exchange among my fideles, two co-conspirators from Paris by Mouth said they really wanted to go back; so I charged one with making the rez in her name so I would not be recognized at least in advance thus getting us “special” treatment. And indeed I and we were not recognized until the guys from Severo and the Bis de Severo, eating at a nearby table, came over and introduced themselves, recognizing me from meals at beef center Paris.
This happened at a genuine Paris bistro: Christophe 8 rue Descartes, 5th, (Metro: Mauberg Mutualite) T:01.43.26.72.49 Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays Formulas at 12, 16 and 19 € at lunch, a la carte 40-60 €.
WARNING AND UPDATE: This is article published in April 2008 and thus is wildly out of date; but I wanted to reprint it for several reasons, not the least of which is as an historical archive. That said I must update it and note that several things have changed: - Spring has moved downtown with its Buvette and dwarfs the competition except for the - Regalade St Honore and - Chez La Vieille (Adrienne), - and not so far away as one cannot walk to get good food: l’Auberge Café, Kei, Frenchie, Les Bistronomes, Fines Gueules, Yam’Tcha, Petit Colbert, l’Hedoniste and Georges.
- Closed or changed hands are the Mini-Palais (now Eric Frechon-led), Le Point Bar and Rouge St Honore.
Thus my list now consists of:
Spring 6, rue Bailleul in the 1st (Metro: Louvre-Rivoli) T: 01.45.96.05.72 Open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday, lunch Wednesday-Friday I think. Lunches now 38, 6-course dinner menu 64 €, small plates in the Buvette at night about 6-7 €.
Le Regalade St Honore 123, Rue St Honore in the 1st (Metro: Louvre-Rivoli) T: 01.42.21.92.40 Closed weekends Menu at 33 E.
Chez La Vieille – Adrienne 1, rue Bailleul in the 1st (Metro: Louvre Rivoli) T: 01.42.60.15.78 Closed Saturday lunch and Sundays Lunch menu 29, a la carte 50-60 €. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Louvre may well be “the” place where tourists, after hours on their feet, want to plotz and grab a bite to eat regardless of the quality. So many folks head for the food court or Le Grande Louvre and hope for the best. But, even though Andre Daguin, of Auch fame, helped design the original menu, its price-quality ratio leaves much to be desired. Or the weary head for the Café Marly where I’ve had an acceptable coffee and brownie but to which Pudlo now gives a broken plate.
But if you’d like more, do not despair, hope lies not far away. In the summer, there are two places offering an eating oasis. The Saut de Loup, outside the Musee des Arts Decoratifs is kinda kicky. One enters either from the garden or museum side and it feels like you’re in the Fontainebleau forest, well sort of. The food is not exceptional (salads, soups and horrid fries) and if not for the setting and weather and desserts, you’d never return. But it’s honest and acceptable chow if you stick to the basics.
Across in the Tuileries is the newest such place or new in the sense that Gilles Choukroun, he of the Cafes Des Delices and l’Angl’Opera, designed the menu. It’s called the Café Very and it too is set in a semi-bucolic place although the shed one sits by reminds you of its urban origins. It has a carte similar to that at the Mini-Palais, his place in the Grand Palais, again light stuff that’s acceptable but not mind blowing. But if it’s a lovely day and you want nice food in a pleasant surrounding – go here.
Now for the inside the box places. #1 for me, where one can have a blowout meal, is the restaurant at le Meurice, a three-star where you’ll certainly eat well but hardly be able to go back to the Louvre and spend much more time. (Other starred places not far but not as loved by me are l’Espadon in the Ritz, le Carre des Feuillants and the Grand Vefour). But these are destination restaurants, and I’ve found that most of my friends want to spend the day in the Louvre, making quick business of lunch and want to have grand, languid dinners. So I’ve developed a list of other places that are good for lunch, where I’ll eat happily, but which don’t consume the afternoon or your wallet.
If you need quick, head up towards the Marche St Honoré, where wonderful oysters accompanied by brisk white wines and the sound of sea-gulls can be had at the l’Ecume St-Honoré on the Rue de Marche St Honoré – and right across the street is pig heaven, the pork-dispensing Au Petit Theatre – and finally, in the Marche St Honoré square itself – there’s Le Point Bar, a first rate place run by Alice Bardet of the famous Tours family (whose Mother-restaurant just closed) and a place my wife Colette loves for a light lunch of what she calls “Girls’ Food” - Rouge St Honoré.
Even closer to the Louvre and the Palais Royal is a Corsican place, A Casa Luna (aka Casaluna) serving wonderful charcuterie, cheeses and fish. Another top-notch place not far away and open 7/7 is Pinxo, but I have trouble getting folks to go there because its atmosphere is hardly old France (it’s in the recently renovated Plaza Vendome Hotel) and the food is more like that of Alice Waters than Escoffier. Finally, a place I love for its food and days open (Tuesday-Sunday), is l’Ardoise.
My recommendations this week are:
Le Meurice 228 rue de Rivoli, 1st (Metro: Tuileries) T : 01.44.58.10.50 Closed Saturday lunch and Sundays Menus: 68 € lunch, 170 € dinner. A la carte 250 €.
L'Ecume Saint-Honore 6 rue du Marche Saint Honore, 1st (Metro: Tuileries) T : 01.42.61..93.87 Open Tuesday through Friday 8:30 A.M. to 2 P.M. and 4 to 7:30 P.M.; Saturday from 8:30 A.M. to 7:30 P.M.; Sunday from 9 A.M. to 1 P.M. Cost depends on the number and size of oysters.
Au Petit Theatre
15 place du Marche Saint-Honore, 1st (Metro: Tuileries) T : 01.42.61.00.93 Closed Sunday and Monday Lunch menu 18 & 22.50 €, at dinner 28 €, a la carte 50 €.
Le Point Bar
40 place du Marche Saint-Honore, 1st (Metro: Tuileries, Pyramides) T : 01.42.61.76.28 Closed Sunday and Monday Lunch menus 15 & 25 €, a la carte 35-55 €.
A Casa Luna aka Casaluna 6 rue de Beaujolais, 1st (Metro : Palais Royale, Pyramides) T : 01.42.60.05.11 Closed Sundays Menus 25 & 60 €, a la carte 35 €.
Rouge St. Honoré
34 place du marché Saint Honoré, 1st (Metro: Tuileries, Pyramides) T : 01.42.61.16.09 Open every day. A la carte 25-35 €.
Pinxo 9 rue d'Alger, 1st (Metro: Tuileries) T : 01.40.20.72.00 Open every day A la carte - 55 €.
28 rue du Mont-Thabor, 1st (Metro: Concorde) T : 01.42.96.28.18 Closed Monday and Tuesday. Menu: 30 €.
Some of this essay is adapted from one published here January 2006.
7.0 Chez Cedric, 13, rue Denis Poisson in the 17th, 01.44.09.03.30, closed Sundays.
Another great place, open since the beginning of March and reviewed by both Pudlo and Figaroscope, but featuring totally different food now than they had (the blackboard is correct when it says the chef got what was at Rungis today).
For instance, I had the menu (23 € for 2 courses, 29 for 3) with the first petoncles of the fall season mixed with diced carrots and leeks, wrapped in a crepe and sauced with a nicely spiced coral sauce; a paupiette of fish (4 almost fish roll-looking rounds) on top of a zucchini “flan” with a sauce that also had a little kick to it; finishing with a “struzel” (never saw that before, but Google coughs up one made by Jean-Luc Rabanel in Tonneins) of peche de vigne, marinated, I assume, in red wine and sitting on top of a spice “cookie,” accompanied by a shot glass full of puréed peche de vigne.
Superb product, superbly prepared. The host was elegant but friendly, the room elegant but friendly, the cooking ditto.
The wines were terribly reasonably priced for the locale and clientele (all ties) – lots of 20 € ones that were also a la ficelle.
My bill - 44 € for the second best meal of the rentrée.
Any downside? Probably the only one is that on the “menu” they have only one starter, one fish or meat entrée and one dessert, a la carte is a bit pricier, but I think one can make do.
A few months ago I published an essay entitled “An invasion of Japanese chefs and cooking” where I talked about the number of straight French, French-Japanese fusion and straight Japanese restaurants opening in Paris. Since April 17th, three more Japanese chefs have opened places or been placed in established places.
First was Yuzu where M. Nao who worked at Bizan (thus classic) provided us with an out-of-classification miso soup, a wonderful salady thing like one gets in a ryokan in Kyoto, tempura with a batter so light you didn’t worry about the calories and sashimi cut so thick it’s taste was totally different from that in other French or American restaurants.
Then I encountered another Japanese chef at Chez La Vielle (Adrienne) in the 1st. Here we started with an amuse bouche of a fluffed soupie thing of melon with a light marshmallow type square and moved on to classic dishes: pressed beef tongue and sweetbreads with mushrooms, a piece of St Pierre with a spiky batter on a white creamy sauce and sliced duck with artichokes.
Finally I ate at Le Clarisse which had a striving but not succeeding reputation 4 years ago; here the new chef (a M. Sadaki, all these new guys seem to have one name like Madonna or Bono) regaled us with an ethereal amuse bouche, a cold soup of petit pois with a scoop of foie gras, which tasted like something as far away from liver as the moon, a coarsely cut tartare of salmon whose cut allowed the essence of the fish to flood your palate, a daurade with veggies that was very, very good, and quite classically French but my sausage-like wrap of Bresse chicken with apricots was one of the most inventive and best uses of chicken ever.
Places where they have arrived:
Yuzu 33 Rue Bellechasse in the 7th (Metro: Solferino) T: 01.47.05.28.84 Lunch: 40-50 E
Chez La Vielle (Adrienne) 1, rue Bailleul in the 1st (Metro: Louvre-Rivoli) T: 01.42.60.15.78 Closed Saturday lunch and Sundays 3-course lunch formula 38 E, a la carte 55-75 E.
Le Clarisse 29, rue Surcouf in the 7th (Metro: Invalides) T: 01.45.50.11.10 Open 7/7 Lunch menu – 35 E, a la carte 60-70 E.