L'Esquisse in the 18th was my first rentree resto at my rentree after a lovely summer out of Paris; Colette has since come back and our oldest Franco-American friend here had to do Grandma stuff with her little flautist down the street, so I thought I'd see how things were going at the sketchy restaurant - was my first impression just my rentree altered memory or my rentree revelation? The menu aka carte is really exciting, as one might expect from an ex-Ritz, ex-Baratin alumna and we had a tough time deciding.
Colette chose to not have a first (saving herself for dessert) but my old pal from our 1953 Paris/Loire summer, who has lived here ever since, and I had the praires, which our perfect English-speaking waiter wanted an English translation for/of.. "Ah, clam family" said I, originally from Boston/Cambridge. "No, they don't taste like clams," says she, originally from the Long Island Sound. "So more like between cockles/coques and bulots," "Not at all." My A-Z says "dog cockle shellfish, another source says venus clam" Hunh? Well we left poor Thomas wondering what kind of translators we were.
So onto the mains where Colette had the pork cheeks with abundant vegetables made in a wok and my old friend ("my old friend" ah yes - Craig Wiseman and Steve McEwan) and I had the perfectly sourced and cooked pintade which also came with a lot of veggies and kasha and ice cream. "Hold on, Thomas, ice cream?" "Yah, we like to do hot and cold." "Whoa, cool."
Our desserts were even better than our firsts and seconds which is hard to believe; an apple tart, lemon something and a fig delight. Wonderful.
With 2 bottles of wine (we were celebrating her new eyes and my new heart and Colette's new knee-fix), no bottled water & 3 coffees, was 147 for three, thus 96 E a couple.
Go? Please don't, you'll ruin the non-"pesky" atmosphere, which even with infants, was only 70.8 dB.
5.8 Bobby & Bobette, 14, Rue Houdon in the 18th, 09.81.76.04.80 (Metro: Absesses) is a place whose truck I passed a while back and thought its mothership deserved a look. The day I went a crew was laying cable in front of it and provided great street theater during my meal.
I had just spent the night sleeping on a bench (no kidding) in the Brussels airport in my crazy escape route from Madrid to Paris with Air France's strike and was really dizzed out. But I tried to make the meal as good as I could and started off with a ceviche of cod, moved on to a veal kidney in cream sauce and ended with a superb creme brulee.
With 50 cl of Bordeaux and such a 3-course, "fresh products/fait maison" meal, with no coffee or bottled wayer, the bill comes to 36 E.
Go? Well it is nice to have an alternative on the Mont to Jeanne B. and the Cantine de la Cigale if they're closed. Although Le Miroir is here too i suppose.
7.0 L'Esquisse, 151 bis, rue Marcadet in the 18th, 01.53.41.63.04, closed Sunday and Monday (Metro: Larmarck-Caulaincourt) opened 3 weeks ago and already is a hit with the locals and folks following chef Laeticia Bret (ex-Ritz and Bistral, who works calmly and exactly like Daniel Rose at Spring not Jon Favreau in "Chef") on their motos. Its name, L'Esquisse, can be translated as sketch or beginnings and the sketch refers to the painting over the door and on their card, the beginnings to their newness.
Backstory: I ate here on the recommendation of my colleague Alain Fusion, the only French critic working in Paris in August it seems. The quartier, my quartier, was practically a "food desert" when we moved in 25 years ago; oh, there was Beauvilliers, Per Baco and the Cottage Marcadet but it took years before things took off with the Table d'Eugene, Sens Uniques, L'Insolite, Le Cafe Qui Parle, Jeanne B. and most recently Le Bistrot du Maquis. So to have a new top-top place with a 22 E 3-course lunch menu, 30-40 E a la carte offering and wines starting at 20 E, was promising indeed. Especially since I got back to Paris on my rentrée by flying via the South Pole to avoid my friend Bárðarbunga.
I started off with a fabulous dish of a terrine of pigs' feet with more fabulous shaved pickled vegetables (everything from carrots to celery to cukes) alongside a schmear of mayo; then quail cooked in two speeds (legs fried, breasts roasted was my guess) with shaved fennel; accompanied by a terrific 20 E a bottle vdT, bread this quartier hasn't seen in decades and superb Colombian (I think) coffee.
My bill with their filtered water, a half-bottle of wine and no dessert, was 34 E.
Go? Sure, go, ha-ha, you never will ("It's too far, it's too away from the Metro, it's too new.") Silly, silly people. This sort of place is what makes Paris's innovative chefs rule despite the groans from NY, Copenhagen and Girona.
Backstory 1: I have lived around the corner of/from this site for 25 years, and pass it every day on my limpies or to my Gym; and it's gone from a scarry gay bar, to a pseudo-Brit joint called Le Bulldog (Winston right?), to a fine place called 2 Pièces Cuisine, to a pathetic tapas place to its newest incarnation as a burger joint. I sort of ignored the change but then I saw the JDD last week and realized that Aurelie Chiagneau had actually reviewed and given a 7/10 to Le Ruisseau.
Backstory 2: I called about 11h30 this morning and was told there were no reservations until 13h00; "OK" I said, "I'll just drop by at 12h30"; "Nope, pas possible, 13h00." What is this? This place is nothing more than a jerk-off Yankee-pretending burger bar. "Screw-'em" think I. I'll go when I like, kids.... and prompty fell asleep in my great IKEA chair.
6.0 Le Ruisseau in the 18th, 65 rue de Ruisseau in the 18th, 01.42.23.31.23, (Metro: Jules Joffrin, or Bus #31 or 60) closed Sunday nights and Mondays. Whoa, what is that crowd in front of it? Screw'em, squeeze in past tens, hundreds, millions of young Froggies in coats and ties, coats and ties?, sipping champagne and gnoshing on delicious looking bar mitzvah-type food. "Dude, what's happening here, in my secluded undiscovered nabe?" Belly up to the comptoir, "Hey, I reserved for one for 13h00, Talbott's the name" (sort of like "Bond, James Bond, Bond's the name"). "Yes'sir, right this way, through the legions of celebratants (I just made it up and it doesn't mean priests). dB's 82.5.
Finally in, I look around and see tattered seats, folks digging into their hamburgers with knifes and forks, huh, knives and forks - still, young'uns who've been to Vegas and Tucson and Brooklyn, eating with.....oh well, and order up a burger from the Pas de Calais where all those poor Somalians are camped out, waiting to jump on the Eurostar to St Pancras, pity that Pancras got his head beheaded. A spot of wine and we're off.
I started off with zippy nachos with zippy melted cheese (just like I see in Yankee movie houses and no where else) and zippy chunky guacamole; then a zippy cheddar cheese burger (requested Black and Blue; "we can't do that, which do you want Black or Blue?" - "Blue.") - not bad with a roll that was second only to Camille Malmquist's when she was at Blend; but wait, we've got Heinz catsup and what looks like French's mustard but wait again, it's Mississippi Belle mustard, described as America's Traditional Mustard." Really? Why have I never heard of it? The fries were not much of a much but dipped in their Russian dressing sauce - OK.
"A dessert?" Why not. 2 scoops of pear ice cream with a bit of Poire Williams. Nice
A bill for two with a shared nachos starter, 2 burgers, 2 desserts and 2 coffees but no bottled water (in the 18th, are you kidding?) would come to 77.40 E.
Go? Well, we've got a lot of competition in the Northern part of Montmartre (NoMo) these days, with the Bistro de Maquis, L'Atelier Ramey, La Table d'Eugene, its next door sister, La RaLLonge, Sens Unique and L'Insolite, but for a nice burger, this does the trick.
4-5.5 (I'm still deciding) Les Tantes Jeanne, 42, rue de Veron in the 18th, (Metro: Abbesses), 01.42.51.14.21, has in it's favor that it's open for Sunday lunch, has a lotta great looking meat (the cotes de boeuf was awesome) and one gets 20% off by reserving thru La Fourchette - but, but, but...
While 2 of the 4 of us liked their eggs with truffle sauce, all four of us found the scallop tartare with caprices persanne (supposedly dried small capers marinated in lime sauce turning them somehow bright red and overpoweringly over-the-top) not to our taste - and mind you they had placed second in the "Concours des Chefs 2014" - Yikes! Thus turned the meal.
Then we ordered a Iberic pork chop, magret de canard (no cooking specified), gigot of spring lamb (a point) and calf's liver (blue) and no one was really wowed - I thought my foie de veau (unpictured) was perfectly cooked but the rest were over-done and uninteresting.
Desserts: Now here's where things get weird: Madame the visiting chef from Sacramento's cafe gourmand was kinda bland, M. JJ's religieuse, which he had explained was going to be great - was not, and my souffle which I could have had with old prune but was persuaded to have with wormwood liqueur, was sans alcool. A bummer all around.
A word about the wines - they were terrific - some Chardonnay from the Pays D'Oc for the MasterChef and a nice Corbieres for M. JJ et moi.
Our bill, after the 20% discount, and one additional coffee, was 177.68 E, thus 88.84 E a couple.
Go? Maybe for the Cotes de Boeuf and red wine but that's it.
7.4 Le Bistrot du Maquis, 69, rue Caulincourt in the 18th, 01.46.06.06.64, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, is a place my best flanneur-friend-nabe chanced on and I leapt - a good new place on Montmartre - try it. With some research it was revealed that chef Andre Le Letty had been (alphabetically) at Anacreon, L'Agassin, Ledoyen, Prunier and the Tour d'Argent. With that cv it might be heaven or hell.
The menu/cartes are, as my old friend and colleague, used to say - "confusigrams." There's a lunch formula at 16 E and "menus" with 2 courses for 29 E and 3 for 36 E, and a la carte that could run 30--45 E. But on them it's lotsa cool stuff.
For starters, our French friend, who knows more about food than anyone I've ever met/known, had the terrine of pied de cochon which was both classic and inventive and my buddy down the street and I both had mackerel with excellent marinated vegetables (carrots, fennel, garlic, beets, turnips and the like) with a tomato and ginger sauce - which was both classic and inventive - but which escaped the shuttereye.
Then my buddy had the rognons, Madame our invitee the cod, Madame from down the street & Colette enjoyed the excellent bar with chorizo, and I had three sublime pieces of pintade with a rich creamy sauce.
At dessert my camera began working again and shows 3 excellent desserts: the compote of mangos, a dish of strawberries in a delicious sauce and an outstanding warm chocolate with ice cream. All just superb!
Our bill, with 2 1/2 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of Chateldon (don't ask), terrific bread and 3 coffees, was 248.50 E, thus 99.40 E a couple.
Go? Wow, since BAT and Sur le fil I haven't had such a meal - in a flash, despite the noise levelof 81.8 dB.
A bit of background: I must go on the #85 bus up Rue Ramey at least once a week and I've been clueless to how the neighborhood has changed. Yes, my former downstair's friend found a great new jewelry store, but when I caught word that a fine restaurant had opened, I pretty much discounted that it would be "top-top." But on approaching it, I realized the whole block of the street (Ramey) has undergone a renewal. My!
6.2 L'Atelier Ramey, 23, rue Ramey in the 18th, 01.42.51.04.78, closed Sundays (Metro: Chateau Rouge but that station is so weird that I'd say its better to try the #85 or #80 bus), has been open just 2 months but already has a loyal local following (family, grubby and suity) - No pesky fellow Yankees, however! It's pretty standard wood tables, metal chairs and an open (aka California) kitchen where chef Nicolas Boissiere - ex-Ribouldinge, holds forth. The carte is quite impressive and interesting and I didn't even bother to figure out the "menu" items - I went straight to -
- what was called a fricassee of mushrooms and small onions with some os a moelle but was really os a moelle with toast and a side of salad on top of toasty, tasty sauteed mushrooms and onions,
- scallops on top of safrinated leeks and the most incredibly flavored croutons, and
- a baba with a tuille, raisins and bit-bites of confited pineapple.
All were amazing, and even more amazing in my 'nabe.
I had the same wine as my referral source, Charles Patin O'Coohoon of L'Express, to whom I owe thanks; but I should note that the glass floor over the wine cellar, while not as scary as those in the Alps or Grand Canyon, is impressive and I only hope that the mousetrap holding the bill was just a joke ( the bill was 55.50 E for one person with a half-bottle of said wine, no bottled water, two kinds of OK bread and one coffee).
Go? Not a destination for those in the 15th maybe, but for those of us living around the Mont, definately worth a revisit. dB level 69.2, but with the Beattles, who cares?
5.4 L'Insolite, 58, rue du Poteau in the 18th, 09.81.32.64.09, closed Sundays and Mondays (Metro: Jules Joffrin), opened a few weeks ago right across from my new flat - Colette said "let's go." I said "Minute, Papillion, lemme try it first."
Now, we live on this incredible market street (Poteau, Duhesme/etc.) but until the Table d'Eugene (Sue) set up shop, we've strived to find walk-to-food-places. I won't bore you with the stories of places moving, in, glowing, dying and dead within months but if there's an opposite of Nancy's Feng Shui food streets/quarters, this is it. The Bermuda Triangle of ambitious restaurateurs.
So it was with great hesitation I called to reserve today. "Yikes," I said, "you just have brunch today?" "Oh, no, we have a regular carte." Whew. I enter and have the house to myself. Window seat; wonderful.
Enter the wait-guy who has a few teeth issues (my best friend, the dentiste, lives but a few meters away.) "Because it's the school holidays, we don't have everything, but I would recommend, blah blah blah. And everything is fresh, made in house, bio, nature, blah blah blah."
"So I'd like the blanquette de veau." "Sorry."
For a first I went with the assortment of tapas (they feature many tapas at their Happy Hours). They ranged from a curried cake to potato to pulverized oeuf mayo on toasty (very good) and a nice salad with a terrific dressing. Then (told the blanquette, which I'd hankered after, was unavailable - School Holiday week and all that jazz) I had a magret de canard that was not half-bad, with fries that were not crisp. I finished off with pain perdu (that on my bill said "lost toast") that was a good endiing.
Pauses: Between courses, I sipped my wine and watched an astonishing parade of folks going by the window; old folks, young folks, gay guys and mixed race couples, blacks from the ex-colonies, Muslims, long hairs and short hair and no hair and one guy whose hair levitated from his head like an American Indian headress, women (not men) smoking, ugly people, beautiful people, people with dogs, henna, bleached and shocking pink hair. All this on the street in from of my apartment building. It was like a choreographed line from a Broadway musical.
My bill, with three courses a la carte, 50 cl of wine, no bottled water and Ethiopian (there were three choices) Illy coffee, was 42.50 E.
Go? While not usually a subscriber to the Randy-of-Paris philosophy of the "total restaurant experience" this time I was - the welcome, service and au revoir, from waiter and owner, was great, the food as advertisedwas fresh, made in house and reasonable and the passing scene a great distraction. A destination, no, but for the 'nabe, good choice. And the music was terrific French stuff that never caused the noise level to exceed 64.6 dB's.
6.4 En Vrac, 2, rue l'Olive (crnr Rue Riquet) in the 18th, 01.53.26.03.94, open 7/7, has been open 2 Metro stops from me for 2 years and i keep meaning to go, but..... Well, today, I need to install a new computer, get Freebox wifi and ethernet connected and reinstall software for my printer so I whined, until my friend the Silicon Valley computer whiz refugee gave in (maybe the promise of free grub did the trick). He had a Thanksgiving feast at 15h00, so I said "Hey come at 11, get it installed in twenty minutes and then waste an hour at this wine bar nearby 'til you have to go to get your stuffing stuffed.
I arrived about 11h55, walked right by En Vrac, a bit understated eh? An oyster-boy outside, located in a formerly crummy/crumby nabe that is becoming boboized, and after breathing in a paper bag, calmed down realizing that indeed this "was the place." It's kinda cool, 10 aluminum vats of wines from everywhere from the Loire to Alsace and racks of bottles. The comptoir is replete with pots of soup and potatoes cooking away, cheeses and desserts galore. Ahhhright!
The menu consists of said soup of the days, on weekdays a plat du jour and both stuff out of cans (sardines) and cooked (pig's feet). While we debated we had a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau (3 E, right), not much of a much ("horrible" my computer genius pal said his friends said) and a bottle of Costieres de Nimes (7.60 E + 6 E corkage).
The food: my friend had the smoked herring with said potatoes and rocket; I had the giant pig's foot with similar accompaniments; and we both shared a portion of St Nectaire and a "Savoie camembert-type cheese." Delicious all. Especially with the crusty bread I'm sure comes from one of the Best Bakers of the last Five Years who sell their wares a block aqway.
The bill, with no bottled water, but a bottle and a glass of wine and one coffee, was 43.60 E.
Go? Me, but not you desoite the fact that M. Thierry Poincin (ex-L'Estaminet) has a winner on his hands; the wine, the buzz and the boboisity is contagious and the dB level (85.3) manageable and best of all there are no "pesky Yankees" - "Metro Marx Dormoy, where on earth is that?"