This was the first restaurant I went to in Paris. My friend Mark wanted to go because it was one of his favorites. The restaurant resides in the Marais district. It was magical trying to find this restaurant. We went through winding narrow streets which epitomized what I expected from the local streets of Paris. There were cobble stones lining the streets. While dimly lit, the architecture still yells out French detail. Apparently, you have to reserve a table way in advance. We didn't have a reservation but we still somehow got a table. We put two and two together, and I think everyone was at the rally for the tragedy that happened at Charlie Hepdo. From Mark telling me that this place was hard to get into, I wasn't expecting a pingpong table at the center of the restaurant. They had varying table heights and mismatched chairs. CD jewel cases lined and decorated the walls with what looked like movie posters. And vintage lamps dimly contributed to the ambiance. This was a far cry from the white table cloth and servers donning floor length aprons that I was expecting but I will give it a shot. Service was slow at first. But I'm a New Yorker, so I have to keep reminding myself about the fact. After we were greeted by our server, the wheels started turning. I started with a glass of Sancerre. Instead of complimentary bread, our server gave us whole radishes and some sort of cured meat which was great because I was so hungry. It looked like sopressata but I didn't want to assume since we were at a French restaurant.
I had foie gras to start accompanied by a berry compote and slices of toasted baguette. Man was it so good! It had a good amount of gaminess to it balanced with a creamy texture. Add some of that berry compote to give it some tart acidity and I was speechless for a good 10 minutes. How could I go to Paris, the menu offered Foie Gras and not order it? Needless to say, it was heavenly!
I then had the young roast pig for my main course. Duh! I'm Filipino! The minute I saw it on the menu I had no choice but to pick it. I was ready for a whole piglet to be planked in front of me when our second course came but what they did is they sliced across the loins and and served the 3 pieces of it giving me good marbling of the meat and fat served with the skin. The dish came with some wild mushrooms and marble potatoes finished with a pork jus. The meat was so tender and the wild mushrooms gave it this earthy and nutty flavor combined with the semi-sweet savory jus and I just had a depth of flavors in my mouth that I haven't had for a while.
We opted to not have dessert. One, none of us we're really dessert people. Two, we were gonna rage that night. We needed to leave space for the alcohol. That's right! We had our priorities straight. We did however take a tour of the the rest of the restaurant including the upstairs bathrooms. I was led to believe that the mirrored armoir at the end of the hallway was haunted. Once I saw it, I felt this eerie energy, I was compelled to stay away from it. I opted to go to the bathroom at our next venue. I don't mess around with supernatural manifestations. I later found out that there was a room through the armoir. What is this? The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe? If I knew Tilda Swinton was on the other side I would've sacked up and went through. It would have been a great instagram update. Oh well! Next time I'll muster up the courage!
Au Bon Accueil
I've talked about this restaurant on my first official day outing in Paris. But this place is one of the best restaurants I've ever been to so it is worth mentioning again. It is ranked #30 out of 13,675 restaurants in Paris on www.tripadvisor.com I came on a Monday after the rally. The restaurant was empty except for a table of three business men. I was greeted without a smile but polite nonetheless. I expected this reception from Parisians. I'm a foreigner, I get it. It's not going to stop me from enjoying their food! Never! The server asked if he could hang my jacket. Of course I said yes! I'm not one to shy away from any pampering! Hehe! Now this was a restaurant with white table tops and floor length aprons. The elegance was palpable from the minute I walked in. I sat down and they offered some complimentary olives and slices of bread. The olives in Paris are so GOOD! I don't know what they do to them but the brine they use is excellent. I ordered a glass of Chablis to start. It is 100 percent chardonnay grapes! I'm not usually a chardonnay drinker but I was willing to try the suggestion. It ended up complimenting my first course and crisp enough that I didn't feel anchor down from the heaviness. It is, after all, made out of chardonnay grapes. The menu was so French, my translator app couldn't work fast enough for me to decipher everything so I let the server choose for me. I'm not a picky eater so it wasn't a daring act on my part. My first course was a carpaccio topped with red currants, capers, sliced radishes (the French loves radishes huh?) something white that was grated and something yellow that was grated which was definitely not eggs and then a hefty garnish of parsley and dill! It melted in my mouth! I have never ever tasted anything like it before. I love eating different kinds of food. I later was informed that it was veal face! I was eating the face of a young cow!!! Speechless.
My second course came and what I found in front of me was so mouth watering. I had a piece of beef slow cooked for several hours that it was fork tender. I didn't even need a steak knife. It was served on a bed of lentils and topped off with chives. Right next to it was a poached endive cut in half topped with French cubed ham and broiled in the oven with gruyere cheese. The different combinations of textures and flavors couldn't be more perfect. The nutty flavor of the gruyere paired well with the water content of the endive. And the cubed ham was little bursts of savory surprises. All of this complimented the piece of beef so well. I paired it with a Cotes du Rhone which was a syrah blend. The wine had enough body and silkyness to stand up to the main course.
I was so satisfied. I was actually so full, I couldn't even fathom eating dessert. But I was going to taste what they had for me one way or the other. I was going to complete this 3 course meal if it was the last thing I do. Surprise! It's a brioche pudding! Now I've had really good brioche in the past but this takes the cake hands down. It was dense and fluffy at the same time! How did they do that? It came with a mango puree, passion fruit seeds and drizzles of caramel and some freshly whipped cream. I thought I couldn't finish it. But by this time, I've solidified a good rapor with my server and he routed for me to finish the dessert. I do love a good support system, so I did it! I shocked myself. I never eat that much food ever! But the chef worked so hard on making it top notch and aesthetically pleasing that I couldn't leaving anything on the plate. Please! If there is a restaurant that I couldn't recommend more, this is the one! It is a foodie's heaven and won't break the bank! Get into it!
Le Relais de l'Entrecote
This restaurant was another great suggestion by my friend Mark. They don't take reservations so there's always a line outside. They only serve one thing; Steak Frites. Thank God! After getting overwhelmed with all the French words I didn't know at Au Bon Accueil, I was ready to just not have any choices. After waiting ten minutes in line outside, we got seated at a nice table somewhat in the middle of the main room. This place is famous for their steak. It is rumoured to be where the Entrecote sauce originated from. The place was packed. The tables were tight. The servers wore traditional server uniforms hustling through the tight crevices which I can loosely call walk ways. Some of these servers seemed like they've been working there forever. It might be a family owned restaurant. Our server greeted us immediately! She asked us what we wanted to drink and how we wanted our steak prepared. We decided on a bottle of red and we both picked medium rare for the temperature of our steaks. She came back promptly with the bottle of red wine with tiny bistro wine glasses. I loved it. It was so classically bistro. Just a few minutes later she came back with two plates of green salads with frisee and romaine lettuces, sliced radishes and walnuts in a simple vinaigrette. It was adequate. This wasn't the tour de force so I wasn't expecting a bunch of ingredients.
Several minutes after we finished our salads, a tray of steaks were carried to a serving table. Our server put about six ounces of steak on a plate each and drizzled the Entrecote sauce on top and then put an ample amount of fries on the plate and served it. I was digging the somewhat table service they had. I was so excited! The steak was the perfect temperature. The fries were thin and crisp. The sauce was out of this world. It was a green sauce so I could've guessed the different herbs they used but for some reason, I couldn't find out for the life of me. I just knew that it was amazing. And if they say that the sauce originated from that restaurant, count me in as a believer! And just when I thought we were done, our server came over and gave us a second serving of the steak and fries. It was glorious. It also makes sense. They want the customers to eat the steak at the temperature that they asked for from the beginning and the end. Anyone can knock the French for being less friendlier that others, but they are very thoughtful about their food. Both Mark and I were enjoying ourselves. Everyone around us was having fun as well. This place exudes a love for food. The ambiance was so lively, some people even discovered some of their friends in this restaurant in Paris. This restaurant must be famous if two friends didn't know that they were both in Paris and surprisingly saw each other at this restaurant. We were having so much fun, we even ordered dessert. Ha! You don't hear that everyday. We ordered a quintessentially French dessert; profiteroles. If you look at the picture, it tasted exactly just the way it looks. 3 pastry puffs stuffed with vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and slivered almonds. The chocolate sauce was so rich and the pastry puff was still warm! It was a good way to finish off our dining experience. This is another must stop when going to Paris. Don't be bogged down by the no reservation policy. The line moves quick enough. I don't wait in line. But if there was one thing I would sacrifice waiting in line for, this would be it.
Cafe de Flore
I heard about this bistro from the show Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network channel hosted by Ina Garten. Whenever I wanted to cook some classic dishes, I always follow her recipes. When her show decided to do an episode on French food, she decided to visit her favorite go to's in Paris. One of them was this bistro. There were other comparable French bistros around the area within a block radius but if Ina raved about this particular one, then I had to have a meal here. I sat at a quaint table on the covered patio. I've been walking around the streets of Paris for 3 hours that I was too cold to sit al fresco. My server was very efficient. He set up the table with one had holding up the tray and the other to put down the paper table cloth salt and pepper, water craft, water glass, silverware and the glass of Chablis that I ordered. That is talent my friends. I opted to order something classic off the menu so I ended up with a Croque Madame with a side salad. A more complex ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top. And I have to tell you, this croque Madame cannot compare to any croque madame I've had. It was more rustic. Two thick pieces of hand cut white bread with French ham, gruyere cheese cooked in the salamander with bechamel sauce and then topped with a fried egg over easy. I can't believe how surprised I was with the level of quality of this Croque Madame. And at 13 euros, it was so affordable. They get you with the extras. The server asked me if I wanted to get a side salad with that. I said yes. I assumed it was going to come with the meal from past experiences ordering a croque madame. But it was a la carte and the salad was 8 euros! So be forwarned! It's just a bowl of cut lettuce so I suggest not spending 8 euros on it. LOL! But I loved the experience. This was a very old bistro where famous artists and writers contemplated and refined their talents. To somehow sit where the greats sat was fulfilling in a way. Hopefully some of their greatness rubbed off on me. If anything, I ate some amazingly classical French food at a French Landmark! A great way of capping my Paris vacation.