My Parisian Restaurant Map

Monday, February 25, 2013

Paris Cookbook Fair 2013

This year I had the honor of being invited to the Paris Cookbook Fair. Which I think is the best year to have been invited, since it's the first time the ticket price has gone from 10 to 35 euros!

Another thing that's also changed is the location. Held at Le Centquatre for the past few years, this year it relocated to the very posh Carousel du Louvre, right in the middle of the Louvre museum complex... Yup, the organisers have definitely stepped things up a notch in the class department.

But with the updated location and the increase in ticket price comes a change in the type of visitors you have. Whether or not this was a deliberate move is something I would have liked to ask the organisers. And although it was one of the biggest kicks getting to wear a badge with my name on it, I did notice that the vast majority of other people were wearing badges too. In other words, there weren't so many 'just visiting' Parisians whose face I could rub my badge in. Bummer!

Beautiful food prepared by Annabel Langbein during her cooking demonstration

The vibe of the fair was much more professional this year, there seemed to be less buzz and excitement, and more hallway conversation about selling international book rights. The wine tastings however did manage to garner some decibles, as did the presence of a Japanese celebrity chef slash actor slash model.

One book to definitely look out for this year is "The Art of the Restaurateur", by Nicolas Lander, food critic for the Financial Times (did you know the Financial Times had a food critic? I thought they only wrote about finance!) Glancing quickly at the table of contents of his book didn't do enough to convince me to buy it, but his discussion on the current celebrity-chef oriented trend as opposed to the more traditional restaurateur's position in the restaurant definitely left me wanting more.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Au RDV des Camionneurs

Every once in a while, my teaching day job finally pays off.

For example, the day that I learned that my new student was Chef Patrice Hardy, owner and chef of both La Truffe Noire in Neuilly and Au Rendez-vous des Camionneurs on Ile de la Cite, was a particularly delightful one.

Little did he know that when he extended me the probably now routine invitation to come to one of his restaurants one day and give him a call beforehand that I would actually be taking him up on his offer much sooner rather than later. (I had of course kept my restaraunt reviewer extraordinaire secret identity, well...secret).

So off we went to the beautiful Ile de la Cite, a scenic yet not necessarily 'happening' place to put Hardy's fledgling bistro experiment that was to follow the already well established Truffe Noire.

The bistro itself is nestled at the edge of the Parisian island, tucked away in a forgotten street corner...

...and the decor is cozy-chic. I don't know if that even exists, but if it does, I'm certain it's a Parisian who invented it.

 The menu itself is rather interesting. I had heard that it boasts some rather plentiful piggy platters, but I was surprised to discover that my favorite dish on the menu was a seared tuna steak with 'asian spices'. I'll admit it's not the most obvious choice on the menu of a French bistro, which is why I myself didn't order it, however I was by far the most jealous to have not done so once I got a bite of it from one of my co-conspirators.

Equally surprising was the croque monsieur with haddock, goats cheese and and smoked herring eggs.

 On to the main dishes, I thought it a great twist to have a risotto with sot l'y laisse (remember my post on that a few years back?). Then there was the absolutely stunning blanquette de joue de veau which is apparently the same recipe as at the Truffe Noire and honestly, by far the creamiest, tastiest, tenderest one that I've ever eaten. And I've eaten a lot of them, trust me.

My main dish was by far the most beautifully presented, yet somehow the most dissapointing. Don't get me wrong, it was a delicious compilation of scallops on a bed of leeks, presented in the actual shell that was shut by a roll of pastry dough to create a sort of sea food vacuum pack effect. The scallops were cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection, but it lacked seasoning, which couldn't even be corrected by the very light curry sauce served with it.

The chocolate tartlet for dessert was like a chocolate moelleux, but with a flaky homemade pie crust. The pistachio creme was good, but not as earth shattering as the tartlet.

The best part of this bistro is that for the digestif, they just put the entire bottle of calvados on your table and let you serve yourself. I'm not sure if that was because I was getting special treatment (which I doubt) or because they really are passionate about making people's bellies feel happy.

As for the cost, we went all out, ordering 3 courses à la carte, plus loads of scrumptious Bourgorgne wine (very reasonably priced), plus digestifs, so it was pretty pricey- around 70 euros per person. But if you are a little less gluttonous than me, you can have the 36 euro menu for 3 courses.

Au RDV des Camionneurs
72 Quai des Orfevres, 75001
Tél : 01 43 29 78 81

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Le Chardenoux

I recently went for a languid Sunday lunch to Chardenoux, Cyril Lignac's bistro in the 11th arrondisement.

If you didn't know any better, you would mistake it for one of the usual Parisian corner bistros, which is the image that it is desperately trying to convey. One look at the menu though and the prices will quickly tip you off to it's more privileged status.

Now I do not own a TV so I do not watch French cooking programs, which means that I don't bear the same hatred for Lignac as most Parisians seem to. I guess this made me slightly more objective when I was stuffing delicious morsels of plume Iberique in my mouth.

Firstly, the bistro itself is beautiful. Its art deco interior, golden mouldings and painted ceilings are somewhat reminiscent of Le Train Bleu, and has the capacity to transport the diners back to the 1920's. The food is scrumptious: typical bistro fare like cote de boeuf or ris de veau figure on the menu, but their preparation and presentation is far beyond what you expect to get at any local resto. The dishes are creative twists on the usual classics, and a quick glance into the kitchen revealed a staggering array of copper pots and pans, which is always a good sign in my book. Even the service is delightful. The wine list is long, but definitely not the most impressive part of the experience. Better to stick with one of the cheaper bottles (starting at around 28 euros), than splurge on one of the more expensive yet not necessarily better vintages.

All in all, Chardenoux was a lovely surprise. A family bistro (notably full of old people, also always a good sign) preparing the classics while taking them to a completely new level of refinement, the decor is beautiful but the prices are on the high side if you order a la carte. I would definitely recommend going for lunch during the week where they have a good prix fixe menu for around 30 euros for 3 courses. And do be sure to reserve well ahead.

Le Chardenoux
1 Rue Jules Valles, 75011 Paris
Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny (line 8)
01 43 71 49 52

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Parisian Restaurant Map

You'll notice a new feature that I've added to the top of the page: my Parisian restaurant map.

The little pinpoints are restaurants that I love or am hoping to go to very soon. This way, the next time you're looking for a restaurant in Paris, you can search for one based on where you are or where you're going to be.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Pret a manger

This post is going to make all you Anglophiles very very happy. The famous self service restaurant chain Pret a Manger (and no, despite its name it's not secretly French), has opened it's doors in the shopping mall Les Quatres Temps in La Defense.

Occasionally I happen to work in La Defense during the week, so I know all about the challenges of the lunch rush in this particularly populated bubble of skyscrapers.

And Pret a Manger is filling a wide whole in the lunch market- cheap, healthy, freshly produced soups and sandwiches that really manage to shake up the classic Parisian jambon beurre lunch staple. And they even introduce the completely western fascination with calorie counting! All the products have the number of calories clearly labelled, something that I'm sure will make very many wispy size zero Parisiennes very very happy.

They just opened another branch in the new mall So Ouest in Levallois, and have 2 more openings scheduled in the 8th and 13th arrondissements.

So if you only have 30 min for lunch, love fancy wraps like chicken tzatziki and are an obsessive calorie counter, you should definitely check it out.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tous au Restaurant

When people say "Paris is the restaurant capital of the world" I feel like they're in that cheesy scene in the Titanic where Leonardo di Caprio yells "I'm the king of the world!". But sometimes, I do have to agree.

In this case, it's National Restaurant Week, or "Tous au Restaurant", that makes me do so.

From the 17th to the 23rd of September, a huge majority of Parisian restaurants offer special menus to intice the public to eat out more and to discover their local bistros. Which is great and all, but the real point of this week is to try to snag a reservation at one of the 'Grandes Tables,' like Guy Savoy, Alain Dutournier, Thierry Marx, Joel Robouchon and Yannick Aleno. These classic Michelin-starred establishments open their doors to us mere mortals, offering special menus that make their luxury food more accesible to the public. Naturally they can't let just anyone in, so the starting price for a 3-course meal at lunch starts at 58 Euros, going up to 300 Euros, for our deal old friend Mr. Savoy.

And of course, as in typical Parisian fashion, you have to wake up before even the sparrows have farted on the 17th and keep your mouse hovering over the restaurant that you want to reserve, because the moment they 'open' the reservation system, those 'tables d'exception' are snapped up faster than a free seat in the metro during rush hour.

But if you're like me and just itching to eat at one of these Meccas, then you might want to save up for the year, that is.

Tous au Restaurant - National Restaurant week
17th-23rd of September

The Corsica Edition: U Papacionu

If you happen to be spending your vacation in Corsica, you will be met with various diverging opinions regarding the local food. And once you set foot in Ajaccio, you might have a tendancy to side with the nay-sayers as the onslaught of carbon-copy cafes all serving crepes, paninis, pizza and ice cream hits you. But rest assured, if you only dig a little deeper you will find yourself satiated to the point of actual physical discomfort, that oh-so-familiar pain of your stomach muscles over stretching in order to accomodate the sheer quantity of deliciousness that you have dumped into it.

I will admit however, that my first discovery I owe entirely to a simple, stupid Google search for "best pizza in Ajaccio." But for once it seems all my fellow holidaymakers were talking about one place, and one place only: U Papacionu. 

Now I have been to Italy many, many, many times, and in Italy I have eaten many, many, many pizzas. All different sorts of cheezy, gooey, meaty, potatoe-y, vegetable-y goodness, topped with thick parmesan flakes that look like flower petals, or creamy burrata and mozarella di buffala that oozes like thick liquid cream when you dip your fork into it....So trust me when I say that outside of Italy, the only place that has an equally mind-blowing, stomach-clenching, mouth-watering, physically addictive effect is U Papacionu. 

The first night we went, I decided to go for the special, fancy arugula, buratta, parma ham pizza. And it was good, very, very good. But I kept seeing these giant half pizzas, so big that half of it was hanging over the lip of the plate, getting devoured next to me...and you know me, I cant help staring at what other people are eating. So despite the deliciousness of my own refined pizza, as well as the sheer volcano explosion of the calzone my husband was trying to tame, I had not really managed to get my fix. 

So the next day, back we went, and I chose the simplest pizza on the menu, the one that I assumed to be what everyone had been ordering the night before: a pizza margarita, or simply, a plain, cheese pizza.

And I kid you not when I say that this nonchalant, innocent looking yet giant slice of heaven was literally the best pizza I have ever had.

So if you're in Ajaccio and fed up of all those multipurpose tourist trap 'restaurants', and are craving a real pizza, go to U Papacionu. You might even see a real life Corsican mobster there, like we did, sitting with his back to the wall and his bodyguard next to him, at an 8-top table with only 3 people at it in the middle of the extremely busy dinner service...Oh and do reserve in advance, because you won't be the only one with a pizza craving and a google search to have had this idea. 

U Papacionu
16 rue St Charles20000 Ajaccio, CorseFrance

+33 (0) 495 212 786