My Parisian Restaurant Map

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tony would be proud

I guess the true mark of obsession is worshipping the ground someone walks on.

Lucky for me, a few years back, Anthony Bourdain decided to come to Paris and walk around the Marais.

In the first episode of his then brand new series called 'No Reservations', Tony visited a mysteriously dark and hidden bistro called Chez Robert and Louise, and showed us a world where women with red lipstick and big knives whacked away at big chunks of prime rib in the kitchen. I remember Tony being particularly tickled that his steak wasn't served on a plate, but instead on a wooden chopping board with a little moat around it so that the blood would have somewhere to drip into.

4 years later, I decided to find this bistro, because it did indeed sound almost too good to be true.

And there it is, in the Marais, not as ominous and secretive as in the past, but definitely as exceptional as promised.

We arrived and were told by a man standing outside smoking a cigarette (presumably he worked there?) that we should go sit downstairs, so we followed him past a massive open fire, into the cellar. After we had been seated at the bar, I snuck back upstairs to get a peak at what was going on with this fire.

The fire was being fed with a variety of different types of wood (so there is nothing to be said for the 'oak giving my steak any oaky flavor' or any other pretentious nonsense like that). On top of the fire was a cast iron shelf, or slab, that was precariously balanced on two bricks. And on this cast iron shelf laid row after row of sizzling, shimmering, smoking chunks of prime rib, entrecote and contre fillet. W-O-W.

I ordered the contre fillet, which was described to me as a fillet of beef which is less fatty than the entrecote. It indeed came, as promised by Tony, on a delightfully old and weathered round chopping board, complete with mote to accommodate the blood. It was served with a refreshing green salad and a plate of my favorite potatoes roasted in duck fat and garlic.

All in all, this was one of the most deliciously primitive slabs of meat Ive had in a loooong time. The atmosphere was unique and the bill was not that expensive. And I think experience has shown that any place with duck fat potatoes gets a special place in my heart.

Monday, September 14, 2009

croustillant d'agneau

Mmmmmmm.....I found a new slice of heaven.

It was conceived at Chez Paul, a new bistro that I hope to frequent regularly from now on. If it weren't for the heavy price tag that is.

For starters I had my usual favorite which came highly recommended at this place: 6 small but delicious Bourgogne snails. They came without their little homes, which I prefer, because then the garlic butter really manages to marinate these little squishy bits of goodness.

In this case Im going to tell you what we drank with dinner, since it was one of the rare occassions where someone actually knew alot about wine and was able to select one that was appropriate for our meal: it was a Bordeaux AOC called Dourther Numero 1 from 2005. I can't really think of another way to describe it except that it was a dry yet incredibly deep red that literally filled every part of your mouth...

And now for the good part-my latest discovery which has rocked my socks as much as the duck fat epiphany-the croustillant d'agneau.

Basically, it was the most beautifully cooked, tender and rosé pink fillet of lamb (if there is such a thing). As I started to pick away at it, I noticed that there was a little white rim around the fillet, which I assumed to be the fat. But no, oh no, boy was it not the fat.

This fillet of lamb, apart from being accompanied by the most sublime garlic and honey reduction and a mousseline of split peas, turned out to be enveloped in the thinnest, most transparent, soft and buttery yet somehow also crispy, layer of dough. What I thought was fat turned out to be a crunchy layer of paper thin crust, which I soon realized was actually wrapped around the entire piece of meat.

And to top it all off, hidden under this layer of divine 'crust' was the most discreet bed of caramelized onions, so delicate and finely chopped that they almost went unnoticed. Almost.

How they got the sides to be crunchy, the rest melt-in-your-mouth soft and the color almost completely transparent, I will never know. But what I do know is this: anytime you see the word 'croustillant' on a French menu, no matter what it applies to (cheese, meat, veggies), you MUST order it.