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.