My Parisian Restaurant Map

Monday, April 4, 2011


In Paris, it's hard to be on top of the food scene. But when a new bistro opens that wins the FOODING 2010 du Meilleur Bistrot d'auteur, it's difficult to not notice it. 

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Rino has two tables teetering in the middle of the sidewalk, which chef Giovanni Passerini, (whose nickname I'm assuming is Rino?) cites as a reason for why he would never be awarded a Michelin star. But not that he wants one; he doesn't like the clientele that comes with the stars, or the changes that it would require him to make to his intimate yet relaxed bistrot.  

The kitchen is open to the dining room, allowing curious clients such as myself to annoyingly stare over the counter, trying to decipher what exactly is going on....but it's hard to tell. I see some bottles of milk from Normandy being used, but I can't tell on what. The menu is incredibly limited -in a good way- and milk doesn't seem to be a blatantly obvious ingredient in any of the dishes. Intriguing.

But once the food arrives you stop wondering about what's inside of it and just hold on for the ride as an explosion of bizarrely matched flavors come together beautifully, both on your plate and in your mouth. You don't have much choice at lunch; you have one starter, two main dishes and one dessert. The menu changes daily, which is always a good sign. But the combinations are odd, to say the least. My starter consisted of carrot soup, lamb meatballs, salted fish and endives--originally I thought that I had a choice of one of these many ingredients, but only after asking the charming waitress/sommelier Francesca did I realize that in fact no, it's one dish, a jumbled mix and match of ingredients and flavors. I was struggling to understand how all this could come together, but I was astounded that in fact it did work  so amazingly well. 

Hidden underneath the leaves are lamb meatballs spiced with a middle eastern flavor

The choice of main dish was either mullet or roast chicken, both served with asparagus, cabbage and a strange green pesto-looking sauce, which of course was delicious. The veggies were al dente, the chicken was marvellously cooked (both crispy and tender) and the fish was soft and delicate.


Roast chicken

The dessert was another mix and match of yogurt ice cream, caramelized pecans and hazelnuts and raspberry. And as usual, the wonderful wine had rendered me too lazy to take a picture. 

This was very creative cuisine. Simple, relaxed, delicious, seasonal and surprisingly affordable. But nevertheless it was food that challenges you, that forces you to re-think certain combinations that you would have never thought possible. After lunch, you can have a little chat with the chef. He is very approachable and  happy to talk to you while he smokes his cigarette outside after the lunch service has died down. 


46, rue Trousseau 
75011 Paris 
tel. 01 48 06 95 85

Friday, March 25, 2011

Food Design: Aventures Sensibles Exhibition

Hidden in an alley off of the Rue du Faubourg St Antoine, right around the corner from Bastille, is Le Lieu Design.

From the 9th of March to the 30th of April, Marc Brethillot, one of the most prominent French food designers, and funnily enough, my student, has created an exhibition that gives us an introduction to all things edible and yet functional at the same time.

It's kind of hard to understand what this exhibition is really about; personally I know nothing about food design. But there are some really cool things to see, and I think that's basically the point. To see fun food fare that either brings an artistic side to food, or a culinary side to art.

For example:

These are big rocks that have been dipped in various liquids. I think it's supposed to be about the geological connection to food. To me, it looks like bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Then there are these beautifully decorated crabs and clams, by a tatoo artist I beleive, who wants to create a theme restaurant that 'tatoos' your food according to your personality (gothic, ethnic, tribal etc)

This is a really creepy piece that explores the connection between food and taxidermy; the head is preserved but underneath is a 'dish' cooked with various parts of the rabbit.

They also did a bird

Then there are simply some very beautifully decorated classics, like chocolate 

And colorful mexican popcorn 

And beautifully colored and shaped butter

There was also some cheese that was made out of plastic (I didn't even realize until the guide told me so)

And a vegetable puree that looks like a psychadelic pile of sh*t

There was spice infused chocolate shaped like little tajines

And other pretty things

This is fruit paste

All in all, its a cool show, even though it's kind of hard to really get what it's about. But the pleasure of going to this exhibition is that it makes you feel like a kid again, excited by the bright colors and different textures and designs and the almost perfectly plastic looking food (which turns out to actually be plastic). You find yourself thinking that the most beautiful pieces are definitley edible (nope) and that the ugliest ones are fake (wrong again). It challenges our notion of how food is presented and what it can be turned in to. But that's about as profound as I'm going to get here.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Day I Met My Idol (Lunch at Guy Savoy-3 Michelin Stars)

On the morning of my birthday, my hero called me.

And I missed it.

But by a crazy turn of events, a good journalist friend of mine was interviewing Guy Savoy on the day of my birthday, about the new restauraunt that he is going to open. She told him that she has a friend who adores him, she told him it was my birthday, and he called me to wish my happy birthday while I was in the shower and couldn't hear my phone. Shit.

Long story short, Mr. Savoy ended up inviting me and my friend to dine in his restaurant on Thursday March 3rd at 12.30pm. And by invited, I mean, invited.

Apart from the loss of sleep, the total panic and the hours spent getting ready, we managed to get ourselves to the restaurant in one piece, and without tripping on our high heels (my ankles were shaking so much from the nerves).

You enter the restaurant and you are in a different world.

About 7 people are waiting for you, one holds your purse while another takes off your jacket. They give you back your purse and escort you to the dining room, all the while welcoming you with kind words and smiles.

You are seated, and seated means that someone pushes in your chair, fluffs a fresh cloth napkin and lays it on your lap. In two seconds, a man arrives with a champagne trolley, with about 5 different bottles of champagne on ice. “Can I tempt you with a glass of bubbles before you begin your tasting?”, he asks, as if we would say no. “Mmmmm, yeah, sure, why not,” we say nonchalantly, trying to pretend like we fit in and are totally used to this kind of thing. We try the house champagne, a bottle with Mr. Savoy's name on it. Marketing? Oh yes. Good? Oh absolutely.

By the time we have taken our first sip of champagne, the maitre d'hotel arrives, telling us discreetly that everything has been taken care of by Mr. Savoy, who has prepared a special menu for us. “Is there anything you don't eat or don't like?” Nope. “You can do whatever you want with us,” we tell them. “Tres bien mes dames. I hope you like surprises,” he says. Why yes sir, yes I do.

The maitre d'hotel leaves, and in another two seconds, the bread guy comes. Yes, apparently there is a bread guy- a guy whose job is to match everything you eat with a different type of bread. And he too has a trolley, with about 10 different types of beautiful, brown, white, round, long, hard, soft, rustic, refined breads. He gives us a selection to start with, pain au sarrasin, ciabatta a l'huile d'olive, and 5 cereales. He says that they will match our meals, which we still dont know what they are.

He leaves, and two waiters replace him, each holding a silver toothpick with a triangle of finely sliced bread, and a circle or two of foie gras with vinaigrette a la truffe. Just so that we have something to soak up all the champagne with. The waiters wait for us to eat our skewers, take our toothpicks and leave. (They come back about two more times in the course of the next 5 sips of champagne.)

In their place, the sommelier arrives.

“For your lunch, I was thinking of two whites and two reds, how does that sound?” Well yes, that sounds absolutely wonderful! Go ahead, enchant us.
And at this moment, this pivotal, life-changing moment, Guy Savoy arrives at our table.

We stand up, greet him, and I realize that I cannot speak French when I'm nervous. I mumble incoherently, smile, nod and laugh, hopefully at all the right moments. He leaves, warning us that the somelier is quite the seducteur with his wines (which is very true), I sit down and almost faint from panic. A waiter arrives by my side with a new napkin, since I dropped mine without even realizing, and folds it gracefully on my lap. Unecessary, but boy do I feel important right now.

The champagne is flowing, and the nerves start to subside. The first course arrives.

An asparagus veloute, with some miniscule funky little crunchy veggies at the bottom and a very interesting citrusy pepper sprinkled on top, served in an espresso glass. Next to the glass is another espresso glass but upside down, which is then lifted by a waiter to reveal a miniture cabbage leaf stuffed with poached lobster. Ca commence bien.

Mr. Savoy comes back to our table to have a little chat, telling us not to be too serious and too enjoy ourselves. I should point out that my friend and I were trying really hard to control our nervous giggles, trying to be mature and elegant and ladylike, but instead we were feeling like two children who have been taken to the toy store and told that they can have anything they want. Savoy sees this, and tells us to indulge. So indulge we do.

The second course arrives, along with Mr. Savoy who is keeping an eye on us, making sure we're happy and smiling. Homard reconstitue en carapace, jus au corail and like a crunchy almost sweet lobster wafer. The best part is that its served in a big bowl, and they pour a liquid on the bowl which makes the entire thing errupt into smoke - like one of those chinese ponds with the black crystals in them. We squeal, and our breath blows the smoke all around us. Its very, very pretty. And to top it off, the mixture of the smoke with the liquid hidden under our plate makes the sound of bubbling water, just like a zen garden. Its relaxing, delicious, visually beautiful and playful at the same time. On the side, a lobster bouillon with a buttery mouse is served, to be sipped while you eat the lobster.

The third course, and probably the best, was a classic poached egg, on top of a puree of topinambour, and topped with an incredibly generous helping of truffle slivers, grated at your side by the maitre d'hotel. “I gave you a little bit more than usual,” he says. I can't see the egg any more, all I see if truffle. Another waiter comes by to ask if he can please pierce your egg yolk. “Why yes, yes you may.” The bright yellow oozes out and melts into the white of the yolk and the black of the tuffle. Its gorgeous, and the combination of the garlickly topinambour puree with the egg yolk and the truffle is absolutely amazing, such a surprising combination of flavors that create such a beautiful smooth blend. Perhaps my only complaint of the entire meal is that there was too much truffle, and what kind of ridiculous complaint is that?

The wine for the second and third course was a stunning Riesling 'Grand Cru Hengst”, 2001 from Domaine Josmeyer. I just googled it and it's 70 euros per bottle. And worth every single penny.

For the fouth course, we had the rouget fish, slit down the spine, propped up and opened, stuffed with spinach, garlic and a mix of beautifully sauteed mushrooms and a mousse-like orange sauce. Normally I'm not really a surf and turf kind of girl, but this was unimaginable. The garlickly mushrooms, the perfectly cooked fish, the delicious unidentifiable sauce (which I'm sure also probably had truffle in it), everything just came together beautifully. And they even come by and give you extra sauce.

At this point we had decided to completely let loose, and were dipping our bread in our sauce and licking our fingers. We were drinking a white Hermitage “Chante Alouette” 2007 by Michel Chapoutier.

I was really hoping to get their signature artichoke soup with black truffle and parmesan slivers, and luckily, it was course number five. Served with the most buttery brioche you could ever imagine, stuffed with mushrooms and slathered with even more fresh truffle butter. Its literally death by truffle. And again, the very kind waitress who could see us melting into little puddles of happy tipsy girls came by to give us another brioche, and said that the chef recommends we dip it in the soup. So off we dipped.

The sixth course was a fillet mignon of veal wrapped in paper thin slivers of steamed asparagus (filet de veau “cuit en asperges”, and a piece of poitrine confit with pepper and lemon and some sort of strange but delicious green leaf underneath. It was served with a lemon sabayon with crunchy veal tongue hidden underneath in a little espresso cup on the side. Guy really likes his espresso cups.

At this point we switched to a 2001 red Pomerol from Chateau Bellegrave. And whoever said that they can't taste the difference between a 10 euro wine and a 70 euro wine was an idiot. I assure you, you can taste the difference.

Finally, it was over. Or so we thought.

The cheese trolley came by, which happened to be steered by the bread guy. I guess its only natural that the bread guy is also the cheese guy. There were probably about 40 cheeses, and he could tell you every tiny detail about every one of them. You looked, asked, pointed and were served. I had some cheese that I already knew, an Ossy Iraty that was a little too strong for me, but a delicious Selles sur Cher and a new favorite and not well known cheese called Rond de Lusignan from the Poitou- Charentes region, which was soft and mild and yet full flavored all at once. All this washed down with a 2009 Saumur Blanc called “L'Insolite” from the Domaine des Roches Neuves that was so surprising, one of those wines that smells one way, tastes another, and has a totally different after taste.

Now we were wondering if we were going to be served dessert. It would have been totally acceptable to stop now, I mean, cheese is dessert in France, and we were bursting. But a table of boring businessmen next to us were eating this crazy concoction that looked so beautiful, that I just had to ask if it was their famous coconut sorbet. “No, its the apple one. That's what Mr. Savoy thought he would serve you for dessert.” Wonderful, we say.

The waiter looks at me. “Do you like coconut,” he asks. “Yes, yes I do,” I say. “Do you want the coconut desert?” I say nothing, I just look at the waiter. “Tres bien madame.” In two minutes, the coconut desert arrives. And it is by far the most magnificent desert I have ever tasted. It was such a rare combination of so many different textures but yet the flavors were all the same. There were slivers of thinly julienned coconut that had been marinated in coconut milk, with a crunchy coconut crisp, gooey little orbs of Taiwanese coconut flavored tapioca, and crunchy coconut crushed ice. It was velvety and yet crispy, warm and yet cold, and served with beautiful paper thin wafers of coconut. This dessert was my heaven. I almost asked for another one.

And again, we thought that now, finally, the lunch was over. Wrong again.

In fact, just because I had asked for the coconut dessert did not mean that we were not getting the apple one. So dessert number two arrived, with the same principle: crunchy paper thin wafers of Granny Smith apples, a green apple sorbet and like a nutty chestnut crumble at the bottom. We saw them bringing it in, and one had a candle on it. “Oh, look, its someone's birthday,” said my friend. Turns out, the dessert was for me. I was the one with the birthday. Mr. Savoy had actually remembered that it was my birthday, and he brought me the best birthday 'cake' anyone could ever ask for. I blew out my candle and made a wish.

My birthday coconut candle

He came back to our table, and at this point I was able to start producing words again. We chatted, we thanked him about a million times, we gave him a present of some very special spices which he promptly took to the kitchen and told his head chef that they would be experimenting with at tonights dinner service. We followed him to the kitchen, took a picture together where he boasted to all the other chefs, “you see, this is what happens when you become a great chef, you get the pleasure of having two young ladies at your side.” Imagine that, Guy Savoy saying that we were his pleasure. I really dont see how the pleasure of hugging two girls can compare to the pleasure of the 12 life-changing courses that he offered us, but I guess its all about perspective.

We returned to our table, finished our 2008 Muscat du Cop Corse from Domaine Leccia, and once again, I made the “mistake” of asking a question. “In the video on your site I saw a chocolate orb that magically melted. What is it? Why? How....? What!?” The waiter explains that it's an orb of chocolate stuffed with banana and passion fruit sorbet, then topped with a hot mango and aloe-vera coulis and thats what makes it melt. I smile and thank him for his kind explanation. In 5 minutes, he comes back with one for me, and the “Noir” dessert for my friend, which consists of a chocolate biscuit with almond paste, infused with lime juice, cardamom and black pepper, served with a bitter chocolate sorbet. Bear in mind, this is dessert number 3. Ask and you shall receive I guess. We eat, we almost pop, and finally we ask for coffee. But no, its not over yet.

My melting orb

                                            My friend's Noir dessert 

With the coffee comes the dessert trolley (this is trolley number three), called the “tastes of my childhood.” It contains:
-creme caramel
-chocolate mousse
-rice pudding
-prunes in mulled wine
-rice pudding with pink pecans
-chocolate tart
-strawberry rhubarb tart (heaven!)
-different types of marshmallows
-chocolate and vanilla macarons
-almond shortbread cookies
-home made chocolates with little unidentifiable things on it
-plus like ten different sorbets, of which I tried the blood orange sorbet to go with the chocolate mousse, and then the bergamot sorbet with black pepper just because hell, at this point, why not.

This is what our table looked like

And then, finally, it was over.

We were the last people in the dining room. This lunch lasted from 12.30-4.45pm. With a total of 11 or 12 courses, 5 wines, 6 breads, 4 cheeses for me and about 7 for my friend, 3 desserts, two coffees and a million little sweets to nibble on while you drink your coffee.

We thanked them about a million times, were given our coats, and stepped outside into the crisp Parisian winter sun, feeling for the first time like a real princess.

I think that the waiters and Mr. Savoy could see that we were really just dying of pleasure and were unable to contain ourselves, laughing and staring at everything with wide eyes and open mouths. And in the end, I think that's why he invited us: the place was packed with fat, old, boring businessmen, and we were the only people there who were totally focused on the food, having completely given ourselves over to them. They guided us through 12 phenomenal courses, we listened to everything they told us to do, from the order that we should eat our cheeses in, to the breads, to the wines, everything. And I'm sure that they are probably sick of these boring people, who don't seem to be visibly enjoying their food. The waiters were happy to see us dipping our bread in our sauce and asking questions and mmmming and ooooohing and ahhhhhing and laughing. It's too bad that it was a once in a lifetime experience, because I could really get used to this.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

One week of eating extravagantly - the birthday feeding frenzy- Wednesday

We went to a Korean restaurant near Place d' Italie in the 14th called Oh Chapeau. I had never eaten Korean until now, so I figured it was best to end my 23rd year of eating by trying something new.

Hite: Cool and Fresh Korean Beer. And some sort of rice wine alcohol that is supposed to make you live long. I thought it was best I drink that since the next day was my birthday.

As far as the names of the dishes and the 3 different types of alcohols that I drank, this information is sadly missing. I repeat, drinking makes me lazy. Or it makes me think that I already took a picture of my drink and wrote down the name of my food, when in fact, I didn't.

Kimchi Crepe (super delicious but not nearly as powerful as kimchi on its own)

Grilled Raviolis and a Veggie Fritter

Korean BBQ!!!! Soooooo delicious!

For the BBQ, basically they bring you a mound of raw meat that is mixed with thinly sliced fresh spring onion, and then there is a juice that surrounds it in a little well. I have no idea what is in this sauce, but I'm fairly certain that it contains soy sauce and some vinegar. 

The plate is heated, and once the juice starts to bubble away, your friendly Korean waiter slash owner slash chef comes by and pushes all the meat into the juice with a pair of very fancy chopsticks that I think have been created solely for this purpose. The meat then cooks, at which time you can't touch it! And you just have to wait, and sit, and stare, and drink, and bathe in the wafts of meet juice steam that keep getting blown in your face. It's literally torture. 

Desert was a piece of green melon, so I didn't feel the need to take a picture. You all know what green melon looks like. 

This place is pretty cheap as well, and is generally filled with Asian looking people, which is always a good sign. There's one guy who seems to be doing everything himself, which is pretty admirable. And every time you order a little shot of very strong, unpronounceable differently colored alcohol, he opens a new bottle for you. Can't be very cost effective but delicious none the less.  

One week of eating extravagantly - the birthday feeding frenzy- Monday


Dinner at home with friends: champagne and gougeres, 1.5 kilo cote de boeuf with garlic potatoes fried in duck fat, salad, cheeses, home made tiramisu and home made mini madeleines. (Some pictures missing because drinking wine makes me lazy)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Amici Miei, or should I say, my New Best Friends?

So everyone was right.

Sometimes I really hate admitting that, but in this case it's true. Everyone: the Fooding guide, my friends, various blogs and websites, colleagues... Not one person had anything negative to say about this place, and neither do I.

Oh yeah, wait, I could say that they could have used just a bit more garlic. But that's really it.

Amici Miei. What is supposed to be the best Italian restaurant in Paris. What is, I am sure, the absolute best Italian food I have had outside of Italy.

I literally have nothing to say. (Except that I apologize for the shitty iphone pics--the low light is at fault, its definitely not because I had had too much to drink or anything. No no no.)

Linguine alle vongole? Amazing.

Pizza biancha with prosciutto di parma, pommodorini, garlic and mozarella di buffala? Amazing.

House wine? Prosecco? Little olives served as a side to the Prosecco? Amazing.

Panacotta all' pistachio? Amazing.

Tiramisu? Amazing (Just as good as my own in fact) 

Cute waiters? Yup! (Gay? Or simply Italian? Sometimes it's hard to tell...)

I think visiting a good restaurant is the biggest writing challenge. You are literally left speechless, wordless.

So all that I can say is Go. Eat. Drink. Be merry. And tell me if you liked it.

Amici Miei
44 Rue Saint Sabin
75011 Paris, France
01 42 71 82 62

Metro: Chemin Vert or Bastille 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Michelin Starred High-School Chefs

While reading my usual 'Direct Matin' on the metro on the way to work this morning, I noticed a little article that caught my eye. 

"20 school chefs have spent the day today learning different recipes from Guy Martin."

 They mastered everything from chicken burgers with comte cheese to an apple concassee with a Carambar caramel reduction. (Carambars are the French equivalent of tootsie rolls....although I don't think you'd necessarily want to melt a tootsie roll-it would probably ignite instead.) Now where I come from, we don't use the word 'school' or 'chef' in the same sentence. It just doesn't make any sense. For me, the school cook, aka the lunchlady, was a woman who wore a hair net and served me chicken nuggets with a side of tater tots and a carton of chocolate milk. But in Paris, or Val-d'Oise specifically, high school cooks used to work for Michelin starred restaurants. 

This initiative is part of a campaign called 'Our Schools Have Taste', which aims to introduce more sophisticated yet regional and seasonal delicacies that children may not usually be accustomed to, like vegetable bruschetta or mushrooms from Mery. The schools chefs trained under Guy Martin this morning in his atelier in Miromesnil, and will then return to their schools to spice up the menus. 

But were the chefs nervous about working with the Guy Martin? Nope, one of them had already cooked for Joel Robuchon once. Of course. 

Now I don't know about you but I find this story entirely absurd! The idea that a chef who once personally served Robuchon would then go and work in a high school cafeteria in Val-d'Oise (in the middle of bumfuck nowhere from the Parisian perspective) is just absurd. Absolutely absurd. 

It really makes me want to start a tasting tour of cafeteria food, because apparently thats where all the good chefs go to die. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Les Cocottes de Christian Constant

Ok, so it's been a while. In the time that I've been absent though I do promise that I have been eating a lot of 'new material', all to come very soon.

On that note, as the always-faithful follower of Anthony Bourdain's footsteps, I've just come back from having lunch at Les Cocottes, one of the hidden gems that he dined at during his last visit to Paris. (Although not so hidden anymore, considering the size of the lunch crowd...)

Just google Les Cocottes and you will get a myriad of raving reviews, how the food is astonishing and the service impeccable, the ambiance superb and the wine heavenly. Even David Leibovitz calls it a 'fantastic restaurant concept.'

Me, I say 'meh.'

Yes, the food was good. But not that good. Everything comes in beautiful Staub cast iron pots, but the dish I ordered wasn't even cooked in its cocotte; fillet mignon and beans is not something that traditionally gets stewed, is it? Luckily, there were a couple of dishes, like vegetables stewed in the cocotte (mmmm how exciting) and a boeuf bourguinon (yawn), that do indeed generally tend to be cooked in a Staub or a Le Creuset.

For dessert, I had a waffle which I'd heard was excellent; and I do think it could have been, if only it weren't slightly burnt on the bottom...not burnt enough to be black, but just enough to leave a lingering bitter aftertaste. The cotes du rhone I used to wash away that bitterness however was quite satisfying, but then again, when has a cotes du rhone never been at least fairly good?

And to top it off, the waitress sucked at counting and ripped us off a couple euros. Again, just a couple, bit still, enough to notice and leave slightly annoyed.

I just feel like it's a little gimmicky, a little too flashy. Yes the presentation of the food is beautiful as is the decor, and the food is very good, but it doesn't feel Parisian. French bistros are all about the relaxed, "I don't give a shit if you like it or not", laissez-faire ambiance. It's a kind of understated grungy-ness that you fall in love with because the food is so mind blowing that you're not even looking at the decor or the walls or the waiters. The French are cool because they pretend not to care about what you think, even if they secretly do.
All in all, Mr. Constant, I'm slightly disappointed with your cocottes. I had such high expectations thanks to you, Mr. Bourdain, who for the first time seem to have led me astray. Tis a sad day indeed.
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