Sunday, June 14, 2009
A return visit to Ze Kitchen Galerie and I would have to say this is rapidly becoming one of my favorite dining spots in Paris. Nothing much to add to my description of the ambiance, design, service, and food quality as explicated in my February review, so I think Ze (can I call you Ze?) ages well. This time we (me & Co., that is) had the wall on one side and a couple of entertaining Brazilian girls on the other side, resulting in less of a sense of claustrophobia than experienced during the St. Valentine's visit. Anyway, one becomes accustomed to the sardine effect in many local restaurants, what with their particular predilection towards aligning square tables along the walls boxcar style.
This time around, we wrapped our taste buds around two formidable entrees. Co. won this round with her choice of the "crevette obsiblue" dish (21€), a minimalist preparation of shrimp, eel, and snails, with garlic and ginger enhancement. The French/Asian fusion emphasis of chef William Ledeuil hit a high note here, with the garlic and ginger adding a flavorful, but not overwhelming, boost to the seafood. My choice didn't hit as high a note, but given my guilty pleasures of powerful and contrasting flavors, I couldn't have chosen better with the Daurade marinee, the marinated fish accompanied by mango thai kelamenji, a thin slice of mango (21€). This dish had a strong citrony taste, no doubt a function of some unadvertised lime. When the waiter asked if the first course did the job, I was half tempted to add 'and I'll have whatever she's having' to my 'oui.'
On to the main course. Co. opted for the canard de challans confit-grille, jus teriyaki-grotte, an Asian-influenced preparation of slightly cooked duck (33€). Extremely tasty, but I prefered the more imaginative take on tempura; to wit, tempura de crevettes and blanc de seiche grille, marmelade d'aubergines, and vinegrette sesame (34€). The two large lightly battered shrimp mixed will with the thinly sliced, grilled cuttlefish, eggplant marmalade and sesame vinegrette. Two more thumbs up.
I know, dessert, the part you've been waiting for. If you've read my earlier review, you know where this is heading. Once again, like addicts waiting for their next fix, we'd been looking forward to a second go of the glace au chocolat blanc et wasabi (11.20€)(see photo at the top of this post). Now, I realize it would be presumptuous of me to declare that this dish is truly the best dessert in Paris because, well, I haven't tried them all, and though I may aspire to that objective, it is clearly beyond the realm of human endeavor. I do think any dessert with white chocolate already has an advantage over any challenger. But kudos to anyone who would imagine the combined effect of white chocolate and wasabi pastry, and, oh yeah, coconut milk, vanilla, green tea, crumble, and pistachio. Chef Ledeuil is that man. It may not be the best dessert in Paris, but I guarantee you will not be disappointed, and I also challenge anyone to find a better dessert in Paris. The prize? How about the recipe for the chocolat blanc et wasabi dish? Why wait? Here it is, fresh from the France Chef.tv website.
Now, if you can't read French, you can use the Google translator, and if you can't comprehend the resulting gibberish, I invite you to watch Chef Ledeiul's video preparation of the dish at the France Chef.tv site. Of course, if you can't understand spoken French, then you're sort of out of luck, just watch what he's doing and imitate it, or bring a French-speaking friend to your computer and you'll be fine. If you can understand French, you may, like me, get a good chuckle hearing the illustrious chef describe the process as 'tres, tres simple' with a straight face.
Dinner for two, with coffee and wine (2005 Madirin de Crampilh, 24€) - 162€
ZE KITCHEN GALERIE
4, rue des grands augustins
tel: 01 44 32 00 32
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Let me be the last to break the news – during his recent breakneck whirlwind visit to Paris, Barack Obama took Michelle to dinner, and they ate at . . . drum roll, please . . . everybody say it: La Fontaine de Mars!!! Yes, please let me be the last. Already, a Google search of “Obama’s dinner in Paris” turns up more than 2.4 million hits. Forget about the Middle East, international terrorism, GM, the lunacy of Kim Il, and this week’s EU parliamentary elections, everybody wants to know, WHERE DID OBAMA EAT IN PARIS??? And with 2.4 million Google hits, you would have to think that everyone on the planet already knows the answer to that question.
Of course, the WHERE and WHAT (we’ll get to the latter later) are only two of the basic journalistic W questions for any good story. More intriguing, at least from the French perspective, is WHY?, as in “why did the Obamas snub the Sarkos’ dinner invitation?" That question, as we all know, is pretty much a no brainer. And that brings us to WHO?, as in "who would want to spend an evening dining with Little Napoleon and the Model, when you could be having a nice, quiet romantic dinner in a casual bistrot alone together" (albeit along with the buzzing hordes of media and rubberneckers - see accompanying photo - just outside the door) in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower? Like I said, a no brainer. Rumor has it that Little Nap wanted nothing more than to impress the Obamas with an elegant dinner at the spectacular Jules Verne, an Alain Ducasse restaurant on the Eiffel Tower. WHEN you are a full 5-1/2 inches shorter than Michelle, as is Little Nap, maybe it’s not so obvious up there on the ET. Who wants to dine in the shadow when you can be part of the shadow itself? Well, obviously not the Obamas.
And so Le Fontaine de Mars it was, although the romantic dinner was not as intimate as first thought. Daughter Malia was there along with two other guests, and no the other guests, contrary to a rumor I am starting here, were not Mortstiff & Co. The two of us have indeed dined at the restaurant, also with a couple visiting American friends, although it was several years ago, well before I become the famous Paris restaurant blogger that I aspire to today. For all I know, the Obamas may have been seated at the same table Co. & I occupied at one time, so I’m thinking it could be true when I tell people that I shared a dinner table with the Obamas! As for our visit, I remember being exceedingly disappointed with the menu offerings, and the meal was quite forgettable. Nonetheless, probably not a bad choice for the First Couple, who no doubt opted for tactfulness over extravagance in choosing an unpretentious venue during a global economic crisis.
La Fontaine is a very old Parisian bistro which specializes in hearty Southwestern cooking (foie gras, confit de canard, you know the drill). This brings us at last to the WHAT question, as in "what did Obama eat?" You will find the answer among those 2.4 million Google hits, although not a very consistent one. Second drum roll, please ….. Lamb! No, duck! You’re both wrong, it was beef! Chicken, anyone? If you said beef, you were partly right – that was everyone’s choice but Barack’s. The answer is found in this statement from the Associated Foreign Press: "They [The Obamas] were very pleased. They said that they had had a 'wonderful meal'. The President was very friendly. He had gigot d'agneau and an île flottante. No wine, just water. The others had fillet of beef and crème brûlée." So if you said "lamb," you win. No wine? Sacre bleu!
Anyway, enough of this dinner story. It wasn’t half as interesting as the way the French media followed Barack in France, which was more about a visiting rock star than a foreign head of state. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that the French are absolutely gaga over the Obamas. And let’s face it, they have their own supermodel First Lady in the Elysee, so that’s saying something. But then again, I think the whole world would be gaga over anyone who succeeded W (viola, I knew I’d get another W in there), for the sole reason that he or she is not Bush! But the French seem so intent to dub the Obamas as the second coming of Camelot that their noted anti-celebrity journalism guidebook is thrown out the window at the very mention of the name ‘Obama’. This afternoon, for instance, much of the round table discussion on my favorite French TV show, ‘Le Grand Journal de Canal+,’ (okay, I admit it, it’s the sexy, comedic weather girl that has won my heart, in addition to those hidden camera shots of ministers picking their noses and dozing off in the French Senat – now that’s entertainment!) was devoted to the Obama visit. And if the discussion was any indication of perceptions here, Barack is Monsieur Cool (or, more accurately, as they pronounce it here, Cooool-le). A highlight of the Canal+ show was a montage of the laid back Obama White House – Obama casually eating an apple in the Oval Office, Cooool-le!; his minions gobbling handfuls of M&Ms, Cooool-le!; Obama tossing a football back and forth with an aide, Cooool-le! Ooh-la-la.
Back on the other side of the pond, it is amusing to see how some New York restaurateurs—and I use that term in the loosest sense—are doing their best to capitalize on Obama’s rise to the presidency (see accompanying photos). There’s Obama Fried Chicken – already the target of protests launched by councilmember Charles Barron because “Fried chicken, watermelon and minstrels are part of the racial stereotyping of black people in America” (p.s., please don’t repeat this to the French – they already think Americans are weird). And let’s not forget the pioneering Crown Heights restaurant, The Obama Flavor, a Jamaican/Soul food joint that opened last March. You would think either spot would be a perfect place to host the little egomaniac who loves everything America (I love you Bush! I love you Obama!) and his Model, when they deem America worthy of their estimable presence. Now that would be Cooool-le!
Saturday, June 6, 2009
When you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll. Fresh off the very satisfying dinner at Casa Olympe, a visit to the even more spatially-challenged 24-seater, Le Temps Au Temp, resulted in an equally favorable dining experience.
After a bit of typical Mortstiff chicanery, leading Co. into thinking we were returning to one of our frequent haunts, Le Bistrot Paul Bert, I grabbed her hand and led her across the street explaining we should check out Le Temps, a “place where it’s virtually impossible to get a reservation.” Hey, have to keep things lively and fresh. It didn’t take Co. more than two seconds to see through the ruse, and it didn’t take me more than a week in advance to get the reservation. Thinking that the recession might finally be denting the Paris restaurant scene, that idea quickly evaporated as the tables started to fill up at this tiny little spot (a dozen tightly-packed tables) in one of my favorite non-touristical areas for dining in Paris. Rue Paul Bert has its aforementioned namesake and next-door seafood counterpart, L’Écallier du Bistrot; around the corner is one of the better Moroccan restaurants in Paris, Mansouria. In short, if you’re up for a good meal, you can’t go wrong by getting out at Faidherbe-Chaligny metro stop. Just make sure you’ve reserved someplace first.
More casual and welcoming than Casa Olympe, Le Temps is without pretension. Thus, despite the tight squeeze, the experience tends to be pretty laid back. Forget about Fodor’s promise that single diners can sit at one of the stools in front of the bar. That’s a no go - no stools during our visit, but sure enough, behind the bar, mounted on the wall was a large facsimile of a clock – hence the name (‘Time to Time’). A single diner seemed to be enjoying herself at one of the two outdoor tables set up in front of the restaurant.
Taking the place of a fixed menu was a chalkboard listing of the day’s 30€ fixed price offerings. I’ve already lamented my distaste for the largely illegible chalkboards hanging from Paris est to Paris ouest. To its credit, Le Temps had at least one blackboard in full view on every wall, which didn’t necessarily make the task any easier for your’s truly. It’s not my fault my eyes aren’t getting any younger, and poor Co. isn’t faring much better. Together, we mounted a full-blown effort and made our choices. I opted for the linguine de saumon marinee with avocat moussiline and mint leaf. Co. went with the queu de langoustine au fenouil. Both dishes were creative and tasty. Now for the embarrassing part of this review. After the entrees, I settled into an eating groove and stopped taking notes, thinking I could not possibly forget the specific details of all that ensued. Well, beyond the memory of a fish plate with celery mousse for me, and an immaculately prepared plate of lightly cooked chunks of duck for Co., I am at a loss. Instead, have a look at some representative photos that I borrowed from a foodie froggie’s blog. I do remember our wine, a lusty domaine des Vercheres Bourgogne 2006 (27€), which did the proverbial job and then some. Although forgotten in detail, the overall experience was of an above-average, understated, but thoughtfully prepared dinner. We’ll definitely revisit, a compliment if I’ve ever heard one.
LE TEMPS AU TEMPS
13, rue Paul Bert
tel.: 01 43 79 63 40