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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rentrée 2010 - Greatest Hits

The famous French rentrée, for those who still aren't familiar with that term, signals the beginning of the post-summer vacation return to life for Parisians and beyond. The restaurants having reopened, the French are now allowed to dine out again. I want to thank whatever powers that be who make this possible every September, because I am always nervous that Parisians in particular will simply forget to come home. Once again, I have learned that fears be damned, it's back on the road to gastronomic delights and other assorted pleasures.

This time around, as is becoming my typical pattern, I decided to return to some favorite haunts, thus guaranteeing a smooth passage back into Parisian life. As I have already reviewed in detail the three restaurants I've frequented so far this month, I intend to be brief and simply signify the highlights, or, if you will, greatest hits.

First up was a typically satisfying dinner at Bistrot Paul Bert. Yes, the Moose is
back after virtually traversing the globe, and halfway around he said 'I do' - the permanent kind. Paul Bert's constantly changing blackboard menu, once again only barely readable, always seems to sport some interesting surprises, and the highlight for me during our recent dinner was an entrée consisting of a tartare de mulet au vinegre japonaise. I can't remember having a tartare comprised of mullet fish before, and if it was anywhere near as good as this entrée I definitely would have remembered it. I didn't brave the camera this time, but the accompanying image from the cookingout blog gives a good idea - take away the vegetable and that's pretty much what the Paul Bert tartare looked like. And it tasted as good as it looks. This was part 1 of a 3-course 34 euro menu. Meanwhile, the Moose, on the heels of sampling the culinary charms of Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Canada, and the UK, was hardly jaded as he praised his veal main dish effusively. Paul Bert continues to stand above a majority of similarly priced bistrots in the capital. It's not always inventive, but you know you won't be disappointed.

Next highlight came at the end of Co. & I's latest excursion to the suburbs at Les Magnolias, where we like to think of ourselves as regulars, and we hope that Mme Chauvel and her team feel the same. The hits at Magnolias this visit came at the periphery of the 3-course menu - the multiple amuse bouches and other assorted surprises that are served as accompaniments, including one of our all-time favorites, the famous Les Magnolias mustard macaroon, tiny but to the point. As for the dishes themselves, my heart belongs to a new dessert creation by chef Jean Chauvel, a chocolate 'mystere' praline et cerises. First you marvel at the aesthetically composed architecture of the dish, then you eat it, and the taste was as elegant as it looked. Co.'s highlight was an inventively prepared pigeon dish, the details of which have already faded from our collective memory. As is usually the case, quality comes with a price, and Les Magnolias prices have been slowly but steadily creeping up over the years to the current 3-course 58€ menu and 92€ menu dégustation levels.

My second excursion with Co. took place last Friday night at L'Agrume. This was our second visit to this new star on the Paris restaurant scene and it did not disappoint. It's difficult to select a highlight when each of the five courses could pass as such, but I'd have to say the consensus was the dish that on face value sounded the least interesting of the lot - the mousseline de chou-fleur - anguille fumé et oeufs de poisson. That's right, what amounted to cold cauliflower soup with smoked eel and fish eggs was right up there with epic. But not to be denied were the blue lobster - grapefruit and avocado cream entrée, the pavé de bar et beterraves rouges, the lapin roti - courgettes et citron confit, and a complex, artery constricting dessert that involved vanilla, cream and apples constructed as a guilty pleasure of the best kind. At 37€, L'Agrume's five-course menu degustation could well be the best deal in town, accompanied as it is by Karine's never-ending smile and altogether pleasant disposition, so what are you waiting for?

48, avenue de Bry
94 Le Perreux / Marne
Tèl (33-1)


18, rue Paul Bert
75011 Paris
tel. 01 43 72 24 01


15 rue des fosses St-Marcel
Paris 5
01 43 31 86 48

Note: If you guessed The Marvelettes, you are a gentleman/lady and a scholar.
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