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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tour de Tapas

Fearlessly, I've been busy, even as the mid-August tumbleweeds roll past the better establishments of a (finally) sun-drenched French capital.  Oh wait a minute, it's now cloudy.  Whatever.  As suggested by this post's pithy title, my recent incursions into the Parisian restaurant scene - more accurately carried out just prior to the mass restaurant closings of the French vacation period - center on the tapas circuit, more or less.  Once again this is going to be a quick summary-type post, rather than an indepth review of any particular establishment.  Overall, I have four dinners to discuss, and I am happy to report that each left me with a smile and a thumbs up.

I know, I know, been there done that.  My full review from last February here.  This time, an extended meal/conversation with the Moose.  Back in town and big need to catch up, so the tapas motif served our needs well.  A last minute reservation got us two stools at the bar, which was fine with us.  Halfway through, we were kindly offered a table by one of the waitstaff, but we were fine where we were.  Our selections were each satisfying, and in fact, there's nothing really significantly different to report from my first visit's impressions.  Maybe I enjoyed the food more this time, or maybe it was just that I selected better.  Moose concurs.  The carte (click on image to view) on offer for our particular late July visit and some photos follow.

I started off with a refreshing and satisfying brandade de lieu jaune and Moose commenced with a refreshing and satisfying bowl of cresson soup.

 Next up, feeling very Irish despite his Canadian/British/Filipino pedigree, Moose stuck with the green (cucumber poutargue), whereas I've never seen a rouget dish that I couldn't say 'yes' to.

Finishing up, we got meaty, me with the magret and moose with the (no image) agneau.  I'd have to say my magret outshined the similar dish I had during the February visit - the grilled vegetables a very nice counterpoint to the lightly cooked magret.

Why we didn't order dessert I'm not sure, but it could be we had drunk ourselves under the bar by that point.  Too bad I didn't save the bill and I could have told you what wine we washed this all down with, but it was a tasty blackboard special - and of course, red.  Still the place to go if you are half my age - plenty of bright youthful faces at the tables - with friends, for an extended evening of wining and dining.  On this summer evening, Au Passage was a perfect choice.  We lingered outside for a while after the meal, chatting up some locals, including a disgruntled 20-something who was bemoaning her inability to snag a table that evening at Chateaubriand, and a couple enterprising young filmmakers.

1 bis Passage Saint Sebastien
75011 Paris
tel: 01 43 55 07 52

Much chagrined at having been left to her own devices in the kitchen while I was off gallivanting with the Moose, Co. and I followed up with our first excursion to a decidedly Spainish-oriented tapas joint, Agua Limon, situated in the 12th - and how I am starting to love this area between the Aligre market and Bastille.  Start at metro Faidherbe-Chaligny as the hub and you can walk from there to any number of terrific little restaurants.  Agua Limon itself is just a short walk from the Ledru Rollin metro, another good port of call.  
I haven't had much luck with Spanish tapas in the capital, but Agua Limon is a spot I definitely will be returning to; nothing spectacular, but pleasant, pleasing, and pretty authentic - the 3 Ps of something or another.  The open facade gave us a feeling of dining outside while inside the small front room; behind the bar runs another set of tables in a train car space.  A pleasant and helpful server guided us efficiently, but leisurely, through our tapas choices, some of which are pictured below.

To start, friture eperlans (9.30€). and poivrons grilles (5€).

Followed by friture calmars (9.30€) ...

Salicon pulpo (a highlight) (12€) ...

and poulet paprka (a bit too watery for my taste, but still pretty good, and a frequent choice among other diners) (7€).

Based on a small sample size, I'd say go with the seafood options, but you know what you like.  As I've never come across a Rioja I couldn't say yes to, we went with the Rioja Torres (25€) and were not disappointed; with coffee, the meal totaled out at 73.60€, so you can't beat the price for decent sized servings.

Agua Limon is small and informal, another great little summer venue in Paris, especially if your tastes lead you down the tapas route and you're nostalgic for those little dining sessions you remember so fondly from your last visit to Barcelona.

12, rue Theophile-Roussel
tel. 01 43 44 92 24

Another new try, and admittedly, a much more challenging venue for snagging a table.  Yours truly failed in that regard on several occasions before getting a wobbly, tiny square of a table on the so-called terrace in the alley off Rue du Faubourg St. Antoine one Friday evening shortly before summer shutdown.  Close your eyes and you are off a little piazza in Milano, but when the food arrives, open your eyes and you are off a little piazza in Milano.  From Spain to Italy, a couple metro stops away.  CDC is an apparent favorite on the local celeb front, at least judging by LeFooding's postings, so of course I had to check this out because I like to be where the in-crowd crowds.

As soon as you hit CDC it hits you back as to why it's difficult to reserve - the food is very good - everything prepared in house, from the mozarella to the pastas and sauces - and it is reasonably priced.  It is inaccurate to call CDC a tapas restaurant, but I don't know why, it had the atmosphere of one.  Here's the menu du jour upon our arrival:

And our choices, beginning with the soup (not pictured) and truly, truly mozarella  ...

moving on to the linguine and filet de maigre, equally outstanding and thus we swapped halfway ...

... and finishing up with fondant chocolat and sbrisolona, the latter of which was particularly outstanding (and again, we couldn't resist swapping mid-course).

Despite their blur, I hope the photos speak for themselves.  Beverage-wise, a decent Rosso di Montefalco (20€), bringing the total (sans cafe) to 95.50€.  

I'm not a repository of recommendations for Italian dining in Paris, but you can't go wrong on that front at Caffe Dei Cioppi.  I'm looking forward to a return visit during the winter, but I'm afraid that once you take away those ten or so tables in the alley, one's chances of capturing a reservation inside this spatially-challenged venue is going to be a mighty tough 'get.'

159, rue du Faubourg St Antoine
tel: 01 43 46 10 14
no website


As you no doubt know if you've been to this site before, Les Magnolias is a perennial venue for Mortstiff & Co., so I won't belabor the point (see my previous 2008 reviews here and here).  After a several month hiatus, we returned to Jean Chauvel's Michelin-starred establishment in the Paris banlieue of Le Perreux, after getting the distinct impression that M. Chauvel's magic was waning after his multiple rethinks of standard dishes.  Well, with our return during July, I have to say, resoundingly, that Les Magnolias is back.  New sauces, new ingredients, new structures, new conceptions, this was one fantastic meal, from start to finish.  Enough said.

 The carte (click to enlarge):

And some of our choices:

48, avenue de Bry  
94 Le Perreux-sur-Marne
tel : 01 48 72 47 43

So there you have it - another Parisian summer almost gotten through.  August may be bleak and hopeless for restaurants in the capital, but we do what we can to survive.  That's going to do it here until the much-awaited rentree in September.  By then, I hope for a diversion along the lines of a recap of some highlights from our trip to the US southwest.  From tapas to tacos, the beat goes on.

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