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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Braisenville - Coal Dining

Braisenville turned out to be a pleasant surprise in the Parisian SoPi (south of Pigalle) area, where as you walk downward from the Anvers metro, you look over your shoulder - not too conspicuously, for fear of people thinking you are an uncool tourist - just to see the Sacre-Coeur glowing atop the Montmartre butte.  Surprise because Braisenville is another one of those neo-bistrots that's been getting a lot of buzz recently (a development that always leaves me wary), popping up reviewed on those sites replete with comments like 'my husband found the meat too under-cooked, but I was just giddy over the duck.'  With my American friend, Mr. T (no relation to the mohawked ersatz star of The A Team), we entered with open (and somewhat lubricated from a few drinks along the way) minds, the two of us left more than satisfied, although perhaps not exactly stuffed.

A couple of noteworthy gimmicks at Braisenville, one related to ambiance (a sort of retro-contemporary mishmash that looks like anything but your traditional French bistrot).   Aptly described on one site as 'a seventies’ California roadside kitchen,' you get the impression of more open space than is warranted, despite the long lines of tables, with some variations of sitting high stools and bar seats that enable conviviality with other patrons, and an open kitchen for the foodie voyeurs among us.   The other gimmick, the important one pertaining to food, is belied by the restaurant's name.  This is the 'ville' that masters the under-exploited cooking method of the 'braise,' which essentially involves searing the food first over hot charcoal and then simmering in sauce in a covered container.  The carte is also pretty quirky, and not completely self-evident, but the servers are attentive, and appeared to have no problem answering our many questions, in English for the benefit of the illustrious, but non-Francophonic, Mr. T.  There is a small selection on the left of the three-leafed carte labeled 'affinage,' where one has the option of starting off with a plate of offers like dry, smoked Spanish beef (13€), cheese (10€), and ham (Pata negra Bellota de Guijuelo or jambon blanc a la truffe, 14€ and 13€ respectively).  These offers tout upwards of 36 months of 'affinage' or 'refinement.'  We passed on the affinage offers and dove right into the 'Raciones' - think larger, and higher quality than usual, tapas. 

The carte recommends a selection of 3 or 4 plates salees and 1 sucree, which is exactly what your's truly and Mr. T. opted for, respectively.    You get to choose from 4 options each of vegetable (8-9€ each), fish (9-12€ each), meat (11-14€ each), and mineral.  No, no mineral, other than the water variety.  Ever curious about the lowly beet, I took up Braisenville's challenge to try their betterave Chioggia, jaune, rouge, blanche, etc. - that is, beets prepared in 6 different ways, with an ice cream concoction in the middle.  Not for all tastes, but I was impressed.  We also decided on the emulsion de ratte du Touquet, noix, pleurottes, chanterelles, cresson - yes, that is just one dish, which was one of Mr. T's highlights; chair de tourteau de l'ile d'Yeu, bouillon de canard, verveine, citron; encornet, butternut, mangue, citron vert; ceviche de bonite, leche de tigre, patate douce (a Braisenville self-proclaimed specialty, which really rises to the occasion with the sweet potato emphasis); magret, pickles de shiitake, poire, salsifis, miso (one of my highlights, despite the pear, which I usually detest, but not here), and filet mignon de cochon, panais, sauge, oseille sauvage.  Our sucrees, or more simply, desserts, included the 'sur le green' and chocolat, noix de coco, cacao, cardamone, both of which rocked (7€ a pop).  Have a look at some of the results:

Don't think I've forgotten the third page of the carte - there at the top marked 'a partager' stands an impressive offer - a 1 kilo side of braised Black Angus beef, another Braisenville specialty, and one that would probably make the actor (and I use that term with much trepidation) Mr. T. more than content.  Judging by the sides of beef we saw waiting to be served, it's pretty easy to see how that could satisfy a moderately sized rugby squad, so if you are up for beef and going as a couple, be sure to bring your appetite.  Remember mom's admonishment, 'Put down those damn chips, we're eating dinner in 8 hours.'

Overall, I was impressed enough with Braisenville to want to go back, something I may shoot for soon with Co.  The server promised that at least a couple new menu items are added pretty regularly, and there were some options I'd like to try that I didn't this first visit.  Before forgetting, Mr. T. and I washed our raciones down with, fittingly, given the Spanish buzz, with a reasonably priced rioja, which the waiter seemed to suggest was more limited in distribution than warranted, given I think I had the same rioja in Lisbon a few weeks earlier.

Oddly enough, no one seemed us worthy of ordering a post-meal cafe, something T and I didn't realize until our second drink at the rather weird little cafe around the corner, Jolis Momes, 5 rue Turgot.  No loss.

I don't quite get what the large painting at Braisenville is supposed to signify, other than conversation, but I'm sure there's a story - maybe next time.

36, rue Condorcet
75009 Paris

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