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Friday, July 26, 2013

La Fontaine De Mars - Institutionalized

In accidental honor of the start of a real-life heatwave, with Paris finally joining the global warming trend, Co. and I hooked up with our Texan- pardners-by-way-of-New Jersey and now in Paris to stay for a dinner at La Fontaine de Mars, a Parisian dining institution in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.  You get to be called an 'institution' when you've been in business at the same address since 1908 - other than the same address part, I am rapidly closing in on
institutional status myself, but let's not go there.  For me and Co., this was our first return appearance at said institution in 13 years, a rather unimpressive debut for which all I could remember is that I ate something with an egg in it.  Not a good sign, but I was up for giving La Fontaine a second chance, the first since the famous "Obama ate there" cache.  Now expanded, the restaurant on this balmy Friday evening had a very open and airy feel about it,
with a stable of tables in the front, and scattered along an adjoining courtyard.  Even our indoor table had the feel of being outside, with the open area leading to the courtyard right off one side.

Another part of being a restaurant institution is that those tables tend to be filled, with a combo of tourists and locals, and the carte never seems to change.  Yes, there are eggs on the dinner menu in one façon or another, a peculiarity of the southwestern cooking emphasis.  One of the entree specialities, oeufs meurette (11€), or two eggs baked in red wine, shallot and bacon sauce, received high praise from our pardner who knows a thing or two about searing bacon in reduced red wine, and in his humble opinion, La Fontaine got it right.  I enjoyed my special plat du jour, supions a la plancha 21€), at least more than our other pardner who expected something more in the way of grilled.  Co. really appreciated her magret canard (29€), and once we swapped dishes mid-stream, I had to agree it outdid my calamari.  The three of us who opted for dessert all curiously trended toward lemon, maybe thinking the tarte du jour would slake the heat or something, and it did the job, without anything spectacular to tell granny about.  Here's a pictorial display for your delight (click to enlarge and save your eyes):

Roulé d'aubergine confite au chèvre frais (14€) - you don't see this on many cartes; nice sauce.

Terrine de canard Maison au foie gras (15€) - half gone, once Co. and I did our swap.  This trumped the eggplant dish.  I was surprised - positively - that this wasn't more of a jellied terrine dish.  Pretty tasty.

This here is the soupions Friday special, the baby calamari resting comfortably on a bed of mashed potatoes (21€).

Tartare de boeuf (21€) - how else to follow up reduced wine and bacon?

The lemon tarte du jour (11€)

All in all, an enjoyable meal, and as mentioned, I'm glad our pardners recommended it, because I wouldn't have gone back on my own after our initial rather disappointing excursion.  I can't remember the servers at all, which is an especially nice asset when you prefer to concentrate on conversation with your friends without unnecessary interruptions.  My gripe, and you've heard this before, is that the carte is of the 'a la' nature, lacking a more affordable fixed price menu.  Nonetheless, we did wine on the cheap, going with a couple bottles of the low-priced, but decent house wine,“Sélection Fontaine de Mars” at 16€ a pop, and the total for four came in at a reasonable 203€.  Check out those red and white checkered tablecloths - an institution in their own right.


129, rue Saint Dominique
75007 Paris
tel: 01 47 05 46 44

Saturday, July 13, 2013

L'Ebauchoir - Eat A Peach

I was up for something off the beaten path from the tour of the fancy neo-bistrots, which in the past months has included some old favorites and some new discoveries.  Something more traditional, an old Parisian mainstay, popular and summery with outdoor dining possibilities, now that we are deep in the heart of summer in the capital, and for once the weather is temperate and sunny and the livin' is easy.  Fish are jumpin', etc.  What do you want, I just learned a new jazz arrangement for Summertime on the guitar, so the tune keeps haunting me.

And so, verdict is in, L'Ebauchoir it was.  According to minimal research, everybody loves L'Ebauchoir for its conviviality, traditional and tasty cooking, at - drum roll, please - low prices and space for twenty diners out on the 'terrace,' facing the rather non-descript and shady rue de Citeaux in the heart of the Faidherbe - Chaligny area, where one week earlier, Co. and I had a terrific meal a couple blocks away at 6 Paul Bert.

One of the main reasons I chose L'Ebauchoir was to dine outside, but by the time we arrived in the early evening, the sun had deserted rue de Citeaux and Co., feeling a chill, pushed me through the door and the host did the rest, leading us to a small table by the window.  Even inside though, L'Ebauchoir was airy and open enough to suggest outdoor dining, so what the hey.  Well, no question, this is a convivial and popular joint - the host and his minions made for a laid-back, friendly, and competent staff and the atmosphere, filled with apparent locals, wall mural, and antique mirrors certainly made us feel at home, home being Paris, France.  The food and prices, however, served to undermine the overall experience, with disappointments on both fronts.

Heavy on meat, with a couple entree and dessert specials on the posted blackboard, it was quickly evident that long-term owners Thomas Dufour and Thierry Bruneau had a run on peaches this week, because a majority of dishes included peaches in one facon or another.  I was tempted by the entree special - a crab salad on avocado (14€) but instead opted for mozzarella buffalo with peaches in a green pea sauce (13€).  This dish looked better than it tasted, the taste being rather bland, although the pea sauce definitely served well for sopping via the tastier than usual slices of baguette.

Co's entree, the tuna tartare (14€), was probably the hit of the evening, with its large chunks of marinated tuna bearing an unidentified spice that left a curiously interesting aftertaste - in a good way.

On to the plates, with your's truly opting for the one main course fish dish on the evening's carte, a slab of tuna on a hefty and heavily marinated slice of eggplant, with pea pods, small roasted potatoes, and aforementioned peaches (22€).  Again, this looked better than it tasted.  I really had a hard time finishing this for lack of interest halfway through.  The potatoes were tasty, but the fish, which I had asked to be cooked 'a rose,' was in fact overcooked for my taste, and dry as a result, and the eggplant did not compute at all.

Not to brag or anything, but the fish tacos I concocted the night before were far superior to L'Ebauchoir's tuna dish, so why not take a gander at my own personal baby.  Light, spicy, and tasty - everything my main course at L'Ebauchoir was not.  Attention - you cannot order this fish taco dish at L'Ebauchoir, but if you would like the recipe, let me know.

Co. complained less, but was nonetheless uninspired by her lamb, potato puree (with three pieces of garlic embedded), and courgettes melange (20€).  Maybe it needed some peaches...

My dessert was a no-brainer, L'Ebauchoir's trademark dish, the traditional gateau riz (rice pudding cake), just like your mammy used to make if your mammy made rice pudding cake.  This arrived in a metal cooking container that contained enough gateau riz to feed four diners - you take as much as you want, which mirrors the restaurant's 'au comptoir' option for wine if you choose not to select an entire bottle.  For the wine, you pay as you go; for the dessert, you pay 7€, regardless of how much you consume.  Well, I don't deny, this was really good.  I disagree with one disenchanted diner's  online assessment arguing that this dish was overrated because the caramel syrup overwhelmed the cake.  I think that syrup really made the dish special.

Co. went with the dessert special, an almond mouse with raspberries, and seemed perfectly happy with her choice (8€).  Oddly, the chef apparently deemed the peaches to be appropriate for all menu items save the desserts. 

 As for wine, we opted for the special of the evening, a bottle of Poivre et Sel (Gamay, Pineau d'aunis), which was as light and fruity as the waiter promised (no peaches included, thankfully) (26€). Otherwise, the wine menu is copious and fairly priced.

As you can surmise, the meal was hearty - a carte, save the peaches, that would have been at home in the middle of winter, with its heavy emphasis on meat among its main dishes (with a vegetarian dish included, it is fair to say), more traditional than innovative, and no great shakes.  That's well and good when all you are expecting is an unpretentious, low-priced meal in a popular, pleasant Parisian bistrot.  But whereas I had been led to expect, from my humble pre-dinner research, something around a 60€ bill, we ended up paying nearly twice as much (110€), something you already know if you were keeping a running score as you read the above.  That's not outrageous by Paris standards and is, in fact, around what we usually pay (or at least not significantly lower) for the innovative neo-bistrots I usually write about.  In fact, it's a couple euros more expensive than the far more interesting and satisfying meal we had last week at 6 Paul Bert - in fact, no comparison.  L'Ebauchoir would have received less of my chagrin had their carte included a reasonably priced three-course menu, but alas, that was not to be had, and what you end up with is a price/quality ratio overwhelmingly favoring price.  My recommendation, if you must, is to go there for lunch.  Especially if you have a peaches fetish.


43/45 rue de Citeaux
75012 Paris
tel. 01 43 42 49 31
website:  http://www.lebauchoir.com/

Sunday, July 7, 2013

6 Paul Bert - Diner's Delight

Cross an upscale American diner (the place, not the person who eats in it) with a country store and voila you've got 6 Paul Bert, aptly named - though with no great originality - for its corner locale on rue Paul Bert, numero 6, and listed as one of Condé Nast’s Best New Restaurants of 2013.  Earth to bistrot - scratch one of the sixes on the facade, lest people think they are eating at  66 Paul Bert.  Bertrand Auboyneau is the Godfather of aforesaid rue, owning two successful restaurants there already: the mainstay, Paul Bert, of course, and L'Ecailler du Bistro.

When you enter you see the shelves of condiments - bottles and tins - which gives an initial impression of country story or urban farmhouse, but that first impression is quickly dispelled by the zinc bar, hanging silver lamps, two long rows of rectangular tables, both pretty much communal given the couple of centimeters than separate each, and small open kitchen in the rear, over which conspicuously hangs one of those retro primary school wall clocks.  Co. and I had little difficulty reserving about a week in advance, a bit surprising given the apparent popularity of the place, but this being the first 'grand depart' weekend of the Parisian vacances, maybe the fact that the Parisians are fleeing had something to do with it.  Still, can't complain about availability.

6 Paul Bert slants towards Septime originality, with a more Au Passage tapas motif.  Basically, what that means is that the dishes are excellent . . . but small.  My langoustine tartar dish was veritably microscopic - gone in a flash - but really really good.  The carte, see below, offers several choices which can be selected ala carte, but your best bet is the 42€ menu including your choice of three dishes and one dessert (or a cheese plate).  That should do the job - it did for us.  And as is usually the case with such creative concoctions, there may be some misses, but most of our dishes were unanimously hits.

    le carte, early July 2013 (click to enlarge)

Here you've got our first dishes - in the foreground, my tartare de langoustine and the purple chou-fleur . . . as good as this tasted, there should have been more.  By the time I got my mouth around the subtleties of taste, it was gone.  Poof.  In the background, Co's petit poulpes, courgettes and capers, a much more copious plate.  Co. didn't see much innovative about the dish, but once we swapped, I was more impressed, especially as the confit de lemon (I think) meshed with the bouillon de jambon, pouples,and capers.  Impressive.

Closeup on the tartare de langoustine.  Cross a lobster with a crayfish and it's offspring will come out not unlike a langoustine, the tartare almost sweet to the taste.

 Moving right along, next stop, my choice of bonite with chou rouge - the white glop is a faisselle a l'amande.  Not unlike raw tuna, this dish really rocked.  

Whereas Co. waited patiently to dig into her carpaccio de paleron de bouffe, with more chou and a radi  and  mayonaisse ciboulette.

For my third dish, I went with the artichokes, bulots, peas, and aoili.  I was least impressed by this dish, but fascinated by the odd pairing of bulots and artichokes.


Meanwhile, Co nearly fell off her chair with glee over this pigeon and mushrooms preparation.  Once again, an odd pairing of the pigeonneau and myrtilles fruit, made this a very special dish.

Dessert time - three choices, all seasonal fruit-based dishes.  I went red, Co. went grapefruit.  Understated and good, but not knock your socks off great.

No question, chef Louis-Philippe is not afraid to mix and match, with odd seasonal combinations which mostly seem to work.  Sommelie Solenne Jouan oversees the impressive and reasonably priced selection of natural wines.  We chose an inexpensive Touraine (La Butte Puzelat 2012) at 24€, bringing the tab to a 108€ total and an ideal price/quality ratio.

 If you want more, check out some of Louis-Philippe's other offerings here and here.  Or better yet, why not try reserving and eating there yourself.  Then post your photos here, really, it's allowed.  Don't be afraid.

street address:  take a wild guess
tel. 01 43 79 14 32
website:  huh?

The Godfather hisself.
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