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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bistro Bellet - Belly Up!

It's been a couple weeks since Co. and I checked the latest PLACE TO BE IN PARIS, Bistro Bellet in the 10th, not far from Gare de l'Est.   I'll keep this short because, you're busy, I'm busy, who hell has the time?  Plus, I really don't remember much about the visit anyway.  Too much interference courtesy of another terrific dinner at Septime last night - what a great place.

Okay, if Bistro Bellet was great, I would probably be saying it and remembering a whole lot more, but I ain't getting any younger and neither are the neurons in the memory center of my brain.  Don't mind me, you don't need to know that.  Okay, BB may not be great, but it's pretty damn good.  And the great thing about BB is they are open early and they close late.  You don't find that too often on the restaurant scene in Paris.  As Le Fooding inquires: Où trouver une bouillabaisse à 23 heures un vendredi ?  I hear you.

BB filled up pretty quickly not long after we arrived around 8 pm.  Big spacious room, a bit too bright for my taste, but comfortable nonetheless.  Before I get into the details, let me give you a piece of advice if you, like me and Co., follow the Google map (or your handy smartphone app) to find the best route from Gare de l'Est.  Let me tell you, that's a short - but colorful - walk, harmless, but a little dicey nonetheless.  The direct mapped route has you walking through the Passage du Desir.  Sounds pretty romantic, doesn't it?  Well, it sort of is, until you get to the end and you see these two giant closed doors chained and locked.  That's right, the map doesn't show that, which apparently appears around sundown when people are going to the restaurant and Google photographers are snug in their lairs.  Back the way we came to the next through street to rue Du Faubourg St. Denis, numero 84.  A mere glitch in an otherwise pleasant evening.

The more I ruminate here about the BB dinner, the more I realize I'm looking forward to going back.  Traditional French cuisine, regularly changing carte, and enough originality to merit the trip to a dead end and then back again.  Unfortunately, I didn't photograph the carte, so I can't remember the specific make up of the dishes, but have a look anyway:

Poisson and roquette - excellent

bouillabaisse à 21 heures - their specialty, and it lived up to expectation

Tarte chocolate - good as it looks, but you probably won't write your grandmother about it

Bouille Bellet - not too impressive

As for entrees, we weren't too intrigued by the 5 or so offerings, so we ended up splitting a pretty standard salade de legumes.  That put us in the 2-course 32€ category, in lieu of the 3-course 36€ option, but as mentioned, there were a couple supplements.  A decent 27€ bottle of Cahors, bringing the total to 101, with a couple dreaded supplements thrown in.  Basically, BB is a bright new addition to the Paris restaurant scene, moving us in the right direction in terms of less rigidity in opening hours, reservations, stodginess and bread (Sangaré Bakary, chez Thierry Breton).  You're not going to get blown away by François Chenel's originality in the kitchen, but you won't walk away unhappy.

84, rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis
75010 Paris
tel: 01 45 23 42 06
Website:  What website?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Caillebotte - Isn't It Romantic?

The answer is: NO! 
And the question certainly was relevant on the Friday evening that Co. and I visited Caillebotte, the relatively new offspring of Franck Baranger (the chef), and Edouard Bobin's popular venue Le Pantruche.  Located not far from the Gare St. Lazare and the Grandes Boulevards in the South Pigalle district, you are guaranteed to get lost if you follow Google maps.  I speak from experience.  By the way, the Friday evening in question was Feb. 14th, better known as St. Valentine's Day.  Well into our meal, as I gazed lovingly into Co.'s deep, dark eyes, she looked at me and whispered, "It isn't very romantic."

She had that right - more on the modern side of traditional, Caillebotte, despite the misleading images you'll find at Googe images, is intimate, but not in a good way.  The space is pretty tiny, and if you don't luck out like Co. and I did and get seated at one of the solo two-seat tables, you can expect to be scrunched in-between other diners and hearing every word they coo.  We were lucky, as I mentioned, but still had the ornery waitress glaring at us from time to time, I guess a function of the fact that we arrived around 8 pm for our 7:30 pm reservation and came within, I surmised, about another minute or two from having our table handed over to a female duo waiting eagerly at the bar.  Ignorantly following the Google map in lieu of my more reliable little red book (Paris by arrondissements), I got us about as far away in the opposite direction as humanly possible before a human with half a brain would stop and say, "I don't think we're going in the right direction."

Well, enough complaining, if there's one thing that definitely recommends Caillebotte, it's the one thing that really matters - the food.  And here I had no complaints.  For a 3-course 35€ menu (plus - and I guess I can complain as I am wont to do when this element rears its ugly head - some supplements), the quality was well up to par.  Here's the barely visible carte from the evening of our visit:

click to enlarge

Round one, the entrees, went to your's truly with the poulpes - a unique combination of egg yolk, mushroom cream, chantilly fumee, etc.  Excellent.  Co.'s salade de legume d'hiver was less impressive, and pretty sparse when it came to the key ingredient that lured her in that direction, the smoked eel.  Still, pretty tasty with the chevre and parmesan crumble.

Salsifis aux poulpes de roche (+2€)

Salade de legumes d'hiver

Things stayed on a high note with the main plates.  I happily went with the one fish dish on the menu, the pave de lieu jaune, replete with the chapelure de pain brulee, cauliflower mousseline, and bouillon parmesan - the combination hit the spot.  Co. perked up with the scallops dish, St. Jacques d'Erquy, with fenouil de cafe and mousse d'oursine.  I remember reading a comment online from a dissatisfied diner who claimed to have been served unfresh scallops - no problem in that regard for Co.

Lieu jeune - terrible photo, I know, but sometimes with food porn, you've got to live with grainy.

St. Jacques d'Erquy (+5)

 Desserts hit the hat trick.

Biscuits russes (me, the sucker for anything pralinee)

Mousee au chocolate - not what you'd expect (in a good way, with black olives)

All told, with the two 'menus,' the supplements, a reasonably priced Pinot noir (25€), and one espresso (2€), the whole shebang came to a respectable 104€.  By dessert time, the St. Valentine's vultures - the ones with reservations for the 9:30 second seating - had begun to hover in the foyer and things got about as unromantic as possible.  The waitresses were stressed, the first sitting diners were lingering (me, over a cafe), and who knows what from the patrons who casually arrived a good half hour after us.  Not exactly the best ambiance, I grant you.   It may not be your candlelit lover's hideaway, and it may be spatially challenged, but as long as the food stays this good, they'll keep a-comin'.

8 rue Hippolyte Lebas
75009 Paris
01 53 20 88 70
website:  don't think so.

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