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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Millésimes 62 - Middle of the Road

What to do when you need a place to eat in close proximity to Gare du Montparnasse? Well, if you know Paris, that's kind of a stupid question, because there are eateries coming up the wazoo. But this was the situation I was in, looking for a decent, last minute spot after picking up Co. at the station. La Cerisaie would have been perfect, just a hop, skip, and a jump outside the door of the station, but if you checked my last review, you know, been there, done that, and I didn't much like it. I thought of some of the famous Montparnasse brasseries like La Coupole and Le Bistrot du Dome, but I wasn't really up for the atrocious price/quality ratio they promised.

Now, how I came upon Millesimes 62, I cannot recall, but my 2008 Pudlo Paris guide recommended it highly, to wit: "Elegant and charming, flavorsome and vinic." I ask you, who the hell says "vinic"? I read somewhere what a great guide the Pudlo is (not so humbly named after its author, Gilles Pudlowski). Let me be the first to correct that. The Pudlo may not be the worst restaurant guide I have on hand, but it's pretty close. In fact, why mince words? It's lousy. Yet, ever in need of confirmation of my numerous, strongly-held opinions, I gave benefit to the doubt and reserved at M62. Situated elegantly and charmingly in an imposing batiment at the Place de Catalogne, right down the bvd Pasteur from the station, we were vinically welcomed by the friendly maitre-d Jean-Marc. I said 'Bonjour," Jean-Marc responded in English, always a bad start for your's truly. We were guided to an artifact-rich, nicely appointed dining room, which somehow gave me the impression that I was on someone's elegant and charming yacht. I don't know what gave me that nautical impression, but there was hint of a curiously unpleasant aroma in the room, probably attributed to an overly exuberant cleaning product.

I'm afraid my memory of the meal itself, unfortunately, is not as vivid in my long-term memory as Jean-Marc, the nautical ambiance, and the weird smell. We opted, as we are wont to do, for the three course menu, modestly priced at 29€. Co. was underwhelmed by her crumble de chevre chaud, sirop a la tomate. I fared better with a tartare de saumon. As for the main plates, check out my award-winning accompanying photos. To tell you the truth, I can't remember what the hell Co. ordered, nor can she, but I think it is very probable that she partook of the poitrine de canard roti, carmel d'epices. Whatever, her main dish came in a nice little container, with a nice boring half tomato on the side. I am afraid that her selection was neither flavorsome nor vinic. I selected the filet de bar a la plancha, courgettes confites (with a 1€50 supplement, quoi?). I remember the rather crispy skin of the fish and the rather tasty meat, but for some reason I had the impression it was taking me forever to finish the damn dish. I kept talking, eating, and drinking, as per habitude, yet the fish never seemed to diminish in size. There were desserts, and whatever they were, I'm sure they were okay. Co's impression of the whole Gestalt was decidedly more negative than mine, but basically let's just say the meal was nothing to write home about, wherever home may be. Too bad, because the Millesimes team really seem to be making a concerted effort to succeed. The aforementioned aroma notwithstanding, they've got an elegant and charming, and perhaps at times vinic, bar and dining room, they offer money-off discounts online, and the staff is friendly enough. Now if they could just do something to perk up the food, they might be on to something. (The bill: 87.50€, including a 28€ bottle of St Nicolas Bourgueil.)

May was a washout for me keeping up this blog, but a few eating experiences to point out before bringing this installment to a close. I'm not much of a lunch guy when it comes to dining out, yet circumstance--some non-French visitors during the month--required that I scope out a few spots in unfamiliar quarters for lunch. My research pointed me to two venues that more than proved to be up to the task. The first was just off the Champs-Elysee, near the Etoile, and around where my visiting companion was holed up in a 600€/night hotel. Not far away I found the small bistrot Oscar (still referred to as Bistrot Bizet in outdated guidebooks). We had a nice private table next to the opened facade, kind of half in/half out and had a very satisfying three-course lunch menu, a bit pricey at about 35€ per person with two glasses of wine a piece, but copious, and as I have always advised, if you can afford a 600€/night hotel room, you can afford a 35€ lunch. Oscar proved to be everything an extended lunch (over two hours) in Paris is supposed to be.

The second worthy lunch of note was around the eastern edge of Paris in the 20th, La Boulangerie. Just in town from the US left coast's sunny California via NYC to an overcast Paris, my companion and myself ambled over to La Boulangerie, one of those spots that has long been on my 'to do' list since Time Out Paris used to have a little English section in Pariscope. La Boulangerie met all the necessary requirements for a welcome to Paris lunch--a genial staff and full house, and well prepared three-course menu. Affordably priced 17€ menus, three glasses of wine, and two cafes came to a measly 54.50 for two. With savings like that, you'll have plenty left over to check out that 600€ hotel, if that's your cup of tea.

Just to add,the highlights of the month of May were two dinners at a couple favorites: La Gazzetta and Le Gaigne. Go there now.

Sandrine & Stephane Savorgnan
13/15 place de Catalogne
75014 Paris
tel. 01 43 35 35 35

6, rue de Chailoot
75116 Paris
tel. 01 476 20 26 92

15 rue des Panoyaux
75020 Paris
tel. 01 43 58 45 45

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