Monday, March 26, 2012
Le Pouilly - Middle of Nowhere
Well along the A4 towards Melun in the southeastern periphery of Paris metropolitan, if you blink your eyes at the wrong time you will miss Pouilly le Fort. This is probably why you no doubt never heard of this installment's feature restaurant, the aptly-named Le Pouilly, which sits in a quiet expanse on the far edge of that town. That's about as close as you get to the middle of nowhere in the Paris region. Thus, my quick caveat - if you don't have a car and you are coming from Paris, read no further, because I have no idea how you are getting there.
Whether it's worth the trek is a matter of opinion, because Le Pouilly has much to offer in its favor, but not unequivocally. First, since you're arriving by car, you'll need a place to park it, and Le Pouilly has that covered with plenty of gravelly spaces to the side of the restaurant. (A free parking lot - try finding one of those in Paris.) Once inside, you'll first notice a musty, ashen smell from the fireplaces and a lit candle on every table - and I am sure the huge slabs of cheese sitting not far from the anteroom contributed in no small part. Modern, Le Pouilly is not. Think 18th century chalet, it does have its charm, with an upper terrace of tables (for groups) and several tables spaced amply apart in the main room. Le Pouilly has many rooms, for larger functions, apparently.
In addition to the possibility of ordering ala carte, La Pouilly offers two menus, a three-course 47€ menu (two choices offered per course) and a fixed four-course 85€ possibility, with each menu featuring a meaningful 'first impression' (aka amuse bouche) and an 'avant dessert'. Co. and I opted for the el cheapo three-course and, as it turned out, it seemed like forever before we got out of there, so it was probably the wiser choice. Shortly after installing at the table, we were brought a platter of first, second, and third impressions, the highlight of which was a delicate creme of caulifower with vanilla, to be drunk straight out of the glass. This was followed by a fourth separate impression, a small rectangle of fish, lieu noir, floating on top of a puree of broccoli, a nice start to the meal, even if it did take us halfway into the lieu before our bottle of Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2007 Chanson (32€)was decanted and finally poured into our glasses.
I know you're wondering, so this is what the two menus looked like, in their entirety:
For photographic purposes, Co. and I opted for one of each of the entrees and plates, but neither of us was willing to forego the millefille with chocolate and crème pralinée for dessert (in lieu of the Poire William). Have a look, in order listed on the 47€ menu:
You'll notice that I snuck a peek at the cheese tray in there, despite the fact it was not included in the menu and Co. and I decided not to splurge on the additional 14€ per person, but though I have traveled far and wide, I have not seen a more copious cheese display - the photo shows only one of three similarly-sized trays that are brought to the table. One of the odd trio of rugby-sized gentlemen at the next table broke all recorded records with a nine-piece selection, god bless. Our loss was rewarded with an avant dessert offering and a nice little selection of tidbits to accompany the cafe. Extras, extras, that's what I'm talking about.
Highlights? I gave two thumbs up to the entrees, an admirer as I am of betterave, which accompanied each dish, meshing particularly well with the foie gras. The dish that truly excelled, however, was the daurade, a succulent piece of fish whose subtle flavors soared with the carrot curry with dollops of yogurt sauce. Very, very nice. Less to say, unfortunately, about the magret, which did not impress. No complaints about the millefille.
Service was attentive until the room filled, but by then our waiter had visited frequently enough so that we ended up with barely one glass apiece by dessert. Co. found the entire staff rather off-putting, and I may have as well had I paid attention. Asking for directions while waiting for our coats, I got a little uncomfortable when Igor opined to Dr. Frankenstein that 'zay vish to leave ze chateau, heh heh,' but I'm sure they are perfectly nice once you get to know them.
Overall, for a meal off the beaten path - actually that's 'way off' the beaten path - you could do worse than Le Pouilly. I could see returning, maybe one lazy weekend afternoon for an extended lunch, but as it is, maybe it's just better to wait for the price of petrol to go down a bit.
1, rue de la Fontaine
Pouilly Le Fort
77240 Vert St Denis
tel: 01 64 09 56 64