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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Second Helpings

Who says you can't go back again?  While I may try to adhere to the 'been there, done that' approach when it comes to cities, apartments, cars, employers, and ex-girlfriends (the latter especially given my marital status), when it comes to restaurants, one of my main goals is to find a place that I want to go back to.  And since the conception of this blog, my list of 'must return to' venues, I am pleased to say, has been growing.  You know which they are because I often return to them in my reviews.  So return it has been over the past month or two, albeit with mixed results.

Back around mid-May, Co. and I returned for the first time to the Asian restaurant Sala-Thai in a discreet alley in the 13th, where we had a pretty good meal a couple years ago.  Sala-Thai is much praised online, although our first trip there was undermined by having all the dishes we ordered brought at the same time.  By the time the table was cleared, I scratched my head thinking, what the hell just happened?  We didn't repeat that mistake this time, asking for and receiving a more reasonable pacing between plates.  Trying to dispel a wet dog smell in the dining hall, we fathomed the rather endless menu.  This time the spicy moules (11.25€) weren't as compelling, though still a good start, my fish brochettes (9€; 1st photo below) had the texture of fish (good point), but the distinct taste of chicken (bad point).  My pot of Pla op Mordine with cabillaud (11.25€; 2nd photo) was satisfying in the traditional Thai way, with plenty of ginger and coconut.  We also ordered the Ken Phed Ped, nice name whatever it was (11.25€), a plate of broccolli (3rd photo; 8.10€), riz gluant (2.10€), jasmine tea (€) and a half bottle of Chinon (7€).  At 61.95€, the meal was nothing spectacular, and there are myriad other Asian restaurants in Paris where you probably could do better.

13 rue des F. d'Astier de la Vigerie
7501 Paris
no website

Next up, a first return to Chatomat, which appeared so promising back last December.  Once again, I was more impressed than Co., only not as much as I was during the first visit.  My meal was very good, somewhat on the plus side of imaginative, but unfortunately, pretty forgettable.  True, I don't remember much that happened two days ago anymore and our dinner at Chatomat was just under two months ago, so it's a bit unfair to say that the meal at Chatomat was not very memorable.  A couple of photos jog the memory a bit, and here they are, the maquereux, pickled onions, and eggplant entree, followed by the fish of the day.  I always tip my hat to a chef who can make maquereux a savory dish, which was the case at Chatomat.  Two three course dinners, a Chinon, and one post-meal cafe clocked in just under the century mark at 96.50€.  The jury is still out as to whether we will make a third trip to Chatomat.

6 rue Victor Letalle
75020 Paris
no website

Now, the best for last.  A third visit - I am proud to say given the torturous process of trying to reserve there  - to Le Chateaubriand.  Bear in mind, there is no summer this summer in Paris.  It rains, period.  Co. and I needed some cheering up, and so we jumped at the chance to hook up with our good friends in town from the lone star state's San Antonio, who we seem to see more frequently in town than our next door neighbors.  The evening got off to an enjoyable start at the Baron Samedi bar around the corner from the restaurant.  I had never been to that drinking establishment before, but was much intrigued by the online description of BS as 'one of the world's best bars' and 'the grooviest bar in Paris, a sensual deity in Haitian voodoo beliefs.'  I'm sorry to say, despite the conviviality of the bartenders and the exotic descriptions, the place is a dump, but it did the job.  Limited in the gin category to City of London, I was kind of happy to stumble back out into the rain and into the oasis of Le Chateaubriand.

Firmly inserted into a back table next to the kitchen, we were each handed a sheet of paper describing the fixed menu of the day, this all happening at the end of week one in July (still raining).  Three amuse bouches followed by:

  •  Pistes, aubergine, framboise, basilic  (1st photo below)
  •  Turbot, fenouil, poutargue (2nd photo)
  • Veau (or poisson for the non-meat eater), tomates (3rd photo, fish version)
  •  2 desserts:  Cerise; Tocino del cielo
I should add that if you double the price of the menu (2X60€), each dish comes accompanied by a chef-selected glass of wine.  However intriguing that might sound, that price differential seems a bit over the top.
Without going into the details of the subtleties of taste, the formidable dialectic between the various ingredients, I will get to the point and tell you this was an epic meal.  I guarantee you I will remember that turbot enmeshed in fenouil well beyond two months and believe me, that came in second to the pistes dish, a marvelously exotic and imaginative dish - the best I've had in Paris this year.  Enough said.  It's no wonder that Le C. is considered by some as one of the best restaurants in Paris. What's more, chef  Iñaki Aizpitarte's philosophy is to keep the prices down, asserting that he'd rather have a restaurant where his friends would be comfortable dining than to have a restaurant filled with rich people.  One of those friends, perhaps, was the owner of four well-known restaurants back in San Antonio, USA who stopped by our table for a chat, having recognized our Texas companions.  He has my card, so if you're reading, remind me of your name and restaurants and I will be happy to plug them here.  The fixed-price dinner for four, at 60€ per person, including a 7€ bottle of Evian (which I accidentally ordered), a Cotes du Rhone (34€) and Langedoc (34€), and post-meal cafes took us over the 3 century mark, or 162€ per couple, a more than reasonable price for a memorable meal.

 12 rue des Goncourt
Paris 75011

129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011
Paris 75011
no website

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