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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Catching Up Before the Ball Drops - Gaigne, L'Ilot, Magnolias, 52, Will, Enfants Perdus, etc.

When you fall this far behind, catching up is more or less impossible, especially in the 6 hours or so hours before 2014 turns into 2015.  Nonetheless, always up to a challenge, I will give it a shot so that later I will begin downing many shots.  I'll be brief for the former, but probably not the latter, which I no doubt will regret on new year's day. 

What the hell have I been doing since Halloween night, my last post?  Glad you asked.

  • Bad news, good news:  Co. and I were really, really sorry that LE GAIGNE had left the Paris restaurant scene a couple years ago, although they left with the promise that they would return in a bigger, better venue.  Surprisingly, that promise was kept when the Beaubourg area mainstay reopened not far from the Gare St. Lazare.  It's bigger and better, though not necessarily better.  Everything has a more upscale feel about it than was true of Gaigne I.  I loved how we were all crammed into the original little spot on a blustery Friday night - great food, great atmosphere.  When Co. and I showed up on a Friday night a month or so ago, the restaurant was big and largely empty.  The food was maybe a notch or two better, the waiters accommodating and friendly, explaining in extremely convoluted terms how owners merged (business-wise, not what you're thinking), and a  5- course menu degustation that lived up to it's, as mentioned, elevated price (65€).  With a Cotes de Beaune thrown in at 34€, the meal for two came to 168€, taking us over the PRAB average.  Although close to the train station, Gaigne is unfortunately hidden away on a side street.  I hope they survive, though the empty tables during our visit were a bad sign.  I'd love to see this place get into a groove, loosen up, and dump the irritating muzak.

Le Gaigne menu degustation, Nov. 2014 (click to enlarge)

        RESTAURANT LE GAIGNE   2 rue de Vienne, Paris 8  (tel.

  • Try to find a decent restaurant around Gare du Nord, where the Moose and I decided to meet up, on a rainy, Sunday night... that is OPEN.  As a person always up to a challenge, I found this task to be nearly insurmountable.  We settled for the next best thing: a decent restaurant that was open on a rainy, Sunday night near the Gare de l'Est, one metro stop away.  This was the roomy but homey LES ENFANTS PERDUS, which was probably something like the fourth restaurant this year where I've eaten with the word 'enfants' in the name, ironically, because they don't even like children in Paris.  But there we were, feasting on a bottle of Morgon Thevenet (35€), dorade, sole meuniere, cote de veau , and a cafe gourmand.  It wasn't like fantastic, but it was filling and enjoyable and worth a return visit.  Dinner for two, with wine, came to 95.60€, minus one dessert, which the Moose typically foregos in order to maintain his buff shape.  And let me tell you, the night we dined we were rewarded with an amazing soundtrack over the speaker system - obscure garage stuff, 60s classics, some jazz.  It's rare to hear background music when dining in a decent restaurant in Paris, and even rarer to hear good music, but at least on that one rainy night in early November, it was a real treat, especially for a music fanatic like myself.
          LES ENFANTS PERDUS   9 rue des Recollets, Paris 10 (tel.

  • Co. and I always seem to have a craving for oysters once November rolls around.  I know, I know, that's not exactly unusual in France.  Although we still intend to make our annual end of year visit to Pleine de Mer, where the oysters can't be beat, we decided to try out the tiny little seafood joint in the 3rd, L'ILOT, which I had heard good things about.  I enjoyed our meal a lot, but it's hardly a venue you would go to with another couple for a lingering, candlelit, quiet dinner.  It's the sort of place I would be popping into a couple times a week if I lived in the neighborhood.  Seated at one of the wooden tables on stools, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal of mozarella poutargue, soupe poisson, oysters no. 3, brochettes espadon, kouign aman, and red wine (77€).   That's about all I remember, but it's another one to add to the list of 'places to go back to next year.'
         L'ILOT  4 rue de la Corder, Paris 3 (tel.

    • The gourmet tapas/open late trend continues in Paris, and I was happy to have had the chance to try out a couple spots that had been on my list for a while - 52 FAUBOURG SAINT DENIS and WILL.  Although both were excellent, I'm perplexed as to why Parisian restaurateurs are so name challenged.  When you have to resort to your street address or first name of your chef (William Pradeleix) to dub your restaurant, you have to wonder why all the creativity has to stop in the kitchen.  But I am being harsh, because after all, you don't eat the name (although it may seem that way when I try to pronounce my French the way a true Parisian might).  Moose and I had a nice time at 52, with our bottle of Chinon (28€), and not so small dishes of espadon, betterave, and saumon, with prices ranging from 8€ to 18€.  As is usually the case in trendy, hip spots like 52, I appeared to have double the age of the typical patron.  The Tuesday night of our visit in early December, 52 was packed and jammed with YOUTH, which always leads me to ponder the question - how can young people afford trendy, quality restaurants in Paris during an economic crisis?  An even better meal was had at the aforementioned WILL.  Meeting up with Co. on a cold, rainy (haven't they all been?) Friday night in mid-December, I had my new Lytros, focus after you shoot camera in tow and I took numerous photos of our meal.  A word of advice - don't buy a Lytros shoot now, focus later camera until the technology improves.  With dim lighting and no flash, there was very little the Lytros software could do to rescue my photos.  So you'll have to go to Will and eat there yourself.  Then you can upload your photos to this blog and I will thank you immensely.  By the way, the clientele at Will were a bit more in the adult age range than 52, and the venue had a more upscale, though still relaxed, feel about it.  We opted for the menu degustation at 45€, which turned out to be not much of an advantage over a la carte, especially for Co., who ended up not getting the dishes she was hoping for.  I liked Will - ahem, the restaurant - a lot and definitely WILL return in 2015 (I couldn't resist).
sample menu, Will (click to enlarge)

                 52 FAUBOURG SAINT DENIS   Paris 10 (no phone, no reservations - arrive early)

                 WILL   75 rue Crozatier, Paris 12  (tel.

  • Just last weekend, Co. and I returned for the first time to Lao Lane Xang 2 in the Chinatown around Tolbiac in the 13th.  We had a decent meal at the heavily Laotian leaning restaurant a couple years ago and vowed to return and order the stuff that was on other customers plates, which looked way, way better than ours, all of which seemed to be some variation of a soup.  So I did some investigating online first, checking out photos that previous patrons had uploaded, and then ordered some of the more appealing looking dishes.  This resulted in one of the more enjoyable meals we had all year.  We started off with a spicy salade de crevettes, seches sechees et nois cajou and laotian crepes, and then moved on to a couple amazing duck dishes.  There are tons of Asian restaurants in Paris, but Lao Lane Xang has defnitely become my go-to venue.  Ask for a table upstairs, but be prepared to rub elbows with your neighbors.
          LAO LANE XANG 2   102, avenue d'Ivry, Paris 13  (tel.

  • Biggest disappointment of 2014: LES MAGNOLIAS, RIP.  You have read my praises ad nauseum for one of my favorite restaurants in the world, Les Magnolias, just outside of Paris in Le Perreux-sur-Marne.  Well, when Co. and I returned there last late Spring, we could feel that something was different from the get-go.  The place was nearly filled at 7:30 pm, which was really, really odd, because usually, we'd be the first to arrive and action didn't start to pick up until around 9 pm.  If we had been more observant, we would have noticed that chef/owner extraordinaire
    Jean Chauvel's name was no longer on the canopy at the entrance.  We were greeted at our table by Madame Chauvel, who explained that she and her husband had only a short time earlier suddenly sold their restaurant and have decided to open up something new eventually on the west side of Paris (she was only there that night to give some assistance and advice to the new staff).  The name may be the same, but without Chef Chauvel in the kitchen, a decline in quality is nearly guaranteed.  And that's what we found - the meal was good, but merely a watered down version of the Magnolias we came to love . . . and at the same (rather elevated) prices.  This is a really sad turn of events because, man, we really loved what the Chauvels had going in Le Perreux.  Hopefully, they'll move on to bigger and better horizons at a new establishment.  I'll keep you posted, or vice versa, if you beat me to the punch.
New Year's 2015 resolutions:  1.  become more conversational on blog.  2.  get readers to contribute - that means you - if you don't comment, what fun is it? (just click the 'commentaire' link below).  3.  share some personal recipes/dishes (though I'm no expert, I like to eat and much of what I eat I cook).  4.  replace my Lytros camera - it's cool, but the photos are garbage.  Happy new year.

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