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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Mamagoto - Asian (Con)fusion

Finishing up the year with a five-minute walk from Gare du Nord to Mamagoto.  Normally, Co. and I would be hitting Le Pleine Mer for our traditional end of year plates of salmon and oysters, but the oysterman was so overwhelmed with holiday orders, all the tables were piled high with crates of oysters and unavailable for diners.  You'll have that.

So, I thought, how about we check out this Mamagoto for some gen-u-ine Japanese fusion, n'est pas, virtually in the same neighborhood as the oyster place?  Pourquoi pas? was Co.'s lilting response.  And why wouldn't I expect some original Asiatic fusion cooking?  After all, if you do a Google search for Mamagoto, the restaurant's website link comes up first with the descriptor, cuisine franco nippone.  And right there on the website in big bold letters you will find the following phrase, La 'dinette' Japonaise'.  Imagine, simple little me thinking that there would be some Eastern accents to my anticipated meal.  NOT!

That's right, not.  As in 'Mamagoto is NOT a Japanese fusion restaurant, or 'dinette', whatever the hell that is supposed to imply.  Just call it a restaurant, or bistrot, or place to eat, Jesus H. Christ.  Dinette?  Give me a break.  You want to know why they call it cuisine franco nippone?  I'll tell you.  There's a Japanese chef (Koji Tsuchiya) in the kitchen who, I was so elegantly informed by our server, just may throw in some Japanese spices in some of the dishes, maybe.  Okay, now I know.  And so that you will as well, here's the team, directly from the Mamagoto website.

The interior is minimalist modern/industrial, a nice-sized room with bar, and the staff was decent enough, despite warnings in online reviews about their being more on the cold side.  They did seem to enjoy each other's company more than they did their patrons, but that's only a guess on my part.  The menu is a little perplexing at first, but essentially it boiled down to some snack items ('picorer'), cold plates, hot plates, three choices for sharing, and desserts.  Click on the tiny carte below for more specifics.  By the way, this isn't the carte we had the night of our visit, but it's pretty close.

Even after the explanation it was tough to understand what would be a reasonable number of plates to order, but when in doubt my tack is typically, More!  So we opted for two picorers - the pimientos and the terrine.  Co. wasn't exactly enthralled by the terrine.  As for the pimientos, I haven't had a heaping plate of the peppers since Lisbon and although they were pretty good, I was bored about halfway through.  Copious, though.



I took a cold plate - oysters, deux - and Co. opted for the L'Os à Moëlle.  Big problem with the stuffed bone - undercooked.  You haven't ever heard these words, at least I don't think so, on this blog before, but here they are:  'we had to send the plate back.'  

les huites

L'Os, upon its returned fully cooked

The highlight of the evening was the shared dish, two hefty portions of turbot with carrots.  At 40 euros, I'm glad to say it didn't disappoint.

And we finished, as one is wont to do, with a couple desserts, a chocolate sorbet dish and a millefeuille, the latter of which I preferred even though I'm not really a millefeuille kind of guy.. 

...and the bottle, a 24 euro Julien Ilbert - Pur Fruit du cause cahors:

Don't go to Mamagoto expecting a dazzling Asian fusion experience - expect French cuisine- and maybe your experience will be more satisfying than mine.  It's an interesting place for what it is, another Parisian neobistrot run by a trio of young guys who probably will have moved on in a couple of  years, if not sooner,  to other culinary heights.  Still, the undercooked entree, the 1 euro charge for a carafe d'eau (really?), and that Japanese fusion glitch most likely add up to my not going back.

The grand total for two:  115 euros.

5 rue des petits hotels Paris 10
tel. 01 44 79 03 98
website:  http://www.mamagoto.fr/

Ouvert de 12h00 à 14h30 et de 20h à 23h du Mardi au Vendredi et de 12h à 23h le Samedi

La Vague - Change of Pace, South American Style

You have to admit, much of Faubourg Saint-Martin doesn't make it into many Paris tourist guides.  Walking from the metro, Co. and I passed about 20 hair salons catering to African women - it was Friday evening, and every single one of those coiffeurs were filled to the gills.  Then you have Passage Brady, an alley jam-packed with Indian restaurants leading onto the trendy, cafe/restaurants galore Faubourg St. Denis.  Definitely a melting pot of a neighborhood.  Jammed into a small spot on the otherwise pedestrian Saint-Martin is the little cantina La Vague, a kind of Peruvian/Asiatic concoction. 

This was a pleasant change from our (that would be me and Co.) more typical high gastronomy neobistrots.  More of a fun place, but not exactly fun in the sense of, say, a pillow fight with a trio of nubile 18-year-old babes or, say, waiting four years to hear all those rust belt supporters of Trump say 'gee, uhm, we were really conned.  He really is insane.'  No, maybe fun isn't the correct descriptor.  

The menu options at La Vague are pretty limited, falling essentially into three categories:  les ceviches, les tatakis (dishes built around black angus rumsteak), and les butifarras(Peruvian sandwiches).  There are also some side dishes, including the one we took, causa poulpe (a mound of cream with  kalamatas and poulpe).
In order of the photos, we opted for the Peruvian ceviche (with sebaste fish and tiger milk) (15€), tataki sesame (14€), the butifarras vegetarian (11€), causa poulpe (7€) and two desserts, the carrot cake (7€) and tres leches (7€).

This is the ceiling mobile

Overall, a pretty decent change of pace.  This is probably a better option for lunch or a relatively inexpensive spot to hang out with a few of your pals.  I would have liked to have seen a few poultry dishes on the carte or perhaps a special of the day or two.  My guess is that your meal would get pretty repetitive after a couple visits.  Co. and I had a nice drink beforehand at the cool theater cafe a couple doors up from La Vague.  If you hit the cantina for lunch, you can always take in the beautiful (ahem) sites of the Faubourg Saint-Martin, then pass through the Passage Brady, get a few drinks on Faubourg St-Denis and then hit 52 Faubourg St-Denis for a tapas-oriented dinner.  Hey, whaddaya think I am, a tourist guide or something?

The price for two, including a bottle of Pinot Noir (23€) = 84 euros.  Fair enough.

38, rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin   Paris 10
tel. 09 86 69 80 70
website:  http://la-vague-paris-75010.zenchef.com/

Lundi - Vendredi 12h00 - 15h00 / 19h30 - 23h00
Samedi 12h00 - 15h00

Tondo - Bring your magnifying glasses

Fresh from manning the helm at the overrated (and now defunct) Roseval, chef Simone Tondo has now taken over the helm at the ex-La Gazzetta, a venue I've written about on this site a few times before.   La Gazzetta descended from the pinnacle after the departure of phenom Swedish chef Petter Nilsson and was just never the same.  It eventually closed in, what, something like early 2015?  In its place, with a modest sprucing up of the interior, is chef Tondo's incarnation, the aptly named Tondo.

As with Fulgurances (see my previous post), Tondo has quickly gotten a lot of positive buzz - Le Fooding, Telerama, all the usual suspects.

I've always appreciated the interior at 29 rue de Cotte - two large rooms, a well-appointed bar just past the entrance in the front room.  Co. and I were led to a table in the quiet, dimly-lit back room and quickly decided on the 7 plates for 60 euros menu over the 4 plates for 45 euros alternative.  What can I say that makes any sense?  Not much, many have told me.  What I mean is, the food looked great, but somehow underwhelmed.  There was nothing out of the 7 plates that made me drop my jaw (or my fork, whichever came first) and say 'wow, this is excellent,' or 'gee, this is amazing.'  Not only that, the dishes were rather miniscule.  Let's just head right to the pictorial stage of the festivities and you can judge for yourself.

The carte - click to read, or use that magnifying glass I suggested.

chef Simone Tondo, still young  (http://tondo-paris.com/equipe/)

A room with a view

The painting behind Co., minus Co.

Foccacia, oyster soup, etc.

More of the foccacia dish, half eaten (sorry)

This is the dorade

I don't know, potato and bok choi as a main dish?  Kind of a miss.

More fish - lotte this time (but not a lot of it)

The canette - probably the hit for me

Dessert 1 - baba et clementine  (doesn't work if you don't leave the bottle of rum on the table, hint)

Dessert 2 - pear and black chocolate

Not on the carte, but on my camera - I think they threw this in at the end, and why the hell not?

What's food without a little wine - this a 39 euro Syrah

To be fair, with 7 dishes, the plates don't have to be copious, so my magnifying glasses poke might be a little harsh.  This was a good meal, but nowhere near dazzling.  There was just something missing that could have put Tondo on the map for me.  A bit too pricy (159 euros for two) for just 'I guess it was pretty decent.'

29 rue de Cotte Paris 12
tel. 01 43 47 47 05
website:  /http://tondo-paris.com/

Déjeuner : Jeudi, Vendredi, Samedi de 12h15 à 14h
Diner : Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi, Vendredi, Samedi de 19h30 à 22h

Fulgurances - Oink

Co. and I have been busily trying out new restaurants and I've been preoccupied with other pursuits, meaning I'm way behind posting on PRAB.  The end of a year is a fine time for rectification, so here goes.  In order, since my last post (Biondi), we hit Fulgurances, Tondo, La Vague, and Mamagoto, all fairly new and highly praised additions to the Paris restaurant scene.  And my reaction in toto is, basically, meh.

Up first, Fulgurances, around since Oct. 2015, and one of those venues that has rotating chefs.  Noted Anglo restaurant critics were effusive in their praise:

"A bold, brave concept:"  - Patricia Wells
          "Wow, what innovative cooking." - John Talbott

If you say so.  After reading about the wonderful culinary concoctions cooked up by resident chef Tamir Nahmias I finally snagged a reservation - one week after Monsieur Nahmais had finished up his stint and handed over his apron to Irish chef Rose Greene.  So much for that idea.  Without any feedback about the Madame Greene experience, Co. and I gave it a shot.  And the result was a big disappointment.

The restaurant itself is fairly modern, with open kitchen and tables too close for comfort.  The staff was amiable enough, but the carte in the early stage of chef Greene's residency was heavy on vegetables and light on everything else except for the main dish, pig.  I don't eat pig, but that doesn't make me a vegetarian, yet that's how I was treated throughout the festivities.  No substantial replacement dish, just vegetables.  Let me tell you, I had enough cauliflower in all its facons to last me through 2017.  It really would have been nice to have seen some sort of poultry, fish, or seafood in the room, but alas, that was not the case.  Oink, oink.

the chef

the kitchen

Bouillon - basically, miso soup (for me, minus the morceaux of pig

Onions and shallots


Oink - Co. liked it

Back in the garden for me, the pigless

Dessert -yogurt  sorbet and shortbread, no great shakes

There certainly seemed to be something serious going on in the kitchen and as you can perhaps judge from the photos, these were not dishes prepared by an amateur.  It's just that if I'm going to be shelling out 150 euros for dinner, I'd like to have something more substantial than cauliflower.  When I discussed this briefly with one of the servers, she mentioned how they 'would have to talk to the chef' about a more meaningful alternative to the main dish.  Whatever became of that promise, I have no idea, and Mme Greene is now finished her Fulgurances stint, so it's moot anyway.

It's certainly not fair to pan a restaurant that could end up being spectacular next month when a new chef and carte come onto the scene.  I doubt I'll be back, but that shouldn't stop you from giving it a shot.  Good luck.

10 rue Alexandre Dumas   |   Paris   |   +33 9 81 09 33 32   |Wednesday through Saturday |
website:  http://fulgurances.com/en/

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Biondi - No Clowning Around

Named after a famous Argentine clown (we had to ask), Fernando De Tomaso's Biondi is a great find in the 11th, an Argentine restaurant where non-meat items vie with the more obvious meats.  Working the room along with a couple assistants, Fernando De Tomaso, the chef and owner of La Pulperia (sadly, not yet reviewed here) has created a good vibe in a handsome space.  If I was going to open a bistrot, god forbid, this is pretty close to what my fabulous place would look like: stone walls, mirrors, wooden tables, a small tiled bar, an open kitchen -- a nifty combination of modern and rustic, kind of like the food.

On a nice Fall Friday evening, Co. and I pondered this carte, which unfortunately was all a la carte, my only real gripe of the evening.  As you should know by now, clicking on the image will actually make it readable, more or less:

After a spirited amuse bouche of poultry/porc terrine, accompanied by a basket of terrific country bread, Co. and I decided to play the paupers and split an entree, the poulpe a la braise-choux rouge, pomme de terre, Kalmata (16€).  Very nice.

Poulpe entree

Later in the evening, I noticed that one of the two young gentlemen sitting at the table to my right had a much larger portion, with some poulpe actually encroaching on the yang part to my yin.  I was pretty upset about that until I heard the words "double portion," which put me back at ease, although the wine ( a 27€ Bicicleta pinot noir) was doing a pretty good job of that anyway.

For the main dish, I opted for the chicken, or in more familiar terms, the volaille de bresse croustillant with betterave, epinard, and truffe de bourgogne (30€).  Bear in mind, I was interested in how this was prepared - chicken breast, thigh, bones, etc., but my bemused waiter took me aback by asking, 'what do you mean, how is it prepared?'  WTF?  Well, excusez-moi for asking, although I did learn that Bresse is an area of France near the Rhône-Alpes region.  Which also told me that the folks behind Biondi go to the market, including the Marche d'Aligre Beauvau off rue de Cotte, in the morning for fresh produce and vegetables.

At any rate, the chicken dish was first rate.  I was underwhelmed when it was brought to the table, but once into it, the little mountain of beets and spinach unraveled to reveal two pieces of chicken differently cooked   than the thin piece of breast that was more apparent.  Together, the combination was perfectly prepared and interesting.

Main dish - volaille, beets, spinach

Co., by contrast, a regular habitue of Buenos Aires, went with real meat - the wild boar dish - sanglier a la braise, chou rouge, and chataigne - accompanied by potatoes and the other items listed on the menu, including chimichurri, one of my favorite sauces and one of the main reason I go along for the ride with Co. to tango country, although it wasn't very evident in the dish (28€).

Now, bear in mind that the only time I've ever been around wild boar is when I attend sporting matches, only in those cases, boar is spelled boor.  Co., on the other hand, knows her sanglier, but not this time.  She had to ask the waiter if they hadn't made a mistake.  No, madame, was the answer, this was a special meat purchased at the market earlier in the day and 100% wild boar.  Don't get me wrong, Co. thoroughly enjoyed the dish, and discovered that, like snowflakes, not all wild boars are alike.

Main dish - sanglier, chou rouge, chataigne

For dessert, we went with the first two of three on the carte.  My nougat glace (8€) was hands down the best I've ever had, and I've had some pretty good ones over the years.  More nutty than fruity, and more copious than the photo suggests, plenty for Co. to test.  Co. had no complaints regarding the declinaison, which hit all the right notes (10€).

Dessert - an epic, homemade nougat glace

Dessert - declinaison de dulce de leche, glace, mousse

Even a la carte, the final price, including one cafe at the end, was more than reasonable, clocking in at 122€.  Biondi hits the spot on Amelot.  Relaxed atmosphere, but serious business, no clowning around.  And before I forget, you can reserve an upstairs room for a special party or two.

118 rue Amelot
75011 Paris
tel. 01 47 00 90 18
web: www.facebook.com/restaurantblondi
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