|Le Carillon - 1 week after the attack|
The bad news came to me and Co. around the time we were ordering dessert on the Friday evening of the Paris terrorist attacks at An Di An Di ('go on, eat' in Vietnamese), a small restaurant that sits on a corner of the quiet rue du Liban. Our hostess/waitress shared the vague (and tragically unfolding, as it turned out) news that a neighbor had imparted minutes earlier about some shootings around Republique. It was only when we got home and turned on the news that we realized that some of the attacks were one metro stop from An Di An Di's closest station, Menilmontant, albeit far enough that we didn't hear anything. We considered our luck at not having chosen to dine, as we usually do on Friday evenings, in the neighborhood that was hit - at one of our favorites like Septime, Villaret, Waly Fay, or the like. Having attended, like most music addicts, the Bataclan on previous occasions, I also thanked my lucky stars I wasn't a fan of Eagles of Death Metal.
|Inside tiny An Di An Di - you couldn't exactly feed an army|
An di An Di turned out to be a nice find - some original Vietnamese dishes on a limited menu that didn't exactly bowl me over, and wasn't as cheap as some online reviews promised, but clearly warranted a second visit.
There were some real dining highlights during the year and I'm looking forward to taking advantage of some new personal discoveries in 2016. In order of preference, although I preferred them all:
Pierre Sang on Gambey (2 visits) / Pierre Sang in Oberkampf (1 visit)
Les Deserteurs (3 visits)
Louis (1 visit)
Neige d'été (1 visit)
No question that Les Deserteurs and the two Pierre Sangs have risen to the top of my favorite restaurants list. Inventive, constantly changing cuisine, informative servers, unique ingredients, great ambiance, all at reasonable prices - what more can you ask for except for more of the same in 2016. We had a reservation at Pierre Sang on Gambey with friends exactly one week after the Paris attacks - along the way we passed a couple makeshift memorials in the neighborhood. Everyone was understandably on edge, but the fantastic meal was cathartic.
|Les Deserteur's lotte - one of the best dishes I experienced in 2015|
|Nege d'ete's colorful salmon and flowers appetizer|
|A great dessert at Les Deserteurs in December|
|Another great dessert at Les Deserteurs in December (less blurry in person)|
Co. and I experienced a few big disappointments during the year - highly praised restaurants that didn't come close to our expectations. Three that stood out in particular were Yard (6 rue Mont-Louis in the 11th), Gare au Gorille (68, rue des Dames in the 17th, in the shadow of Gare St. Lazare), and Pantruche (3, rue Victor Masse in the 9th). There were a couple pretty good dishes at Yard, but the ambiance was a turnoff, the servers unhelpful, and I can't think of much that would move me to recommend that you eat there. They have a wine bar next door that might be a better idea for schmoozing with friends, though don't quote me on that. I was hoping for the shared duck dish during the trip to Gare au Gorille with Co., but that item was replaced on the carte during the evening of our visit by a shared pigeon. The pigeon was tasty but unspectacular. Maybe we just picked the wrong day to visit - I would have loved to have eaten at the Gare au Gorille that was described in le Fooding's review. With two alums from Septime, it's probably unfair to write off Gorille after one disappointing visit, so I might give it another shot in 2016. As for Pantruche, I can't explain the buzz about the place at all. The meal was underwhelming and they sit you along a row of tables way too close for comfort.
2015's Most Memorable Meal
Hands down, this would have to be the Sept. 1st dinner with the Moose at Vilia, mine and Co's preferred Italian restaurant in Paris. Maxi Silvetti was shutting down his restaurant for his end of summer congé and promising to open up a venue in San Francisco. I don't know whatever happened to those plans, but as the only patrons (at least until a party of four occupied a second table a couple hours later), we were rewarded with Maxi's undivided attention. To say the atmosphere was 'loose' would be an understatement, replete with plenty of gossip about some of Paris's noteworthy chefs. Maxi promised a dinner composed of whatever they had left in the kitchen and the meal was epic, including a caille dish that was so good we had seconds. Before too long, after finishing off our second bottle of wine, the hour grew late, a couple of Maxi's friends showed up, the music got a little louder, and everyone started imbibing Maxi's extremely potent gin martinis until the wee hours of the morning. I don't remember much happening after that other than a trip in a cab to get home and a two-day massive hangover, but the evening was, how shall I say? Ah yes, unforgettable.
|Vilia's caille - so good, we had a second serving|
|Vilia's panacotta hibiscus et glace aux raisins de muscat - and I thought I didn't like panacotta|
|Owner-chef Maxi showing off his 'Born to Cook' tat (after a few martinis)|
|Owner-chef Maxi showing off one of his favorite knives (because I asked)|
Year of the Soft-Shell Crab
Well, not really the year of, but for the first time since I relocated to Paris, I had not one, but two, servings of soft-shell crabs, although neither actually happened in Paris. Some history, first - as a native Baltimorean (US, state of Maryland, think John Waters), I covet, dream about, and avidly search out steamed and soft-shell crabs. But other than Asian restaurants, I know not how one can come by such dishes in the French capital. Maybe you know, and if you do, please share. At any rate, the first soft-shell crabs dish I experienced in 2015 was served at Farang, a top-notch Asian fusion restaurant in Helsinki. Nowhere as good as the real thing out of the Chesapeake Bay, but I wasn't complaining. The second serving occurred at L'éléphant Blanc in the Paris suburb Noisy-le-Grand. Also nowhere as good as the soft-shells of my youth, but again, I didn't complain.
|Farang's (Helsinki, Finland) soft-shell crabs appetizer|
2015's Weirdest Development
The bad news came around summertime that one of Paris's best, Bones, was closing its doors in August, and then the good news came in December that Bones was reopening on January 5th as Jones Café Restaurant, with the same team in the kitchen. Which begs the question - what was the point?