I don't know why, but I've been on a pretty good roll lately with bistrots in Paris and elsewhere. An excellent one, actually, who reconciled me with dining in Paris -- regular readers will remember that I was slowly losing hope in the seriousness of French cooks. I was also worrying that maybe I was starting to develop the syndrom of the bored food critics, who grew unimpressed by a perfect roast chicken or anything good really, unless it is novel enough to wake him up and make him escape the boredom of his fate.
Turns out, I'm fine. And maybe the economic crisis made people in business everywhere, and in restaurants in particular, work seriously again. Or maybe I just got lucky. Anyway, time to share with you all those very good meals I had. I started the series, I think, after the OFF4 (about which I still have a couple of things to write, stay tuned) and an improvised lunch at Jadis: it was simple and really good, an honest, unpretentious, and very well mastered cooking -- oeufs pochés, rognon de veau, and a superb cheese platter, from no big name fromager, but sent from some shop deep down in Auvergne. Food, not names or ideas. Bravo.
|De Joséphine et son pain|
It was also long overdue, but I finally tried Joséphine Chez Dumonnet, a true Paris institution, with absolutely traditional Parisian brasserie food, and setting, and an impressive generosity. At first I thought that it did not look cheap, but then it turned out that the paté de campagne easily serves four and the canard aux choux actually consists of a whole duck, so it's actually pretty cheap after all. Also, they have a specialty of truffles (like in the andouillette in puff pastry you can see right upthere), and an excellent bread that they buy at the bakery next door (see the gallery for more pictures).
|De Five guys, Bleeker street|
In a trip to North America, I also let go of my fine dining/Internet researching way and hit more or less randomly (OK, with some recommendations) some very delicious places, starting with the renowned Modern Apizza in New Haven, Connecticut (best American style pizza I had), the excellent underground Thai restaurant at Fulton and Gold Street in downtown NYC, and the wonderfully "no BS" Five guys (picture), which made up for not having been to the West Coast and In&Out. You know I might actually like Five Guys even more than In&Out. I never had a burger with truly warm meat before ever, I think.
|De Au Bon Accueil|
Back in France, another long overdue visit what to Au Bon Accueil, a restaurant of which I only ever heard good things. At the same time, that was true of its neighbour in the same rue Monttessuy, Vin sur vin, which turned out to be pretty crappy. And I was still worried when I entered the very black and white restaurant full of old gentlemen in grey suits. But the menu was reassuring, and mostly, the food was perfect (freshness, cooking, seasoning), even in the less than 30€ prix fixe menu. I did not try, but they too appear to be versed in the dark arts of truffle, and with seriously friendly prices --their truffle and vegetable dish at ca 30€, the whole Coucou de Rennes roast for two with a risotto truffle for barely more. I'll be back, and if they confirm, it'll definitely be a new favourite.
|De Au Dernier Métro|
It kept going with a true bistrot like I did not think they existed anymore. Not a néo-bistrot, not a bistrot de chef, just a place where you'll eat consistently good frites, boeuf bourguignon and other standards, for less than 30€ pp for real, with wine, and dessert and all. Plus, they serve all day (don't you sometimes feel like having lunch at 3pm or dinner after 10pm without having to go to a MacDonalds or Le Pied de Cochon?) and they're open everyday. It's bd de Grenelle at the métro Dupleix. And it's called Au Dernier Métro. At that point it was clear that I was protected by the Gods, and even the new Big Mac with wholegrain bread I had at Saint André les Vergers (Aube) wasn't bad.
|De MacDonalds, Saint André les Vergers (Aube)|
And indeed said Gods then sent me to more places that I want to return to, and frequently if they serve me meals as good as the ones they served me the first time. In fact, I already went back to L'Auberge du Quincy chez Boboss, another institution that was new to me, and Boboss confirmed that I was not only lucky the first time. Auberge is a very tired word, but it has its meaning with Boboss, who is not only colourful but also obviously a fine palate and a demanding boss. A case in point would be the Parma ham that he has aged three years for him, or the goose foie gras that he serves (they're both on the picture because they were both on my plate, I wonder why). The Chef is former Benoit, and this is ZE place for old traditional dishes: cassoulet, escargots, pieds paquets, caillette, tête de veau...
|De Le Quincy|
Now something even less likely happened too: a modern bistrot, one that clearly belongs to the "jeune cuisine", as they say, actually impressed me not because of the good look of the chef or the audacity of his concept (more fashionable chefs bashing soon, stay tuned), but because of an excellent meal, with pleasant service and a wise offer of wines. That would be Le Bistral rue Lemercier, next to the Marché des Batignolles (17th). I grew up there, mind you, but that's not what made the meal special. In fact, I'll talk to you more abou that meal when the pictures are ready -- but let me tell you that the wines were natural and sincere, and the cooking, which looked unnecessarily complex on the black board, was balanced, subtle and delicious. While we're at it, I also confirmed l'AOC as an old favourite, with the caveat that this is one of those places where you have to know for themselves what they do well because they don't know it. That's particularly true of the very average beef they put forward as "bidoche" (slang for meat). But when it comes to bone marrow, to terrinnes and ham, to slowly rotissoired echine de cochon, it is solid and not even expensive.
Bottom line: it's safe out there. You may eat out again.