In Paris, Long Leisurely Lunches Are Sublime. We Enjoy the Artistry of David Toutain.

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Cod with foraged greens and morels

Why do I believe that lunch is the best way to enjoy a gourmet, i.e. michelin starred, meal in Paris?   Consider this.

  • It is easier to get a reservation.
  • You are awake.
  • For those of us that don’t eat as much the courses tend to be smaller.
  • It is a steal.  That’s right, compared to dinner, a steal.

On each trip to France we try to eat at least one outstanding meal and this one featured a visit to David Toutain.  His one star Michelin restaurant, opened in 2014, is located at the border of the 7th and 6th districts.  The chef, who trained under Allain Passard and worked at great restaurants such as L’Arpege, brings the food of his youth, spent in the lush farms of Normandy to your table.  And for our palates this means something that we are now used to but can be lacking in Paris: an ingredient driven tasting menu. The ingredients, fresh and often foraged, are the stars of his show.  Throw in some minimalist sensibility, a fine sense of design and a coastal emphasis and you have a winner.

On arrival around 12:00 we were seated upstairs.  Florence immediately caught the slight, we were steered away from the every day local lunch crowd. Put the tourists out of sight.  I didn’t care, in fact to me it felt like a private dining experience for the two of us tucked away from the noise in the library.

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I am not going to give a detailed review of every plate that we enjoyed. I will let the pictures talk and note that the meal was incredibly balanced, thoughtfully plated, beautifully designed and innovative.  Service was professional if a bit stiff.

Afterwards think about this meal and what you would pay for it including a 1/2 bottle of Saumur red for me and two glasses of Sancerre for Flo.

The menu at lunch offers three tasting options, we chose the least expensive (55 euro) and the middle one (80 euro) and they took it from there.  What followed was a show of flavor, texture and color.

Amuse?  Beet carpaccio

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The most amazing brioche nest.

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The menu started.

Black sesame soup with seaweed roll and juniper.

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Cod without the morels for Flo (don’t worry we shared them).  Even the darn foam was delicious.

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Eel.

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And a savory egg custard in shell.

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Mains.

Lamb two ways.

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Haddock.  Two kinds of carrots.  Eggplant.

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Even the crackers impressed.

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Desserts.  Many.

Coconut mousse.

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Mixed fruits and ice cream over vanilla cream.

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Espressos were needed.

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But they were not done with us. Look carefully at the bowl, those are tea smoke infused macarons. You see them, the light grey circles.

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Two and a half hours later we walked into the 7th and back to the Yellow Flat via Rue Saint Dominque laughing.  The sun was shining and the Eiffel Tower gleamed.   Paris was perfect.

Oh yes, the cost for two including the morel supplement was $216.  That is with tax and tip.

Worth every centime.

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Reservations were relatively easy by email, staff was very responsive.

Address 29 rue Surcouf, 75007 Paris

Phone +33145501110

Email reservations@davidtoutain.com

Website: http://www.davidtoutain.com

Is Paris A Deal For US Visitors This Year? It Certainly Was At Le Pario Paris 15.

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You may have heard that the dollar has gained strength against the Euro. It certainly has, moving from a high of 1.30 last winter to a range of between 1.06 and 1.10. That is a lot of extra buying power for US visitors.

So, is Paris a deal for US travelers?   My answer is yes, but keep in mind that Paris will always be an expensive city on a par with others like New York. But when the subject eating out comes up, Paris is a deal worth traveling for.

On the first day of a recent visit to Paris, I had the pleasure of putting this math to the test and dining at Le Pario, located about 10 minutes walk from the Yellow Flat. It’s a chic small bistro run by Edward Jacinto, a Brazilian chef who previously cooked for Christian Constant who in turn has several successful and delicious restaurants on Rue St Dominique that were previously enjoyed and reviewed.

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Jet lag notwithstanding I was excited to get out and enjoy a good lunch, having suffered (well not really too badly) through years of the 1.35 and up euro.

Le Pario is located at 54 Avenue Emile Zola in the 15th. The setting in this local favorite was warm and not just in temperature. Lunch was full of locals, mostly businesspeople who unlike many of us in the US, they were enjoying a real meal and a glass or two of wine. Why we have stopped enjoying ourselves at lunch I do not know.

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After being seated and finding that the prix fixe menu (limited in choice) was not to my liking (it was priced at 18 euro and 23 euro including dessert) I went back to the menu for lunch.

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Before the meal a small amuse of gougieres, traditional cheese puffs arrived, warm and tasty. I ordered a glass of rose and a bottle of mineral water, just having landed and not being able to stomach the always a bit nasty Parisian tap water (eau plat) just yet. The rose was as it should be, dry and not cloying.

My appetizer was crab with an avocado mousse. The crab was pressed carefully into a block with served with finely cut leeks celery and potatoes, all showing the fine hand of the kitchen with the avocado mousse painted along side and dusting of Piment d’Espelette for emphasis.

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Main course was a confit of cannette, (female duck). It consisted of a delicately braised duck thigh in a classic orange sauce covered with toasted hazelnuts served over a large ravioli stuffed with more the duck confit and a big bowl of what I thought were mashed potatoes but turned out to be a coarse apple sauce contrasting sweet salt sweet salt. The duck melted when touched.

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Having a good bottle of mineral water to myself was a pleasure and a necessity for the jet lag I was now feeling with the help of the rose. The meal closed with an espresso accompanied by several mini pastries filled with caramel, a sort of dessert amuse.

Was this a deal? Do the math and decide.

Start with the dollar at 1.07 to the Euro and yes that is a nice place to start. From there compare your meal to US realities to get a true sense of what it costs. On a meal in the US of good quality and service, it is common to tip 20% and tax is around 10%. And here is the key; in France tip and tax are included. That means you have to deduct another 30% and that is before some of the other add-on charges that have started appearing as of late.

Keeping it simple, a 100-euro meal cost 107 dollars at today’s exchange rate.
Deduct 30% for tip and tax and the result, in true cost, that is that a 100-euro meal costs you 75 dollars.

For my lunch the cost 41.50 Euros. Now with a good exchange and our 30 % discount lunch came to 31 dollars. I would say that is a deal with confidence.  And if I had gone with the prix fixe it would have cost $19.50 including the rose.

As lunch came to an end, I sat watching an elegant grandmother feed her impeccably dressed and behaved granddaughter profiteroles in chocolate sauce as she laughed. I looked out at the Paris traffic and the end of the daily lunch scene. There was no doubt about where I was and just how good it felt.

Le Pario

http://lepario.fr

54 Avenue Emile Zola, 75015 Paris, France

Phone:+33 1 45 77 28 82

 

To reach Le Pario from the Yellow Flat it is a 15 minutes walk.  The easiest way is to turn left out the door and walk to La Motte Picquet Grenelle metro.  Once there continue in the same direction on Rue De Commerce where you turn right on Aveneue Emile Zola, about the fourth street from the metro station.  It is about 10 to 15 minutes walk on Emile Zola, so be patient.

How To Enjoy (And Then Book) The Meal You Want In Paris.

DSC_0026The word enjoy keeps coming up again and again in my writing about travel and Paris.  Enjoyment. Pleasure. Adventure.  That is what we seek when we travel. And far too often we create expectations that can’t be met or we don’t do the simple things needed to make sure our trip is maximum good and minimum bad.

Eating, and in particular eating out, in Paris is a prime example of this yin and yang of joy and pain in travel and for that matter life.  Get it right and the moments become magic for you and those who share them.  Get it wrong and you pay top dollar or euro to be disappointed and wind up yelling at your kids.  Or wife.  Or just pissed at the world.  Not good.

For many of us travel to Paris means food, at least after the sightseeing is done.  Paris despite some articles to the contrary has a dynamic healthy restaurant scene  It offers a broad variety of places to eat ranging from tourist traps to Michelin starred palaces of gastronomy to trendy hangouts. This post will guide you through what we have learned over the years of eating in the City of Light with some simple rules to follow to help you have a good time.  It’s an overview so take it at that.

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Before you do anything else, do your research.  We are lucky to live in an era of abundant food blogs and information. At the same time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the number of writer on the subject, so here are a few research tools for you to follow:

IMG_2096When you do the work think about your budget.  Stay comfortable with whatever choices you make.

Try not to travel to far from where you are staying, especially if your trip is less than a week. Keep it local.

Go out to lunch instead of dinner.  You will save up to 50% of the bill most of the time.

Look for the prix fixe menu.  This set menu will reduce your bill significantly as opposed to ordering a la carte.  Many restaurants offer a variety of prix fixe menus, appetizer and main, main and dessert or appetizer main and dessert and several choices from each category.

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Once you have narrowed your search start reading.  Our favorite food websites include:

NY Times Paris. http://www.nytimes.com/travel/guides/europe/france/paris/restaurants.html

Lots of comments on what is going on the food scene.

Time Out.  A detailed and accurate guide to Paris eating.  http://www.timeout.com/paris/en/restaurants-cafe

You can use Fodor’s, Trip Advisor or even Yelp once you have narrowed your choices, I don’t find the sites easy to work with when searching or innovative.

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Blogs.

I enjoy these blogs a lot:

www.parisbymouth.com

www.davidleibovitz.com

www.thepariskitchen.com

Ask your friends where they eat, it seems obvious but they may know someone who has a tip.

And of course, enjoy our own Yellow Flat guides to the 7th and 15th.

The Roses.

A couple of other things to note:

Many restaurants close on Sundays.

Tipping in Paris is not expected as service is included in the bill.  If the service is good you can ’round up’ your check making sure to leave a few extra euros to show you were happy.

Many restaurants have an English menu or someone who can help you.  Remember, they want to sell to you.

Tap water is safe but doesn’t taste very good.

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Now you have found some top choices.  The next rule is to make a reservation.  It is worth the effort, Parisian restaurants are crowded and you don’t want to spend vacation time waiting in line.

There is an online system that allows you to search and find the restaurants website.  If you aren’t directed to it automatically, most will have an English translation, look of the letter EN or a UK flag.  From there you will find the reservation policy.

And most importantly, there is an excellent on-line reservation site is known as the Fork.  You can find it at http://www.thefork.com/city/paris  It works. Use it.It also has lots of guides as well  to every area and type of food.

If that does not work then call the restaurant.  That’s right.  Even if your French is scary bad if the restaurant is well know someone will speak English.  If not, find a friend (or travel agent) who speaks French and have them help.

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There is not enough time and too many choices so enjoy every meal, even if it isn’t what you dreamed it would be.  And if you aren’t comfortable where you are, do what my French father in law would do.  Walk out and find another place to eat.   Then again he had five children and his wife with him but that is another story.

As always we invite you to share your comments with the Yellow Flat community!

Salut!

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L’Astrance. Magic Moments Behind The Trocadero

Elegance does not beat you over the head.  It should not.  It does not beckon to you.  In fact, you need to look for it.  Yes, just a little bit further down the block, and wait, over there,  yes there it is.  Almost hidden on a quiet street just behind the Trocadero in the 16th behind a brown curtain in a small dining room with no more than 15 tables is the space where L’Astrance spins its magic every day.

Lobster with Corriander Flowers

Lobster with Coriander Flowers

You have to work to get into L’Astrance.  I had read that getting a lunch reservation was difficult and it was.  You call on the first of the month and with the time difference we could never get through.  We finally broke down and asked a friend in Paris to help us out and she did.

Do what you need to do to get in.  It is a meal and an experience to remember.

We walked into the restaurant at 1:00 pm on a Thursday afternoon.  It was 1/2 full mostly Japanese tourists.   It quickly filled. What followed was a 3 hour extravaganza of tastes, smells, sights and pleasures.  A feast for the eyes, mind and mouth just as an exceptional meal should be.

The "Chicken Milk"

The “Chicken Milk”

The restaurant works on a simple formula, two menus at lunch at 70 and 110 euro and a wine pairing for 50 euro should you desire.   To say that this a value is not doing it justice.  The bill came to under $250 US with one of us drinking. I can’t imagine having more fun for the money.

I am not going to go over what other more serious food critics can tell you.  Suffice it to say the kitchen has a fine hand and an asian influence in the cooking style and that it was selected as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world for 2013 by someone.

Instead, let these photos guide you through the journey they took us on.  Plate after beautiful plate arrived.  Amuse bouche, starters accompanying dishes several mains several desserts I mean it was a show.  Dishes were light, flavors forward.  Aggressive.   Yes, this Michelin Star restaurant was fun to eat at.

And the wine service was genuine and warm, as our somellier worked the room pouring from magnum after magnum you could see his passion in his choices and the explanations he have us for each serving.

Service was flawless smooth and believe it or not funny.  That’s right funny.  These guys had a dry wicked sense of humor and they didn’t try to force me out of French into English like so many would do.  When I was caught checking out the plates of our neighbor table, they gently chastised me, “Monseiur, your eyes should be focused on the beautiful woman across from you.”  They were right.

So on with the visual show, I will get them in order and try to remember each plate as it arrived.

The amuse

The amuse

The first small course.  Amuse 2?

The first small course. Amuse 2?

The lobster up close

The lobster up close

crispy spinach roll over peanuts

crispy spinach roll over peanuts

Exquisite Turbot over seaweed and greens.

Exquisite Turbot over seaweed and greens.

At this point we had consumed quite a bit of a wonderful Sancerre and were feeling very good when our waiter announced the next course.  The finest pigeon Trocadero, pulling our leg a bit.  This bird had not been caught down the block.  I overcame my usual reflex against small bird dishes and enjoyed.

Pigeon 3 ways

Pigeon 3 ways

Them Tiny Bones

Them Tiny Bones

It went on from there to desert after a palette cleansing sorbet of piment d’espelette, spicy and refreshing.

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The Roses.

The Roses.

No not enough.  More.

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More.

Amazing Madeleines.

Amazing Madeleines.

It’s not like every dish was what I wanted.  Some were over the top, others stunned.  A few were less than I wanted them to be.  But everything was consistent with a vision in the kitchen.  I will be the first to say that I do not regularly eat in restaurants like this and that I had some trepidation about going.  There was no need to worry and I can not wait to go again to see what else this kitchen can produce.

Finally we ordered coffee and just sat there enjoying the moment. A few minutes later we emerged into the warm Paris afternoon giggling.

 

L’Astrance.  4 Rue Beethoven, Paris 75016.

01 40 50 84 45.

15 minutes walk from the Yellow Flat and maybe 30 minutes back.

 

The continuing search for new meals!

Our good friends Ron and Rena just came back from Paris with two good reasonable restaurants to recommend to everyone. Here are the reviews:

Le Sevres

This restaurant is not for everyone.  However, if you want to taste a working class bistro that has not been updated or remodeled since 1959, and wasn’t extravagant when it was built, don’t miss Le Sevres.  The owners take their restaurant’s theme from the coast of Brittany but when I say working class I mean it.  The 10 AM crowd is finishing up its aperitifs, beer and rose by 11:30 just as the lunch crowd begins to trickle in.  There is nothing upscale about this place, it is utilitarian, and if I didn’t say it already, working class.  Many of the guys having lunch never even bothered to take off their hard hats and it amazes me how they go back to construction jobs and heavy equipment after washing down a big lunch with wine and beer.  As for the interior, the space has not been updated for 30 years or more and it is a relic of a bygone era.  To find something like this in Paris today is like walking into a museum of Parisian culture, but it lives and adapts to the times.  The 40ish owner whose long black wavy hair, toothy grin, and half shaven appearance takes nothing away from his sweetness.  His wife is already at work behind the bar when he makes his grand entrance at 11 and greets all the old men in the bar with a combination of handshakes and kisses, and then apologizes to the stranger me, for not coming over right away to greet us.   Now for the food.  Don’t even ask, this patently down market place has fresh oysters on the menu and I saw a variety of dishes coming out of the kitchen that made this lifelong vegetarian crave the meat and chicken that was being served.  I opted for fresh salmon quiche and salad drenched in the most amazing dressing I have ever eaten, and a side of baked, broiled, and fried potatoes with rosemary that were other worldly.  They were unsalted and there was no temptation to put any.  The quiche was nothing short of amazing with a crust like the grandmother of my dreams would have made.  We had 25ml of the house wine, about 2 ½ glasses which brought the tab to 14 euros.

 

The restaurant is on a narrow heavily trafficked street opposite the children’s hospital.  If you want an utterly delicious home cooked meal at prices which by Paris standards are laughable, and can embrace this journey back to the world of the Parisian working class emigrants who migrated years ago from Brittany and Normandy, don’ miss this.  My sense is that any day now this building will be torn down by high rise developers and these gracious graceful  restaurateurs will enjoy an early and rich retirement on the North Sea.  Le Sevres, 96 rue de sevres, Paris  01 47 34 09 56 about a 20 minute walk from the Yellow Flat.  Here is Rena at the restaurant.


 

General Beuret

Who says you can’t get a great meal in Paris for under 15 euros?  Try lunch at General Beuret.   This place has a simple interior, painted walls, wooden table tops, and if you peek in the back, a really serious kitchen.  We had mussels, French fries, and a small pitcher of house wine (2 ½ glasses).  The food was uncomplicated but the mussels were the freshest I’ve ever eaten in a delightful light sauce seasoned with fresh coriander.  The pommes frites were hot and fresh, and the wine was an exceptional Syrah from Medoc.  (Obviously that wasn’t on the pitcher but it was so good we asked).  This is a local restaurant which is packed at lunch time.  The staff is busy but extremely friendly and attentive.  Total tab, 14 euros.   9 Place du General Beuret, Paris.  01 42 50 28 62   Hours 8AM to 2PM.