KB CaféShop, Paris, France

I came here for coffee (and they have a very good espresso: Five Elephants). Read about the café here. I saw a granola with fromage blanc on their breakfast menu and a few people were eating it. I was curious what fromage blanc tasted like so I also got one. It’s very similar to greek yogurt but a little lighter — I prefer it. Granola came with bananas. I wish there were some berries but it was good. If the supermarket has fromage blanc I will buy some next time and try this for breakfast.

It’s also located on a nice little corner of Rue de Martyrs, and on Sunday morning there was a small market outside. The produce looked really impressive and fresh, and there were chefs cooking little recipes that could be bought to taste for a nominal fee.

Do your tomatoes look this good?

Do your tomatoes look this good?

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Le 6 Paul Bert, Paris, France

Excellent coverage of Le 6 Paul Bert by David Lebovitz here. I made a reservation at the bar a few days beforehand. The menu of 4 courses at the chef’s whim cost 44€. I got a dry white Sauvignon (Touraine, Le Brin de Chèvre) to pair with the seafood.

  • Charcuterie, cheese puff
  • Marinated mackerel (cold) with salad, artichoke(?), green sauce
  • Brill with bamboo slice, zucchini, yellow squash, green apple purée, foam
  • Lamb chops with fig, beetroot, burnt leaves, a really good sauce that I couldn’t identify
  • Peach slices, beer sorbet, thin candied film that also tasted like beer

The quality of the wine really is the most outstanding thing about dining in France. The wine was quite dry, very good. I really like pairing a glass of (good) wine with a meal now.

Everything tasted clean, light, delicious. This is quintessential “simple” French cooking. The ingredients do all the talking and the result is phenomenal. An instant favorite, highly recommended.

Yam’Tcha, Paris, France

I called Yam’Tcha three weeks ago on a whim, not expecting to get a reservation because it is extremely difficult to book. The Saturday hours were also unclear from the Internet, so I was surprised when I managed to get a table for lunch on Saturday (opens at noon). I am particular interested in Yam’Tcha because it serves Franco-Chinois cuisine. These are my two favorite cuisines overall, so I was very interested to see how Chef Adeline Grattard combined them.

Arriving, I was seated comfortably on a “couch” of sorts: a bench that ran along the wall comfortably padded with cushions. The decor perfectly managed the elegant sophistication of a Michelin starred restaurant with the calming simplicity of a teahouse. I was informed that the 60€ lunch menu was not available on Saturday, so I had to get the 120€ full tasting menu (changes daily). I also elected to get the 40€ tea pairing because it’s highly recommended on the internet. The chef’s husband Chiwah is the tea expert.

Starter of light oolong from Taiwan

Sichuanese cucumber salad (tofu, sesame, Sichuan chili flakes) — Flavors were very Asian and familiar, a nice starter.

Sea bream tartare with citrus sauce Green tea from Jiangxi — The fish was fresh and texture was good, but something about the sauce wasn’t quite right for me.

Lobster soup, scallions Oolong from Taiwan — Very generous with lobster meat, kind of an upgrade of egg drop soup. I did not feel like the lobster was used to it’s full potential here.

Steamed turbot, squid, mussels, emulsion ‘fu yu’ (fermented bean curd), Chinese spinach Pu’er from Yunnan — The turbot was cooked nicely and the texture was good, but somehow the ‘fu yu’ or some unlisted ingredient didn’t pair well with the fish. However the ‘fu yu’ emulsion combined with the squid and mussels worked extremely well; that was the best bite of seafood I’ve had in Paris.

Scottish langoustine with coconut Marsala sauce, purple basil — Very reminiscent of Thai curry, it was tasty.

Fillet of veal with Shiitake mushrooms, cream of Shaoxing wine, black vinegar Oolong “rock” tea from Fujian — The sauce is apparently a favorite specialty of the chef, used in various dishes on the rotating menu. But I found it very familiar! The entire dish tasted quite similar to some pork dishes I make (e.g., Richard Olney’s pork chops with mustard cream and apples): the cream sauce traditionally calls for red wine but I usually use Shaoxing instead because I don’t have red wine on hand in the kitchen. This dish really gave me more confidence to go ahead with substitutions in the kitchen when I’m cooking French recipes. Experiment!

Bao (bun/brioche) with Stilton blue cheese filling and cherry Lighter Pu’er from Yunnan — The waiter asked if I wanted cheese before dessert and I was hesitating because I wasn’t sure if it was included in the menu (it is). But he said if I like cheese, this “cheese” is highly recommended. So I got the cheese, and a few minutes later, a bao is presented in front of me! When it was revealed that the inside of the bao contains cheese, I could not stop smiling. This is really what it means to combine French and Chinese cuisine! Before the meal had been “good food” but I wasn’t blown away, but this dish just elevated the entire meal to the ‘amazing’ category.

Two desserts side by side: Hazelnut ice cream over thin wafers sandwiching Physalis fruit / mirabelles with wine-flavored cubes Oolong from Guangzhou — The first dessert was the best I’ve had in Paris. The hazelnut paired very well with the Physalis, which I’m not sure I’ve eaten before but has an “Asian taste” to it. The tea was also my favorite, very fruity and with honey notes. The only tea in the pairing I wasn’t familiar with.

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Firstly, I do not think the tea pairing is worth it. It did not enhance the flavors of the food for me. I have also drunk all of the teas besides the last dessert tea in copious amounts at home, so the flavors were nothing new. I’d recommend it only if you haven’t tried a lot of Chinese teas before and want a guided tour of the most common types.

The food was very good. It is still primarily French in style (as it should be), using fresh French ingredients with a lean towards seafood. The Chinese influence was more clearly present in later dishes, but I would say there are clear Japanese and Thai components (e.g., the tartare and langoustine). The cooking was all done expertly and tasted great. However, aside from the bao, which I am in love with, the rest of the food did not bring the new dimension of taste that I was hoping to experience in a Franco-Chinois combination. The meal did give me the push to try to find these new combinations in my own kitchen.

It was a very pleasant meal in a uniquely designed restaurant. Before I decide whether it’s worth coming back though, I’m going to stuff my face with baos at boutique Yam’Tcha first.

Juveniles, Paris, France

Made a dinner reservation for a table at Juveniles by email a few days in advance to get some classic French food (taking a break from the modern French scene).

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There were a few classic dishes I had yet to try on my trip this time so I ordered this: starter of œuf mollet (soft boiled egg) with caramelized onion, French beans and beet purée followed by my favorite meat: duck breast with pumpkin puree, sliced almonds, Brussels sprouts. I also got a 4€ glass of red wine, which was okay but nothing special compared to the wines I previously had. This is indeed a nice casual spot for classic dishes at an affordable price. Unfortunately I must say I was not impressed by the dishes. The egg was cold, onion too salty, beans and beet purée were fine. The more expensive mushrooms with poached egg looked like a much better option. I would have preferred the duck breast cooked rarer; the skin was however nice and crispy, but it could have been seasoned more. There needed to be some more sweetness and acidity to pair with the duck. The pumpkin purée was good but a little salty, as were the Brussels sprouts. The sliced almonds added a really nice touch when eaten with the duck. Not quite the high I associate with magret de canard (I think I can cook a better one myself). I’ve been feeling fat so I skipped cheese and dessert (none of the cheeses interested me). My tastes are probably quite biased — it seems I strongly prefer the modern French cooking in neo-bistros to the classic fare?

Le Servan, Paris, France

I didn’t make a reservation far in advance today because I was on Septime‘s waitlist for dinner. When it became apparent yesterday that there was no hope, I made a reservation for dinner at the bar at Le Servan, a neo-bistro that just opened last year and has been getting lots of good press. Run by two sisters, Katia and Tatiana Levha. Tatiana is the chef, formerly working at L’Arpege and L’Astrance.

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I arrived at 8pm and was welcomed by Katia at the register. The place was still half empty, with early dining English speakers. I was the only one at the bar, but Parisians really do eat late because the bar became packed with local walk-ins and the place was full at around 9pm. The neo-bistro is cozy with a cheery feeling. I had a good view of the kitchen from the bar, which I enjoy since I can see some of the cooking. Tatiana is ever-present in the kitchen, doing all the final plating for the dishes (and she smiled at me!). The kitchen also gives off the typical smells of an Asian kitchen due to the diversity of spices incorporated into the menu.

Too many good things to choose on the menu. I was in a poultry mood so I ended up getting the lacquered quail leg with figs, vinegar, sliced cabbage (spicy) for starter and roasted poulet (chicken) du Patis, Stracciatella cheese, chorizo, nuts, butter beans. The lacquer on the quail was just how I like it. The cabbage was spicy and just okay by itself, but the addition of fig led to a wonderful combination. My only complaint is that I wished I could have foregone the knife and just picked it up and gnawed on it! The skin of the chicken was crispy, although tasting a tad burnt in places. I must admit the meat was not quite as tender as yesterday’s version at Le Chateaubriand, but the additional ingredients provided a much better pairing. The chorizo gave flavor and spiciness, the Stracciatella provided a nice creaminess, and the nuts added a contrasting crunchy texture. Showing the L’Arpege influence, the vegetarian ingredients really shined in the dishes. This meal reminded me of all the possibilities that are available when cooking with poultry. To finish, the dessert options looked fairly average (but who knows without tasting). The cheese offering was however a medium firm blue; as I hadn’t had much blue cheese in France so far, I got it. Served with a salad, the blue cheese was strong but with fruity aromas. I find I like blue cheese more paired with salad than bread too.

I found the zakouskis and entrées to be a bit more interesting than the plats and desserts, mainly because there is more freedom of ingredients. But with a changing menu each day, and really creative dishes coming out of the kitchen, this is a fantastic neo-bistro with one of the best price:quality ratios in Paris.

 

Le Chateaubriand, Paris, France

Le Chateaubriand is one of the first Neo-Bistros in Paris, named No. 21 on S. Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant list. The 70€ tasting menu changes daily, depending on whatever Chef Inaki Aizpitarte comes up with that day. I reserved a seat at the bar for 7:30pm when they opened. There seemed to still be a few bar spots open, which were filled by walk-ins around 8pm.

The restaurant has moved forward to only serving natural wines. I asked the bartender for a suggestion of a single glass to go with the menu. He pointed me to the most expensive 15€ Volnay 1er Cru “En Carelle sous Chapelle”, a Pinot Noir from the Burgundy region. He said most of the others (white, red, rosé) would not pair well with all the dishes. This Pinot Noir is all natural, but not as weird as other natural wines focusing more on oxidation. This wine was supposed to be just easy to drink and highlights terroir. I wanted to try what a really good Pinot Noir tastes like, so I went ahead and took the plunge.

Menu of September 23, 2015

Amuse-bouches

Cheese puffs, sesame

Raspberry ceviche, taken as a shot — my favorite amuse-bouche, the juice had a very tasty acidity

Tempura prawns, blood orange powder — crunchy, the powder was a nice touch

Razor clams, coconut bean emulsion, white beans, bread crust sprinkles — the clams tasted fresh, bread crust provided crunchy texture

Soup made from onions and corn, slices of corn kernel floating — soup tasted good, corn kernels were so-so but the corn aroma in the soup worked well

Starter

Sliced mushrooms (cèpes), seared mushrooms, celery juice, blueberries — server said something about mashed blueberries but they were whole (but cooked). The seared mushrooms were the best part.

Fish

Tuna, sage, artichoke, lemon slices — very interesting to know that sage works well with tuna. I associate it with pork, and the texture of the tuna was almost reminiscent of a pork chop. The small lemon slices really added extra flavor to the artichoke.

Meat

Poulet, chestnut, taro, sour leafy green, watercress — the sour vegetables reminded me of Nordic cuisine. The chicken was perfectly cooked, meat tender while skin marginally crispy. Not quite a fan of the sourness but the slices of either chestnut or taro (I’m not sure) went well with the meat.

Dessert

Black currant ice cream, green purée, feta crumbs

Signature dish: Tocino del Cielo: candied egg yolk atop meringue egg shell with yolk “powder”. Instructed to be eaten in one bite, it was really good.

 

The wine was quite enjoyable and really did go well with the whole meal. Perhaps just because I was paying attention, but it had incredible depth, the flavors changing with each course and how I drank it. Not bland like I find a lot of Pinot Noirs, and I decided some hints of wood/oak. I did not get any of the mushroom aromas that the terroir was supposed to bring (according to the bartender).

The interior of the restaurant is very interesting and well-designed. It’s more spacious than I imagined. A very good meal, technique was on point and everything was cooked correctly. Service was on point. However it was not as great a meal as the hefty price demanded. I like the idea of coming up with a new menu ever day, being ingredient focused. But it is quite an expensive experiment and there are now lots of other options in Paris at a lower price point. I think Le Chateaubriand has been diminished by it’s own popularity. It’s fame has driven up prices and expectations, which is not wholly compatible with the more spontaneous nature of the restaurant.

L’Avant Comptoir, Paris, France

I first learned about L’Avant Comptoir Wine Bar from Anthony Bourdain’s Paris Layover episode. It’s a tapas style wine bar next door to Yves Camdeborde’s Le Comptoir St Germain bistro, which is impossible to get a reservation for unless you book a room at the hotel.

I arrived at 8:30pm, right at the height of Parisian dining time. Squeezing my way into the bar, it’s really just a long corridor with room for two rows of people standing. I somehow managed to find a spot at the bar and eventually got the bartender’s attention (there are two bartenders for the whole place). Standing off with a glass of red wine (bartender Eric’s selection) and what I consider a must-get: the boudin noir (blood sausage) macaron. I also wanted to order this double macaron of foie gras, but due to communication issues got a huge pate of foie gras (with citron jelly) instead. They serve natural wines here, which I have been very interested in trying as it’s a new trend in Paris and only available in France. Aged from 2013, this red was unlike any of the “standard” wines I’ve tasted before. Still a red wine but with some almost sparkling zest, it was a nice change from the handful of oft-repeated varietals we’re used to seeing everywhere.

There’s no elbow room and standing at the bar, the natural thing to do is to start a conversation with my neighbor, a Parisian local. The fliers with names and pictures of all menu items are hung from the ceiling, presenting a overwhelming selection of choices. There were so many things I wanted to order, but I settled on andouillette (sausage) with caviar and some kind of white foam. The caviar was only barely present as it was still mostly sausage. I finished with a goat cheese, but I preferred the Saint-Marcellin that my neighbor let me try a bite of. The boudin noir macaron was still my favorite.

No reservations taken at this place, so very convenient to go any time of night. No problems getting in as long as you’re okay being squeezed around. Prices are very affordable considering the quality of food you’re getting. A little tough if you don’t know French, but just pick some things and have a good time. High revisit value since there’s so many options, and there’s a few items of the day for added variety as well. The food does lean towards the heavier bistro side, focusing on meats, offals, cheese. These days I find myself preferring lighter fare, but this place definitely earns a spot in the annals of the Paris food scene, and I wish there were places like it in the U.S.

Edit: I actually came back Sunday afternoon for a quick snack, mostly because I had to get the warm foie gras with cherries. I only had whole seared foie gras once before and thought it was slimey and too rich. But turns out that was just bad preparation, because this dish was awesome. Really nice texture, seasoned so it’s rich but not overbearing. Cherries cut through the richness if necessary. Also got a poached egg in mushroom dish but it was kind of wine-y/sour so just okay. The red wine this time was not as enjoyable. I started asking for a medium bodied but it was not to my liking and I tried two more, asking for lighter and fruitier. In the end I just kind of gave up. Maybe my tongue was just not right at the moment. The wine did get better with the food pairings, but not as interesting and distinctive as the first red I got here. Eric wasn’t around this time… Oh and the butter is amazing (I didn’t get to try it last time).

This place still makes me feel kind of anxious due to how much is going on at once, even in the afternoon when it’s less crowded. But it’s some of the best food in Paris at really cheap prices. I prefer it as a snack or pre-dinner appetizer to a full meal, which is too heavy. Game plan once you’re here? I’ll make it easy for you: blood sausage macaron, warm foie gras, then hog the butter because it’s too good to share.