December 5, 2008

At long last, I finally had a really good meal in a brasserie.

Unfortunately, it’s not a place I’ll be going back to anytime soon, however, because Le Cafe Anglais is in London, not Paris. For anyone who’s curious about how the great Paris brasserie tradition could and should be resurrected for the 21st century, I’d highly recommend this place, since its only consistent flaw is ratty service–everytime she poured our wine, the waitress spilled it, so that by the end of our lunch a pretty pattern of pale pink dots and splotches had been applied to the white linen. And of course the other problem was that 500 centiliters of Rasteau cost a preposterous 24 pounds (roughly $40).     

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November 28, 2008

2045616-2180890-thumbnail  With Paris tucked under a quilt of low gray clouds for most of the next four months, a new Thai restaurants offers a welcome opportunity for a voyage gastronomique without leaving town.

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Bad Mama, Good Mama

November 20, 2008

The new Mama Shelter hotel (109 rue de Bagnolet) in the 20th arrondissement couldn’t have opened with better timing. The brain child of Serge and Jeremie Trigano, whose father Gilbert founded CLUB MED, slings a lot of style, comfort and fun for a bargain price (rooms start at 79 Euros, or about $115) and the rooms here were designed by Philippe Starck, who obviously had some fun converting this former parking garage into a hotel. All rooms come with an I-MAC, good quality bedding, a little kitchenette with sink, fridge and microwave and Kiehl’s toiletries in the well-designed bathrooms. To be sure, this place is a hoof from central Paris, but on the other hand, the immediate surroundings–the Menilmontant and Belleville neighborhoos–are just about as bona fide bohemian as Paris gets these days.

Aside from the fact that I enjoyed a night I spent at the hotel, I also liked the simple supper we had downstairs in the bar-lounge-restaurant–a decent caesar salad, pasta with decent pesto sauce and nicely served beef carpaccio. The friendly waiter told us that Mama’s “real” menu would be coming in a few weeks later and was being created by none other than chef Alain Senderens.

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Chez Ernie, or La Closerie des Lilas

November 14, 2008

As a rule of thumb, restaurants that make too much of their illustrious past patrons tend to be a disappointment. Though it may be vaguely interesting to know that Colette or Ernest Hemingway appreciated a given Paris table, viewing a restaurant through a scrim of nostalgia is an often perilous distraction from what really matters, which is the quality of the food right now.

Last Saturday night, however, a small group of us wanted oysters and steak tartare in an animated, open-late setting, and it occurred to me that we might try La Closerie des Lilas, the famous old bar-brasserie-restaurant in Montparnasse. This inspiration came mostly from my desire to avoid La Coupole, which so often brings to mind one of those sprawling Soviet Union vintage restaurants with dreadful service and food that used to be just about all you could find in Moscow.

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A New Season at Le V, Four Seasons George V

November 7, 2008

Though I suspect the clientele for meals in Paris that run at least $200 a head has dramatically diminished during the last few months, the arrival of a chef at the Four Seasons George V is still major gastronomic news and the 85 Euro lunch menu here is one of the best buys in Paris right now. Former chef Philippe Legendre, ex-Taillevant, put Le V on the map as one of the great tables in Paris after he won three Michelin stars, and then, talented though he may be, seemed to wobble when he lost one.

   Whatever transpired between Legendre and the hotel remains confidential, but suffice to say he left a few months back and was replaced by Eric Briffard. Who? Well, Eric Briffard, who came from the two star Les Elysees Vernet at the Hotel Vernet, which is where he’d taken refuge after having been unceremoniously swept out of the his post as chef at the Plaza Athenee some ten years ago to make room for Alain Ducasse.

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Memere Paulette: A la Rechere du Temps Perdu, B-

October 31, 2008

A crisp October day and a brisk walk down the rue du Faubourg Montmartre, one of my favorite streets in Paris for its being so guilessly eclectic. This ancient rue presents a classic Parisian cityscape before gentrification and luxury brand names disrupted so much urban turf. First, the wonderfully gemutlich windows of A la Mere de Famille, a first-rate confiserie, or candy and sweets shop that first hung out a shingle in 1761 and which sells the best marrons glace in the world, and then Les Pates Vivantes, a wonderful Chinese noodle shop. I notice a HALAL crepe maker—now there’s some fusion food for you—and stop to read the chalkboard menu at a very good wine bar, le Zinc des Cavistes at No. 5. This street, which always makes me think of New York with its density and vitality, offers up a lot of great eating.

Finally I reach the rue Paul Lelong (a name that would be perfect for a detective or a marathoner) and Memere Paulette, the tiny bistro where I’m meeting a friend for lunch.

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