LE SEVERO–A Steak in the Grass, A-/B+

March 20, 2012

Le-Severo-Facade

“Mais attendez, Monsieur–you brought steaks back to France with you from the United States? Vous etes completement fou ou quoi?” (Are you completely crazy or what?) Well, I’m not going to touch that interesting question from a French custom’s inspector with a barge pole, so I’ll just get it over with and fess up–yes, I often buy a half-dozen organic New York strip steaks at a favorite New York City butcher just before I’m off to the airport. I pack them in layer after layer of shopping bags and put them in my checked luggage, since the air temperature at high altitudes means they’re just fine after a seven or eight hour flight back to Europe.

We eat one the day I get home and freeze the others as a special treat to be meted out, if you will, during the months before I can get back to the butcher again. Yes, of course there’s wonderful, wonderful beef in France, but you just don’t get the same sublime trifecta of taste, texture and tenderness in any other beef in the world that you do with the very best American. With one very notable exception, a particular cut of French meat I found myself thinking about quite often during a trip to Buenos Aires, from which I came away disappointed by the city’s parillas.

Le-Severo-ham

Le-Severo-Chorizo

Not long before my trip to South America, the beef loving Bruno and me broke our usual rule that steaks are best eaten at home and decided to splurge on Le Severo, which I think is the best steakhouse in Paris. This was hardly a spontaneous decision, of course, since you have to call several weeks ahead of time to snag a table in former butcher William Bernet’s always jammed-to-the-rafters dining room deep in the 14th arrondissement behind the tourist belt of the boulevard Montparnasse. Aside from that, I don’t go often, because it’s expensive, very crowded, very noisy and very popular with American lawyers whose voices could bore through metal. Not all American lawyers have voices like that–my best American friend in San Francisco and my brother are certainly exceptions, but the ones who come here seem to have clocked this place as some sort of Parisian version of the Palm steakhouse (it’s not), and so crow with pleasure at being in the know.

Ah, but when I give in to this place, the pleasure is intense. Though there’s usually a feint or two at the vegetable kingdom among the starters, I know it’s half-hearted, and so am never tempted the way that I might be by a garlicky iceberg lettuce salad with crumbled bacon and chunks of ‘blue’ cheese in an American steakhouse (writing that description, I’d give a finger for one of those salads right now) or the grilled provolone in an Argentine one. Instead, in an act of unblushing madness, we ordered plates of Bernet’s sublime Auvergnat ham and the best chorizo I’ve ever eaten in my whole life. And the fact that it’s served with thick pats of yellow butter reminds me–as if that’s necessary, of why I love France so much. I mean, talk about gilding the lily.

Le-Severo-Wine

So the charcuterie is one great reason to come here, and the sharp knives and good bread, two others. The fact that Bernet has one of the most wonderful real-people, i.e. great bottles of wine at prices normal people can pay as a splurge, wine lists in Paris is another enticement, and the people watching is fascinating. But I’m not going to beat around the bush, I come here to eat a pavé de rumsteak from nearby butcher Hugo Desnoyer grilled on a salamandre, a piece of equipment I don’t have at home, with a tiny magic mountain of some of the best frites in the whole world.

Le-Severo-steak

Bruno made the mistake of ordering a filet the other night, and while it was delicious–Desnoyer’s meat is just plain sublime, it wasn’t half as good as my pavé de rumsteak, which offered the perfect Gallic knock-out punch to my perhaps vestigially patriotic attachment to great American beef.

They’re several desserts on the menu, including a creme caramel, but I’ve never seen anyone order one for the simple reason that this place is all about going to a bona-fide Cro-Magnon orgy. To wit, dessert would just be too damned dainty after a feed like this. After he’d finished his meat, Bruno excused himself to wait for me outside–he can’t handle the noise past a certain point, and despite the fact that this was meant to hurry me, I finished every shred of the meat, crumb of potato and drop of magnificent Crozes Hermitage at what I deemed to be a correct rhythm, pointedly ignoring his pacing on the pavement outside. The reason, you see, was summed up by the rumpled and rather tipsy businessman who stumbled out the door after me after I’d paid the bill for a cigarette. “Putain!” (F–k!) he exclaimed, after sucking on his Marlboro. “Was that meat good or what!?”

Le Severo, 8 rue des Plantes, 14th, Tel. 01-45-40-40-91. Metro: Mouton Duvernet. Closed Saturday and Sunday Average 55 Euros.

  • Wow! I'm Australian and I am obsessed with good steak. I have been scouring food sites in search for the best steak in Paris and think I've found it. I can't wait to get there in July so I can try this place out. Thanks for the review!

  • Alexander Lobrano

    Hope you enjoy it, Rachael! Just be sure not to eat anything but a light late breakfast the day of your Severo meal, because you really will want to show up seriously hungry! Enjoy! Best, Alec

  • David

    Alec,
    First, do you and Bruno want meet me and my wife for dinner (on us, naturally)? Haha. Love the book and blog.

    Second, my wife and I will be in Paris in two weeks and, for steak, are considering either Paul Bert or Le Severo. If given the choice, where would you have your one steak frites indulgence in Paris? Should we go to both?

    We are also dining at Bones, La Baratin, Frenchie, and L'Ami jean. Should we skip any of those or replace with something else? Help!

    Thank you kindly for any guidance.

    Best,
    David

  • Corrie

    Hello!
    While I love the modern age of information overload, I am often frustrated with my bad memory. Just the other day, I was reading about a newish (late 2015 opening) restaurant just off the Champs Éysées, opened by a respected chef, featuring grass-fed beef. They have a nose-to-tail philosophy, and so go through a whole animal, changing the menu offerings, before starting in on another. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, and of course can’t find where I read it, either. In my search, I’ve come across this page, and will gladly take my husband there for his “fix” while we’re in Paris in a couple weeks (if we can get in), but I was hoping that you, with your finger on the pulse of the Paris restaurant scene, could help me with the name of the restaurant?
    Thank you! Big fan!

    Sincerely,
    Corrie

    • AlecLobrano55

      Hi Corrie,

      The only new steak place near the Champs Elysees that I’d recommend is Hugo Desnoyer’s restaurant in the 16th arrondissement, and that’s not really that near the grand avenue. Superb meat, though, and lots of fun. He’s also just opened a second restaurant in the 19th arrondissement. More information on http://www.hugodesnoyer.com
      Best, Alec

      • Corrie

        Thank you, Alec!