Sunday, April 30, 2006

L'ami Jean

I've been to a few clunkers lately (Wadja, Le Pré Verre), so I was both relieved and happy to have a flawless experience at L'ami Jean. L'ami Jean is a newbie; it appears in the 2006 Michelin guide as a "bib gourmand" restaurant, and the 06/07 Paris Routard guide also recognizes it as a welcome addition to the Paris restaurant scene. I had received some comments on it awhile back, so when I owed 2 friends dinner I decided to go for it and make reservations. Our reservations were at 8 on a Saturday night, which is a bit early for Paris, so I was surprised to see that the restaurant was already full when we arrived - a good sign indeed. Although the seating is a bit squooshed, the interior is warm and welcoming, and the walls are covered with prints and articles related to the Basque region (just like at Le Pamphlet). One friend started drooling when he looked up at the ceiling - in addition to the red peppers, there were the famous basque cured ham legs (jambon de bayonne) hanging from the beams. This definitely influenced his choice of entrée, as he ordered a platter of it to begin with.

The 30€ set menu: This menu offers so many choices - there is really something for everyone, especially considering the specials of the day which are not marked down. This addresses one of the shortcomings at some restaurants, where you only have a few choices for each course. Not so at L'ami Jean! Whether you're in the mood for fish, poultry, or steak, you'll find many tempting possibilities.

And if you feel like something even more special, they have even *more* options!This includes special "gastronomique" or "carte blanche" menus, and copious tapas platters. We were also puzzled by the 25€ menu "à l'extérieur" - was it really that much cheaper to eat on the terrace? - until we noticed a sign hanging inside advertising their picnic baskets. What a cute idea, especially considering their proximity to Invalides and the Champ de Mars. The wine list is very reasonable, as well, with bottles starting at 15€! We got a great bottle of Gaillac for 20€.

For my entrée I got the red peppers stuffed with a basil and cod mixture. The presentation was beautiful, as the two peppers were topped with razor-thin, crispy jambon de bayonne (how did they do that?) and some other crunchy bits (no clue what it was, but it was tasty). In addition to the platter of jambonne de bayonne, the other entrée was the pâté de campagne, which was huge! My friend had trouble finishing it all. This was served in a pot on a wooden cutting board, and came with a pot of cornichons - cocktail size pickles. The bread, a hearty whole grain, was excellent with both of these entrées.

For our main dishes, my friends decided to share the veal steak for 2, served with vegetables roasted with thyme. Oh my word. This was equally ginormous, something you could find in an American steakhouse! I really wanted to take a photo of it, but as the waitress started serving it immediately I didn't get the chance. Easily 700 g of thick, red, truly "saignant" meat, this was served on a bed of roasted new potatoes, snow peas, peas, and carrots. I didn't try the steak but the vegetables were perfect. I got the "pintade supreme" - I know now that it means guinea fowl; at the time my friends just said "like chicken, but better." It was truly supreme, topped this time with caramelized jambon de bayonne & sesame seeds, and served with a roasted endive topped with bacon, a pot of some of the best mashed potatoes I have ever had, and a smaller pot of a vegetable paste. I could only pick up on the eggplant, garlic, and olive oil, and I forgot to ask about it, but it was very good.

For dessert I got the vanilla cream with strawberries. This was basically strawberry shortcake minus the shortcake, served in a mug on top of which was placed a small bowl of strawberries marinated in campari. It was simple, but darn good, and would be the perfect dessert on a summer evening. One friend got the "Petite douceur", which was described not by the ingredients but by the effect it would have: "un moment de bonheur" (a moment of happiness). This was a layered mixture of vanille, chocolate, and coffee cream, and he was indeed happy while eating it :).

This place was great, from the entrées to the desserts. The service is just average (one waitress was really nice, another was really grumpy, and the waiter was just fine), and the seating is literally elbow-to-elbow, but I would go back without hesitation. Reservations are definitely necessary on the weekend, not sure about during the week.

L'ami Jean
27, rue Malar
75007 Paris
01 47 05 86 89


Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Other dinner plans fell through last week, and we were looking for a bargain, so we couldn't resist when we stumbled upon Wadja's 14€ menu.
Hold your horses, the 14€ menu includes only the entrée and the main dish and you only have two choices for each. The night we went this was outside the restaurant:But I've got to warn you, what you see is not what you get (I'll explain the little switcharoo in a second).

This daily 14€ menu is the reason to go to Wadja; otherwise, it gets too expensive way too quickly. Main dishes start at 20€, and I think appetizers were in the 10€ ballpark, as are desserts. I'm assuming the big gap between the set menu and the à la carte items is because the set menu is a loss leader - I'm sure I'm not the only one who made reservations based on the low price alone. Once you arrive, however, and see that there are only two choices and nothing you like, I bet many customers give up and order what they want regardless of price.

I didn't feel like paying 25€+ for dinner, so I sucked it up and went with the set menu even though it was a choice of two lesser evils for the entrée - tongue terrine or raw sea bream. For the main dishes, the sautéed veal's liver was immediately crossed out, leaving the roasted cannelet. The tongue terrine was actually *ok* as long as I could keep the image of tongue out of my mind. It was topped with a garlic and onion vinaigrette, and came with a mesclun salad. The vinaigrette was strong - and yummy - enough to allow me to finish about 1/3 of my terrine, but as soon as I noticed tastebuds I had to turn it over to my boyfriend, who has never met a terrine he didn't like.

We had ordered glasses of red wine to go with our main dish, so when I noticed the waiter editing the menu as we were eating our appetizers, I wondered what was going on. I asked him about it and he responded that yes, indeed, the menu had changed. No more no less. We assumed that they had run out of the duck and had replaced it with fish for those who had ordered after us (even though it was quite early in the evening - we got there at 8:15 pm). A few minutes later he brought out our glasses of red wine (I think it was a St-Emilion), and what do you know, instead of the cannelet we thought we had ordered, we were! Imagine our surprise. I was happy; I love fish. My boyfriend was disappointed, to say the least, and also slightly peeved that they didn't ask us about changing the wine (the good Frenchman that he is, it pains him to have unmatched dishes and wine such as red wine with fish).

The fish was served over mashed potatoes with leek, which were Thanksgiving-worthy, and surrounded with a bouillabasse gravy, equally Thanksgiving-worthy. I was satisfied but the switcharoo definitely put a damper on the meal. I was going to write that Wadja would be a good place if it was around the corner from where I lived - that way I could always see if the 14€ menu caught my eye, and on the days that it did I would eat there. But if you can't even trust what's written on the menu because they'll change it in the middle of the meal without telling you? It becomes a bit less appealing. Even if you don't mind spending 40€ minimum for 3 courses, there are much better choices in this price range.
(Here's the full menu for you to think it over)
The wine selection is good, and we learned (after we had ordered) that they also have "vins au compteur", like at Louis Vins, where you only pay for what you drink. The interior is cute and cozy, and the walls are full of great prints that are all about wine or food including their advertisements for their annual Beaujolais Nouveau tastings. I don't think I'll be going back, but that shouldn't stop you from trying it out if you're in the area. I guess that's one way to separate restaurants - those that are worthy of a metro/cab ride vs. those that you should only go to if it's convenient or nearby. I consider Wadja to be the latter.

Wadja Restaurant
10, rue da la Grande-Chaumière
75006 Paris
01 46 33 02 02

p.s. Strange sidenote: It was full of Americans, which is mystifying because 1° it's not in an especially "touristy" section of Paris 2° I've only seen it mentioned in a French guide (Routard). As we were leaving (around 10 pm), the Frenchies started trickling in, but the majority were still Americans. Can anybody explain this? I know that more Americans are in the city because of spring break, but I had never heard of this place until I bought the routard guide. Is it featured in Fodor's or Frommer's?


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Second Helpings

Alright, so I'm just going to give a quick recap of my second visits to these restaurants.

La Tartine (Read about my first visit here)
Exactly the same. Once again, very spotty service (we started with an unbelievably rude waiter, but eventually the manager - much nicer but equally neglectful - took over). This time we actually tried the tartines, which were excellent. I got a goat cheese and herbed tomato one, which was delicious. The bread was just crunchy enough on the outside, the cheese was perfectly melted, and the herbs gave so much flavor. The other tartine was the roasted eggplant, pepper, and mozzerella one - equally delicious. We also got a big salad - and I mean big - called the "Auvergnate" which had cheese, jambon de bayonne, potatoes, eggs and all sorts of yummy stuff. In spite of the horrible service I will probably go back just because the food is so good for so cheap, and because it's the perfect place to stop by if you're ever in the area since it has nonstop service.

Le Gallopin (Read about my first visit here)
Wayyy better! The first time I went I didn't get to truly appreciate the Gallopin because of all the Valentine's nonsense. Going back allowed me to see their true options, which offer great value. They also have an express menu, for 19,50€, where you have the plate of the day, a choice of a few desserts, wine, and coffee. Wow. This would be the way to go if you like the plate of the day. I got the Gallopin sucré menu (plat + dessert), with one of the daily specials - "fricasée du pêcheur" - which was a delicious seafood medley. There were mussels, shrimp, redsnapper, monkfish, and cod, served over risotto. Other main dishes were the sole meunière, which the waiter skillfully prepared, and another fish plate that escapes me at the moment. For dessert I got the crème brûlée, which was perfection. The cream was so light and perfectly mixed! We also got the crèpes flambées, which were a delight because they made them right in front of us. These were served with a lemon and orange reduction and topped with the zest.

Once again the service was excellent, but this time we had a waiter who went above and beyond the call of duty. He was so nice and friendly. Case in point: only one person at the table had ordered the full menu, beginning with Rockfish soup. This came in a massive serving bowl, with enough for the whole table. The waiter kindly offered to bring out bowls and spoons for the entire group, so that we could all partake! We accepted his offer, and thanks to him I can tell you that the Rockfish soup is another winner.

Also, for those with kids - they *do* have a kids menu. Salmon or steak with french fries for 10€. Not a bad deal for a Parisian restaurant, and the portions were about the same size as the adults!

Senderens (read my about my first visit here)
Well, some things were better, some things were worse, and some things stayed the same. Our group included kids; when I called to make reservations I asked what they could do and they told me that they would make something special for the kids; when I called to confirm I checked about the kids' meals and they assured me that it was marked down and that we wouldn't be disappointed; when we arrived they acted like it was the first time they had ever heard anything about kids. I was mildly upset, to say the least, because I would not have made reservations if they didn't have anything for the kids (Le Cinq has a 3 course kids meal at 20€ - so it is done at fancy places in Paris). I talked to our waiter and the manager and guess what he kindly offered "Well, we do have chicken on the menu." Because it makes sense to order a 30€+ dish for an 8-year-old. They eventually agreed to do half portions (for half the price) of anything on the menu, but I was disappointed because I expected something different based on previous phone conversations. Perhaps I was expecting too much, and the kids were happy, so it turned out fine.

The amuse-bouche wasn't that great this time, either. Last time I had been amazed by the sea urchin risotto served in its shell; this time we were privy to a cold pea and asparagus purée served in a shot glass. Not the high point of our experience. My main dish, however, was awesome. I got the tempura cod, served with tempura celery and leaves. The batter was light, crunchy, and kept the fish nice and moist. Even the celery leaves were yummy when encased in it! Other plates on the table were the Apicious duck, the redsnapper, and the turbot. The kids got the chicken and the scallops (it's what I got last time), no complaints :)

And the real reason to go back to Senderens: The infamous millefeuille, just as good as ever.
Other desserts were the platter of sorbets - you get a whopping SIX different flavors! - which included classics like chocolate and raspberry as well as stranger ones like ginger; and a Madong chocolate napoléon which was a thin, upright square of a thick chocolate cake, coated in dark chocolate and topped with gold leaf. It looked amazing!

Plan on ~75€ for a 3 course meal (drinks NOT included), which is normal for lunch at a 2-starred restaurant but a bargain for dinner.

Whew! That's a lot of eating - I'm restauranted-out for now.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Whatcha gonna do with all those bags?

While comparisons of French and American culture provide endless conversation (and blogger) fodder, this is one strange phenomenon that I have yet to understand. In America, when we go grocery shopping, we are accustomed to not only bag boys, but also an endless supply of plastic (or paper!) bags, often double-bagged without even requesting it. It goes without saying that this is all free. Before we know it, these bags accumulate - under the sink, in the broom closet - and because we have no use for them we are forced to think of unique ways to get rid of them. The local library has kleenex boxes full of them as a kind of do-it-yourself bagging system; some grocery stores even have used bag collection boxes set up; and a few rare ones (Whole Foods) have a strange bag repayment plan where you get 1 cent back for every bag you re-use. Basically, we have way too many bags and we just don't know what to do with them.

Not so in France. The French are STINGY when it comes to bags! I can understand the no-bagboy phenomenon; it was already so in the UK. The cashiers just throw your items your way and you scramble, trying to get them all and pay without pissing off the people behind you. But the worst is their attitude towards bags. First of all, many of the bags are such crappy quality that a normally benign item can rip them to shreds. But this is in those stores where the bags are free (gasp). Even in the free bag stores, quality of bags nonwithstanding, the cashiers scrutinize the number of items and throw you about 1 bag per 5 items. If you dare ask for more (or even, horror of horrors, want to doublebag the glass or heavy stuff) you will be the lucky recepient of a look to kill and enough scorn to keep you away for a few months. At these stores you can buy decent quality plastic or paper bags, often at a reasonable price (heavy duty plastic ones for 10 cents, the serious shopping bags for 75 cents).

But the worst is the bagless stores, like Auchan at Porte de Bagnolet. I hate them, but I hate even more their pretext of doing it for environmental reasons. Yeah right you just wanna save money! So before, Auchan used to have "green" checkouts for people that don't need plastic bags (those with caddies, mostly). But then they changed, and now the only bags are the paying ones (or as some people do, just take loads and loads of the bags in the fruit & vegetable aisles).

This sucks, not only for the inconvenience of shopping but also for those customers (like myself) who have dogs and use all these bags to clean up after them. Simple, you say, there's this big campaign about cleaning the streets, I love my neighborhood, and now doggie bags are available in most public establishments. Ok, sounds great. So I go to my local city hall, one of the official distributers of doggy sacs (for some reason my neighborhood doesn't have any of those stands) and ask. They're all out and tell me to come back. Repeat every week. Finally I get exasperated and ask what's up. Check this out: they get a shipment of bags every 2 months, this is how long this quantity is supposed to last. Guess how long it takes for them to run out. 2 DAYS. This has been this way since last fall. I get a number to call and complain; some other dog owners on my street do the same. Does anything change? Heck no. Now the dog owners on my street are defiant and refuse to pick up the crap (not me). I don't even want to imagine what it's going to be like when all the stores go bag-free (I think there it's going to be required in a few years).

Saving the environment's great. But how about starting with crap-free streets?

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Le Pré Verre

Last year I passed by the Pré Verre almost every week, but never actually ventured to go there. I had heard great things about its inventive cuisine, supported by its frequent mention in guides and reviews, so when a group of friends were staying not to far from it I decided to take the plunge and make reservations. I hate to say it, but I was disappointed. My friends weren't - I didn't tell them, and they had a whirlwind weekend in Paris and I'm sure even a disappointing Pré Verre can't compare to what they would have back home - but I expected better.

The menu (please excuse the glare, click to enlarge)So maybe it's just me, but already none of the appetizers look really that appetizing. Pea guacamole? I'll pass. The "oeuf olsen" was just soup with an egg cracked in it; the crab soup was decent; and the asparagus was disgusting. Sorry. This is what I got and it was just plain gross. After being in France for this long I am no longer picky; I choose my meals carefully and if I have no choice I suck it up (I ate a tongue terrine on Monday!). But there is no getting past the letdown that was the "blanc mange de fromage" with asparagus - cold, sliced asparagus coated with poppy (this made me gag) and topped with a round of a fromage blanc-mix. I love fromage blanc; I love asparagus; but this was just plain bleh.

So let's move on to the main courses, which were actually fine. I got the lamb, which was good - tender and plentiful, accompanied with a lemony-curry mix. The two fish plates were on the table, and they were also great - one friend especially appreciated the presence of quinoa as a side. Another friend got the suckling pig, which he was happy with *except* for the slight derivation from the menu, which described the accompanying cabbage as crunchy but was actually quite mushy.

Now to the desserts (click to enlarge): We got all four so I can provide you with a recap of each. The definite winner is the "truffade de chocolat" which is like a thick fudgy chocolate cake, served with ice cream. The losers? All the wierd sorbets - beet and parsley, no thanks! When I initially read about these I was intrigued; I will never forget the strawberry & red bell pepper dessert I had at sketch, which was not only unusual but darn good. The parsley sorbet with strawberries and the pineapples with beet sorbet were unusual, but unfortunately for us, not yummy. The last dessert on the table was the rhubarb-sauce (like applesauce, but made with rhubarb - it looks like red celery) with white chocolate, which was fine.

Other elements of my disappointment were the sparse wine selection (only 2 red wines to choose from?!) and the mix up when we got the bill. First mistake: the 35€ coffee. Right. They took it off, and then we realized that they had added an additional entrée and main dish. Oops! It was really wierd - we had to go through everything with the manager, but it finally got taken off. Even though I'm not in the US, I would think that after something like that they would at least comp the coffee, or do something little to say sorry. I understand that everyone makes mistakes - but twice?! And mistakes that totaled 50€+? Not a great ending. I will not be going back, nor would I recommend this restaurant. There aren't that many choices on the menu or for wine, the appetizers suck, and the desserts aren't too hot either. If you just want to tell people that you tried beet ice cream - go for it. Otherwise, go elsewhere for a better meal for the same price.

Le Pré Verre
8, rue Thénard
75005 Paris
01 43 54 59 47


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Au Pied de Fouet

As I mentioned before, I've got quite a few reviews in the queue. I'll start with a great discovery, Au Pied de Fouet. This tiny bistro is tucked away in the 7th, a good walk from the Bon Marché. I made reservations based on its listing in this year's Routard guide for Paris restaurants & bistros (talk about a leap of faith!), which highlighted the bargain prices and the authenticity of this rare, old-fashioned bistro.

I'll let the menu speak for itself: Bargain prices? Check. But is it good? You bet. We LOVED our meals. For appetizers I got the rillettes d'oie, which is mashed up meat (usually pork, goose, or duck - I got goose). Mashed up meat? Well, think of it as a soft, unformed pâté, that you spread on bread. It had been on my mind since I had bought some at the Grande Epicerie on my way to the restaurant, and it didn't disappoint. Other entrées were the pâté de campagne (thumbs up), the green salad (the usual), and the assiete variée - it was a wild card since the description means everything and nothing, but it ended up being a plate of green salad, lentil salad, and the carrot salad.

For the main dishes I got one of the daily specials - the noix de pétancle. I asked the waitress and she said they were like small scallops; I believe they are called bay scallops in English. They were served with the orange muscle intact, over a bed of chopped leeks and a white sauce and with sliced, baked potatoes. What a deal at 13€; I polished them off! Other dishes on the table were the steak and mashed potatoes; the duck and mashed potatoes; the farm chicken "au maury" - I didn't asked what it meant but it was served with rice and the sauce that you use with blanquette de veau; and the trout with saffron. We were all delighted with our main dishes.

The bill came to ~110€ for 4 entrées, 6 main dishes, 3 apéritifs, and a bottle of wine. Is your jaw dropped to the floor? It should be because I have never had this good a meal for this cheap in Paris, much less in the 7th. You have to go to the cash register to pay, and the bartender reduced the bill to 105€. When I asked why, he responded with a smile "on est commerçant!", which a guess would roughly translate to "good customer service!"

We didn't get desserts because we had picked up this enticing assortment at the Grande Epicerie on the way there, and it was probably a good thing because the dessert selection at the restaurant is weak. Clockwise starting with the upper left corner - gateau rose; royal; tonka chic; feuilleté pommes; multifruits. The prices for the cakes were very reasonable, especially for the Grande Epicerie - between 2.20 and 2.85€ each, which is the normal price in your average corner bakery. For anyone thinking about coming to Paris, the Grande Epicerie should be a must-do. Think of Dean and Deluca but bigger and better. I am truly astonished by the prices, and I can't imagine grocery shopping there for real (the people who do must be mega mega rich), but I will cave for their cakes or their deli, or even just the insane selection of fruits they have year-round.

Au Pied de Fouet is great for what it is - quality food at bargain prices. Our waitress was very nice, as was the bartender, who shouted warm greetings at each customer as they walked in the door. As I mentioned before it is miniscule; the guide routard warns that the ceilings in the alcove are only 1,75m high, and the tiny staircase to get up there is daunting. Seating is cramped, but what can you expect? Enjoy it for what it is and you will have a great time. I don't know if reservations are necessary but it can never hurt, and I would recommend picking up desserts at the Grande Epicerie on your way there to enjoy afterwards in the comfort of your home ;)

Au Pied de Fouet
45, rue de Babylone
75007 Paris
01 47 05 12 27
M: Sèvres – Babylone
Closed Sunday

La Grande Epicerie
38, rue de Sevrès
75007 Paris
01 44 39 81 00
M: Sèvres – Babylone

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It's been a crazy week

and far too long since I've posted. I've been to the following places in the past few days, I've got the photos and I'll get them up soon:

Le Gallopin, 2nd visit
Senderens, 2nd visit
La Tartine, 2nd visit
Le Pré Verre
Au Pied du Fouet
Bouillon Chartier

Just for fun I'm going to post a photo I came across on French wikipedia. The title says it all - American squirrel. Chubby much?

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Le Brébant

While this might look like your typical Parisian café, with the sprawling terrace and the neglectful waitstaff, it's not. Why? Two simple reasons: half off happy hour from 6 till 9 pm and the best mojitos in Paris. This is one of the rare Parisian bars that can do cocktails. I remember the first time I went to a bar in Paris, on my first visit here a few years ago, at a trendy place on the Marché Saint-Honoré. This was before I knew it was better to just have wine; I was used to girly happy hours with amaretto sours and red-yellow-green shots. So imagine my dismay when I order a double-digit daiqueri, and get served a barely drinkable toxic mess in a martini glass. I learned my lesson and have never ordered cocktails since - except at Le Brébant. Both the normal mojito and the mojito "royal" (champagne instead of rum) are delicious; all the girly cocktails are exactly as we have them back in the states *if not better*, and the beer choices are just fine for the guys. Plus until 9 the cocktails are half off, so in the neighborhood of 4€! Need I say more?!

Le Brébant
32, Blvd Poissonnière
75009 Paris
01 47 70 01 02

Also I stopped by Zen Zoo again (ever since I discovered it I can't stay away!), and this time I arrived around dinner time. I decided to go for one of the soup specials, which looked delicious, and for 12€ I wasn't disappointed:
Big wagamama-type beef, vegetable & noodle soup (but better, of course); sautéed tofu and vegetables; a hollowed out cucumber filled with minced pork and spices. I have now determined that my ideal apartment would overlook the Square Louvois, not only because it's beautiful but also because of its close proximity to Zen Zoo ;)


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Guerrilla Marketing

Spotted on a Rav4 on Rue des Filles Saint Thomas in the 2nd:(THIS CAR IS UGLY and its owner has a little dick)

just a few cars down on the same street, on a ML320, a bit more bold:(BIG SUV = SMALL BALLS, and incidentally, a BIG ASSHOLE as well)

When I saw the first one I imagined an angry girlfriend...but with the second one I realized that it was just another example of French SUV haters. I don't think these silly tactics do anything for the environmentalists besides making them look insecure & immature, but I prefer these funny posters to the other methods, which include slashing tires. Still...if I had an SUV and I got one of these I would laugh and then be even more determined to keep it. If you're interested in reading more about the anti-SUV, or even anti-CAR people: the site for Carfree France and anti4x4.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Louis Vins

I recently bought the 2006/2007 Routard guide for Paris Bistros & Restaurants, and I tore through it, starring many many restaurants that I can't wait to try. Last night I got to knock Louis Vins off this list, which I chose because of the reasonable prices (26€ set menu) and their unique concept of "vins au compteur" - you can order a bottle but you only pay for what you drink.

Their menu offers a variety of choices, and if you're not that hungry you can opt for the 2 course version at 23€ euros:
For the entrée I got the melon and parma, which was gorgeous. This was a tiny cantaloupe, with a dash of liquor in the bottom, and the parma was wrapped around a crunchy bread stick that balanced on top. Other appetizers on the table were the fois gras and salad, and a terrine made of beef tail (oxtail?) with fois gras at the center. This is the first time I have ever noticed this; I never knew there was meat in the tail.

I ordered the tuna with wine for my main course, which was served with a scoop of mashed potatoes and garnished with a garlic pesto type sauce, beets, and red currants. The tuna was delicious and perfectly cooked, and I enjoyed the redcurrants - not only did they add color, but also a burst of sour. My persnickety friend, however, did not appreciate the redcurrants, which also came with his dish - scallops wrapped in bacon. He complained about the following combinations: fish & mashed potatoes; fish & bacon; anything & redcurrants. (I don't have a problem with any of these, and I would even venture to say that the fish & bacon combination is trendy now - this is the third or fourth time I have encountered it in Paris...thoughts?) The duck also looked delicious - it was served on a bed of cannellini, sauteed endives, and to my friend's horror (when I translated "gésiers" for her), gizzards!

For dessert I was mildly disappointed because I had read a review praising their île flottantes (another one of my favorite desserts), but they weren't on the menu that day. Instead I opted for the crème brûlée, which was just OK - it was a bit clotty. The other dessert on the table was the "terrine de chocolat". We asked the waitress and she described it as a compact chocolate mousse: fudge! This was awesome, because in addition to the pure chocolate aspect, there was a layer of brownie in the center.

We had the usual coffee and tea afterwards, and when a friend made a special request for mint tea (we had been talking about Morocco), the waitress said no problem she would make it herself, and out she came with the teapot, a cloth tea bag, and fresh mint. Just another example of the friendly service we received all evening - we had 2 waitresses and both of them rocked. The coffee platter was especially cute, and it came with a shot glass of chocolate mousse:
We had ordered a bottle each of red and white wine "au compteur", thinking that way we could better match the wine and the food...and what do you know, we ended up finishing both! So sorry, but I can't tell you how they price it when you don't finish the bottle. They were both excellent, and for the whole bottle one was 26€ and the other was 40€.

There was a very old payphone by the restrooms:
I would recommend Louis Vins without hesitation due to the choice and quality of food and wine, the friendly service, the prices, and the great atmosphere - it was hopping! One serious drawback: NO credit cards. None. Not even debit cards. So don't forget to make a pitstop by the ATM on the way there!

Louis Vins
9, rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève
75005 Paris
01 43 29 12 12
Open 7/7!!!


Monday, April 03, 2006

Zen Zoo

I have had a hankering for bubble tea for the past few months. One of my staples back in the US, I have searched all over Paris and was excited to finally find Zen Zoo, a tea salon in the 2nd whose menu is centered around Bubble Tea.

Bubble Tea, or Milk Tea with zhenzhou pearls, or Boba Tea, is a sweet mix of milk and tea, sometimes flavored, with chewy tapioca pearls that settle at the bottom. It's one of my favorite drinks but it's not for everyone: one summer I brought my little cousin to the Boba Tea shop back home and treated her to a coconut flavored bubble tea. At the first strawful, she spit out the pearls and exclaimed "eewwww slimy! disgusting!" - the texture just didn't appeal to her. It doesn't bother me, though; while the tea is refreshing in its own right the pearls are so fun! At Zen Zoo you can have it served hot or cold (I prefer it cold, with ice), and you can choose from a variety of flavors such as banana, coconut, taro, etc. When I get it flavored I like mango or something called "blue hawaii" that reminds me of cotton candy, but plain 'ol milk tea is just as good, so that's what I ordered.

The milk tea comes in two sizes, 4.50€ for the smaller one, which is a bit more expensive than back home ($3), but I'm not going to complain about the only place that has it! They also have a funny subscription type card, for 6 or 12 drinks, that lowers the prices a bit. This will be a wise investment in the summer. I went there in the afternoon, so I only glanced at the pastry menu, but they serve lunch and dinner, too - you can check out the menus on their website. From the website I had expected a sleek, trendy place like Demmers or Teaism, but actually the main floor is a small, almost sparse, tea room with tiny chairs and tables. As if to compensate for this, the majority of tables are window tables that allow participation in that great Parisian sport - people watching.

If I had been smart I would've ordered it to go (yep, they do that) and gone to the beautiful square just behind the restaurant:Oh well, there's always next time...
Zen Zoo
13 Rue Chabanais
75002 Paris
01 42 96 27 28

p.s. Afterwards I stopped by the Gallopin to check out their "normal" menu - I had gone on Valentine's Day - and it looked great, so I updated my original post.
p.p.s. For those interested in Zen Zoo's dining selections, check out Esther's post (in French).
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