Three days after returning from Brazil, Keenan and I found ourselves once again in the City of Lights for a short weekend. It is very rare that I join Keenan on one of his business trips, but on this occasion I couldn't refuse. He had meetings scheduled in the Loire Valley for Friday and in Marseille for the following Monday, so instead of traveling back and forth between London and France, he suggested we stay in Paris for the weekend. Paris for the weekend? Oui s'il vous plaît!
Being such a last minute trip, we had no agenda whatsoever, so I will keep my ramblings to a minimum and share our dining experience at two up and coming Parisian bistros, both featured in the New York Times.
Saturday afternoon at Montemartre:
Checking through my notes for list of recommended restaurants in Paris, we decided to eat at Le Chateaubriand in the 11th arrondisement on Friday evening for several reasons. For one, it's conveniently located a few metro stops Gare du Nord. Second, they have a walk-in policy for the second seating at around 10PM which is great for us coming from London after work. Last, it is ranked #11 after Thomas Keller's Per Se on S.Pellegrino Worlds 50 best Restaurants and every food blog gave it glowing reviews. The changing 5 course set-menu cost 50 Euros and there are no supplements or substitutions. So basically everyone is served the same five course meal -- it's how they keep the restaurant reasonably affordable. In other words, you don't get a choice in what you eat, so it's probably not the best place to dine if you have dietary restrictions.
The restaurant decor is down-to-earth with simple cream walls, but the atmosphere was lively and the crowd was young and hip. As for the food, I hate to say this, but as much as I wanted to like Le Chateaubriand, Keenan and I were sorely disappointed. Such a shame because I have heard nothing but wonderful reviews coupled with some delicious food photos that always leave me drooling. I blame it on the menu for that evening, which included some bouche similar to pao de quejo which we ate almost everyday in Brazil; "cheviche-flavoured" soup with one cube of avocado; duck heart, which Keenan wasn't a fan due to the texture; an uninspiring and fatty pork belly; and fish and chip. A bit odd that I traveled to Paris for traditional bistro food and find myself eating fish and chip in a Parisian bistrot. On a positive note, we did enjoy the steam fish with spring watercress and the dessert course, plus the staff was attentive and friendly even at 12:30 am. It was a miss for us this time, but I'd be happy to give it another try next time we visit Paris. Hopefully next time the chef will infuse some delicious Basque-cooking in his menu.
Dinner Saturday evening was the culinary highlight of our weekend in Paris. Tucked in a residential and slightly out of the way neighbourhood in the 5th arrondisement, l'Agrume is part of the wave of neo-Parisian bistros with affordable pre-fixe menus. You can order off the a la carte menu, but the 5 course pre-fixe menu for 37 euros is a much better value. l'Agrume also has an extensive wine list; we opted for 2005 Cote Sud Rouge though we probably should have gone with the wine pairing. Just like Le Gaigne, l'Agrume is also run by chef Franck Marchesi-Grandi and his extremely bubbly wife who manages the restaurant. The deep lavender-walled restaurant seats no more than 20-25 people with an open view kitchen where you could watch the chef work his magic (he works alone in the kitchen). Everything was prepared with high-quality ingredients and delicious! We enjoyed our dining experience and would definitely recommend it. The risotto and white fish dish were both lovely. Definitely a hidden gem worth seeking out.
Londoners love to talk about the weather and being in London for so long now, I have to rave about the weather especially when it is nice. Sunday was an absolutely gorgeous spring day in Paris. We seized the opportunity to take a nice stroll along the Seine River on our way to Le Marais for our usual fix of falalel at L'as Du Falalfel on Rue de Rossier. The queue, as usual, was out the door but they have a very efficient system of ordering and paying while queuing so the line moves rather quickly. After lunch we made our way to Jardin des Tuileries where we found tons of people sitting outside basking in the sun, enjoying the lovely spring weather.
Our trip to Paris was short but sweet. Happy Spring!