For my last week in Paris I’ve compiled an extensive list of all the things I need to do, including places I need to eat at, and little by little I’ve been ticking them off. Except for today – I ripped an entire page out of the “To Do” notebook and Got. It. Done.
I believe I mentioned Le Chateaubriand before, and given it’s been top of my wish list for sometime, I thought I could mark that notch simply by going to lunch. I haven’t wanted to trek deep into the 11th by myself at night, and have had a tough time getting them on the phone to make a reservation, so a simple pop-by at lunch should’ve done the trick. After hitting the Edvard Munch (‘The Scream’) retrospective at the Pompidou Centre (pretty fantastic) I journeyed up to LC, only 3 Metro stops away. According to The Internet, it opened for lunch at noon, and I got there a few minutes before. Except they looked nowhere near ready for lunch service. No problem, I’ll just get a coffee and wait. Early bird gets the table, right? Fifteen minutes later, still not open.
I consulted the Magic 8 Ball, er iPhone, and deep into the Chowhound forums it was confirmed they no long serve lunch (someone please tell the other Internet.) A quick scan of Zagat, other food blogs and even my new Le Fooding app and I found two nearby bistrots of high regard, Le Villaret and L’Astier. Le Villaret was rated an astounding 26 (even higher than Le Chateaubriand) so I headed that way, with a quick stop at L’Astier to make sure I wasn’t missing anything – nope, Le Villaret was the better choice! When I finally arrived the room was sparesely seated, with an older couple at one table and a group of businessmen at another. So the vibe was a little stiff but at least I was going to eat! The menu was all French so I did a quick under the table translation (thank goodness for that international data plan) and settled on the entree and plat prix fixe, starting with a house made terrine of wild boar and a roast pheasant for my main, accompanied with a glass of Burgundy (see the girl in the pic above? She ordered the same thing. She clearly knows what’s up!) The convivial waiter tried to coax me into dessert but I thought the two dishes would be enough to sate my palate. I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but this was one of my best meals yet – a true surprise and revelation (I’m reserving best meal honors for Cafe Constant since I had such great company in Jeff Mirek – and it was delicious!) I’m talking…wait for it…Next. Level. Shit! Check it out…
Course number two, coming at ya!
Knowing it was likely I wouldn’t eat this well for a while, or it might be a long time before I visited Le Villaret again, I exercised my dessert option, and corresponding second glass of wine. Again, I was not disappointed…
It was a perfect meal, perfectly served in a perfect setting, and perfectly timed to satisfy my bistrot fix! And by the time I wrapped up, the place was jumping. So maybe not so stiff after all. After further Interweb consulting, it was confirmed that Le Villaret is the real deal and at the leading edge of bistronomique. And after even further further consulting, I realized that my good pal Lisa Namerow had previously recommended this to me. She definitely knows what’s up! Final bill? 35 euro for three courses and two glasses of wine!
Speaking of wine, I still had a wine tasting at Spring Restaurant to hit. This was my lame attempt to get my foot in the door and possibly a seat at the bar at one of the toughest tables to book in Paris. In lieu of a reservation, I took advantage of the restaurant’s “grand tasting” offering, which run every Thursday and Friday and can be booked online. In a rare moment of promptness, I showed up ten minutes early and was able to check out their neighboring wine store and noted they serve a new fresh soup each day (now added to the To Do list!) After 15 minutes of waiting it was confirmed the other two participants were no shows and I had scored my very own private tasting and lesson from the most sought-after “cavistes” in town!
Specializing in wines from Burgundy, the Rhone valley and some lesser known regions, such as Corsica, I sampled some truly wonderful bottles in the Spring wine cave, pictured above. Best of all the staff spoke English (in fact the sommelier and head chef are both American) and I picked up a northern Rhone Syrah that simultaneously blew my mind and knocked my socks off.
Eventually I dragged my headless torso and barefeet back to the Metro and on to the Jeu de Paume to complete yet another task with a survey of photographer Diane Arbus’ catalog, her first ever retrospective in France. Arbus’ iconic images (e.g. A Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx) bestowed dignity upon her preferred subjects, often social outcasts, circus sideshow freaks, trannies, little people – you know, the weirdos. And I like weirdos! In short, everything works out – for me!
Diet starts next week folks – until then, onward!
Le Villaret, 13 Rue Ternaux, 11th arrondissement, Metro: Parmentier
Spring, 6 Rue Bailleul, 1st arrondissement, Metro: Louvre-Rivoli
Jeu de Paume, 1 Place de La Concorde, 1st arrondissement, Metro: Concorde