We’ll Always Have Paris: With Meals at Restaurant Miroir, Jacques Genin, Le 6 Paul Bert, Little Breizh, and Chez L’Ami JeanJune 30, 2014 | By | COMMENTS
I had a reason for not wanting to go to Paris, this trip, and it was both very stupid and very sweet. Namely, I love Paris so much, I didn’t want to go there again without Craig. Lest you forget, we’d gone together to the Edinburgh Film Festival, he left that Sunday for the Nantucket Film Festival, and I ducked down to London where I ate myself silly and saw lots of theater. I could’ve stayed there for the rest of the week, reconnecting with him in Munich (where I am now) for the Munich Film Festival, only our friends Mark and Diana were in Paris that same week and kept imploring me to come join them. “You’ve already been to Paris without Craig,” said Mark. “What’s the difference?” It was a powerful point. And so, before I knew it, I’d bought a one-way ticket for the Chunnel and figured I’d continue my way from Paris to Germany with a stop in Strasbourg, right on the border of France. When you see what I ate along the way, you’ll agree that this decision should’ve been a no-brainer right from the start.
As the trip to Paris drew closer and closer, I treated it casually. “I’m just going to Paris for two days, no big deal,” I said to myself; trying not to feel too guilty about going there Craigless. Then, as I emerged from the Gare du Nord train station (the train ride from London was so fast, I felt like I’d been beamed over like on Star Trek) the city totally enveloped me with its charm. The buildings, the people, the sounds, the sights, everything just washed over me and I had this huge grin on my face for the whole cab ride from the station to the Hotel Amour (which had been suggested to me by a few friends).
Located in the SoPi district (South of Pigalle) the hotel is like a litmus test for those who love Paris for all its wacky charm and those who prefer a less Parisian experience. For example, this is the lobby:
It is, in fact, a restaurant with just a tiny desk and a man there who told me my room wasn’t ready, took my bags, including the one with my computer, and when I said, “Oh, there’s a computer in there” he accidentally banged it on the wall, laughed, and said: “Now it is a puzzle. In a thousand pieces!”
The fact that I laughed at that instead of breaking down crying means Paris and I are a good fit. When, in fact, my room was ready, I rode up in the tiniest of tiny elevators:
To a mysterious hallway:
To a bright yellow room, decorated by an artist:
It was a room full of charm. It was also a room with a graphic image of a vagina on the wall. Again, the Hotel Amour tests your Paris mettle.
But I wasn’t there to study hotel room vagina pictures, I was there to meet up with Mark and Diana. So back downstairs, at 12:30, Diana came and joined me and we walked up towards Monmarte for lunch at a bistro mentioned in that NYT article about Paris bistros; Restaurant Miroir.
If I had to devise a better “Welcome To Paris” meal, I couldn’t do it. The place, with its unprepossessing decor, was pure Paris authenticity. To start, I had this poultry pate with chunks of chicken and liver and wonderful pickled vegetables:
Diana had a fish pate of sorts made with a whitefish that was also delectable:
We also had wine to toast the fact that, holy crap, we’re actually in Paris right now.
My entree was easily one of the best dishes I’ve had in my 10 days in Europe so far; a braised veal shoulder with a deep, brown sauce that makes me want to break out my Julia Child the second I get home. Also, chopped heirloom tomatoes that totally complemented everything on the plate.
Diana, meanwhile, had a fish dish that was masterful in its execution. Namely, it had a spicy crust that was a delight to crunch through, and a perfectly moist interior. If I ever become a chef, I’ll want to stage here to learn how they make it.
Instead of having dessert at Miroir (which had a most intriguing dessert menu, including a pistachio fig tart) we decided to walk to a famous Paris patisserie and chocolate shop called Jacques Genin (a serious walk, in case you ever follow in our footsteps).
Going in here is like walking into a Gucci or a Prada store where the salespeople are dressed better than you are and the pocketbooks and shoes on display, or the chocolates and candies, as the case may be, are treated like the crown jewels. What’s nice, though, is that Jacques Genin has table service:
So we scored ourselves a table and ordered up a storm (when in Paris!). We started with the most incredible Mille-Fuille with vanilla pastry cream; a dessert that my dad used to order, when I was growing up, only in America we call it a Napoleon:
If you’ve ever witnessed the creation of puff pastry (and I was once part of an article that never got published where I received puff pastry lessons in the Gramercy Tavern kitchen) you know how much work and care goes into it. A block of butter is flattened on top of pastry dough then folded and folded again until you get a thousand layers (which, actually, is the translation of “mille-fuille”). Here before us was the Holy Grail of mille-fuille. I can’t imagine one better; it shattered beautifully as we cut into it, and each bite was buttery, crunchy, and deep like caramel. This is worth a flight to Paris alone.
Only, we couldn’t stop there. So we also ordered a selection of chocolates and pâte de fruit:
Who wouldn’t want to be at our table?
The fruits had such wonderful texture and flavor; and the chocolates were perfectly balanced. One of the highlights, though (and people echoed this on Instagram) was the passionfruit caramels they gave us for free. Unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before; tangy, tart, and buttery all at once. They’re not to be missed.
From there, we walked to the Metro and saw so many awe-inspiring sights, it was a constant reminder of how uniquely beautiful Paris is (believe me, I’m not the first to say it):
Back at the room, I showered and readied myself for that night’s dinner. Before I knew it, I was running late, so I flagged down a taxi and had the most charming Paris thing happen; at a red light, a juggler came out and did a marvelous routine. My taxi driver waved him over and gave him money:
Maybe you just had to be there, but it made me all giddy to be there at that moment.
Before dinner, I joined Mark and Diana for a drink near our restaurant:
Feeling very Ina Garten, I ordered a Kir Royale (that’s kirsch with champagne) while Mark and Diana had Americanos (which, I believe, is something like a Negroni):
OK, now it’s time for dinner at Le 6 Paul Bert:
As you know, I really wrestled with where to eat on one of my nights in Paris. There were so many trendy places lobbed in our direction, but both Clotilde and David Lebovitz pointed us towards Le 6 Paul Bert and if you’re going to Paris, best to trust the Parisians. This place was absolutely phenomenal; from the moment we walked in, I knew that we’d chosen wisely.
After selecting our food (and there were so many wonderful things to choose from), our waiter helped us choose a bottle of wine; a Chardonnay that had lots of character:
Then the appetizers arrived and they were totally stunning. Here are the names, in French (you’ll have to use Google translate for this portion of the post).
Mark’s was the most absolutely stunning: Carottes nouvelles, abricot, miel et sureau:
It was also the most delicious; the way the apricot flavor was worked into those carrots was almost mystical in its design.
Diana had the sardines juste marinees, navet blanc, creme crue et mie de pain:
And I had the carpaccio de chinchard, eau de concombre et tzaziki:
It was a most refreshing dish; a light start to the meal, something you don’t expect to experience in Paris.
The next course, sort of a pre-entree post-appetizer course, also brought some dazzlers. Diana and I both had the anguille fumee, ris d’agneau, jus d’herbe et palourdes which roughly translates to EEL AND SWEETBREADS:
The sweetbreads were crispy and fatty, like the world’s best Chicken McNuggets (sorry to go there, but it’s true) and paired with smoked eel, totally surprising and beguiling and unforgettable. Mark had a carpaccio paleron de boeuf, feves, anchois et truffles d’ete:
For our entrees, Mark and Diana had the Carre de porcelet, betteraves, yaourt et sucre brun (basically: baby pig):
And I had the pintade rotie, oeuf au plat, chanterelles et oignons nouveaux (aka: chicken with an egg on it).
All of this was exquisite and wonderful–a highlight of my whole trip to Europe–but the pièce de résistance was this dessert; a parfait glace a la rhubarbe, sorbet fraise-fruits rouges:
The ice cream and the sorbet were both terrific, but the element that made this sing was the fruit: those berries and cherries were tear-inducingly lovely. Garden of Eden good.
There was also a cannoli au citron de Sicile, sorbet au from age frais:
And abricot rotis, gateau carotte, chocolat blanc et glace flouve:
Our meal here was so good, I now consider it a mandatory stop for anyone who loves food journeying to the City of Light. Thanks to everyone who suggested it.
On my walk home, I noticed lots of people watching some sort of soccer game.
Must be a French thing.
The next morning, I met up with one of my oldest blogging friends, Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini:
We had coffee at a place called KB Cafeshop which served some of the best coffee I’ve had in Paris:
We caught up on each other’s lives, talked all about blogs and books and people that we know, and before I knew it, I had to bid Clotilde adieu to meet Mark and Diana at the Rodin museum on the other side of town. We commented later that, despite the short visit and the time and geography between us, we connect so quickly every time we meet. Knowing Clotilde is one of the best things to have come out of my blog; she’s a swell person.
So, the Rodin museum (aka Musee Rodin):
How had I never been here before? It’s easily one of the most stunning museums I’ve been to in Paris; but not just museums, just spaces in general. The grounds are tranquil and beautiful and a wonderful place to wander and think:
And speaking of thinking:
After the musee Rodin, we went to meet a certain person by the name of David Lebovitz for lunch at Little Breizh:
Well, I’ll put it this way: he made us address him as “sir,” but otherwise he was as charming as ever. Look how he made Diana laugh:
Little Breizh, a place he suggested, is famous for its buckwheat crepes. Here’s the man who makes them:
And here’s the crepe I had for lunch, filled, as it was, with ham, cheese, and an egg:
Let’s have a peek inside:
Pretty gorgeous, right? And it definitely tasted as good as it looks.
As part of a lunch special, you get the savory crepe, a bowlful of cider, and a dessert crepe. The four of us shared one salted caramel:
And one chocolate:
Both of which David suggested we have with buckwheat flour too; needless to say, we swooned over the results.
At this point, Mark had to sneak off to do some work, and David began touring Diana and I around. Can you imagine the nerve of this guy? Who does he think he is?
We were forced into exquisite chocolate shops, where we bought ourselves more caramels and pate de fruit:
And sampled salted caramel-filled chocolates:
Then he dragged us into a store selling beautifully packaged sardines:
And a spirits shop selling all kinds of French liquor:
Finally, after a drink in the Marais, we were able to rid ourselves of this self-proclaimed Paris tour guide. I kid! Having David tour us around was an absolute treat; I feel spoiled even telling you that it happened, but it did. Thanks, David, for making our day so special.
As Diana and I planned to part and reconnect that night for dinner, we found a shop selling French tablecloths:
And I bought this colorful one for our dining room table for 40 Euros:
Excited to see how it looks.
That night we had dinner at a restaurant that Mark and Diana fell in love with the last time they were in Paris but–spoiler alert–slightly disappointed us this time around, Chez L’Ami Jean.
Diana first heard about the place in a New Yorker article about Le Fooding and when they went last time, it felt like the real deal–an authentic, tucked-away Paris restaurant serving hearty, carefully made French food.
On this night, however, the place was overrun with Americans and the staff seemed eager to rush us out of there. We were whisked to a table in the back corner by the kitchen, where this man acted out the part of “angry French chef.” (Actually, it was interesting to see that kind of kitchen, with such a powerful force at the center; sort of like the one Jacques Pepin describes in his memoirs.)
We ordered our food and then my least favorite thing that can happen in a restaurant happened: they brought it out almost 30 seconds later. The message was clear, “We want you gone.”
My soup, a lobster bisque with squid ink, was an ugly gray color and had bits of shell in it:
Diana’s appetizer, though, was fun: a preparation of fish with torched herbs on top. She got a kick out of it as the embers were still glowing.
Fred Flinstone would’ve been happy with the steak-for-two that Mark and Diana shared; it was epic:
And my veal cheek was nicely braised, if a bit forgettable:
The mashed potatoes had more butter than potato, but not enough salt, which kind of killed the deal for me:
But my favorite bite of the night was the dessert; a chilled rice pudding that came with a caramel and a granola to put on top (a great idea I’d recreate at home if Craig didn’t hate rice pudding):
We all agreed, at the end, that it was a totally fine dinner, just too expensive for what it was and slightly spoiled by brusque service. Still, it was lovely to spend one last night with Mark and Diana in Paris:
The next morning, I hit the road for Strasbourg (you’ll read about that in the next post), but on this drizzly night, I made my way back to my hotel with the vagina picture on the wall, and sighed the kind of sigh you only sigh when you know it’s time to leave one of the world’s great cities. But the good news is, because I didn’t go with Craig, I now have the perfect excuse to go back. Paris, I promise, I’ll be there again soon.
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