Archive for the 'Paris' Category

Cafe Constant – Paris

Monday, August 28th, 2006
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Of all of the so-called casual restaurants in Paris run by renowned chefs that we visited, Cafe Constant was by far the most casual.  In this case, it was run by Chef Christian Constant, of the nearby Le Violon D’ingres.  The entrance of this corner cafe has little more than a bar and some tables, and the upstairs room where we ate was more like a room in an old pool hall.  We were the first to arrive for dinner, and I was concerned about the rather dank surroundings, but as we got our food and as the room completely filled up, things began to look a lot brighter, and I was eventually sorry to leave.  Most importantly, my meal at Cafe Constant was probably the most consistently delicious one that I had in all of Paris, and at most, it cost 27Euro/person for three courses (it was not prix-fixe, and each course had a different price, but each dish within the courses had the same price).

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Terrine de Kako with Lentils in Vinaigrette.  The terrine was made with pork and foie gras, and I liked the alternating smoothness and chewiness, and the way the flavors played with each other, with the lentils providing a solid mustard-herb backdrop.

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Chaud-Froid Chicken. This was served chilled and covered in an aspic with cream. Here’s a link for more about this classic dish.  I thought it was fantastic — the chicken juicy and substantially meaty, and the aspic such a great change from skin, and I liked the way that the aspic gave way to the chicken when eaten.  And this kind of chilled dish was perfect for that hot day.

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Strawberry Melba.  Simply great fruit is really all you need for a great dessert.  I guess ice cream and whipped cream help, too, for a great fruity, juicy, creamy, cold dessert.

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Profiteroles.  Perfect.

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Creme Caramel. I’d always thought that the point of making creme caramel was to not have bubbles inside it, but it seems like this was matched up with this plate based on its bubbles.  It tasted good, in any case.

bread & roses – Paris

Monday, August 28th, 2006
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We stopped at bread & roses, on the border of the Jardin du Luxembourg, for lunch in the middle of a marathon pastry tasting day.  If you click on the link, you’ll see a picture of just the sort of deli/cafe that I look for everywhere that I go.  They had beautiful puff pastry tarts in the window, and an equally impressive selection inside of salads, sandwiches, and pastries.  They were also extremely friendly and helpful to our slightly frazzled group of 7 that somehow became 5.  I’ve mentioned that Paris was expensive, and this was no exception.  The quality of food was very high, and everything delicious, but the prices still remain a little shocking.

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I was dying for a ham and butter sandwich on a baguette, but they only sold them for takeway. So, I had to order this Plate of (San Daniele) Prosciutto. It came with a slice of “campagne bio.” It was about $23.

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The tarts were as fantastic and fresh as they look. And I believe about $18 each.

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Cafe Sud – Paris

Monday, August 28th, 2006

One afternoon, with plans to visit Fauchon and La Duree for dessert, Chad and I searched for a place to have lunch around La Madeleine, and we were discouraged by the lack of interesting restaurants that we could find until we came across the chic Cafe Sud, at 12 rue de Castellane. Perfectly for us, their 21.50Euro prix-fixed was two courses only, so were were free to stock up at Fauchon afterwards. Cafe Sud had a good lunch, and if I worked in the area, I’d probably look forward to it, but otherwise, I wouldn’t really seek it out. But it is comfortable and modern, and I’m grateful that we ate there, and not at a rundown bistro.
And by the way, I never did get anything from La Duree. The line was too long, the shop was too hot and small, and frankly, the pastries looked rather messier than they did when I had my first macarons there in 1998.

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I liked this sort of tropical trail mix served to us upon being seated. We also got good bread.

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Chad got the Buffalo Mozzeralla with Grilled Vegetables, which I thought had more flavor than the rather bland version at L’Atelier Joel Robuchon.

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I got the Artichoke Salad, which was absolutely perfect and I like that design with the artichokes.

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I had the Salmon with Ratatouille. The salmon was meaty and tender, but I didn’t care for the ratatouille. It was drab and watery. The potato chips were very good and welcome.

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Chad had the Beef with Fries. The beef was good, but the fries were a bit too dry.

Aux Lyonnais – Paris

Monday, August 28th, 2006
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The Alain Ducasse-owned Aux Lyonnais was a wildly uneven experience. While some of our dishes were fantastic, most walked the line between sufficient and bad. It goes without saying that we could have been there on a bad day, or our tastes are different, but that’s how the experience lingers with me. The desserts were the strongest part of the meal, so if you do go, keep that in mind. What I liked most consistently were the cast iron vessels that a lot of the dishes were served in. Homey and pretty and functional – everything stayed hot so well. The restaurant itself was also beautiful, full of a warm fin-de-siecle elegance.

We had an extremely jovial and helpful waiter, who was by no means overbearing. After he asked us if we had any questions about the menu, he probably sensed that there were many, so he offered to go over the entire menu for us. And he did. It seemed like a lot of tourists frequent Aux Lyonnais, so I guess it’s nice that they take care of them without making them feel bad for being tourists.

Coincidentally, my pictures are hit or miss for this meal, so bear that in mind, too.

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Cervelle de Canut. Garlic and herb fromage blanc spread. We ate this while looking over the menu, and I couldn’t get enough of of its silky goodness.

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I also liked this bag of Bread.

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Cocette of Vegetables. Poor Chad. Like just about every other restaurant we went to in Paris, there was no AC, and it was so hot. And because he was sitting at the end of the table, with no leg room because of the table’s legs, he had to sit far away and slouch in to meet the table. Unfortunately, he also met this steaming casserole of vegetables, acting as his own personal steam machine.

But how did they taste? Like cooked vegetables.

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Marinated Eel Salad with Beans. I ordered this to be brave, but I didn’t realize the feat it would involve to eat. The eel was so tough that I felt like I would never stop chewing, and the flavor of the marinade (which tasted like a citrus-y vinegar to me) combined with the masticated eel made me nauseous, and ugh, the thought of it still does. The beans (fava, I believe) were starchy. The lettuce good and fresh, though.

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Pike Quenelles and Crayfish. I was really looking forward to this, as it’s something of a signature dish. I’ve read others compare it very favorably to a fluffy omelet, but mine were kind of dry and spongy… it had a steamed kind of texture and undertone of flavor. To be sure, it also tasted very fishy, and the creamy crayfish sauce brought it to an even deeper fishiness. But even that felt one-note. It was such a large serving of the same fishy, spongy thing in almost every bite.  The crayfish were moist and tasty, but didn’t help for variety’s sake.

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Breast of Veal. These were striated with layers of fat and meat, and yet somehow, the meat was extremely dry, to the eternal mystification of Chad. When asked about it, or spied chewing for extended periods of time, he’d alternate between exclaiming, “It’s like eating bread!” and “It’s like eating turkey!” But… at least it retained the flavor of veal. And the crisp croutons in the sauce and meltingly tender potatoes were excellent.

Duck was also eaten, which was described as great and almost robustly beefy.

Liver was also eaten and was described as the best the eater had ever had, akin, as it was, to butter.

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The Turbot was described as very good.

Ah, desserts…

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Cherry Souffle with Cherry Ice Cream. This had kirsch, and the eater enthusiastically compared it to a cloud.

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Ile Flottante aux Pralines Roses et Tartes aux Pralines – This was completely wonderful, and one of the best ile flottante that I’ve seen and tasted.  The tart had a wonderful caramel-forward flavor, almost like a pecan pie. The secret to it all were pink pralines, which are sugar-coated almonds with pink coloring, which add crunch and chew and flavor. It was all very sweet, but the anglaise cut that nicely.  I found a recipe for the dish here.

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Peche Melba a Notre Facon – Wonderfully soft and flavorful peach with raspberry jam and creme chantilly dotted vanilla bean seeds. The very creamy vanilla ice cream on the side felt superfluous, given the perfection in the jar.

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Strawberries Beaujolais with Cookies. Described as refreshing.

Poilane – Paris

Monday, August 28th, 2006
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