After a nice, simple breakfast at the hotel in Venice, we walked the 2 blocks to the station for our train trip to Paris, which took 12 hours, with 2 transfers, at Milan and Basel. We thought we would pick up lunch at Milan, but the station did not seem to offer much. As it turned out, this was a good thing as the next train had a dining car.
Unfortunately they were out of most of the dishes on the menu. Nonetheless, we ate reasonably well. Stanley had polenta with ratatouille. I had Thai chicken curry with basmati rice, and both were surprisingly good. A bottle of Primitivo was ridiculously priced at 34.50 euros, but it’s always a nice part of the train travel experience to have a meal in a dining car. The bill was 65 euros.
We had plenty of time in Basel before getting the TGV to Paris, so we bought food for dinner to eat on the train. The Basel station has some wonderful food choices. First we bought some Matjes herring filets for appetizers and sandwiches of baby langoustines, cucumber, cheese and chopped red and yellow peppers from Nordsee, which we knew from a trip to Brussels some years ago. The quality of their seafood is impeccable. Total here was $20. We then stopped into a grocery and picked up a bottle of a Swiss rose and a bottle of water, and some plastic cups. $10 here. Last was dessert from Sprungli, a patisserie and confectionery that has been in business since 1836. $10 for 2 chocolate cups filled with raspberry mousse on top of a raspberry coulis and topped with a raspberry and some pastry cream. A fabulous meal for $40, all right there in the Basel station.
Arriving in Paris, we took a taxi from Gare de Lyon to Ana and Bertrand’s house in La Varenne (St. Maur). We began giving them a report on our trip, as they told us about their recent trip to St. Petersburg (Russia, not Florida).
This was Stanley’s birthday. We had planned lunch and dinner way ahead. Lunch was with John Talbott, the well-known Paris food blogger, and his wife, at La Condesa, which is run by the Mexican chef Indra Carillo, who used to work at Pujol in Mexico City (See my Mexico City post from 2015 with a report on Pujol).
Lunch was spectacular, starting with a crisp corn galette with goat cheese, and amuse-bouche of mushroom tempura with sorrel sauce. I don’t have all the details, but from memory the dishes we had included tomatoes with tomato ice cream, cream and crumbled something, squid ink tagliolini with shreds of yellow and green squash and strips of squid in a spiced broth, plaice topped with a spiced sauce , Pyrenees lamb with tomato coulis and eggplant puree, figs with creme anglaise and Mexican spices with ice cream. A red wine from the l’Herault region was quite good. The 3-course lunch menu is 38 euros. With 2 bottles of wine, water and coffees, the total was 240 euros.
On the way back, we picked up 5 bottles (half litre) of Pedro Ximenes sherry at the Andalucian gourmet store in La Varenne, enough for our after-dinner drinks for the time we were here.
Ana and Bertrand joined us for dinner at Zebulon. This is the sister restaurant to Pirouette, which we have been to before, but under a different chef at that time.
The 3-course dinner menu is 49 euros, with small supplements on a few dishes. Some of the dishes we had were marinated sea bass, marinated beef, bonito with bok choy and shallots with an Asian-style vinaigrette, lamb rib with shoulder confit, lemon tarte, and orange flower mousse with chocolate sorbet, topped with a chocolate wafer. With a bottle of a Languedoc red, the bill for 4 was 232 euros. Note that service is very slow. Allow 3 hours for dinner here.
Our original plan was to take a day trip with Ana and Bertrand to see a chateau, but they were not able to, so we made alternate plans. There was a special exhibit at the Musee Marmottan, the mostly Monet museum with a few works by other impressionist artists. Before the museum, though, the first stop was lunch, at Quarante et Un, a bistro a few blocks from the museum on Avenue de Mozart.
Stanley had veal scallopine Milanese topped with salad and parmesan, and I had the “fameux” Boudin Basque, with baked apple, mashed potatoes and salad. With a bottle of “vin de France”, which was pretty good, and coffee, the bill was 65 euros.
The Marmottan is one of the “house museums” that we love so much, and Stanley had never been there. I had, but it was many, many years ago.
The exhibit was of works lent by private collectors around the world, ranging from impressionism to fauvism. Some of the artists featured, aside from Monet, were Caillebotte, Sisley, Gaugin, Dufy and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Aside from the special exhibit, we explored the permanent collections. This painting, “Impression Sunrise”, is regarded as the seminal impressionist work, for which the movement was named:
We returned to La Varenne to shop for some of the ingredients for the Sunday dinner, which Stanley was going to cook, and several bottles of wine. Later, we headed back into Paris for dinner, arriving half an hour late for our reservation due to a train line out of service and then walking in the wrong direction, but luckily the restaurant had not given away our table.
Le Desnoyez is a tiny restaurant in the 20th, near the Place Belleville.
The menu is very limited, and changes regularly, but we were very happy with the choices. Stanley began with oeuf mayonnaise, a variation that included black bean sauce, while I had ris de veau with lemon and capers. My main course was rascasse (scorpion fish) with mussels, squid, and vegetables, all in a nicely spiced broth. His was duck breast with braised cabbage. The food here is simply prepared, no fancy plating, but it is deeply flavorful. With a bottle of Cahors (25 euros) the bill came to 95.
The day was spent entirely in La Varenne. In the morning we went to the farmers’ market with Ana, where we bought a pork loin roast, potatoes, ingredients for petits pois a la Francais, and marinated herring filets, and walked home along the quai.
Their son Alex and fiance Marie came for the mid-afternoon dinner. After kirs and hors d’oeuvres, we sat down to a fabulous meal beginning with the herring, then the milk-braised pork loin with potatoes and the petits pois.
We liked the Minervois that we had bought at the supermarket for about 7 euros.
Ana picked up a wonderful dessert, a tarte Tropezienne, a cream-filled brioche so named as it was created in St. Tropez (in 1955), and was named by the actress Brigitte Bardot when she was filming in St. Tropez at the time.
Sunday evening, Ana made a paella with seafood and chicken, which was absolutely delicious.
We had a cheese course and then dessert, which was the remainder of the Tropezienne and several ice creams.
I spent the morning updating the blog, then we went to lunch with Ana and Bertrand at Coretta, across from Martin Luther King Park in the 17th.
Beatriz Gonzalez, originally from Mexico, is the chef/owner of Neva Cuisine, and this is her more recent venture.
The dishes are very creative and beautifully presented, similar to La Condesa in that regard. Stanley and Bertrand started with the grilled squid. Ana and I had the langoustines. For the mains, Ana and Bertrand had the fish of the day, cod, Stanley had the wild boar, and I had quail. For dessert I had the baba, Stanley the pan di Spagna, Ana the brioche, and Bertrand the blanc manger. I got tastes of most and everything worked perfectly. With one bottle of Costiere de Nimes and coffees for all, the total was 219 euros.
After lunch Stanley and I took the metro to St. Denis to see the Abbey/Cathedral.
We then headed back to La Varenne, where I caught up on emails and blogging, before going back into Paris for dinner at Chez Michel.
I had chosen Chez Michel despite the fact that it is very traditional, which is usually not our preference, because I had a feeling they might have some game dishes. We were happy to find that they did, and also that the quality of everything we had was top-notch.
After they brought out a plate of periwinkles with a mayonnaise for dipping, Stanley started with fish soup, which came as a bowl of shaved parmesan and slices of spicy sausage, with a large pitcher of soup to be poured over. I had chopped crab mixed with mayonnaise. The main courses were what really excited us. I had grouse, which I have found on a menu only about a half dozen times in my life, either in England or France. This one was served with foie gras and girolle mushrooms and was cooked perfectly medium rare. It carried a supplement of 12 euros on the 38 euro menu, but was worth every penny. Stanley had partridge, also with foie gras, which had an 8 euro supplement. It was wonderful too. For dessert we had a Paris-Brest and riz au lait, both classics done well. With wine, the bill was 124.
Lunch was at Fulgurances.
This is unusual in that they don’t have a regular chef but instead bring in young guest chefs from all over the world, each staying for a few months. The current one is Mariana Villegas, originally from Mexico, who has worked for Danny Meyer in New York, then at Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York. Though less creative than I was anticipating, the food was very tasty, the ingredients were first-rate and for 25 euros for 3 courses at lunch, it’s an unbeatable value. Choices are limited to 2 appetizers 2 mains and one dessert. Stanley had a lettuce wedge with coppa (cured pork neck), figs and avocado, and hanger steak with red beans, avocado and a chili sauce. I had a salad of mixed heirloom tomatoes on a puree of smoked eggplant, followed by grilled fish, listed on the menu as mulot noir (I could not find a translation) in a broth with grilled bok choy and very thin sliced potatoes. The dessert was an interpretation of tres leches cake, a brioche topped with a dome of whipped cream mixed with mascarpone. They were out of the Cahors I ordered, and substituted a wine that was not as good, for 28 euros. Total with coffee was 85.
Afterward, we went to the Petit Palais to see the special exhibit of impressionist paintings done while the artists were exiled to London during the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71.
Once again, back to La Varenne briefly before returning to Paris for dinner at Le Radis Beurre.
This is perhaps our favorite Paris restaurant, which we have been to twice before (See my posts from 2016 and 2017). The food is wonderful and a bargain at 35 euros for 3 courses (same price at lunch and dinner). As in the past, I started with pig’s feet, while Stanley had a country pate en croute, served with cornichons and jars of pickled vegetables. Salad is also served alongside this course. I then had rable de lievre (saddle of hare), which had a supplement of 10 euros, again satisfying my craving for game. Stanley had the superb tete de veau. For dessert, Stanley had baba au rhum (3 euro supplement) and I had riz au lait with salted caramel sauce. I prefer this version to the one at Chez Michel, but that is just my taste. We had a wonderful bottle of Cote du Roussillon for 39 euros.
The service and ambience are really nice too. Total was 122.
For our last meal before heading to the airport, we treated Ana and Bertrand to lunch at L’Arcane, a Michelin starred restaurant in Montmartre which offers a 3-course lunch menu for 49 euros.
It is really more like 5 courses as the amuse-bouche and pre-dessert are substantial. There are no choices, but they do inquire about food allergies. So, here is a fairly detailed description of the dishes as I remember them:
Amuse – Salade niçoise – fresh tuna, anchovy, tomato, quail egg, olive, crouton
Entrée – 3 scallops in Champagne sauce, topped with chopped nuts in vinegar. I am not a big fan of cooked scallops (love them raw and marinated) as I find them a bit too sweet and cloying, but the sourness of the nut topping offset that beautifully.
Quail – Stuffed breast, legs, mushroom fricassee, dab of potato puree topped with a braised shallot.
Pre-dessert – Pistachio panna cotta – Topped with toasted pistachios and a sorbet of spinach, parsley and lemon.
Dessert – Red berry sorbet in a white chocolate/raspberry shell, on a cream base sprinkled with berries and meringue chips.
With wine and coffee, the bill was about 245 euros.
Now for the difficult question, how do each of these restaurants stack up in our opinion?
Best traditional – Chez Michel
Best updated traditional – Le Radis Beurre
Best creative – tie between La Condesa and L’Arcane
Best value – Le Radis Beurre, La Condesa and Fulgurances
Which would we go back to? Definitely La Condesa and Radis Beurre. Very likely Chez Michel and Fulgurances. Possibly L’Arcane. Not that there was anything wrong with the others, just that we like to try out new places on each trip so some of the ones we have been to will take a back seat.