After 48 in London – we took the train across the channel to Paris for four days and the women’s fashion market. Jimmy and I have been doing this trip twice annually for years and have built up a great restaurant stockpile. We like more casual spots where the locals go and forgo fine dining spots. This time we made two great new discoveries.
Frenchie Wine Bar
When I initially emailed the concierge about reservations at Frenchie – the most buzzed about restaurant in Paris – she told me not to to bother “they NEVER answer their phone – it’s maddening.” Of course this made me want a seat at Chef Gregory Marchand’s table all the more. Luckily additional sleuthing uncovered the fact that he and his team also operate a more casual 40 seat wine bar directly across the street from their small restaurant – and that spot does not take reservations. Diners line up for the 7 o’clock opening and are seated on a first come, first serve basis.
We arrived at the inconspicuous doorway on a hidden street in the 2nd at 6:40. We were number 16 in line. By 7:05 we were seated inside the cozy restaurant at a four top with an engaging couple from Minneapolis. And we were directly next to the plexi-glass wall which gave us a first hand view inside the tiny controlled kitchen. The menu consisted of about 20 sharable items – we chose six and they were all tops. We started with the Pulled Pork Sliders. The irony of eating exceptional North Carolina style BBQ in Paris was not lost on me – but this sandwich could win any American BBQ competition They were tangy and toothsome and overall just right. Next came a more traditional French dish Terrine de Campagne (country style poultry pâté), deliciously spreadable, studded with pistachios, it had a richly flavorful chunky texture, further elevated by the restaurants hardy char-crusted bread. The Fois Gras Royale was a fois gras custard made with cream & eggs – almost like creme crème brûlée. Duck jus jelly & hazelnuts topped it adding additional flavor and crunch. It was hands down the best Fois Gras I have ever experienced. Next up a hand made Papardelle with a Lamb Ragu that would make any Italian Grandmother Proud. A very interesting Seasonal Vegetable Salad followed – composed of baby vegetables softy blanched in a flavorful broth – each gently softened in the process, but not at all soggy. Finally we had Épaule de Porc – braised milk fed pork shoulder, tender and flavorful, served with a fresh corn salad – satisfying way to end the evening. For wine we shared 2 bottles of a Jean Foillard 2009 Morgan Beaujolais which paired well with all of our food. And astoundingly the entire experience came in under 200 Euro (with gratuity).
This place is remarkable, serving some of the most imaginative and well crafted food I have ever encountered, a must for any serious foodie’s Paris agenda.
Au Moulin a Vent (Chez Henri)
On Saturday we met our friend Bari to try a new spot in the 5th – one I had read about in Conde Nast Traveler. Reservations here are a must, as this place is popular with locals, so plan on making one a few weeks in advance.
What we found upon entering Au Moulin a Vent was a bustling small Parisian restaurant where the menu and atmosphere beautifully reflected the place’s classic heritage (it was opened in 1946). From the zinc bar and cellar themed memorabilia, to the long red banquettes and well starched white table clothes, the place exuded easy charm. And from the moment we crossed the threshold it was abundantly clear that we should focus on french classics.
We began with three different starters – Escargot with Garlic Butter, Haricot Vert with Lump Crab Meat and an Artichoke Salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette. Each was prepared meticulously – allowing the freshness of the ingredients to shine. The Escargot had a wonderful earthly flavor and buttery garlic bite. With haricot vert I love the way the french use green beans as a base for a salad rather than lettuce. In this case tender beans were slightly blanched and served cold – the salty seafood flavor of the crab complimented the beans beautifully. The artichoke salad was composed of thin slices of boiled artichoke crowns which were served ice cold and clearly fresh. The bright acidity of the vinaigrette brought the subtle flavors of the artichoke to life. All in all, wonderful beginnings.
For mains it was all about the bouffe – their speciality. Bari had the Entrecote (a cut similar to a Ribeye) served with a textbook Bearnaise. Jimmy and I each had the Chateaubriand (a large cut from the tenderloin) au Poivre with Brandy Cream Sauce. Often in France the cuts of meat are not nearly as tender or flavorful as what you will find stateside. This was not the case at Au Moulin a Vent – the meat rose to the level of the sauces. Our steaks also came with a plate piled high with “Petit Pommes Rissolees” – large hunks of golden fried potatoes.
The desserts also delivered. Profiteroles with Semisweet Chocolate Sauce and the quintessential Floating Island – a monstrous piece of meringue topped with caramel and nuts – swimming in a pool of creme anglais. Glorious.
Our somewhat serious waiter lightened up as the evening progressed. And by night’s end he was joking with us, rather than at us, about or abysmal pronunciation of these french classics. In fact, as we waited for our taxi, he came over with complimentary shots of an intense mystery liquor “to warm for the road.” The perfect punctuation for a lovely meal.
frenchie bar a vins
5-5 rue du Nil (2nd)
Tél: 01 40 39 96 19
7:00 to 10:30 pm Monday – Friday, no reservations
au moulin a vent
20 Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard (5th)
Tél: 01 43 54 99 37
lunch and dinner Tuesday – Friday, dinner only Saturday, reservations required