"The reluctant Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

TIPPING in France

This topic seems to be popping up more and more as more Americans are visiting France because the dollar is stronger. Friends are always asking me, how should I tip?. So, I’ve decided to write specifically about tipping in France, based on what I know and from my own personal experiences.

First let me start by saying that “Service” and “Tipping” are basically the same. It’s semantics.


In France all prices include service and taxes, and taxes are itemized on your bill under TVA (European Value Added Tax).  Approximately 15% of that price corresponds to the service. And, since 2008 a law was passed to ensure that this is passed onto the service staff in addition to their salary.  That is why when you get your bill, whether it be for a restaurant, hairdresser, cab etc. it’s all inclusive. While service may not be itemized on the bill it is already built in. Some restaurants may state on the menu that "service inclus" (service included), but that is only a nicety; it always is included by law.

So, net-net service is always included as mandated by French law. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tip. So for example, tipping in Japan would be considered extremely rude (cultural differences), whereas tipping in France is considered more a “gesture” of kindness and appreciation, since wait staff do not depend on tips for their livelihood as they do in the U.S.

Keep in mind it is NOT necessary to tip. But here are some of my guidelines.

Cafés, Bistros and and/or brasseries. 

Typically, if we stop for a quick café or drink we will round up our bill. So for example, if our bill comes to 5.20€ we will leave 6€. This is true for a quick meal, e.g., at a lunch at bistros and/or brasseries.  And, if you go to a take out service, you won't see tip jars as you would in US. The exception to this would be at places frequented by Americans, but this is rare. And, tipping at these places is a personal choice.


When I speak about restaurants, I'm referring to higher end restaurants. Again, tips are never expected, but for EXCEPTIONAL service, you leave a few Euros. For example, we recently went to dinner and the service staff was just incredible, attentive and super nice.  Our bill came to over 220€ for 2-people, we left a 5€ tip. Again, it's a gesture to show appreciation rather than supplement their livelihood.  We leave cash, rather than upping the credit charge, because #1 there is no place on the credit card slip for a tip, and #2 if you up the charge, the house gets the tip and it does not necessarily go to the wait person.

Taxis, Uber, Shuttle Service. 

Some taxis will charge extra for large bulky suitcases, and there is always a charge for more than 1 suitcase, but they will let you know up front. And, taxis rates depend on time of day, e.g., day charge, night charge and overnight charge. Leaving a tip is personal. If you felt the taxi driver did extra by helping you with your luggage, then a few Euros (2-5€), is appreciated.  But typically in Paris proper, rounding up is always good.

Additionally, as a general rule if a shuttle service helps you with your bulky luggage leaving a Euro or two per bag is much appreciated.  As for Uber,  typically no money is exchanged and they often do not accept additional tips. I have my Uber account set up to leave a 5% tip if I use the to go to the airport because oftentimes I will have bulky luggages, but this is a personal choice.

Personal services, e.g., hairdresser, manicurist.

Again, tips are not necessary, but if you have a close relationship a few Euros never hurts.

Hotel concierge.

My general rule of thumb with hotel concierges is if you had them do some research or they were able to get a much sought after reservations for a restaurant you want to go to,  in other words any "herculean" effort on their part, then I would leave a minimum of 5€ and higher, depending on the caliber of hotel you're staying at.

Hotel porters.

I would say a Euro or two a bag, depending on how heavy and bulky it is.

Bathroom attendants.

Many bathrooms at e.g., Carrousel du Louvre have a charge for using their restrooms. Some may not, but will have a tip plate for the attendant. Usually some change is much appreciated, but no more than a Euro.

Dubious vendors.

In any large city, there will always be people who will try to cheat you.  For example, if you get a bill and the bill says, “Tip not included”, it's semantics. Some restaurants do this to get additional revenue. As I mentioned, by French law service is always included! You do not need to tip unless the food and service was exceptional.  I once got such a bill and I decided to peek at the bills of local French people versus the Americans at this restaurant.  What I discovered did not make me a happy camper. Only the Americans got "Tip not included" on their bill. Needless to say I was not pleased and complained to management, and never went back!

Always, always check your bill, especially at tourists areas. When I first moved here, I once had a guy try to cheat me by saying 3-drinks was 50€, really? Once I questioned this, he apologized, but I knew exactly what he was trying to do. Forewarning, this happens a lot around the Notre Dame, and even happens to French speaking tourist from e.g., Canada.

My current observations.

We've been here since 2008, and I have to say the French attitude on tipping has changed. The French for many years felt adamant about not leaving any money at all e.g., restaurants. But this is changing. From my observation more and more people are leaving a few Euros after a nice meal. Or if they have a close relationship with their e.g., neighborhood restaurant they will leave some money (change). I always leave a few Euros at my favorite cafés since I go there often and am known by the wait staff. Again, it's not much, but it's to show appreciation. And, as a result of this small gesture they treat me special and I consider them more my friends than the wait-staff.


There are varied opinions on tipping from various magazines to bloggers. I recently read a very well known travel magazine on "tipping guides in France", and said, e.g., you should tip 10% for taxis, 5% for restaurants, 10% for tour guides, and the list went on-and-on. All based on percentages, REALLY?  This is an American custom, not French.  I realize tipping is a personal matter. Again, I want to stress it's not obligatory in France, but more a gesture of appreciation.

NOTE:  This is from my personal experience and from what I know.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Restaurant Review -- David Toutain

 Address:  29 Rue Surcouf, 75007 Paris
Phone: 01 45 50 11 10
Bus: line 80, Metro: Invalides line 8
Website: http://davidtoutain.com/
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

 4 - Star......................................................€€€ ......................................................... 3 - Bell

This review is going to be a little bit of departure from my other reviews, primarily because it was a tasting menu, and there were so many dishes. And, since I don't like talking notes while eating (too conspicuous of what I'm doing), I try and remember the courses. So I will try to give an overview or highlights of the experience. So, in large part I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

I'll start by saying this restaurant is aptly named after Chef David Toutain, who had a strong following after his stint at "Agapé Substance", so the Chef is quite well known in the Parisian food scene. And, in 2015 he was acknowledged and rewarded with a Michelin star.

You definitely must make reservations, and you also need to reconfirm the day ahead.  Be forewarned, not reconfirming could mean a lost table.  Because it is a tasting menu, you must tell them if you have food restrictions/allergies. Fortunately, we have none.

We went for lunch. It's a small restaurant in the 7eme and quite a simple looking restaurant. There weren't a lot of tables but it seemed to be relatively full. And, the tables were nicely spaced so you you aren't sitting on top of each other, as most restaurants in Paris. I assume the plainness of the decor was so the diners can focus on the star attraction, their food.

They basically had 3-tasting menus, a 45€, 72€, 105€,  and one for 165€ which the last included wine pairings. I told the waiter that I don't eat much and would prefer the 45€, he steered me to the 75€ menu, good salesman. He did ask if we wanted their lunch special of a risotto with white truffles. Because I knew it was going to be a tasting menu, I felt that a supplemental dish of risotto would be too heavy for us, we both declined. Plus I read from other reviews that the supplemental was an extra charge which they do not disclose, why talk money at this caliber restaurant, n'est-ce pas?

We started off with an aperitif of a glass each of martini red and martini white.

Almost immediately we got our first couple of courses and was asked about what wines we wanted. JJ asked if they had 1/2 bottles, since I only drink a glass or two at the most during meals these days, besides he drinks red and I drink rosés or whites. They did not. So based on what we like in a wine, he recommended some wines.

I thought it odd that he did not let us see the wine menu, I suppose because we immediately asked for suggestions. I recommend you look at the wine menu first, then ask questions about specific vintners.  We wound up the two wines (see photos), I had one glass and JJ eventually had 3-glasses.

I'm going to assume that the above was our amuse bouche.  When it first arrived, I thought, oh a forest of branches for olfactory experience. Then the waiter said there were actually two edible tubulars which the waiter called "rasin vegetables?" that were actually edible. I had never heard of it. We ate it and dipped it in a whipped buttery/mayonnaise as recommended. It tasted like a manioc (cassava). Interesting start for an exploration to follow.

This egg dish was absolutely delicious. It was served over hay, very whimsical.  JJ who does not like eggs, but fell in love with it. It was accompanied by crackers made of sarrasin (buckwheat) and some sweet doughy pastries with a contrasting salty butter.

Encased in all this wonderful creamy deliciousness were morsels of chicken. This dish was quite light and and was our first protein. A surprised lurked as you worked your way to the bottom of this dish, a coddled egg, perfectly cooked.

Well, what'd ya know, we did get a risotto after-all, but not with white truffles. I find risotto oftentimes to be very heavy and way too starchy. I liked this risotto a lot because it was cooked al dente and didn't feel heavy nor starchy. And, if recollection serves me right, it had some crispy shavings of coconut.

This was a delicate white fish served with a purée of cabbage, the latter much to my surprise. I thought for sure they were creamed peas, but we asked the waiter and he said cabbage. JJ and I debated what the starch was. I said they were plantains, but he felt it was more a rutabaga. I think I'm right.

I absolutely loved this dish. Now this dish isn't a shy dish nor is it for everyone. It was characteristic of a very Japanese style dish. It's a smoky fish served with in a pool of black sesame sauce.  The fish has very, very strong bold fish flavors, which I love. My initial guess is that it was mackerel, but was later corrected, it's eel. I couldn't devour this fish fast enough. It left me wanting more.

And, the last protein of the day. JJ had to run to the rest room, and they went ahead and served us, but since JJ was gone, they put a dome on his to keep his dish warm. Oddly, mine wasn't domed, I guess they assumed since I'm American I would start eating without him. This was a pigeon cooked rare. It was absolutely delicious and moist. It came with a dollop of tamarind sauce, which JJ liked. But I like the natural flavors of the pigeon. A big hit for both of us.

Now onto desserts. First we got a sweet cauliflower mousse and ice cream. Wow, I love cauliflower, and who knew it could be made into a dessert. It was delicious.  The second was a vanilla honey ice cream topped with a dry milk wafer with a dew of honey. Although this was a delicious dessert, it was a bit too sweet for me.

And, when we thought all was said and done we got chocolate covered macadamia truffle sitting in a bed of chocolate sand and two sweet gateaux. At this point I was stuffed, but I did eat the chocolate, and JJ said the gateau was sweet and moist and delicious.


The restaurant is unpretentious and unassuming. There were some odd quirks about the restaurant and the service.  For example, the ordering of the wine was a bit strange. And, then the quickness of bringing out the food. It's a very fast paced service, I guess it would have to be, considering the numerous courses they served.  At first I thought the branches and the hay et.al. was very gimmicky, but then as I started eating, I understood what was happening, it was not only an exploration of taste sensations, but visual and whimsical. Food does not always need to be serious, n'est-ce pas?

I wish they had a written menu so you can take it back with you, or at minimum have one that we can refer to as you're eating the meal. Although the waiters gave an "overview" of the dishes in both French and English (your preference), it was fast and brief and not complete.  As is typical in tasting menus, the courses don't necessarily have to "connect" or have cohesion.  Surprisingly, and kudos to the chef, the dishes were not heavy and the right portion size. He does love eggs though, and I'm glad he does, cause so do I. In fact, they were light and packed with flavor.

All-in-all, it was a great dining experience, very creative, inventive and inspiring.  We would definitely go back.  For the 2 of us our meal came to 217€, by no means inexpensive, but worthwhile for the experience and the exploratory flavorings.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Les Enfants Rouges

Address: 9 Rue de Beauce, 75003 Paris
Phone: 01 48 87 80 61
Metro: Arts et Métier
(call for hours)

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

 4 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 3 - Bell

This restaurant is located across the street from my best friend's vacation rental and I see it quite often.  A couple of years ago it changed hands, and was taken over by a Japanese couple Tomoko and Dai Shinozuka (he having spent 6 years under Yves Camdeborde) from the famed Dany Bertin-Denis, ex of the Moulin a Vin in Montmartre, who ran a booming business in wine with a side room for eaters.

I had eaten there before Tomoko and Dai took over. And, I recalled it being typical French food, and as the French like to say, "pas mal" (not bad). So, I was looking forward to this lunch under new management and a new Chef.

It's a small restaurant and the interior was simple, with cute art and nice flower arrangements.

The menu looked very interesting. I get the impression since it was newly printed that they change out their menus depending on ingredients available or are in season. All a good sign.

The pre-fix lunch menu was 40€ for an entrée, plat and dessert. A tad pricey for lunch.

While we perused the menu we were given a small plate of charcuterie of adouille, chorizo and saucisson, "pas mal" not bad. (Note- as we were with 'J', who had glowingly reviewed the restaurant before, this was something that others would have had to order from the menu.)

And, for an amuse bouche we had a chicken broth. Oddly, it was served in a brandy glass? It was hot to the touch, but if you held the stem, you were fine. My friends liked the broth a lot. Although, the overall taste was OK, I did not care for it. I felt, #1 -- it was odd drinking it out of a brandy glass, #2 -- it left a slight oily film in my mouth.


There was a little bit of mix-up about our entrée orders, "c'est pas grave" not serious, but the staff could not have been more apologetic for the error.

Croustillant de cervelle de veau cuisiné au risotto d'épautre, gribiche et raifort (Veal brains crispy risotto cooked in spelt, gribiche sauce, horseradish).  This was a delicious entrée.  Although the foam was not necessary the veal was cooked perfectly. It was nice and crispy on the outside and extremely moist and succulent. The gribiche (eggy mayonaise sauce) and risotto was a nice accompaniment.  A hit.

Soupe crémeux de choux fleurs, foie gras et haricots du Béarn, mousse au lard (Creamy cauliflower soup, foie gras and  beans from Béarn, bacon foam).  I absolutely loved this dish. Interestingly, we waited for one of the entrées and even after the wait, the soup remained hot. Firstly, soups are typically served warm in France, but this was served piping hot, which I love and prefer. It was extremely flavorful and the morsels of foie gras were melt in your mouth delicious. This was a hit in my book.


Ris de veau roti au beurre maitre d'hotel, poêlée de champignons de saison et puree de citron jaune (Sweetbread roasted in butter, sautéed seasonal mushrooms and lemon puree).  Ris de veau if not cooked right can be mealy and almost rubbery. This ris was cooked perfectly. Very tender and moist. The mushrooms were a nice accompaniment as well as the carrots and some touches of greens, mache in this case.  This was a well executed, composed and unified dish.

Noix de St. jacques aux legumes de racines, bouillon de crustacés et crumble au cacao (Scallops with the root vegetables, shellfish broth and cocoa crumble).  This dish was beautifully presented. It's suppose to be served with a broth, but it didn't initially come. So, my friend started eating the dish without the broth, then the broth came in a small pitcher.  The broth was very tasty and a nice accompaniment to the perfectly cooked scallop. Despite the fact the service timing was off for this dish, the dish was delicious.

Civet de sanglier en cocotte, marrons, courgettes et salicoques, oignons au vinaigre (Wild boar stew casserole, chestnuts, zucchini and prawns, pickled onions).  This was cooked in a "cocotte" (a shallow individual baking dish usually with one or two handles) typical of France.  It was served piping hot. The taste and even the style of cooking reminded me a lot of Christian Constant's restaurant, "Les Cocottes."  Not a pretty dish and very rustic, it was a good, very hearty with nice accompanying vegetables. It had a nice rich wine and vinegar flavor, and the chestnuts was a nice change to having potatoes. A perfect winter dish.


Pannacotta au thé vert, coulis de muscovado et zeste d’orange (Green tea pannacotta in muscovado peel orange sauce).  Much to our surprise and delight, we were all given a complimentary extra dessert. This is probably because our J is known there and compensation for our entrée order mishap.  Regardless, it was a very nice gesture and much appreciated. Although I don't eat sugar I had a little bit of it. This dessert was extremely light. The muscovado sauce was a nice accompaniment to the not so sweet pannacotta. Muscovado oftentimes is mistaken for maple syrup, but is actually a light brown sugar molasses. This dessert was definitely a hit.

Mousse aux châtaignes, glace au lait de brebis et cassis cuit au madiran (Mousse with chestnuts, sheep milk ice cream and baked currant).  It seems their trademark desserts are light and not too sweet. This dessert did not disappoint. From the mousse to the ice-cream and the slightly tart currant sauce all complimented each other nicely. Even the laced tuile cookies gave it a textural element.  It was a delicious dessert.


(Note: Although I am by no means a wine connoisseur, I will describe the wines we have based on my research and my friend's assessment).

Cheverny a white wine typically made from sauvignon blanc with some chardonnay from the Loire valley. A smooth round wine with some citrus flavors.

Cause Marines a wine from southwest France. It’s a dark red wine with very bold flavors.


We were 4 for lunch.  The restaurant is not on a main street and can be overlooked. But it's actually relatively easy to find since it's across the street from the side entrance of the well known Marché aux Enfants Rouges. It's a small restaurant, and once it filled up it became quite noisey to the point it became difficult to converse and be heard easily.  There were some minor service mishaps, but they acknowledged them and were not only extremely apologetic, but compensated us by giving us all a free dessert.  The pre-fix menu is a bit pricey for lunch, but the food is delicious.  Everyone loved all the dishes, whereas I did not care for the chicken broth. For 4-people, one bottle of Badoit (sparkling water), 2-bottles of wine (68€), and 2-coffees our bill came to 257€. Would I recommend the restaurant? absolutely.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Restaurant Clémentine

5 Rue Saint Marc
Metro: #8 Grands Boulevards
Phone: 01 40 41 05 65
Website: http://www.restaurantclementine.com/

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

 1.80 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 2 - Bell

It's a very typical French restaurant located close to "Les Grands Boulevards" and the theaters.  It was recommended by one of my readers. So, there were 4 of us in tow to celebrate a friend's belated birthday.  It's a tight squeeze as is typical for most French restaurants in Paris,  but has a very warm, homey atmosphere. Our wait-staff could not have been more inviting.

They had a pre-fix menu for 35€ which included an entrée, plat and dessert, and 26€ for entrée and plat.


Two of us had the escargot.  Good start. They were good, very garlicky and not too overly oily, so no complaints here.

Crusty goat cheese.  The two who got this liked this. The goat cheese was encrusted in "brick," a pastry known in France which is very similar to "filo" dough.  I had a taste; it was nice and crispy and the goat cheese, albeit strong and powerful was good, but nothing spectacular.


Beef with bernaise sauce. This was their "plat du jour" speciality of the day. It was terrible. The meat came out barely warm, saying it was lukewarm would've been a compliment. It wasn't overcooked, but it was so dry. It must've been sitting around a while. And, the bernaise sauce was lukewarm and not smooth at all and had an off-putting almost gummy texture. I truly disliked this dish. Had I had something to eat earlier to sustain me, I probably would not have eaten it.  Thank God for wine.

Tuna with sesame seeds. One person had this dish. It was nicely presented, and that's where it ended. Can we say "over-cooked." It's criminal to overcook tuna, plus it was dry. One also wonders if the sesame seeds were to mask something. And, the "piece-de-resistance" was the god awful risotto that accompanied it. It was gummy and just plain nasty.

Duck filet with honey and fig sauce.  This was the only redeeming dish of all the "plats". Two ordered the dish and they were cooked to their specifications, one rosé and one saignant.  Albeit sweet because of the honey and prune sauce it was very tasty.


Plate of cheeses. I ordered a plate of cheese. This is the other redeeming dish. The selection of cheeses were really good from strong to mild. No complaints here.


Amatéüs bobi.  A light red wine from the Loire valley.  It was very good. It had a rich aroma with fruitiness and did not overwhelm of the strong flavors of e.g., the cheese entrée. 


This restaurant was recommended to me by one of my readers. On social media this restaurant has also had some excellent reviews, go figure? I wanted so much to like the restaurant because the people who run it are super, super nice.  The entrées were French staples and were good, but nothing out of the ordinary. The plats are usually the "star" dishes. The fish and the beef, in my opinion was a crime and insult to the taste buds.  However, the duck, wine and the cheese plate redeemed this restaurant.   With a bottle of wine and 2-glasses of rosé our bill came to 39€ each. I would have given it a lower rating, had it not been for the entrées, duck, wine and the EXCELLENT service.  Would I go back, probably not.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Restaurant Review -- Les Fables de la Fontaine

131 Rue Saint-Dominique
75007 Paris
Bus Line: 80
Metro Line: École-militaire
RER: Pont De L'Alma
RESERVATION: 01 44 18 37 55
Website: http://lesfablesdelafontaine.net/?lang=en

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

 4.5 - Star......................................................€€......................................................... 2 - Bell

The restaurant has been around. In fact, it was created 15-years ago by renowned Chef, Christian Constant, who seems to have a monopoly on that street, Rue Saint-Doiminique, with his other famed restaurants: Les Cocottes, Café Constant, and Le Violon d'Ingres.  We heard that there was a new 21-year old Chef at the helm today, her name is Julia Sedefdjian.  

To start off, the location is in a wonderful area. It sits in a little court yard along Rue St. Dominique. Although there was plenty of seating, today it appeared that they just kept open one section of the restaurant. Our friend J had been there several times and he mentioned that it had been redesigned. In fact, the kitchen which used to be on the main floor was now below us.  The interior was pleasant enough. But like most restaurants in Paris, it was a tight squeeze.

We perused the menu and it had some nice choices, expectedly a lot of seafood. They did have a lunch special for 25€ which consisted of an entrée of "bass carpaccio" over a carrot purée, and a "hake" for the main course.  This restaurant is known for its seafood, and everyone ordered seafood for both their starter as well as their main course. I on the other-hand decided to be different, I wanted to see how well they prepare their meat, so I had a meat course for my "plat-principal" (main).

Per se we did not get an amuse bouche; however, we did get some cute little breads which I thought looked like corn bread, along with sliced baguettes accompanied with a flavored butter.  At first bite, the little squared breads were not corn bread at all, in fact, it didn't have much flavor, they were more eggy and very moist, then I realized this was to show case the flavored butter, which we believed was flavored with fennel seeds.


JJ ordered the "Gravlax salmon, yellow and red beetroot carpaccio with walnut oil, and goat cheese cream." It was beautifully plated. As true with gravlax, it's a sweeter version of its cousin the "lox".  Plus the salmon pieces were chunkier. Jack loved this dish for the freshness of the beets but as well as the nice rounded flavors of the gravlax.  If he had one complaint at all, he said it was a tad salty.

I had the "Calamari and butternut cannelloni, pumpkin cream, and crispy squid."  Another beautifully plated dish.  There was a juxtaposition of the soft warm pumpkin cream, the texture of the crispy calamari and the butternut cannelloni. I thought the flavors of this dish complimented each other well. I only had one minor complaint, there were seeds in the dish, it's a personal thing, I like seeds in my breads or salads, but typically not in my savory dishes. I swore they were pumpkin seeds, but I asked the waiter, and if I understood him right, he said they were zucchini or butternut squash seeds. Regardless, it was a delicious dish.

J had the "Carpaccio of bar served on a bed of creamy carrots".  You've got the cooked/uncooked, sweet/salty, warm/cold topped with some greens, each element enhanced sensory and taste flavors.  It was an excellent dish.


JJ and Collette had the "Skate, sautéed spinach with capers, citrus and celery emulsion". Again, a beautifully presented dish. I tasted the skate and it was so tender, naturally sweet, and moist. At the bottom of the dish was a surprise, you hit some very sour and salty notes that came from the capers. JJ and Collette loved the sourness, personally, I'm not big on sour flavors, but they thought it complimented the dish. The dish also came with croutons, but it really wasn't necessary since it was already a very nicely composed dish.  And, unusually, the skate was already removed from the bones.  The spinach was a big hit too.

J ordered the Merlu (Hake).  When it was presented I thought, wow, that's one long piece of fish. Again, beautifully presented. And, it was served alongside with some grilled endives.  The fish had some "Espelette" sprinkled on top which gave a nice little kick.  I had a taste of the fish, and I have to say this was one of the best cooked fishes I've ever had. It was so moist and tender, not in the slightest bit overcooked. And, the added espelette gave it a nice heat source that hit you ever so slightly in the end.  For some however, the fish might have seemed under cooked.

To be different, I of course had to have the meat dish. I ordered this only because I wanted to see how a place known for their seafood could cook meat.  I had the "Braised beef cheeks with bok choy, rosemary panisse and pepper."  The meat was so tender and flavorful. The sauce was rendered down to a nice rich sauce, very complimentary to the overall dish. I also like the rosemary panisse (a fried bread, crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside) at first I thought it was a panisse made of rice flour, but it was a traditional panisse made out of chickpea flour or otherwise known as "besam".  It was a nice accompaniment. Again, this dish was also beautifully plated. So, yes, they do know how to cook meat. And, I'd like to add, I was not disappointed.


J and Collette ordered the "Poached pears with vanilla, walnut biscuit, chestnut cream, pear sorbet." There were so many different components to this dessert that despite it looking complicated, the different components complimented each other and did not compete with each other and made it a complete whole dessert.  They thought the dessert was excellent. They especially liked the sorbet.

JJ and I shared the "Aged mimolette cheese, pumpkin/orange jam".  I love aged cheeses. Aged cheeses have time to develop and actually crystallize salt which to me is an added bonus. If you've never had aged mimolette it's like "aged gouda" we have in the US. So, this dish was a hit for me.


What a wonderful dining experience. All the dishes were nicely composed and beautiful. I've tasted one of the most perfectly cooked fish (hake) ever. And, although their specialty is seafood they know how to cook their meats. I only have 1-minor personal complaint, I don't like seeds in my main dishes.  JJ thought the Chef had a heavy hand with the salt, whereas I thought it was perfectly salted.  The service was excellent and most are bilingual. And, the price point is excellent for this caliber of restaurant.  For 3-entrées, 4-plats, 2-desserts, 2-bottles of wine and 3 coffees our bill came to 199€. Would we come back. in a heartbeat. Chapeau to the new Chef Julia Sedefdjian. So much talent at a ripe old age of 21-years old. She definitely has a promising future!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Restaurant Review -- THOUMIEUX

79 Rue Saint-Dominique 75007
Bus: Bosquet-Saint Dominique
Metro: La Tour-Maubourg
Tel:  01 47 05 79 00
Website: www.Thoumieux.com
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

 5 - Star......................................................€€€€......................................................... 1 - Bell

I'm back. After a two-month summer hiatus in the US, it's great to be back. I decided to not have any French food while in the US, favoring ethnic cuisine.  Not even a week in town and jetlagged, a close friend J asked if we wanted to join him at a new restaurant in the 7eme; what a silly question, of course we would. Thoumieux has officially been open for just 4-days, but Chef Sylvestre Wahid worked tirelessly for the past two months to get it up and running. Keep in mind there are two restaurants, the downstairs section is the "brasserie" section, whereas the upstairs is more for fine dining. We ate at the fine dining establishment. He has quite the pedigree, having been previously awarded 2-Michelin stars and has worked at such elite places as Plaza Athénée and Alain Ducasse "at the Essex House" NYC, where he was honored with 4 stars, the highest culinary distinction in the US.

The location is centrally located. In fact, it's in an area we call "Little America" which is in the 7eme. Why do we call it "Little America" you may ask, it's because it's where a lot of English is spoken, and it's also where the American University, American Cathedral and the American Church reside.

As you enter through the bistro, the bistro is actually quite lovely,  pleasant and very inviting. The Chef and his staff cook for both restaurants.  We went upstairs to the the "fine dining" area, it too was pleasant enough albeit the decor was a bit eclectic, but nice.  We sat in a section that was almost like a sunroom.  It was bathed in lots of light, but not warm because the restaurant actually had air-conditioning, a rarity in Paris.  You can can even see the kitchen, granted it's partitioned by a latticed wall. It's not a large kitchen, but what comes out is amazing, which I'll describe later.  Also located close to the "cheese-bar" was incredible selections of breads from traditional baguettes, to seeded breads and even olive breads.

We sat, and only the wine menu was given to us. At first I thought it was odd, but it turned out to be appropriate, since it gave us a time to peruse the wine menu, get some drinks and have small conversation. Also, placed on the table were two mounds of flavor buttered and various salts such as Egyptian sea salt, black salt, crystallized salt and Himalayan salt.

Then the amuse bouche arrived. I'm assuming all the menus got the same amuse bouche, since we hadn't seen the menu yet. Typically you only get one amuse bouche, but we had 4 bite sizes. There was a tart with mushrooms, a salty ham with crackers, a mousse of vegetables and a raw langoustine.  They were each unique, distinct and delicious.

After we finished the amuse bouche, our menu came.  There are 3-tasting menus: "Richesse de nos terriors" (Wealth of our territories) for 110€; Océan, mer, lac et rivière (Ocean, sea, lake and river) 155€ and finally "Signature" for 190€.  We all thought it quite pricey, but will hold our judgement later to see if it was worth it.  Being budget conscience, we all selected the "Richesse de nos terriors".

For our first of many courses we had the "mushroom soup" in a very light vegetable broth. It was served in a very Asian style bowl with lid, which the wait staff removed such at the table. We all commented how good it was considering no animal died to make this dish. And, what surprised us even more, there was a crunch to this soup, and the crunch actually came from the mushrooms. There were some thinly sliced celery to enhance the dish. And there was some nice seasoning (bite) to it. Overall an excellent first start.

The 2nd course was a "cucumber water, cannelloni vegetal, flowers, quinoa, salt with black olives." Not only was this a beautifully presented plate, but it was delicious. It was served cold and you can definitely taste the flower pedals in the soup. It's hard to describe a flower taste, but it's almost like "dew".  It's not exactly a soup but more like a thickened cold "gazpacho" sauce.  The quinoa crackers were delicious. An excellent dish all-around!

The third course was an eggplant of herbs.  I found this dish reminiscent of an eggplant parmigiana, but deconstructed.  There was a lovely mound of eggplant in a light but thick binding tomato sauce. It was accompanied by a salad of greens with arugula being prominent with a light, but tangy vinaigrette dressing. And, to top it off literally, was shredded parmigiana lightly covering the dish. Not stopping there, the dish was also accompanied by another bowl of mushroom soup, with large whole mushrooms, but this time the broth was richer. I guess mushrooms are in season. The dish was a bit under salted, and a lightbulb went on.  Most of the dishes were under salted, hence, the salts at the table,  so you can salt your dish to taste/likimg, my personal favorite was the Egyptian salt.

For the fourth course we had lamb with a nice flavored jus. The lamb was cooked to my liking, pink, but not "bleu" (almost rare) as most French like.  The middle piece was purposely cooked a tad more to give the taster a variety of "wellness". It was a simple dish, but packed with lots of flavor.

Our fifth course was the cheese course. The restaurant actually has a cheese bar where you walk up to the bar and select what cheeses you want, and then they'll slice it and bring it to your table. The selections of cheeses were incredible from mild cheeses to very strong, pungent cheeses. They also had various jams to accompany the cheeses. And, with the cheese course they gave us "fig" bread. Too sweet for my taste, but it is common to have something sweet e.g., even honey, with cheeses to bring out the flavors. This was one of my favorite courses.

The sixth course was actually a series of several desserts. I opted not to have any desserts because at this point I could not eat any more. I was literally stuffed like goose readying for fois gras.

The principle dessert was fig dessert accompanied with a quenelle of olive flavored ice cream and a petite gateaux.

Then when we thought all was said and done, we received a grouping of various petit fours from chocolate to apricot, accompanied with various flavored mousses.  All distinct in design and flavors and were delicious.  And, then the dessert finale was various types of financiers which can be dipped in a very rich, rich creamy chocolate, common to what you get at "Angelina's chocolatier".

The wines we ordered were excellent, albeit the L'Étoile had an interesting smell, but regardless we really liked the flavor and composition of the wine.  J used the parallel example of the white wine as akin to durian, smells awful, but tastes delicious.  I don't think I'd go that far, but I truly enjoyed it.


Since the "fine dining" area was just open for a few days, the only customers were either reporters or food bloggers like ourselves.  Chef Sylvestre came out to greet us and was actually apologetic that it wasn't as perfect as he would've liked it to be. Could've surprised me. Everything ran smoothly.

You can definitely see the Chef's influence of fine dining. There was a cadre of staff. Although they were new to their job, they were very synchronized and knew exactly what they were doing. They had a wine steward, a primary head waiter and his staff of assistants. In fact, most of our dishes were served covered and they synchronized their opening of the dishes. And, for the main course you were given "Christofle" etched sterling silver utensils, very impressive.

One wait staff was gloved and served us a variety of different breads. And, if you need to go to the restroom, they will actually accompany you. What I thought was interesting was any time you left the table to e.g., go to the restroom, your napkin was replaced with a new one. Not even "le Grand Vefour" did this (refer to my preview). And, they changed out the napkins for dessert with a smaller gray colored napkin.

The food is under-salted, and there's a reason for this. They provide you with a variety of different salts that you can add. I liked this a lot, not only for controlling your salt, since oftentimes food in France is over-salted, but you can select which flavor salt you want to add.

If I have any criticism at all, I think the desserts were over the top, and lots of it. This is more personal than anything else because I try to avoid sugar and/or desserts.  Overall this is fine dining well worth the price tag. Similar restaurants in this food category and restaurants would be double if not triple the price. I was extremely surprised they were only open 4-days! Wow! Would I go again, ABSOLUTELY, but I'd have to save my "centimes" (pennies) in preparation.  Our bill with 2-bottles of wine and coffee came to 446€ for 3-people, so about 148€  ($166) per person.