About

"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)!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Anthocyane -- Restaurant Review


63, rue Daguerre
75014 Paris
Bus line 88, Metro
Metro: Denfert-Rochereau (Lines: 4,6 &RER)
Phone: 01.43.27.86.02
Closed: Sundays & Mondays

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+)

 3.75 - Star......................................................€€€ ......................................................... 2 - Bell

The restaurant has only been opened for less than 4-months.  At the helm are Jean Paul Da Costa and Andrea Franceschi, the latter a native of Tuscany who moved to France 6-years ago and trained with such culinary luminaries as Joël Robuchon.

Entering the restaurant, everything looks so new, in fact it is. It's a split level with a dining room area by the main entrance (street level) and a higher level where the kitchen is located and where we sat. There is a large port-hole window that lets us peer into the kitchen, which I enjoyed, cause it's always fun to see what's happening in the kitchen, and it's always a good sign when the kitchen is well run and the staff are happy.

It's a small kitchen, in fact, no bigger than my kitchen in Paris, but it appeared to be very, very functional.



Their menu is simple, not complicated. They had specials of the day. In fact, they have a tasting menu of 4-courses for 59€. It was a bit too much for us so we stuck with the primary menu. a wine pairing (4-glasses) is also available for an additional 39€.








We ordered some wines, and the waiter disappeared for what seemed to be a long, long time. He finally reappeared with a bottle of the Chablis we had ordered and placed it on the table, then he said they were out of the red Medoc,  we eventually settled on a Languedoc as a replacement. Then he left? I called him back and said we'd like the Chablis to be opened, he seemed almost surprised. I'm assuming he wanted to open it only when our food was served, I told him we want it opened NOW! What were we suppose to do just sit there at stare at the bottle. Very, very odd. Then we he rattled off the  specials, he rushed through so fast that we had to ask him repeat it when he returned.


We had two amuse bouches, the first was a platter of: parmesan wafers with a parsley sauce, beets encased in a macaron and a squid beautifully cooked with a sprinkling of citrus. Wow what a great start. All were delicious, although the others loved the beets encased in the beet flavored macaron, I am not a fan of macarons, I know it's sacrilegious since I live in France.








For our next amouse bouche we had a large scallop with a camembert sauce. I honestly thought that this would be a strange combination. Was I ever wrong. This was absolutely delicious. The camembert was creamy, not overwhelming, just a subtle taste that enhanced the perfectly well cooked scallop. This was a hit for all of us.






ENTRÉE

Our friend J decided he would have 2-entrées whereas JJ and I had an entrée an a plat.  All 3 of us had Octopus.

Poulpe croustillant, oignon rouge confit et capre (Crispy octopus, red onion confit and capers).  This was actually one of my favorite dishes. Octopus is not easy to cook and can easily turn into rubber bands within seconds. The plate was beautifully presented on a nice thick cream of parsley, the octopus were succulent and the accompanying capers was  nice as the sour component of the dish. JJ just thought it was good, but not exceptional.  Overall, J and I thought it was excellent and a well composed dish.



For J's second entrée he had the Oeuf parfait, velours d'artichaut et chorizo (poached egg, chorizo and artichoke). The egg was perfectly poached, very creamy and the dish also included a crusting of some chorizo, which added a nice textural element.


PLATS

JJ and I ordered the Canon d'agneau de lozere, poitrine crispy, pamplemouse et kumquat (Canon shaped lozere lamb, crispy breast, grapefruit and kumquat). Although this was a good dish, it was my least favorite dish. The dish did not wow us. The way the potatoes were served were beautiful. They were sliced and spread with a cilantro salt. That's where it ends. The potatoes were salty, almost inedible. The lamb on the other-hand was perfectly cooked despite the fact they're not in season. And, the accompany sauce was rich and velvety.



As an aside, the gave us spoons that didn't exactly look like spoons, and our waiter told us they're not really spoons, they're more for mopping up the thick sauces. What a very clever idea, I must get me some.





DESSERTS


For dessert JJ ordered the special dessert of the day which was a creamy lemon that was almost like a thick pane cotta.  It was beautifully presented. JJ and J loved it because it was extremely tart, and they love all things tart. I thought it was a good dessert, not too sweet, but in all honesty I am not a fan of anything tart.








We were all pleasantly surprised when the restaurant also gave us some "parting desserts" which I though was quite nice. It fact it was a nice tasting of 4-different sweets. A pineapple, a pistachio financier, a sweet cannelle and an orange.  Each uniquely different and each very tasty.  Albeit, the group found the orange a bit bitter.









SUMMARY

We had a very, very rocky start with the service. J arrived before us maybe 5 minutes earlier than our reservation, he was told he had to wait, they weren't ready, huh? He asked if could be seated any way cause he had a bad knee and was obvious he had a cane. There was only 1-waiter for the whole restaurant which is not atypical, but the restaurant was not crowded. The waiter didn't know what to do with the wines, he seemed lost. In fact, he went awol looking for our wines. I would've given the restaurant a lower rating had the waiter not acknowledge his short comings and apologized profusely because he was new and was still learning the ropes. Apologies are not easy to come by in Paris, so I took this as genuine offering. In fact, after the wine issues were settled, his service and timing improved.

Now onto the food. The food is exceptionally good. There were some incredible flavors and I especially enjoyed the entrées. And, although it's not lamb season, the lamb was good and the accompanying sauce was very flavorful. My only real complaint was the extreme saltiness of the side of potatoes which was almost inedible, and I happen to like salt. Would I go back, assuming they fix their service issues, absolutely.  With a bottle of chablis, a bottle of red Langedoc and 1 coffee that came to 186€ or 62€ a person, pricey, but the food is exceptional, albeit the service rocky.

Oh, and by the way, they don't do "doggie bags". J was unable to finish his second entrée and wanted to bag it. Oh well, c'est la vie. BTW, I always have small baggies with me, just in case the portion are larger than I expect. I hate to waste food. I guess I used my last baggie, since I didn't have one to offer J.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Prémices -- Restaurant Review


24 rue Rodier
75009 Paris
tel: 01 45 26 86 26
Metro: line 12 Notre-dame-de-lorette, Line 7 Poisonnière

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+)

 4.25 - Star......................................................€€€ ......................................................... 2 - Bell


The restaurant has been around for about 3-years. It's definitely off the "beaten path", in fact, I don't think you'd accidentally wander into it unless you know about this restaurant.  The interior design was quite simple, but elegant and lovely. They had several "capiz" (windowpane oyster shell) chandeliers which added a nice whimsy to the white linen tablecloths and napkins. Although the restaurant was small, the tables were nicely spaced, so you wouldn't be on top of each other.

At the helm is Chef/Owner Alexandre Weill.  I was told he was quite accomplished in the corporate world having gone to HEC School of Management and was a VP at Morgan Stanley (Paris & London), but gave it all up to follow his passion for food.  Quite admirable I must add.



We perused the menu, they had a nice selection and they also had specials for the day. They have a "pre-fixe formule" which was 24€ for an entrée and plat and with dessert was 36€, very reasonably priced. And, today's special was a mollusk risotto followed by a lamb "Parmentier".  






For our amuse bouche we got a foie gras of foam. I'm personally not big fan of foams, but I overlooked this because the foam was packed with foie gras flavor. So it was a hit for all of us, definitely a good start.











ENTRÉE

And, since I didn't have enough foie gras, I ordered it for my entrée which came with two very large huitre (raw oysters). I thought the foie gras was cooked very gently and perfectly. For some it may have been too rare. The only complaint I had about this dish was that the vein was still in tact. I did like the juxtaposition of the very cold raw oysters with the foie gras; however, one of our luncheon companions did not like this contrast and thought the combination weird. I happen to like each separately as well as together. A simple good delicious dish that was paired with a sweet poached apple to make it a cohesive dish.


JJ had the "Lievre" (hare) that was encased in flaky pastry crust. Between our two entrées, this was my favorite. The hare was beautifully seasoned and moist. The crust remained flaky despite the moistness of the hare. It was accompanied with some contrasting greens. It was simply delicious. And, the portion for an entrée was pretty ample. I could've just eaten that as my main.  Overall a wonderfully constructed, simple delicious dish.




PLATS

I had the "queue de boeuf et truffe noire" (oxtail and black truffle). Characteristic of oxtails, they can be greasy as well as stringy, and can be dry if cooked too long.  I grew up on oxtails, hence love the meat. Although it was characteristically a bit stringy it was not at all dry nor greasy. It was packed with tons of flavor. It was accompanied with a very rich wine reduction sauce. The Chef must've braised the meat for quite a long time to develop such wonderfully strong flavors.  It was served as a "de-constructed" "parmentier" (sort of like shepherds pie without the crust) with a layer of meat sitting atop a fabulous wine reduction and topped with mashed potatoes. And, if that wasn't decadent enough some shavings of black truffle. Overall, it was a very, very tasty rich delicious dish.


JJ had the "saumon" (salmon). I'm not a fan of foams, but as I mentioned, I can overlook it if the dish is good. And, this dish was delicious.  It was perfectly seasoned. It was seasoned with ginger and lemongrass and although the menu said it was accompanied with carrots it was actually accompanied by another root vegetable.  Overall a very well executed, delicious, well balanced dish.






DESSERTS

JJ ordered the "pamplemousse" (grapefruit) tart. It was a light tart filled with pastry cream and topped with pink grapefruit. And, to balance out the sourness of the grapefruit there was an accompanying vanilla ice cream.  Overall, a really well balanced dessert with varying textures and more than one note, which oftentimes desserts tend to be.











I, of course had the different cheeses. There was a nice variety of cheeses. As I've said many times over, you really can't go wrong with cheeses in France.












And, as a parting sweets, we were given some macarons.








SUMMARY

A good friend of mine J, also a food writer recommended this restaurant and he's gone a couple of times with different people and the different times he has gone, this restaurant has remained consistently good. If I were to use one word to describe the food of this restaurant it would be "FLAVORFUL". All the dishes were packed with flavor. Some dishes were simply presented but had very complex flavors such as the oxtail. Although I personally do not like foams, I'll overlook this if the food is flavorful. And, although there was only 1-wait person at the helm, we had excellent service. Only complaint that I have is that foie gras needed to be de-veined better.



This restaurant is off the beaten path, not because it's outside of Paris, in fact it's in the 9eme, but because it's on a very obscure street. It is definitely a hidden gem, but well worth going to.  We did have a nice bottle of wine a "Chateau Moulin de lagnet Saint Emilion 2012", a rich fruity red with ample full body that some people describe as having a hint of vanilla. This did boost the price of our lunch since it's 60€ a bottle.  We were 6 people and the meal with a coupe de champagne, 3-glasses of sancere blanc, pastis and coffee came to about 78€ a person.  This would not be the normal price, but we went all out today. Would we go back, absolutely.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Restaurant H -- Restaurant Review


13 rue Jean Beausire
75004 Paris
Tel: 01 43 48 80 96
Metro: Lines--1,8,5 Bastille
Open Tuesday through Saturday 12 h à 15h et de 20h à 23h
Website: www.restauranth.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+)

 3.5 - Star......................................................€€ ......................................................... 2 - Bell


This is a relatively new restaurant and has only been open for a few weeks. Although it's in the 4eme and centrally located, it's hidden. It's located on a quiet street not often traversed, Rue Jean Beausire. At the helm is Chef Hubert Duchenne. Originally from Normandy he trained with some impressive Chefs such as Alain Ducasse, Jean-Louis Nomicos and Olivier Nasti.



It's a small restaurant and the interior is quite pleasant. Very modern and sleek, but not cold at all. It was quite cozy and the tables were nicely spaced so that you're not on top of your neighbors as is typical of Parisian restaurants.

Basically, they have 3-tasting menus: 3-courses (30€), 5-courses (50€), and 7-courses (70€).  Since it is Chef's choice, you need to let them know up front if you're allergic to anything.  Fortunately, we're not, except since I don't eat sugar I did ask if they could substitute the dessert with cheese, which they thankfully obliged.  We opted for the 3-course lunch since none of us are big eaters.



At first we were given little tasty morsels of chips bedded onto un-popped popcorn. They were actually quite good; one was a sesame chip and the other was a grain chip. They were salted with big chucks of salt which I liked. Additionally, we were served a wheat bread accompanied with a wonderful creamy butter.







ENTRÉE


For our first course we had the "lieu" a pollack fish. It was lightly poached encased in a sauce of watercress. The fish was extremely moist. I would guess that it was cooked "sous-vide".  It was accompanied with cubed radishes. At first it tasted like unripened mango or even unripened papaya, but our waiter told us it was a "boule d'or" turnip which in fact has the characteristic taste of a firm "almost" ripen mango, but not as stringy. Overall, this dish was very delicious and well executed.




PLATS




For our main course we had the veal.  I was a bit surprised by the smallness of the dish. It was almost an entrée size (appetizer).  It was accompanied with baby carrots and a kumquat/carrot mash, and garnished with some watercress.  It was a delicious dish, again well executed. Almost textbook perfect. Personally, I would've wished the veal was a little larger, to distinguish it from the entrée portion.  Again, this dish was well executed.




DESSERTS

For the sweet desserts, my companions had the chocolate mousse caramel with cream and chips of chocolate as well as coconut. They liked the dish and thought it was well executed as well.














I had the cheese as a sweet substitution. It was an aged chevre (goat cheese), very good, but then again, I personally don't think you can go wrong with the cheeses in France.













As a parting sweet we were given a marshmallow with coconut.














SUMMARY

In it's newness, the restaurant was above average. If you're really hungry, then I highly recommend you go for the minimum 5-course tasting menu. The portions are small. The food is very tasty and well executed. Although the food was above average and tasty, it lacked depth or "soul".  It did not wow us. It needed definition, it needed to be more than just text-book correct.  On a positive note, although the portion sizes were small, they were tasty. So, personally, I would rather have small portions, but tasty rather than large portion and lack of taste.

I personally feel that the restaurant will continue to evolve and become even better, once the Chef finds his identity. Would I go back, sure, I'd like to see what else the Chef has in store.

The service was excellent and with the two bottles of wine and coffee our bill came to 177€ for 3-people.


For the red wine we had the "Bourgueil -- les vingt lieux dits", which is known for its fruity tones of raspberry,violet with pepper notes. A very good all around red wine.

And, for the white we had Domaine Alain Chavy bourgogne chardonnay 2014, crisp, clean, dry which is usually served with fatty dishes.

Both were excellent wines for the price.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Il Sorrentino -- Restaurant Review

4 Rue de Monttessuy, 75007 Paris Phone:01 45 55 12 50
RER: Porte D'Alma
Metro: La Tour-Moubourg


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+)

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


I've just recently returned to Paris and had our typical Wednesday lunch with my friends from the 16eme arrondissement.  We were 4-people, and I was inspired to eat at this restaurant after seeing a "demo" on an intriguing way to flavor pasta by using a cheese wheel. (see plat section).

ENTRÉES


We decided to share the entrées. We had an antipasto of vegetable antipasto, a frito calamari and a grilled calamari. The vegetable antipasto was simple, grilled, straight forward and given a nice dose of olive oil. In it's simplicity it was delicious.  The fried calamari, although attractive, was way overcooked. There's a general rule about calamari, either cook it one minute or one hour, otherwise it will have the consistency and the taste of a rubber band. And, this is exactly what it tasted like, rubber.  On the other hand, the grilled calamari was perfectly cooked and delicious, with a nice added citrus. We agreed that this was our favorite entrée and in fact dish of our lunch.



PLATS

The reason why I wanted to go to this restaurant was because of this dish "Cheese wheel cacio e pepe", pasta prepared in a cheese wheel, particularly a parmigiano reggiano wheel.  About the only thing that was impressive about this dish was the presentation. I realize that are different version of this dish, but typically this is very simple dish made of pasta, olive oil,  pepper and of course the cheese. And, sometimes it can be made a little creamier by adding a touch of cream and/or butter. Once the dish was served, I noticed it seemed more milky than creamy and it had to have been the most boring pasta I've ever had. My guess is that they used mostly the water from the pasta which didn't incorporate well to make a nice sauce. I think I would've welcomed some cream and/or butter. In French, a great description would be  "fade" (bland). I wasn't even offered pepper when the dish was served. So, I was very, very disappointed.



PLATS



As I mentioned we all 4 shared the dishes. For our our main dishes we had a pizza, a gnocchi and a ravioli.  I have to say I liked the pizza. The crust was nice and topped with simple fresh ingredients such as arugula as well as ham.  However, the two other pasta dishes, not so much. They were uneventful and forgettable. All I recalled tasting was the heavy creams, which detracted from the e.g., truffles in the gnocchi. And, the ravioli was just ordinary.





DESSERTS 

We ordered two desserts, the "coffee gourmand" which in France is usually coffee accompanied with 2 or more small desserts. The coffee gourmand came with a pane cotta, a cannoli and a mousse.  The second dessert had 3-flavored ice creams. Since I don't eat sugar, comments was the cannoli was just average and the rest were good.








SUMMARY

Italian food is probably one of my all time favorite cuisines because of its simplicity and its freshness. I thought the grilled calamari and the pizza were very good. Maybe I have an aversion to cream, but I found the pasta dishes just too laden with cream. I realize that Northern Italian cuisine use a lot of diary, but for me, it really detracted from the pasta. The primary pasta dish "Cacio e pepe" that I was so looking forward to was such a disappointment.

The service was very good.  Net-net if you like creamy pastas, then this is the place for you. Would I go back, maybe, but I think I'd stay away from the creamy pastas. With 3-glasses of wines, and the dishes above for 4-people our bill came to 195€.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Donner Summit


HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE SIERRA NEVADAS 
(LAKE TAHOE)
You may have noticed I haven't posted anything in a while.  Comme d'habitue (as usual) I am in the U.S. for the Holidays and will not be posting anything until I return to Paris next year. With that said, 

I want to wish all my readers peace, good health and a prosperous New Year! 

Let us celebrate all that connects us to one another
Célébrons tout ce qui nous lie les uns aux autres
Celebremos todo aquello que nos conecta uno al otro

I wish you a Happy New Year 2016, full of success, joy and health for you and your family.
Je vous souhaite une bonne année 2016, plein de success, de joie et de santé à vous et votre famille.
Ich wünsche Ihnen und Ihrer Familie ein frohes neues Jahr 2016, Gesundheit und Erfolg.


l'année prochaine (Until Next Year)! 

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.


FRENCH LAW 

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.

Restaurants.

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.


SUMMARY

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.

SUMMARY

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.