Tuesday, 28 April 2015
Post-burger comfort food still has its hooks in the French dining public (an hours wait for a Camion qui Fume burger is proof enough), and although us expat Anglos have been waiting for years for well done quick grub, only a few have got it down pat. The latest, and one of the greatest, is the Sunken Chip, on the rue des Vinaigriers (Vinegar Bottle Street, funnily enough) , just off of the Canal Saint Martin. The tiny place, all white tile, communal wooden counter and smiling employees, is the brainchild of cult bistro Roseval's chef Michael Greenwold and James Whelan, former Monocle magazine employee and owner of the trendy bar L'Inconnu. The concept is simple enough: a few line caught fishes from the Finnestere region ("the closest we can get to English fish and chips taste", says Michael) from an up and coming small boat fisherman,Thomas Saracco, the all covered in light batter, accompanied by well turned out chips and iconic sodas and beer from the UK. Predictably the place was heaving at the seams with hipsters, curious local neighbors, French media types and yelpers, bloggers and pseudo food writers, many of which didn't even come to eat, but to check in and take photos.
Friday, 24 April 2015
One of the more surprising eateries to open up in recent months is this modern spot serving small dishes in a bar space around an open kitchen, wedged somewhere between the Hard Rock Café and Indiana Café (worst "Tex Mex" in Paris). An ovni (UFO) as the French food press would call it, this bar a tapas et tartares has young Israeli chef Yariv Berrebi (formerly of Kitchen Galerie bis) behind the counter live cooking excellent quality produce to crowds of businessmen (lunch), theatergoers (they are open until 11pm weekdays and midnight on Saturdays) and clued up foodies. Prices are reasonable, and although the cooking is (justifiably) a bit less asian fusion than before, Berrebi is an interesting chef to watch out for (although his rapid departure from ZKG was a bit of a shock for some). The 24€ three course menu is a steal.
Heirloom tomato salad
Galician beef, smoked potatoes
Tuesday, 21 April 2015
The neighbourhood where I've lived for the past few years has gotten its fair share of press and has a plethora of restaurants to choose from, but these addresses are surprisingly bereft of interest (with a few and growing exceptions). Canal-side I find myself going back to tried and true favorites: Holybelly for great coffee and Frenchified Anglo breakfasty comfort foods, Philou, for quintessentially great and simple bistro food with eminently quaffable natural wines, The Cork and the Cavan for the occasional pint (they have the best Guinness in Paris, FYI) and selection of local characters at the bar, and now, Blue Valentine.
Blue Valentine is a quirky little place in a quiet street hidden behind the Canal quays with a chef (Terumitsu Saito) who trained at the Mandarin Oriental, Paris among other places, and his all-Nippon brigade turns out dishes that are like textbook studies in French classics, all rigorously seasonal, and although not surprisingly inventive, this table is a great addition to the new wave of tables from Japanese ex-palace/Michelin star establishment workers.
I had a crunchy asparagus dish wrapped in laser thin lardo followed by an astounding slow cooked lamb dish with white beans that staved off the chill in the air yet almost made me long for the winter again. Lunchtime menu is currently Paris' best value at under 20€. Make the trek.
Monday, 20 April 2015
A very smart idea of a French bistro from New York, reimported back to the mothercountry for easy consumption by Anglo or Anglo seeking hipsters in South Pigalle, Buvette Gastrotheque is a simulacrum, a Kinfolk wet dream of an eatery, a little too perfect, a little too Brooklyn meets Pigalle, but still, I liked it a lot.
Rant over, it’s a comfy, friendly place that serves up old school Gallic comfort food as seen through the eyes of a Yankee chef (Jody Williams) , and it’s very decent, although I couldn’t help thinking “what a great business idea” all the time. The space is all eclectic, with rickety vintage school chairs, bar counter stacked with fresh desserts, a vintage ham slicer, glass jars full of apples.. half of the clientelle seemingly bobo lifestyle journalists and bloggeuses whiling away the afternoon, strutting their Isabel Marant press sale threads while furiously jotting down details in their Moleskins and iPads.
The copious croque Madame, unfortunately sans oeuf (forgotten) was thick and crunchy, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs textbook, ratatouille quite delish, accompanied with fresh goat cheese and the desserts just what the doctor ordered: homemade waffles with fresh forrest berries, tarte tatin with fresh, just slightly sour as it should be, cream. All in all, it did seem a little too much esprit de Village , but sometimes that is just what you need (either that or a cheapass flight ticket to JFK). And plus they're open all day long, and closed only on Mondays.
I'm often drawn to unlikely restaurants in out of the way areas, eclectic locations with chefs still trying to prove their mettle, in hastily decorated dining rooms, before the world gastro-press jumps in and with the press of the enter button, make it all but impossible to get it. I like these places pre-buzz. The exciting tables before the excitement.
Coretta is one of these interesting little places. Located on the edge of the trendy Batignolles quarter, overlooking the Martin Luther King parc that would have been the location of the last Olympics game if Paris hadn't failed on their bid, this shiny new duplex is one of the better places to have opened lately in this neck of the woods.
Coretta, named after King's wife, is the brainchild of Beatriz Gomez, who trained at the Michelin starred Grande Cascade before leaving and setting up shop in a forgotten corner of the 8th arrondissement at Neva, which quickly garnered a Michelin star for its delicate, original cooking.
The reasonably priced menu (24 € limited lunch menu or 33/39€ for two or three courses) offers dishes such as homemade foie gras with pommelos, brioche and demi sel codfish with pickled vegetables. Cooking is precise, products well sourced and the wine list predictably natural. Go on a Monday when Beatriz is freed from her duties at Neva and cooks here. And make sure you order the cinnamon bun dessert in advance (we didn't :( ) , because it takes 45 minutes to cook. And go before the whole blogosphere and Condé Nasties blow it up.
Being from one side of the Atlantic and living on the other, I'm often wary what to expect when dining out in the US. As a person who has to be up to date on the food world, I'm pretty well informed on what's going on in New York, Los Angeles and to a lesser degree other cities where I have friends or where there might be some new trend going on, or a hot new chef appeared on some list. Often, the best restaurants are French inspired, pale imitations of great bistros in my hometown of Paris, so I tend to shy away from Gallic grub of any sort. This time around, two places caught my eye. The first, Myers + Chang drew my attention, and after a bit of research seemed my kind of place. The iconoclastic chef owner Joanne Chang, is a local TV celeb chef, is a baker by trade, and before that a Harvard trained mathematician, and her husband Christopher Myers, a local restaurateur. The spot, located in a somewhat post industrial/hip neighbourhood in the South End of Boston, has a buzzing bar, communal dining space and a few tables strewn here and there, all full of people sharing dishes and looking happy. There was a good mix of families, hipsters, local folks, foodies all tucking into a menu composed of a mash up of Thai, Chinese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese comfort food. And it was gooood. Generously portions, affordable , accompanied by local craft beers. The Tiger's Tears and Green Papaya Slaw were faithful renditions, but the General Myers' Chicken Wings, glazed in a deep, earthy orange sauce and just spicy enough and the Chicken and Ginger Waffles with sesame honey butter really hit the spot, especially with a chilled can of Rhode Island Narragansett.
The second place, Central Provisions, opened up early this year in the seaport area of Portland, Maine, a hour and a half's Amtrak ride up the New Hampshire and Maine coast. Located in a period brick building, the restaurant is comprised of a few tables and a bar along the open kitchen. Recently chosen as the 6th Best New Restaurant in the USA (and the only one in New England) by Bon Appetit magazine's Andrew Knowlton, I thought I'd give it a whack, as I always trust his friendly judgement. A couple days after the announcement, they still seemed very calm, so I'd go now if you want to sample this walk in only hotspot. BA especially noted their crudo style cuisine, with lots of raw and sashimi like dishes (Gould once worked at Boston chef Ken Oringer's Uni Sashimi Bar) and the menu is comprised mostly of small plates meant for sharing. Their sea bream ceviche with kumquat, rhubarb and puffed rice won dish of the year 2014. We burned through a number of small plates, some of the best of which were local heirloom tomatoes with burrata, tuna crudo, spicy beef salad with LOTS of peanuts and not a whole lot of beef , their famous bread and butter (fresh bread with a giant farm egg yolk reconstituted and mixed with nasturtium butter) , forgettable "spicy" fried potatoes, green curry lobster toast , and a selection of local (Vermont?) cheeses with candied dates. They have a nice little selection of local craft beers, and wines are mostly Spanish, Italian and Austrian. Pretty much the perfect lunch and a quick rail journey from the family compound in SE New Hampshire.
Sunday, 19 April 2015
I think my new HQ might just well be the latest and greatest project from Bob's Juice Bar head honcho Marc Grossman. His new place, Bob's Bake Shop is a spacious, well designed eatery (eat in or take out) located in the new Espace Pajol just across from the train tracks in a pretty barren (but surely up and coming) part of the 18th. Aside from his great cold press juices, this open daily spot has light organic fare such as salads, fresh American style cakes, coffee from the Belleville Brulerie, small production beers, and get this, the ONLY hand rolled bagels (sesame, poppyseed, onion) in Paris, to which I can attest are the best I've ever had. Run my bobo friends , run to the coolest new café in town.
Bob's Bake Shop
12 esplanade Nathalie Sarraute, 18th