Monday, November 2, 2009

Restaurants of the week, part I

Café Panique: 12 rue des Messageries, 10eme

Went with: Dad and Lois on a Monday night (A great option if you’re ever looking for a restaurant that’s open on Mondays.)
Had: The fantastic three-course 35 Euros prix-fixe menu. It started with an amuse-bouche of lobster tartar, topped with foie gras. Then I had a beautiful sablé of goat cheese, cherry tomatoes and arugula; progressed to magret de canard with spinach and parsnips and finished big with a crazy caramel crème brulee. Wow.
Impressions: I would definitely go back. The proprietor, Odile Guyader, is a genuine and warm presence—very attentive without being cloying or pushy. The rotating art is really cool, as are the mismatched chairs that make the converted textile fabric factory feel homey and charming. I don’t know if it’s because it was a Monday night or if it’s the vibe the small restaurant cultivates, but it was super discreet but friendly—a great mix of people, atmosphere and food.

La Grille: 80, rue du Faubourg Poissoniere, 10eme

Went with: Dad and Lois on a Tuesday night
Had: More Bordeaux and bread. A salad of mixed greens and roqueforte. And one of the house specialties: a brochette of scallops cooked to perfection, drenched in butter. There was also a communal plate of this beautiful potato and onion gratin, and we helped Lo with her flan—a giant portion of delicious eggy custard.
Impressions: I wanted to sample a range of restaurants with Dad and Lo and going to La Grille definitely fit that bill. This place is super old-school. You walk in, and it’s like being in your grandma’s house. The front room is just a reception area with a spiral staircase going to some unknown world upstairs. The back room only has nine tables and you’re all crammed in together, under the slightly disconcerting (don’t think about the hygiene) clutter of knickknacks. Husband and wife team Yves and Geneviève are as classically French as the food and décor, making the whole experience unforgettable.

Itinéraires: 5 rue de Pontoise, 5eme

Went with: Dad and Lois on a Wednesday night (see a trend here?)
Had: Thinly sliced salmon, topped with a lemon vodka sorbet, sprinkled with dill; and… I know this is crazy but I can’t remember what I ate. Dad had risotto, dyed black with squid ink, and topped with fresh seafood. Lois had roasted chicken and leeks. I know I had fish, and I know I loved it. But I can’t for the life of me remember the dish. C’est bizarre.
Impressions: I had wanted to go to Itinéraires since I read about it last summer and, after a year-and-a-half of anticipation, it didn’t disappoint. This was probably the most “happening” (e.g. chicest and most bustling) restaurant we went to. The décor was simple but refined; the service, a titch more absent than normal in a French restaurant. But it’s definitely a restaurant that’s worth going back to again and again.

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