Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Food to the rescue

I was feeling pretty blah after my return from New York last week. But leave it to a good restaurant to give me a surge of inspiration and adoration for this city. It was a dinner party for Lionel’s birthday, and a big group of us went to Au Vieux Comptoir. I loved it. I loved the atmosphere, the food, being with a big group for a four-hour dinner (three would have sufficed for me, but…) and practicing my French with the locals.

Au Vieux Comptoir: 17 rue des Lavandières-Sainte-Opportune, 1eme
Went with: Lionel, Sylvia and eight others—a surprise mix for Lionel.
Had: Delicious bread; beaucoup de Bordeaux; a salmon tartare starter: chunks of lightly dressed salmon and mango; a special black truffle risotto; tarte tatin and champagne.
Impressions: Loved it. This is the kind of place where the proprietors make the regulars feel like family and, as a result, the atmosphere is fun, familiar, buzzing and happy. It’s a relatively small space, very casual and cozy. The menu is meat-heavy, but there were scallops plus plates of the day for non-meat-eaters. Everything I had was delicious, and between the cream and truffle oil, my risotto was perhaps the richest risotto I’ve ever eaten. We were the last ones to leave at about 12:45 a.m. What a great night.

Some other recent restaurants...

La Fidélité: 12 rue de la Fidélité, 10eme

Went with: Mel on a Tuesday night
Had: We split this beautiful eggplant and mozzarella starter that had the meatiness of eggplant parm, and duck magret for my main. Not the best menu—pretty limited and random options. But it’s all about the scene; you don’t go here for the food. That said, what we did have was good.
Impressions: Dark, sexy and seductive. I instantly fell in love with the lofty dining room, red banquets and hipster staff. Mel and I were surprised at how not crowded it was and we enjoyed our waiter who was attentive and sweet. But, I just read (using the term loosely with my terrible French) reviews on Le Figaro and it sounds like this place has its fair share of attitude. But what can I say? I’m a sucker for a good scene and would go back.

Rice and Fish: 22 rue Grenata, 2eme
Went with: Jo on a Tuesday and Michael on a Friday
Had: Tofu gyoza to begin; two rolls for din-din
Impressions: This place has been touted as the first place in Paris to do super American-style sushi: rolls with crunchy bits sprinkled on top and “le vrai Californien” with crab and avocado. Conveniently located across the street from me, and open since the summer, I’ve been dying to check it out. When Jo and I went a couple weeks ago, it was pretty decent. Though our gyoza were partially cold, the rolls were pretty good. But Michael and I went the other night and I was so not impressed. The space is small and strangely set up, so we had to move twice in order to accommodate the growing number of diners. Annoying. Then they served us our gyoza at the same time as our sushi. Tres annoying. And they were pretty greasy and my rolls were mediocre. Overall, sadly disappointing.

Livingstone: 106 rue Saint-Honoré
Went with: Jo and Benjamin for lunch
Had: Tilapia cooked in banana leaf and veggies
Impressions: Tres chic! Tres cool! Even though the new Vuitton offices are not far from my apartment, I have a whole new neighborhood of lunch options. I’ve already found a great salad place and two delicious bakeries. But on Friday, Jo and Benj met me for lunch so we wanted a place to sit and went for Thai. We walked into Livingstone and were all seduced by the black interior, decorated with exotic lamps, oversized mirrors, velvet banquets, animal horns and such. And the food was stellar. Jo got the pad Thai and Benj got a big combo of spring rolls, salad and meat. But my fish and veggies were divine—a great change-up from the food I typically eat in Paris.

Le Cul de Poule: 53 rue des Martyrs, 9eme
Went with: JP and Kyoko on a Wednesday night
Had: A giant rice ball appetizer, filled with salmon and—unbeknownst to me until I wizened up and realized the salmon couldn’t taste that smoky—pork. That’s when I stopped eating it. Which was a shame because it was pretty big and delicious. And, given that the translation of “cul de poule” means chicken butt, I had to try the chicken. Besides…
Impressions: My very first impression when I walked through the door: Mmmmmm. All I could smell was roast chicken. The chicken itself was actually really bizarre. It was tasty, but it was the driest, crispiest chicken I’ve ever eaten. Served with creamy potato gratin. The restaurant is super unfussy and friendly with a bit of a 70s vibe: orange lamps, a turquoise wall, warm woods. Filled with cool people, a nice, homey vibe and a 22 euros prix-fixe menu, I likey.

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