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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Little Things, Big Neighbors


Lots of little things going on Chez Ramulaud.

What I love about Paris is that I lived on and off for a year near a place this good and never knew it was there. Then again, I lived even closer to the Bistrot Paul Bert, which got all the little things right and costs the same; Ramulaud is more of a mixed bag.

Walk in and there’s a funny feeling like the place has both been there for a while and that they’ve just moved in because the walls are too white and the lights too bright. Appetizers are good ideas that just miss the mark – a tartare of veal, gambas and avocados has lots of fun texture but wades in mayonnaise. ‘Chips’ of pigs’ feet and ears sound fantastic if you’re into that sort of thing, but this thin, they just taste greasy. Vegetable preparations are well thought-out yet the raw products seem like they’re from the cheap grocery store down the street.

From here on out, however, the problems are erased. Sautéed slices of andouillette atop a salad are crowned with a poached egg. There’s great play between the offal, the mustard-y vinaigrette and hidden lardons and lightly caramelized red onions. Lamb chops are dredged in Parmesan and pink on the inside. A beautiful Fleurie dispatches doubts about Beaujolais.

Dessert sums it up: a chocolate cake drools salted caramel, the underside just slightly (and wonderfully) scorched; my companion starts moaning with pleasure. Meanwhile, I can’t figure out why the top of my otherwise tasty crème brulée isn’t scorched enough. At the next table, someone has ordered a skimpy-looking Paris-Brest, Paul Bert’s incredible signature dessert.

I enjoyed the meal more than it sounds, but can’t think of a better way to remind customers of the better place to eat.

Chez Ramulaud - MAP
269 rue Faubourg St Antoine
75011 PARIS
+33 (0)1 43 72 23 29

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blowing Off The Zephyr


I recently moved to a neighborhood where I don’t know where to eat… disconcerting for a food writer.

At the end of a rainy Monday in the center of town, both places I wanted to go for steak frites were closed. I retreated to my neighborhood, dragging my friend behind me and getting to the point where we couldn’t make a decision.

We circled two places, exhausted and not really caring anymore, finally settling on a place that seemed pretty but expensive (Belleville’s Le Zephyr, for the curious).

We sat and picked out our steaks and I did the math; it was going to cost 80 euros for a meal we really didn’t care about.

I looked across the table and said: “Chinese takeout and cheap beer?”
We got up immediately.

Best decision of the week.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Pass The Maté


Le Fumoir is a melting pot for the mid-level hoi-polloi. At any given point, you might bump into the waitress who couldn’t care less, the impeccably-dressed writer who’s actually getting something done, the maître d’ who says ‘I am a snob’ simply in the way he adjusts the blinds, smiling bartenders, tourists who realized they’ve lucked into a good find and a woman who’s got a good 25 years on her lover, both looking happy as clams. (I’ve recently learned that her breed is known as a cougar. Rrrow!)

There are lots of non-client quirks for better and for worse: a Costes-brothers-of-the-1950s style space with big, beautiful lacquered bathrooms, paired with a vaguely Asian menu theme. And maté. Surprisingly good maté, served in a big gourd with a bombilla and a big iron teapot of hot water.

Most places have a clientele you can lump into a group, but here in the middle of town, a stone’s throw from the Louvre’s Cour Carré, it’s what the French would call Le Melting Pot.

It shoudn’t stick.

It sticks.

Pass the maté.

Le Fumoir – MAP
6 Rue de l’Amiral de Coligny
+33 (0)1 42 92 00 24‎

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Pizza Neuf

PARIS – Grey day. The kind that makes you wear extravagant clothing in hopes they’ll create a break in the clouds. Parisians, a thin-blooded lot who put on cold-weather clothing at the drop of a hat, use days like this to break out their scarves and winter coats while the rest of us are fine in a long-sleeved shirt.

If you go out on a day like this, you tend not to stray too far. I rode my bike to meet a friend for lunch at pizzeria Maria Luisa behind the Canal Saint Martin, an area larded with good neighborhood restaurants.

It poured once we were inside, but it didn’t matter. The pizza (red sauce, mozz, anchovy) chased clouds and when I took a spin around the restaurant floor, all the different pies looked just as good. A kid at the table next to us got a kid-sized pizza and I’m pretty sure I didn’t see that on the menu. Nice touch.

Nitpicks: my crust could have been done underneath a bit more, my friend’s salad came with a ricotta that, curiously and distractingly, was slightly sweet. Avoid or refuse the table shoehorned into a dead space by the bathroom.

But these are little things. Using my Sicilian scale, this would have been a very respectable Pizza Sette, on a Parisian scale, however, Pizza Neuf.

Maria Luisa – Pizzeria Napoletana - MAP
2 rue Marie et Louise
75010 Paris
+33 1 44 84 04 04

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Staring Away From The Fresco


I love a good place hidden in plain sight. I’d walked by La Fresque, smack in the center of Les Halles, 100 times before a neighborhood friend proposed dinner there a few years back. I still remember trying and ostrich steak for the first time – a perfect presentation to get you over the hump and make you want to try it again because you like it. I also liked the idea of everyone walking by, oblivious to a good find.

A little while ago, we went back for lunch and a 14-euro menu included a light pumpkin flan with a curry cream sauce and a decent steak. My friend, a stickler for a good chevre chaud salad, wasn’t doing cartwheels, but pronounced herself satisfied.

More than that, I liked sitting under the big awning, protected from the rain and watching the world go by.

La Fresque
100, rue Rambuteau
+33 (0)1 42 33 17 56

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