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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

HOT ZONES AND A SLOW DANCE

PARIS

Dinner is with a pair of war correspondents. Talk ranges from world hot zones to falsifying papers.

Nothing quite like that to make a food and travel writer feel like a wimp.

I try to flex my muscles by coming up with somewhere new to eat in the neighborhood (without returning to the wonderful L’Escargot) and come up with La Lanterne, a spot I’ve spied on a side road along my jogging route near the Buttes Chaumont park.

Downstairs at La Lanterne is candlelit bric-a-brac, remnants of some bygone era that’s hard to put a finger on, but must look better on a cold winter’s night than the misty early summer’s eve we’re here on. We make a beeline for the covered roof deck, currently occupied by ten friends in their 50s celebrating a birthday.

Entrées arrive - a tartare de legumes, escargot with roquefort sauce and a salad with pork cheeks. Everything sounds more interesting that it is. Bof! say the French. Though the business card says “old Paris atmosphere” it’s really like eating at a so-so countryside restaurant.

But the table next to us has a good mood floating in the air above them and at our table, the guys are smiling, talking about dodging bullets. Mains arrive and one of the correspondents cuts his andouillette open longwise like he’s gutting it. Truthfully, they’re a bit disappointing - better, but not worth a trip, until I look around the deck - wonderful views in a quiet city spot. The woman at the table next door pulls out an iPhone to play a tinny slow song, holding it up like a candle at a concert.

The birthday girl and her sweetie - clearly still a sweetie after a long time together - get up and dance together. It’s the kind of charming you don’t always see in Paris. Which makes the whole dinner worth it.

Count on about 25-30 € for dinner. Rooftop dancing optional.

La Lanterne MAP
9 Rue du Tunnel
75019 Paris
+33 1 42 39 15 98



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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

TURBOT’S DEAL WITH THE DEVIL

I’d wanted to come back here for years. I’d also been wondering where to have my last meal of the summer in Barcelona.

Appropriately, I went with my old lunch partner/landlord Fede who introduced me to Restaurant Montalban when I rented my Poble Sec apartment from him years ago.

All I wanted for this meal was to repeat the one I remembered, as it seemed the owner had made some sort of deal with the devil to make good seafood.

There is no disappointment.

We start with percebes - gooseneck barnacles - sugar sweet, wildly expensive, and looking like dinosaur toes, Montalban’s are made with a pinch of cinnamon in the court bouillon. To eat them, pinch the neck, pull out the sweet center, pop it in your mouth and wash it down with a Galician white and you, too, will be saying, “Money? What money???”

We follow with a plate of galician octopus that’s plump, tender, almost sweet and paprika smoky. Every time I eat this dish I like it more.

Barnacles and octopi, however, are sideshows compared with the real reason I want to return; I want the rodaballo. The turbot comes out crispy-chewy on the outside firm and flavorful on the inside. There’s a lemon, but there’s no reason to bother with it; this fish is worth a deal with the devil. My word - one taste and you wonder why anyone would bother with any other preparation.

You’ll pay for the pleasure, but Montalban is still a great value. As Fede says, “this place and Quimet & Quimet are the only places you’ll find people wearing suits in Poble Sec.”

Count on about 35 euros for lunch with wine. Sky’s the limit if you order percebes, but they’ll be worth it.

Bar-Restaurant Montalban “Casa Jose” - MAP
Margarit 31
+34 93 442 31 43

Closed Sunday night and Monday.



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Friday, June 04, 2010

UPHILL FROM ANCHOVIES

We roll out of “the place with the amazing anchovies” and head next door to the new Cal Marino - which, with walls lined with bottles, barrels and a bar full of tasty vittles, looks like Quimet & Quimet’s little cousin.

Toni brought me here for a quick snack a month ago and I wanted to check in again and see what’s cooking.

They don’t cook much, actually, they source. There are gourmet snacks a gogo - lots of good things to skewer with a toothpick and a few combinations à la Quimet. There are plates with excellent olives, tasty shrimp, or little bites of octopus; you’d have to make a concerted effort to make a meal out of it, but paired with, say, a good cider, they get the appetite racing, the conversation moving.

They’re still working out a few kinks; I tried flagging the waiter for some tomato bread and he made a long-distance stiff-arm gesture that said, “Can’t you see I’m overwhelmed?” Come in at a quieter time, however, and the barman/owner will be happy to teach you about the products he stocks.

They’ll work it out. Can Marino is a great launching point, a future neighborhood reference as a watering hole and part of a great one-two punch after you have some of those anchovies.

Count on 5-15€ depending on how much of a meal you want to make of it.

Can Marino - MAP
C/ Margarit 54
Barcelona
+34 93 329 45 92

Follow me on Twitter: @joe_diner.



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