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Friday, July 30, 2010


PARIS – The waitress at Willi’s Wine Bar poured a bit in my glass to taste and waited next to me for a verdict.

Nothing good happened in my mouth. Nothing bad either. “Nothing to signal” to borrow a local phrase.

“Should it be like this?” I venture, trying to play it semi-diplomatically.

As the words leave my mouth, the wine - a Gigondas - begins to unwind. It’s good, but a bit too late now.

The waitress takes it in stride as I begin to backpedal. Later, the wine steward drops by to offer to exchange the bottle anyway. Perhaps he smiled when he noticed it was almost gone.

“Willi’s?” a friend would later ask. “That place still full of Americans?”

“Smart ones,” I reply.

Count on 30-40 euros for a good, seasonal lunch, tasty wine and classy service.

Willi’s Wine Bar - MAP
13 rue des Petits Champs
75001 Paris
+33 (0)1 42 61 05 09

Closed Sunday.

Follow me on Twitter: @joe_diner.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010


PARIS - I’d been back in town for 48 hours, my mental Rolodex a little rusty and trying to think of a good place to meet a friend for lunch. My brain falls on a well-worn card.

Taxi Jaune is a perfect ‘welcome back’ - serving, on this day, radishes with good, sweet, creamy butter and salt flakes - the dish might as well have a little French flag on the top.

Later, Ari and I share mains. A bavette (flank steak) is crunchy on the outside, juicy within - a bite full of flavor, good technique and strong sourcing.

The trout, skin crisp and peeled back like the page of a good book reveals something sensual, a kind of ‘pages turned slowly’ read. There’s a fettucine next to it that’s so good, it causes me to go home and try to make my own pasta.

Outside, the sun is bright. The city shines like a diamond.

Count on about 20€ with a drink at lunch.

Le Taxi Jaune - MAP
13, rue Chapon
+33 1 42 76 00 40



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Monday, July 12, 2010



“Mmm… Almonds, fleur d’oranger, vanilla…” says Ari dissecting the Pain du Sucre confection I’m sharing.

“What else is in it?” asks her friend.

My only reply is a frenzied chewing sound, similar to the dining animals in “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

Both friends have each ordered exactly one mint macaroon with chocolate (girls!) and they taste exactly like the mint that grew in our side yard when I was five.

Yesterday in the patisserie where we got them – Pain de Sucre, run by ex-Pierre Gagnaire partner/dynamic do Didier Mathray and Nathalie Robert – a woman, perhaps intoxicated by the beautiful fumes practically stampedes our threesome.

Today, on our return visit (Ari needed some more for her return to Barcelona), another woman snatches one of her macaroons from the box before the salesman can close the top, pretends to offer it to her infant and acts surprised when, ostensibly, the baby says ‘no.’

The mom wolfs it down in one bite.

I can’t blame her.

Pain de Sucre – MAP
14 rue Rambuteau
75003 Paris
Closed Tuesday & Wednesday

Click here to see my 2007 story on Pain du Sucre and other, emm, mold-breaking patisseries

Follow me on Twitter: @joe_diner.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010



Unless you’re willing to plunk down the cash, eating around the Champs Elysées is an expensive and often unsatisfying proposition.

“There’s a great Chinese, good sushi…” my dining partner said, citing his local favorites but after years of working in the neighborhood, but he still hadn’t found a favorite French place that’s a good value.

Luckily, he was prepared to plunk down the cash.

In front of Citrus Etoile, Audis and Porsches fight for the space in the crosswalk by the valet and inside, it’s businessmen and a bit of Botox. A little too showbiz for me. The waiter will take your order using an oversized Palm Pilot. That tap, tap, tap noise is about as pleasant a sound as fingers on a chalkboard.

The Web site describes the “adorable” owners Gilles and Elizabeth Epié as “a dynamic and sexy couple.” Someone needs to turn the PR down a notch. Some eat this stuff up and love what the couple does, but this is not my cup of tea.

Having spent a big hunk of time cooking in California, Monsieur Epié makes a laudable effort to offer a menu that’s good for you, but I don’t want to come to a place like this and have a dish that looks like it was pulled from the ‘heart-healthy’ section of a menu.

I will also mention that at a wine tasting yesterday, I had a very similar main dish - fish with spring vegetables - at the wine bistrot Vin Chez Moi (18 rue Duphot 75001) and it was about twice as good (and good looking) as this. Everything we eat at Citrus Etoile is good, but there’s no point during the meal where we say ‘Mmmmm!’ I hate to say it, but I felt like I could do some of this at home.

It also feels like you need to know what to get - there’s a businessman a few tables away whose tie is thrown back over his shoulder like it was in his way. I want what he had, but at 70 euros a head for lunch without wine or dessert, I should be able to point at dishes with my eyes closed and come up with winners every time.

Again, maybe it’s just me. Everything about this place is what the French would call ‘more than correct’ but I’m not interested in paying for a seat in a semi-exclusive place that doesn’t make me want to eat with my tie slung over my shoulder.

Lunchtime prix-fixe options at 49 and 69€. It goes up from there.

Citrus Etoile – MAP
6 rue Arsène Houssaye
75008 Paris
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
+33 1 42 89 15 51

Follow me on Twitter: @joe_diner.

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Friday, July 02, 2010



The 11th keeps getting better.

I went to dinner with my favorite cheesemongers from Fromagerie Charonne (a.k.a. Autour du Fromage) the other night - they had a new place to show me in my old neighborhood. Who am I to say no? is visible from Boulevard Voltaire but tucked away on the tiny rue Guénot - you either know it’s there or it’s a lucky find. It’s not a cross-town-trek kind of place, but it’s a great addition to the offerings in the 11th and they’re making the right gestures to please the local crowd. The young chef in the tiny kitchen has the leeway to cook what he wants (the menu only exists on the chalkboard) and there’s an extensive list of good-value wines, available at a marked-down price to take home.

Sylvie, who’s ordered her steak “bleu but warm” gets exactly that and goes quiet for several minutes when it arrives. Daniel gets a burger and though I could care less about the Paris Burger Wars, I want to reach across the table for a bite - it’s wrapped in cured ham, topped with wide shavings of Parmesan and cooked like Sylvie’s steak. Pork chops ‘à la moutarde à l’ancienne’ means the mustard is whipped to a frenzy - a creamy puff as good on the chops as it is on my spuds and the salad. Chef also had the wisdom to let a sautéed girolle mushroom appetizer be just that.

Count on around 30€ with wine for dinner - lunch appears to be a good deal with 12€ appetizer/main or main/dessert options. - MAP
2 rue Guénot
75011 Paris

Autour du Fromage - MAP

120 rue de Charonne

75011 Paris


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