Jon and I are in Paris right now. He’s used up more of his 25 vacation days than I have, so I (and my friend Cathy) rented an apartment in Paris for the week in order for me to “catch up,” and Jon decided to come along for 24 hours (he has to go back to London tonight to go to work tomorrow).
The apartment we rented is in a great location – on the Rue des Ecoles and less than a 10-minute walk to Notre Dame. We rented this place from the same people we used when we rented in Provence, and so we’re not surprised the apartment is bright, large, stylish and clean.
We arrived yesterday at Gare du Nord at 5:30ish, and I loved how we just stepped off the train in Paris, bought tickets for the metro, and were at the Rue des Ecoles by 6. (Ahh, there’s so much to love about the Eurostar).
When we arrived at the apartment, Cathy was already here, and the three of us went out to buy groceries. We stopped at a friendly cheese store on our way to the supermarket – Christian Le Lann Fromager Affineur (La Ferme des Arenes), 60, Rue Monge – as well as a wine store called (strangely) Ex Cellar, 25 Rue des Ecoles. The wine store was all paneled light woods – very sleek and warm, and a wine from Seguret in the window caught our eye. We decided to try a bottle (2005 Domaine le Souverain Seguret, 9 euros), and it was good, but mostly we liked that it reminded us of our excellent meal at Le Mesclun. I love when events in my life connect in these small ways.
At the wine store, there was an older American woman in front of us on line, and she was so embarrassingly annoying that I was tempted to leave the store, rather than be associated with her somehow. She had this very whiney-accusatory way of making conversation with the wine store owner. For example, she decided to pay for her wines by check, and when she got to the space where you have to write out the numbers in words (i.e., “fifty-seven euros and no cents”), she said “do I really have to fill this entire thing out?”
The wine store owner, thinking that she just needed some help with her French, said “cinquante-sept euros,” to which the woman replied “Yes, I know how to write it out, but I don’t want to because it’s so boring to do it.” Sorry to hear her life is otherwise so exciting that she can’t be bothered to carry out the method of payment she chose to use – so, I mean, just use a credit card, lady, and let the rest of us get on with our lives, OK?
When we finally arrived at the small Franprix supermarket, Jon and I were amused to find frozen foods made by the great Joel Robuchon. I mean, it makes sense that he does it (big money, lots of other chefs do it), but it’s still funny. Of course I took a photo:
Back at home, we gobbled down the cheese and wine we’d bought, and then Jon and I had a 10 p.m. reservation at Aux Lyonnais, 32, rue Saint Marc, 01.42.86.65.04 (near Bourse or Richelieu-Drouot metro stations). It’s on the foodie map because it’s Alain Ducasse‘s brasserie.
The restaurant is smaller than I imagined, but it’s very stylish and picturesque. Moldings and high ceilings – even a zinc bar. The service was good (fast, helpful and relatively friendly) and the food was fine, but it was all just too expensive for what it was. Jon’s oeufs en cocotte with tiny bits of mushrooms, a prawn, and a chard-like vegetable was delicious (the flavours mixed so well together that it became a meaty, creamy topping on toasted brioche), and it was this dish alone that seemed worth the money because it was, at least, something we’d never had before and were unlikely to make on our own.
The other dishes were good, but maybe because we make this kind of food at home, I wasn’t thrilled to pay 25 euros a main course for what we ate.
My braised lamb shoulder was tender and came served in its own Le Creuset casserole (the restaurant promotes Le Creuset cookbooks, etc.), but I don’t have too much to say about my dish other than that it was as elegantly served as a braised meat dish can be. I think the braising sauce had been strained – it was so smooth – and the carrots, leek and potatoes had been cooked separately before being added to the dish, so they still had bite and bright colors. Basically, it was high-fuss braised lamb shoulder.
Jon’s quenelles were good – fluffy and rich, cooked in an intense crayfish broth – but it seemed pretty shabby that this already-simple dish was served with just four crayfish (perfectly cooked, of course). Jon and I agreed that eating quenelles was like eating really good matzoh balls, but who wants to pay 25 euros for matzoh balls?
Overall, it’s a very pretty restaurant, and the dishes we had seemed to be made of high-quality ingredients, but our impression is that it’s a brasserie serving really basic French comfort food at disproportionately high prices. Nothing except that oeuf en cocotte made us say, “wow, this is so delicious” such that we’d happily spend another 100 euros on an appetizer, two mains and a carafe of a Cotes du Rhone.