Here’s how Jon and I think when we go to Paris: (1) ask friends – preferably Parisian – where to eat; (2) read blogs, boards, and French-language websites to narrow down ideas; (3) figure out the number of meals we have in Paris; and (4) try to “fit” the results of (1) and (2) into (3) while leaving wiggle room for that serendipitous walk by “someplace that looks and smells really good.” It’s quite the challenge, and only a crazy uptight person like me would find this process “fun.”
Based on what I’d read and heard from Parisian friends, Cinq Mars (in the 7th, near the Musee d’Orsay) sounded like it would be ideal for dinner. The words “cool” and “scene” came up almost as often as “good, traditional food.” The thing is, like many bistrots, Cinq Mars is closed on Sundays and Mondays, and Jon and I had already prioritized our Saturday dinner elsewhere. So we dropped by Cinq Mars for lunch on a Saturday. Why am I going through all these more-painful-than-normal details?
Because dropping by Cinq Mars for lunch on the Saturday before Easter was weird. The place was empty except for one other table. When we walked in, one of the two servers greeted us with “ahhh, you’re the person who made the lunch reservation today!”
Don’t get me wrong – Jon and I had a delicious lunch there, and the servers were helpful and friendly. But we couldn’t help feeling like we’d shown up at a cool place at an uncool time. The walls, which I liked, are all slate and chic – not your American-romanticized bistrot look like at Aux Lyonnais – but I suspect Cinq Mars’s minimalist look shows better, warmer, in the glow of evening candlelight.
I loved my lentil-and-bacon salad. The crunch of bacon enhancing the meatiness of the lentils and everything brightened up with cilantro. Jon’s veloute de poireaux (leek soup) came in a *ginormous* serving bowl, which pretty much signalled “help yourself, we’re not stingy here.”
The bread, by the way, so good it just had to be the baguette monge from Eric Kayser. : )
Continuing with the casual generosity theme at Cinq Mars – a lot of wines are available a la ficelles, which means the server slaps down a bottle of wine and you’re charged in proportion with whatever you drink. How cool is that? Seriously.
And it goes without saying that une carafe d’eau is no problem and regularly replaced.
The menu offered all sorts of traditional bistrot fare – steaks, fish and fowl. Jon, mindful of meals to come, stuck with an omelet with mushrooms, and I, being nuts, ordered a saucisse and mash. How British of me. Simple food, well prepared. Starters were generally well under 10 euros, and mains hovered around 15 euros. We left in good humor and our tab for appetizers, mains, 2/3 a bottle of wine and coffee came to about 65 euros.
So whether you go when it’s crowded or empty, you’ll be glad you went.
Cinq Mars, 51 rue de Verneuil, +33 (0)1 45 44 69 13. Closest Metro: Solferino