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Posts Tagged ‘Sylvain Sendra’

mackerel tartare starter at Restaurant Itineraires (Paris, 5th)

mackerel tartare starter at Restaurant Itineraires (Paris, 5th)

Jon’s parents visited us in London last week, so we decided to take a quick 4th of July trip to Paris. Our 32 hours there didn’t allow for too many meals, but we did manage to revisit Itineraires for dinner and Le Comptoir for lunch.

Itineraires was just as (if not more) delicious and wonderful an experience as it was last November when we first ate there. Le Comptoir, however, was much less appealing than it was last March.

Despite the restaurant’s ever-growing fame, the menu at Itineraires is still 29 euros for two courses and 36 euros for three. The portions are still large enough that we didn’t make it to dessert; the food is still creative and delicious; and the service is still warm and friendly enough that we couldn’t help lingering for hours after we’d finished eating.

creme de lentilles soup at Restaurant Itineraires

creme de lentilles soup at Restaurant Itineraires

Given how sweltering the weather was in Paris last weekend, we were *very* happy that Itineraires offered a number of cold, refreshing starters: white asparagus soup and creme de lentilles were chilled and pretty much best in class. My mackerel tartare starter, while a bit over-colorful, was perfect for the summer weather – meaty but cool. And did you see? Itineraires got yet another star turn in the New York Times last weekend , courtesy of Mark Bittman. [Of course, in the same article, he was also super pleased with Le Gaigne, which I didn’t think was in the same league as Itineraires. But you can’t ignore Mickael Gaignon’s pedigree, I suppose.]

In any event, be sure to try Itineraires if you haven’t already. It’s impossibly lovely, especially considering it’s located in tourist ground zero, about ten minutes’ walk from Notre Dame.

As for Le Comptoir – this was our third time there for lunch. Le Comptoir’s appeal lies in its super-handy location in the 6th, its movie-perfect old-fashioned bistro looks, and the tons and tons of hype it gets. But I think it’s suffering from its popularity. Service was brusque and needed lots of reminding; the greens in three of our salad starters looked and tasted bruised and tired; and I didn’t enjoy having to explain that they’d over-charged us 5 euros on an already-pricey lobster bisque (of which we’d ordered three). Overall, it was still a decent place for lunch in that part of town, but everything from the service to the food seemed sloppy. Even at a relatively-modest 25 euros per person for starter and main, it was too much money. Next time I’m in the 6th, I’ll try L’Epigramme instead.

Restaurant Itineraires, 5 rue de Pontoise, 5th, 01-46-33-60-11; closed Sundays and Mondays. Closest metro: Maubert-Mutualite (10).

Le Comptoir du Relais, 9, Carrefour de l’Odeon, +33 (0)1 44 27 07 97. Closest Metro: Odeon

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Restaurant Itineraires, 5 rue de Pontoise, Paris

Restaurant Itineraires, 5 rue de Pontoise, Paris

Dinner last Saturday in Paris was at Restaurant Itineraires, in the 5th. Although Bistrot Paul Bert is classic old-school, and Itineraires is neo-bistro, if you play the restaurant pedigree game, you’ll find they connect. Bistrot Paul Bert sits on rue Paul Bert, a road that’s been a darling of food press in recent years. Sylvain Sendra was the chef at Le Temps en Temps, also on rue Paul Bert, until earlier this year, when he and his wife set up Itineraires.

So of all the thousands of bistros in Paris, Itineraires caught my eye because (1) generally, I love the fresh take you get on classic dishes at neo bistros; (2) John Talbott, the eGullet Paris moderator, called Itineraires “this spring’s l’Epigramme, Afaria, Spring,” and (3) Alexander Lobrano, Gourmet’s Paris correspondent, also sang its praises. My expectations were high, just as they were for Bistrot Paul Bert (which disappointed me).

Well, I’m 50/50 for dinners in Paris this last time around, because Itineraires was outstanding. The interior, service and food were elegant, yet warm and inviting. Nobody except the hostess spoke English, so as a perk, I got to bust out my rusty French with everyone else at the restaurant, and our server thanked me for making her life easier.

cream and cepes (porcini) special at Itineraires

cream and cepes (porcini) special at Itineraires

Just as you’d fine at classic bistros (like Bistrot Paul Bert), the menu was on a chalkboard, and a few specials were recited by our server. On the chalkboard, it was clear that a starter and main were 29 euros, and if you made it to dessert, it’s three courses for 34. Very few items charged a supplement. Pet peeve avoided.

Whereas at Paul Bert, seasonal cepes were featured in an omelet filled with a rustic, generous portion of said mushrooms, at Itineraires, cepes came thinly sliced in a small bowl of creamy, meaty soup. At the bottom of the bowl was a poached egg that burst with hot yolk when I poked it open. Together, all these woodsy, meaty, creamy flavors and textures mixed in a way that made me happy and warm – a perfect example of neo bistro cooking at its best: elegant and refined, but still comforting.

wild boar stew and vegetable tempura

wild boar stew and vegetable tempura

My wild boar stew was hearty, rich and fork tender. Your perfect cold winter’s night dish. The light, crispy vegetable tempura on top of the stew was greaseless and intensified the veg flavors – the courgette tempura was superstar. Overall, the pairing didn’t exactly blend together, but I liked the contrast in textures, and I always love fried goodies.

beef cheeks

beef cheeks

Jon’s beef cheeks (joue de boef) were rich and decadent. I don’t know how he managed to polish them off along with a whopping portion of the creamiest, most buttery pommes purees, ever. There was a spice in the beef cheeks that overwhelmed me (clove?) so I was much happier with my wild boar.

Too full after our two courses, we passed on desserts, and with a perfect-with-food gigondas for 37 euros, our total tab came to 95 euros. Although tip is always compris by law, Jon and I had such a good experience we left extra on top.

When we left at almost midnight, people were still waiting at the bar to get a table. Itineraires deserves its popularity.

For the tourists, comme nous, you have the added perk of going around the block to Quai de la Tournelle and walking off your dinner while admiring the nighttime lights of Notre Dame.

Restaurant Itineraires, 5 rue de Pontoise, 5th, 01-46-33-60-11; closed Sundays and Mondays. Closest metro: Maubert-Mutualite (10).

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