Hit & Miss – Paris/Alsace 2008
Not every meal has to be at a Michelin star. For the most part, we just like to eat where the locals eat. Sometimes, we luck out; sometimes, we don’t. This trip to Paris/Alsace was a wash. Here’s a run down of our more memorable meals in this category.
L’Ardoise – Paris
During our first night in Paris, we kicked off what we hoped would be a string of delicious dinners with a visit to our favorite hole-in-the-wall, L’Ardoise. Named after the blackboard where the daily specials are written on, L’Ardoise rarely disappoints when you’re in the mood for a “slow food” version of a value meal. That evening, some of the better selections for the prix fixe were the ravioli with chanterelle, foie gras and truffle butter as well as the pork chops with salsify.
Au Bon Accueil – Paris
This used to be one of our favorite restaurants in Paris. Back in the day, you were seated elbow to elbow with other diners who flocked to this place because, like L’Ardoise, it offered great food at a reasonable price. Now, wooden benches have given way to sleek upholstered banquettes, and most of the better choices have moved from the prix fixe side of the menu to the more expensive ala carte one. I regretted going with the veal kidneys just because I rarely saw it on NYC menus. I just couldn’t get past the funky smell.
Les Cotelettes – Paris
Even though this restaurant was tucked in an alley near the Place des Vosges, it was bustling with the lunch crowd. We had an interesting starter in the form of bulots (sea snails), hard boiled eggs, and shrimp dressed in a remoulade; however, lunch was brought down a notch by the main course, a way-too-rare leg of lamb.
Bistro Paul Bert – Paris
There’s nothing pleasant about this roast pheasant in the 11th arrondisement. And I can’t believe this came out of the kitchen of Bistro Paul Bert, the current darling of French restaurant critics. What kind of invincible bird was this? My knife practically bounced off the skin as I tried to cut into it, and the struggle that ensued was worthy of a WWF championship. After much grunting, I was finally able to separate meat from bone, but I came away from the meal hungrier than when I started.
Les Charmes – Reims
Boudin au lapin au pomme. Can’t go wrong with (rabbit) sausage and apples; in fact, it’s a perfect way to fill an empty stomach before a champagne tasting tour at Veuve Clicquot.
Les Pissenlits – Nancy
We mopped up every bit of the creamy mustard sauce that covered the tender filet mignon de porc. In hindsight, they also served the best escargots we had this trip, sufficiently garlicky that it did not feel like we were just drinking butter.
Winstub Au Sommelier – Bergheim
The quenelles of fish and crawfish in a riesling sauce made for several layers of blandness. To top it off, the infernal wait in between courses unnecessarily stretched a lunch that should have taken an hour into three.
Chez Yvonne – Strasbourg
This is supposedly a watering hole for ranking members of the European Parliament. I wonder why. I’m not a prude when it comes to fat, but I prefer it browned on the outside at least. Boiled pork with about a half inch layer of fat stuffed with more minced pork is just not my idea of an appetizing meal. This, coupled with the longest wait ever for the bill, just made me shake my head at the thought of another meal wasted.
L’Alsace a Table – Strasbourg
When we were planning our trip to Strasbourg, I was a little apprehensive that only a few places were open for Christmas eve. To me, it spelled T-O-U-R-I-S-T T-R-A-P. We need not have worried. Our meal at L’Alsace a Table was very pleasant, and the langoustine starter stood out from the rest. They were fat and firm, paired with a sauce that hinted of pineapples and accompanied with a delicious winter vegetable salad in a jar.
Cafe Ruc – Paris
Come to Cafe Ruc for the beautiful people, where waitresses dress like they’re going on a date (complete with purse!) and waiters glide to your table bearing the gummiest of shrimp risottos.
Les Racine – Paris
It’s a pity they never did an episode of Seinfeld in Paris. With its friendly neighborhood vibe, Les Racine would have been the perfect setting for the coffee shop. Instead of a “big salad”, Elaine would have mache and beet salad. And for George, what could be more opposite to tuna on toast than cuisse de canard confit? He wouldn’t regret it too. The duck was darned near perfect — crisp on the outside, yet the meat easily flaked off the bone. The real star of the show, however, were the potatoes fried in duck fat with bits of garlic and parsley.