21 May 2015

Paris ~ Noob Adventures in Bistronomy

Folks say we're mad for staying in Paris for a month without trying some serious Michelin star type restaurants. Maybe we are. To be honest, we were just too stuffed full of glorious wonders from local shops, markets and bistros to squander big cash on food we wouldn't understand. What did interest us was bistronomy, affordable and casual French, bistro food taken up a notch.

The bistronomy places we tried attracted a mix of locals and expats, and the odd food tourists like us. They are kind of upbeat and casual at the same time, a mix we've never quite found back home in Sydney. We did omit one restaurant from this post because we didn't like it so much, which is no fun to write about. This is a happy place. If we had to pick a favourite it would be Le Verre Vole, maybe just because it was the first one we tried. Or because Alison got to pat a dog there. Alison likes dogs.

Anyhoo, here's a few bistronomy joints we tried.

Cafe Pinson

58 Rue du Faubourg Poissonniere, Paris. Information superhighway

We spotted Cafe Pinson on our first day in Paris, down some random street, jetlagged and seedy. We made big cartoon eyeballs at the plates of bright, fresh artfully arranged salads. We have a nagging feeling that should be eating traditional French for our first Parisian lunch, but man, we just need some veggies after all that plane food, recycled air, and too much beer. Steak frites can wait.

Cafe Pinson is vegan and gluten free, though they must have sacrificed something to the vegetable gods to make it taste this good. Hell, even the kale kicked arse. We love meat but it's good vegetable cookery we love most. Any idiot can cook a steak but making veggies taste amazing is an art, and a lot of work.

Perhaps Cafe Pinson is not strictly Bistronomy, but we plug it all the same in the name of vegetable power.

Cafe Pinson menu.

Quinoa felafel, nutty with a crisp outer crust, a little bowl of hummus in the middle. The veggies were a little warm and cooked with a little biteyness left in them. Each veggie was subtly and differently flavoured. Simply a freaking good kitchen - everything cooked just so and served at the right temperature.

Purple brocolli! Is anybody else excited?

Alison really liked her 'Grande salade composee', it was a beautiful as it was fresh. The house made cracker would have driven a budgie wild with jealousy.

In Dtox we Trust! A fitting end to the bill, exactly what we ate there for, although we did have a glass of wine and a beer, but they were organic, so they don't count, right?

La Quincaillerie

76 rue de Faubourg Saint-Denis. Information superhighway.

Rue Faubourg Saint-Denis has a few fancy-ish places such as La Quincallerie, which means hardware store, which it was in a former life.

The restaurant is groovy by our daggy standards. The staff are pretty relaxed and there's beer on tap, we're comfy in a jiffy. We're excited by the prospect of fancy food.

Alison loves her piggy pink in the middle pork and especially the carrots stuffed with potato. They grow fine swine in France and this is a lovely strong-flavoured fillet of the stuff.

Shawn fell head over heals with magret de canard (duck breast) and had to force himself not to order it at every single opportunity. The duck is gamey, unlike Australian duck, and it really works with the lovely joiux. It's pink in the middle and tender with a rare roast lamb texture. To the side are two rolls of shiitake mushrooms with nuts rolled up in cabbage leaves. 

Cafe gourmand to finish. Espresso shot with a rack of three small deserts: coconut cake, rich dark chocolate cake, and a shot glass of coffee or maybe hazelnut mousse. All great but there can only be one winner which is the coconut cake. 

Le Verre Vole

67 Rue de Lancry. www.leverrevole.fr

Some travel days just come together. After fluking a great walk, a great lunch, then scoring an outside table at a popular hipster bar on warm spring afternoon, we stumble upon a recommended restaurant, Le Verre Vole, which is usually booked out a couple of weeks in advance. We ask on the off chance and score a booking in 45 minutes. We celebrate with a beer in a nearby beautifully dodgy tabac.

We wish we had restaurants like this in Sydney: super casual with excellent food and none of wank and upselling. Best of there's a dog beneath the next table, in patting reach of Alison, who explodes with joy.

Le Verre Vole is also a wine shop (but not a wine bar in big letters), diners pay the takeaway price plus 7 euros. Some fancy bottlo, eh? There's no wine list, you just tell the waiter what you're in the mood for and he comes up with something for you. There's probably an art to guessing your price range and taste but the waiter got it spot on.

Our booz was 31 euro all up and was sensational. They like to say Australian wine is up to speed with France, but we're not sure sure after some time in Paris.

We are given an English menu which is unexpected and appreciated.

Shawn has the milk fed veal carpaccio, raw veal in a fish creamy oyster sauce with pickled red cabbage. We've had a bit of raw meat on our trip but this sweet fleshy tender veal is the best so far. The dish worked best with a bit of veal, oyster sauce and cabbage on each fork, and a dried pumpkin seed if there's one spare.

Alison goes for the marinated sardines which are uncooked and served with a sweet citrus sauce and tarted up with pomegranate seeds. The fish tastes fresh and dances that fine line between nicely salty and overly fishy, it is spot on.

Alison's main meal was the dish of the night: home made black pudding with mash potato and salad. The black pudding was incredible: moist and rich and bloody without being offaly, even Shawn loved it, and he's not a black pudding guy. The mash was the usual excellent gear with as much butter as spud, always good, even if your doctor doesn't agree.

Shawn's farmed duckling from the Perigord was cooked 2 ways: breast roasted pink and gorgeous in the middle, and rich crisp skinned limbs. The mash was kabocha squash or japanese pumpkin depending on your lingo, served with pumpkin seeds and lightly pickled pumpkin, and a smoosh of citrus goo for a sweet touch.

This was one of those meals where we chew quietly and slowly and savier the moment. If it wasn't perfect enough, the couple next to us brought in a dog for Alison to pander over.

Desert was a kabocha squash\japanese pumpkin again, sweetened just so with a little citrus. Alison usually isn't a dessert fiend but this blew her mind. Amazing for only 6 euro, especially considering when out of desperation we paid 5.5 euro for a small bottle of perrier water at a cafe earlier in the day.

Le Verre Vole is at 67 Rue De Lancry, near Canal St Martin.

La Patache

60 Rue de Lancry, near Canal St Martin.

Once again we're lucky to get a table, this place gets queues. All that's left is a little dickey seat to the side of the bar. We'll take it.

Staff are super lovely, service and menu can be done in English. The front of house is run by a dude and a dudette who are flat out but still find time to chat and make us feel welcome.

It's a cosy, casual place with mood lighting and prices not much higher than your standard bistro. It's packed with bright young things on a Monday night. It's in a fairly hip area on a side street of Canal St Martin, a good area to end up after a waterside stroll. Or sinking a sixpack on a parkbench by the canal with the youth of Paris, if you're that classy.

The menu is interesting. One page is cooked to order. The second page is all precooked stuff in jars on display behind the bar which is prettily packaged like it will be sold in a market or speciality store. There's some great looking stuff in the jars such as sardine rillett, but we stick to the regular menu. The marrowbone with grey salt entrée was the dish that lured us in, but it was off tonight. Dang it!

A bunch of oysters. France is renowned for oysters, they taste good, too good to spoil them with the supplied lemon and punch salsa. Pretty good but once you've had fresh oysters in up the NSW North Coast, well...

...our feeling of Strayan oyster superiority disappears when we try the pork. Man, French pork is just so porky. The marinated pork ribs are pink in the middle, and lovely and caramel crusty on the outside. Too good to dip into the red fruity ketchup-y sauce. Man they do pork well here.

The rack of lamb with thyme is fancy talk for lamb chops. But that's a good thing. Cooked medium rare as ordered. Pink, fleshy and lamby, just bloody good lamb chops, Once again, the meat is too good for the dipping sauce, a tart creamy number with a vinegar kick. We argue as to whether the lamb chops are better in the Afganhi restaraunts in Merrylands, in our native sydney. We agreed to disagree.

Chocolate gatea is light and cake-y at the edges, and thick and oozey in the middle. It's awesome.

Au Passage 

1 bis, Passage Saint-Sébastien, Paris. www.restaurant-aupassage.fr

Alison drags Shawn kicking and screaming to Au Passage. She found it on the information superhighway. She even booked (tip: you can book online here, a boon for us phone fearing non-French speakers).

It's a casual place, dress however you like, the staff are friendly and happy to help us non-French speakers. There's an even-ish mix of French and English speakers in here, even another table of Australians. We wonder if the same places do the rounds of English language blogs and social media hence all the Yanks, Aussies and Poms. Who knows who cares (Shawn).

The food is small plates for sharing. The servings are small and we are told to get two or three plates per person, five plus desert works out well for us. Dinner would have been 25 euro each had we not splurged on a 50 euro bottle of wine. You can dine very well on not much money here if you do your homework and take it easy on the booze.

We splurge 50 euros on wine, it's even better than Pepsi.

First off the bat is a lovely meaty house terrine, so chumpy you can carve it. Don't be afraid, it's like a big rissole.

Next is crabe, oreille de porc (9 euro) a crab salad with fried crisp slices of pig's ear which a beautiful combination. It is dressed in some kind of eggy mayonaise goo, not too much, just right.

Haricots Verts, Goubiche (8 euro) Green beans with a cameo from a half boiled googie. Great beans dressed in something tasting a little mayo-ish again.

Tete do cochon, endive (12 euro). This baby is pig head bits slow cooked, mooshed then deep fried. The flavours are deep in rich and not offal-y at all. It's like a deep fried rillette patty.  The endive leaves are delicious, we're not certain what they are dressed in but we reckon we taste some French honey and maybe a little mustard. We don't taste any bitterness in the endives at all.

Tete do cochon in Strayan is Pork Topper.

Magret, celeri rave, Figue (about 12 euro). We've had such good luck with duck in Paris we try it again. A big slice of rare roasted duck that is heavenly on it's own, too good to mix with the other bits, as good as they are. The celeri rave is shredded and dressed lightly and Asian. We're not sure what the goo on the side is but it's wonderful, it's like buttery mash potato except it isn't, we wonder if it's mashed celeri rave.

We pick the Tea Cake for desert which is like a chocolate marshmallow ball with a raspberry mousse like goo and a biscuit base. There's nip of rum on the side but the desert is too good to pour booze on, so we just neck the rum.

The screaming kids have buggered off (enough said) and the places livens up a notch as a new wave of customers come in. Shame we have to leave, that's what you get for making old fart early bookings.

The kitchen sounded like a party zone, loud music and laughter. Wonder if it's like that every night, a real life Copacabana.

We love Paris.


  1. au passage probably had quite a few english speaking ppl since you ate so early ;)

  2. The food looks insanely good! Noted for the next time I go Paris =)



Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).