Located in Montparnasse, Cafe Josselin co-exists with several other creperies within a 300 ft radius, but Josselin is heavily croweded and others no so much. To avoid long queue during lunch hour, arrive at noon or earlier. Inside, it is warm and cozy – like a busy brewery. Service is fairly prompt and very soon you will find yourself sipping a dry cider.
Galettes and crepes are pretty much alike except one is made from buckwheat and other from regular flour. Galettes happen to be my favorite buckwheat concoction. Although, my mom-in-law’s buckwheat paratha stuffed with spicy potatoes is not too far behind. Galette should be crisp and lacy like an Indian dosa. The nutty flavor of buckwheat is perfect counterpart for butter. Not that galette needs any sprucing up, but I decided to order mine with bacon, egg and stuffed onions. My husband ordered one with ham, egg and stuffed eggplant caviar. Both were excellent, far nuttier and crisper than the ones we had at Breizh during our previous visit.
I love sweet galettes as well – buckwheat works really well with orange and chocolate flavors. If I had paid more attention to David Lebovitz, I would have asked for a sweet galette at Josselin. But since I hadn’t, we ordered a basic crepe flambe to share which unfortunately was very forgettable.
It is hard to not be enchanted by Tour d’Argent. I confess I was a just a touch concerned upon arrival. The downstairs seating area, with its mini-museum display of table settings of the bygone days, was a bit tired looking. However, a quick champagne, hors d’oeuvres and an elevator ride later we are seated at the table of the main dining area where all my concerns disappeared. Dining area is shiny with slivers, crystals and chandeliers. Rapidly, the room started filling up. We were seated at the center of the room. From where I sat, the view of Notre Dame was occasionally interrupted by Jeeves like accoutrement of the servers. Facing me was the duck press station, where an old gentleman went about the task of meticulously pressing ducks. I would have described it as an assembly line process were it not for the exaggerated rituals associated with the task.
Number of servers far exceeded the number of guests. While their movement in and out of the kitchen seemed chaotic, service at the table was a well choreographed dance. A couple of waiters coordinated placing the food on the table while the senior of the two took time to describe the food. A similar coordination took place when plates were removed from the table. Pacing was perfect. Nothing felt hurried, nothing felt delayed, no ho hum moment. One particular ritual felt quaint in this age – my husband’s menu had the prices and not mine. Wine pouring on the other hand could only be described as elaborate. A lot of deep inhalation, swishing and slurping happened before we were served ours.
Our last visit to Paris was in the interstice between summer and spring. We had tired ourselves walking the greater part of two weeks. By the time my mind was made up about walking up the stairs of Notre Dame church, my feet had defected. So we decided to climb the stairs early on in this trip.
Fortified at Terroir Parisien, the climb didn’t appear quite as tedious. Yes, the stairs are narrow and uneven. Yes, there are several others lumbering up with you adding to the sense of claustrophobia. It is worthwhile thinking that the monks didn’t have access to handrails back then. There are two levels of roof access which really helps break up the tedium of climbing. The first level with the gargoyles is definitely more photogenic but the top level provides an uninterrupted and expansive view of the city.
This time it was only a week’s stay in Paris. It was colder than last time and a lot less sunny. Not much appeared to have changed for Les Cocottes in two years. We were still one of the first people to arrive at the restaurant and were seated at the same table as last time. The restaurant had filled up rapidly with tourists and locals. I usually decide between tourists and locals by their shoes. If attired in something comfortable and ugly, I put them in the “tourist” bucket. Right in my line of view was an petite old lady who appeared to be a regular. She sat at the counter and ordered a range of different cocottes, and ate with a gusto any young foodie would be proud of. Next to us sat a young dame in red stilettos with a large pet dog at her heels. She had an appetizer and a glass of wine for meal. I am always grateful that there is something to look forward to as we age!
For starters we ordered a cold tuna, eggplant caviar and tomato jelly. The dish arrived in a jam jar shaped glassware with tuna layer sandwiched between eggplant and tomato jelly. Richness of tuna was well offset by the smokiness of eggplant resulting in a refreshing and flavorful dish. For entrees, I ordered the langoustine ravioli. Perhaps I was dreaming of Robuchon’s ethereal langoustine ravioli, and I shouldn’t have.
Chris Burden’s Metropolis II is an intense kinetic sculpture, modeled after a fast paced, frenetic modern city. Steel beams form an eclectic grid interwoven with an elaborate system of 18 roadways, including one 6 lane freeway, and HO scale train tracks. Miniature cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour; every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulate through the dense network of buildings. According to Burden, “The noise, the continuous flow of the trains, and the speeding toy cars, produces in the viewer the stress of living in a dynamic, active and bustling 21st Century city.” – lacma.org
For a movie version, click here.
We are bowled over by molecular gastronomy at Atelier Crenn. This time we settled on their five course menu. And yet again, each plate was an orchestra that brought together purity of flavors and textures to form an exquisite whole.
We had the same table as last and a Spanish chef for our neighbor that evening. Even with his highly broken english, it was clear from his explanation to Chef Dominique that he was on food tourism. He had settled for the ten course meal with wine pairings. With each course, his waiter had painstakingly explained the mile long list of ingredients in Spanish. This time I had decided I wasn’t going to write down the list.
First course was “trio of tomatoes”. Saying that the course was tomatoes says nothing. These were peeled, soft textured, cold grape tomatoes in essence of tomato broth with small bits of goat cheese – an umami bonanza. Next course was seafood medley that was infused with dashi. The third dish was soft cooked kohlrabi coated with coffee served on a bed of kohlrabi puree with kimchi sauce. The bitterness of kohlrabi was extended by coffee and kimchi offered an orthogonal spiciness dimension. Who would have thought that an earthy unpretentious root vegetable such a kohlrabi could be served for fine dining and with success. For palate cleanser, we were offered a shiso-ginger ice which if served with vodka would have made for a fantastic cocktail. The final savory item was guinea hen with huckleberries and chanterelle mushrooms. Desserts started with a not so sweet beet sorbet served to look like a beet. The tail bit was made of chocolate and the soil was composed of chocolate, yogurt and oatmeal. This was followed by eucalyptus popsicle served in a eucalyptus bouquet. Finally, some caramels and fruit jelly candy served on an artificial log but with a real acorn bud for decoration. Charming.
We obviously adore the food here but I wish I could see my food a little better. The main courses here were served on dark slate – the kind I scribbled on with chalk while I was a child. Very stylish and personally very evocative for me but I can’t quite see the sauces. The other courses were served on glass which again has a visibility issue for me – too much specular reflection or transparency. Nevertheless, I am waiting for my next excuse to celebrate.