Burger mon amour

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I find the current Parisian obsession with burgers completely baffling.

Like the mushrooming of crappy steak chains in the 90s (see previous rant on Hippopotamus et al), they seem to have sprung out of nowhere and in huge number.

I know that French cuisine has been criticised internationally for not innovating or evolving enough, but surely this isn’t the answer. I also get the whole “really-need-a-grease-fix” thing, but do we really need burger restaurants in such huge number?

There are at least four burger joints (five if you count McDonalds) within a square mile of where I live: Bio Burger, Big Fernand, Le Camion Qui Fume and Mamie Burger.

The latter occupies a large space on the corner of rue du Faubourg Montmartre and rue de la Grange Batelière in the 9th district. I walked past it for about six months on the way work while it was being built, naively expecting something exciting and original to materalise, only to have my hopes dashed. And why “Mamie Burger” anyway? Is the name supposed to evoke the traditional beef patties that Granny used to put between two pieces of bread? Because if your Granny is French it’s pretty likely she never did that.

Anyway, rather like the fish and chip fad that has swept Paris (see Perfidious Albion), I reckon this latest burger obsession is just a flash in the pan (ha ha).

While it lasts though I will continue my one-woman crusade against all things burgerly. And probably found the Parisian Anti-Burger Front (PABF). Or maybe even join forces with the Anti-Burger Front of Paris (ABFP).

 

Le Petit Marcel restaurant (Paris 4)

I loved this place. Admittedly, it’s partly down to the fact that I was looking to escape the office one lunchtime and it ended up being a haven of peace and tranquillity for an hour. But also thanks to the skilled and funny waiters, the very fresh food, and the lovely terrace with very few cars.

I had the salade di buffala followed by an expresso. Nothing very original or exciting about that, but the mozzarella and salad leaves were really good quality and the dressing homemade (disappointingly rare in standard bistros). And I spent my time watching the waiters skillfully chat up the customers, including calling the female ones ‘chérie’ which I’m always a sucker for.

I’ll be going back there. Either to escape work for a bit as I did that time or at some point to have a half price mojito during their happy hour.

Bento at Tokki

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Salmon bento at Tokki cannot be beaten. The restaurant is at 10 Rue de la Boule Rouge (Paris 9), just round the corner from my flat. So I go there several times a month for my salmon fix which I always take away in a bento tray like the one above. Highly recommend the place.

 

Bachaumont restaurant (Paris 2)

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A few weeks ago I was looking for a place near work to take a friend who’s into good food. I work near Bourse so it’s not too difficult, and happened upon Bachaumont on the Le Fooding website, pretty much always my first point of call if I’m looking for somewhere new to eat. Plus it was backed up by a really good review by Gilles Pudlowski (in French).

Bachaumont the restaurant is attached to the eponymous hotel in the 2nd arrondissement. It’s on rue Bachaumont (it must have taken them ages to think that up) which is just off rue Montmartre, in a part of town I love because it’s really central, has lots of good shops and bars, and is partly pedestrianised.

The restaurant reminds me a lot of Panache – sophisticated, spotless decor combined with hipster staff and neo-bistro menu. This was a better culinary experience though compared with Panache as the menu seemed more original and just better executed.

My dining partner and I had exactly the same meal. The starter was cromesquis with a parmesan tuile on a bed of very fresh green beans with rock salt. I’d never heard of cromesquis either, although this article (in French) gives the impression that I’m literally the last person on earth to have not eaten them. It’s a kind of potato croquette made in this case with cheese and ham. Not bad, particularly on the green beans.

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Then the main course was seared tuna steak with braised vegetables. The tuna was  perfectly cooked, and very far from the stuff you get in average bistros.

Bachaumont seared tuna

And lastly the starter was one of the best tarte tatin I’ve ever eaten (and I’ve eaten loads!). Very refined and somehow light despite probably containing my body weight in butter.

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The only thing I’d say about the restaurant is that the à la carte menu was pretty limited. The 3 courses I’ve mentioned were the set menu of the day, so if you have specific dietary requirements (or are just plain faddy) you may be slightly frustrated by the lack of alternative options. Personally I had no regrets with my choice though!

 

Panache, a “new-style bistrot”

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This one received the comment “half my bloody plate is empty!”

Panache is what Le Fooding restaurant and hotel guide describes as a “néo bistrot”, roughly translated as a new-style bistrot. Neo bistrots often have tasteful, modern decor, and present traditional French cuisine in an innovative way (in some cases with a gastronomic twist). Which you could be forgiven for thinking it sounds quite exciting.

In my case however, it has come to mean that my husband, who admittedly knows his stuff when it comes to food, will have a rant at key points during the meal: on receiving the menu, at discovering that they only have organic wine, and on being forced to eat kale.

His general positioning on neo bistrot cooking is that it just sprung out of nowhere and doesn’t really add anything to traditional bistrot meals. This is worth debating and will be the subject of a subsequent post!

In any case, whatever ones view of neo bistrots, Panache definitely falls into this category. And as a quick sum up, it was a good dining experience.

The food was great (more on that in a bit), the decor is modern and tasteful, and the tables are a decent size and well spaced. Which avoids the necessity of getting intimately acquainted with your neighbours’ elbows, as is so often the case here.

The staff were also friendly, although I had the following conversation when I made the booking:
Me: Hi, I’d like to book a table for 2 at 1.30pm tomorrow please. Will that be possible? (Apparently I said the latter in a higher pitch)
Panache bloke: Well you said “will that be possible?” in such a cutesy voice that I’ll see what I can do.
The cheek of it. It made me laugh at the time though. And apparently the technique works because I got the booking.

Back to the food. We had two different starters. My husband chose beef back steak (or “onglet de boeuf”), shiitake mushrooms and kale, and I had what they called velouté of corn with a what they called “a perfect egg”.

The beef (see pic above) was ok but the kale didn’t impress (it provoked a neo-bistrot-moment), and everything about the velouté and the egg were delicious:

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We had the same main course – chicken with pear and “heliantis” (the only translation I can find of this is the root of the pale-leaved sunflower) – all of which was truly lovely.

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Followed by one dessert which was Parisian flan with a mandarin sauce, again very nice:

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In summary, would I recommend Panache? Yes, definitely, because the food was great. However is it fundamentally different to any of the other neo bistrots that were fashionable for a time (L’Office, Vivant Cave, etc.)? No, not really.

Still worth a visit if you’re in the 9th district sometime soon though.