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Madras New Woodlands: Thali at dinner? (kyleoh??)

Brilliant. Many thanks. I'll see if I can squeeze in a visit before heading to the airport tonight--I ended up grabbing a quick dinner at Saravanaa Bhavan off Anson Road last night. If not, there's always next time!

Jul 10, 2014
Kelly in China & Southeast Asia

Madras New Woodlands: Thali at dinner? (kyleoh??)

Having just had a lovely south Indian meal at Raj @ Biopolis tonight, I'm trying to fit in another before I head home on Friday night. I still haven't been to Little India, and would like to try Madras New Woodlands. But I'm jonesing for a thali and am wondering if they do thalis at dinner or only at lunch (as was the case at Raj). Unfortunately, both of my remaining lunches are already spoken for, so dinner's all I've got.

Can anyone enlighten me? Thanks!

Jul 09, 2014
Kelly in China & Southeast Asia

Toronto trip report (and thanks): Momofuku, Canoe, Bar Buca, Bahn Mi Boys

Thanks to the Toronto 'hounds who weighed in on my last-minute plea for culinary guidance. Although I didn't get in as much frenetic chow activity as I would have left to my own non-work-constrained devices, I think your city is absolutely lovely, and I (mostly) enjoyed my meals.

Momofuku Noodle Bar
Really unimpressed. I had the pork belly buns, cucumber pickles and the "extremely spicy" noodles, washed down with their bottled gin-and-tonic. I sat at the bar, which is always entertaining, and service was prompt and courteous--but the buns were nothing to write home about (I can get better in Brussels, which is terrifying). Overly sweet hoisin, bland pork...meh. The pickles were pleasant, without being much more. I got the noodles because I love spicy food, especially that Szechuan "ma la" buzz, so I was pleased to hear the dish relied on Szechuan peppercorns. But--no buzz. Just abrasive heat with no real subtlety or interest of flavour. I did have to laugh, though, when the line cook, who was watching me eat the noodles, said, "Crap--if you can eat them without visible distress, I've gotta add more chilis." So apologies to anyone who came in that afternoon after me!

I *totally* did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. Stodgy, past its prime, corporate--when words like that figure in what you read about a place, it ain't a good sign. But our party of eight had an excellent meal. Loved the citrus bitterness of the Matty Rose tequila cocktail to start. The fluke ceviche with buffalo yogurt, sea buckthorn, mountain cranberry and fried seaweed was a beautiful balance of flavour and texture. Tea-smoked duck breast with three-grain porridge, fiddleheads and burn morels was deep and meaty (special praise for the mushrooms here). The sommelier recommended a Canadian Syrah (Iconoclast) with the duck; I was dubious, but it was actually a delightful wine: more fruit-forward than its Rhone counterpart, but with a nice background of pepper and dust. Opted for the Black Sheep brebis and Chamblé chèvre from Quebec with a local Riesling to finish. The cheese was excellent, and the Riesling was probably the weak link: a touch flabby, without that lovely mix of acidity and voluptuousness I look for. But still--really, one of the best meals I've had in quite a while.

Momofuku Daisho
Can you tell I really wanted to like Momofuku? I wanted to give the empire a second chance, so went back and upstairs. Had the steamed pakora bun (very nice, although you could put tamarind, chickpea flour, coriander and Indian spices on an old shoe and I'd still waffle it down), followed by the hanger steak ssam on the recommendation of the waiter. Meh. Overly salty (and I'm a sodium freak); the sous-vide treatment gave the meat a weird squishiness; and the Bibb lettuce leaves were dripping with water. Not impressed.

Bar Buca
If I lived in the neighbourhood, I'd be here every week if not more often. I sat at the bar and enjoyed a couple of glasses of truly awesome Prosecco (when it's done well--which is rare--I find this sparkler punches way above its weight) with the fritto misto platter. The testa didn't do a lot for me--it had an oddly sweet glaze--and the arancino's proportion of cheese and rice felt off (though the jolt of saffron was welcome). But the bergamot sabayon with the artichokes and the young smelt were delicious. And the calamari, with squid ink panko crumbs and an ndjua vinaigrette, were hands down one of the best things I've put in my mouth all year. Zowie. The espresso to finish, with the cremino (?) sugar-coffee spread, was excellent, of course.

Bahn Mi Boys
My last lunch in town, grabbed while running from a meeting back to the hotel to pick up my bags. Grilled pork was serviceable, but the baguette was atrocious--I want crunch, not squish.

Thank you again--I can't wait to come back!

Jun 12, 2014
Kelly in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Please help me prioritise: Business trip to Toronto

I'll need the luck--I hate having to fit food in around other things, instead of vice versa. But I'll do my best, and your comment about walk-ins is heartening.

Jun 06, 2014
Kelly in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Please help me prioritise: Business trip to Toronto

Hmmm. Have I been wrong on pinning my hopes to so many of the restaurant websites that say they accept walk-ins? I'll be dining solo, love eating at the bar and don't mind waiting.

Banh mi...drooling now. I've been making my own for the past few months because there's no Vietnamese place in Brussels that does them, but I can't get the right rice-flour baguettes. I can always squeeze in a banh mi for dessert even if I dine somewhere else!

Jun 06, 2014
Kelly in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Please help me prioritise: Business trip to Toronto

Thank you so much for your input--it's incredibly helpful! I feel compelled to hit one of the Momofuku places after sending my husband to Momofuku Ssam two weeks ago (call it vicarious eating...) and having to endure a flood of texts a la "OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD this is amazing!"

Will look into Black Hoof and Campagnolo. Edulis sounds interesting--but I'm spoiled for European country restaurants here at home. :o)

Jun 06, 2014
Kelly in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Please help me prioritise: Business trip to Toronto

I knew there was a point I'd failed to make in my original post. :o). I'm not too concerned about hitting Chinese, because I'll be in Singapore for 10 days in July and am planning my traditional food extravaganza there. Otherwise, I would most definitely target Toronto's Chinese scene, as Brussels is just...sad in this area!

Jun 06, 2014
Kelly in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Please help me prioritise: Business trip to Toronto

Hi Toronto 'hounds --

I'm eagerly looking forward to my first trip to your city tomorrow (coming from Brussels). Would be even more excited if I had real free time, but I'll be trying to cram a couple of eating opportunities around a busy conference schedule.

I've got a short list of restaurants I'd like to try:

Bar Isabel
Momofuku Daisho or Noodle Bar
Grand Electric
Richmond Station
Carbon Bar

Are there any, from recent experience, that you'd toss off the list? Conversely, are there one or two that you would tell a Toronto visitor that her life lacked meaning unless she tried them?

And a more specific question: A Toronto-based colleague has booked us for dinner at Canoe. Can't quite put my finger on why, but I'm not thrilled by their website/menu. In terms of sheer deliciousness, would Hopgood's or Actinolite get the nod over Canoe? (I care nothing for fanciness and views!)

FWIW, I'll be staying at the Holiday Inn Downtown Centre on Carlton St.; my conference is at the Sheraton Centre on Queen St. No car.

Thanks so much for your thoughts!

Jun 06, 2014
Kelly in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Lunch on Friday in 11th/12th with a 2-year-old

Now that's Chowhound dedication--updating posts that are a few years old! Thanks, John; I'll put Chez Ma Belle-Mere in my restaurant quiver. Though I'm not sure even the promise of a zoo would drag Rhys over the Périph and away from his beloved Eiffel Tower.

P.S. For the aforementioned lunch, we ended up at Tintilou for a lovely meal. I hope it's still around and going strong.

May 25, 2014
Kelly in France

Brief Opnionated Boulangerie Report

I am reading. :o) The one type of bread I do find disappointing at Landemaine, even on rue des Martyrs, is anything that's "flavoured" (pain au noix, pain au chorizo, etc.). But very much enjoyed their baguette, pain au chocolat, couque Suisse--with a special mention for their tartelette aux pommes (off-topic, I know, but second only to Poilane's in my experience to date). You're one lucky hound, Parigi.

Apr 10, 2014
Kelly in France

1 Day in Avignon/Ch-de-Pape

A couple of years ago we stayed in the gite at Domaine Saint Prefert, run by Isabel Ferrando. We bought a case of her wine, and just opened the first bottle the other night. It was sublime.

Apr 01, 2014
Kelly in France

Paris trip report: Le Bon Georges, Au Petit Sud-Ouest, Jeanne B, La Table des Anges, Candelaria, and a spot of foraging on rue des Martyrs

Parigi, next time we're in town, I will *so* take you up on that offer--I'll be all Chowhoundy star-struck and tongue-tied, though. :o) Our friends have just taken a flat in the building at the angle of rue Lallier and rue Viollet-le-Duc (above Privé de Dessert), so I'm hoping we'll be visiting them fairly often.

And if that means we have to run the cookie gauntlet, well, so be it (she says bravely and only the suggestion of a quiver in her voice).

Apr 01, 2014
Kelly in France

Paris trip report: Le Bon Georges, Au Petit Sud-Ouest, Jeanne B, La Table des Anges, Candelaria, and a spot of foraging on rue des Martyrs

Is there anything better than Paris on a gorgeous spring day (or two or three of them)? I think not--no matter how markedly mediocre most of our meals were this weekend.

I'm not going to enter the hipster/SoPi fray :o). I'm just going to say that if rue des Martyrs were my local hunting/gathering 'hood, I'd be a happy camper. The highlights of our weekend came in wax-paper wrappings rather than on restaurant tables:

I come here every chance I can; I'm a sucker for their framboises au Champagne, abricot-gingembre and fraises savoureuses.

Love their "baguette renaissance" and their bugnes; R. enjoyed their pain au chocolat, but said he preferred the one from Landemaine down the street. Not sure how trustworthy a 5-year-old is (especially one with a largely beige palate), but I DID love Landemaine's tartelette aux pommes).

First time here (I tend to be a Dubois/Quatrehomme/Barthélemy girl). LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. Spent ages talking with the shop guy, who just moved back to France after a year in Vancouver and is splitting his time between Beillevaire posts in Nantes and Paris. He pointed me toward a...a...words fail to describe the deliciousness of the St-Felicien. Perfectly, perfectly à point. And that's not mentioning the fantastic Cantal, the succulent Gruyère d'alpage, the sharp and lovely Clacbitou and the Brie--which, since we were alone in the shop, he demanded that I squoosh to get a sense of how deliciously ripe it was.

On to the restaurants:

Friday lunch
108 € for two
I had high hopes for this little restaurant after JT gave it a 7.2 in February 2014: “Right now this stands Number 3 on my Great Hits List for 2014.” Upon walking in, I was immediately predisposed to like the place: light, airy, cool blond stone, a mix of high and low tables and a very cordial welcome (we kept remarking on our server’s cheeriness throughout the meal).

We got off to a good start with a couple of lovely glasses of white—a Maconnais and a vin de pays de Midi-Pyrénées. Things kept on rolling with the starters: I enjoyed my tarte tatin of shallots (excellent short crust with whole caramelized shallots) but really loved G’s roasted white asparagus with a lovely lemony mousseline and shards of jambon cru.

Mains: I feel remiss in not sampling the Polmard-provisioned beef, but I was in a fishy kind of mood. My sole meunière was very good, but the celery-root purée that accompanied it was mind-bendingly awesome. I think there may have been a tiny touch of vanilla bean in it. Zowie. G. had a bit of a let-down with his poitrine de porc and frites; they were serviceable but not much more than that; the sauce on the porc was overwhelmingly thyme-y.

The bread—a rustic, hefty sourdough with a crust that was a bit “torréfiée”—was awesome. The coffee, however, was foul.

Friday dinner
115 € for two
I knew G. would appreciate some cassoulet after what I predicted to be a several-hour wait at the Eiffel tower (our five-year-old is a big fan and insists on going every time we’re in town), and I’d heard that this was a reliable outpost for hearty south-west cuisine. Given its location, I was prepared for Tourist Central, which it was. I could forgive them that—not that it’s their fault—but I can’t forgive the mediocrity of the dishes.

My starter of terrine de foie mi-cuit was bland; I resent being given pain au levain for foie gras (I think the sourness of the bread detracts from the flavour of the foie); I didn’t get the point of the pile of undressed, limp salad leaves on the plate; and I was surprised that they didn’t bother proposing a glass of Jurançon to drink with it. Ho hum. G’s salade verte was…a salade verte. (What was he thinking? Oh yes, saving room for cassoulet.)

Mains: My cuisse de canard confit was soggy-skinned and fairly tasteless; G’s cassoulet was an abomination. A pot of Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup would have held its own in a head-to-head competition. Stay away.

Saturday lunch
146 € for four
We’d planned on wandering around Montmartre on a lovely spring Saturday, so it made sense to aim for what I’d read on JT’s blog to be ” eats, good product, reasonably priced and great wines.” The gorgeousness of the day actually worked against us, as we were seated at a large table next to the front window. By the end of the meal, we all felt like ants under a magnifying glass. I ended up sending my son under the table with the iPad so that he wouldn’t get sunburned. :o)

The place was heaving, but the noise level wasn’t actually too bad. And it certainly has a nice vibe, with a deli-esque counter, blue walls and a cheerful medley of mix-and-match cutlery on the tables. We all opted for the two-course menu at (I think) 23 €.

Starters were steamed artichoke with a lemony dipping sauce; country pâté with confit d’oignons; carrot and cumin soup; carpaccio of vegetables. I only tasted the last two: the soup was utterly tasteless, and the carpaccio was really kind of bland, saved only by a smear of vibrant beet purée. All the veg were raw or steamed; they could have benefited from a Mediterranean turn in a grill pan. Mains: a serviceable gigot d’agneau with quite decent potato gratin; a salade de saison au poulet (I don’t know what I was thinking, but I got what I deserved), and…I’m drawing a blank on the other two. Memorable they were not. We drank a bottle of Loire valley red, which was served appropriately (and welcomely) chilled.

Would I go back? It was serviceable (which may be the best to hope for in this area), but I think I’d be inclined to try Bistro Poulbot, and certainly La Rallonge (which admittedly sounds as if it would be far less kid-tolerant) before giving up and fleeing back to the 9th or 10th.

Saturday dinner
270 € for four (plus a kid's plate)
I’d proposed it to friends because it’s right around the corner from their new flat, and because I’d been seduced by Alexander Lobrano’s generous May 2013 review. And…my reputation as a reliable recommender of restaurants may just be in ruins. I should have been warned by the English menu in the window. Like a pretty face, a friendly welcome only goes so far, and it was all downhill after that. (I will say that the friendly welcome was doubly appreciated because we were there with a 5-year-old AND a 9-month-old!)

The 5-year-old was immediately served a nice piece of bavette and purée; the sad thing is that we’d all have been better off ordering the child’s plate. For starters, two of us went for the bisque de langoustines (grainy and chalky, with an overwhelming pili-pili garnish); one took the assiette de pata negra (no discernible evidence that the feet's original owners had ever been near a tasty acorn-laden forest grove); and one got…I don’t even remember.

Onward to the mains: magret de canard (tough, but serviceable); skrei à la plancha (noteworthy more for its heft—I’ve never seen a portion of fish so large—than its savour); the quenelle de brochet maison (another freakishly large serving, residing in a cocotte with undercooked carrots and turnips rather than on a bed of lovely sauce nantua, for which I cannot quite forgive them); and joues de boeuf cooked in Cahors. I’ve NEVER seen G. not clean his plate; he’s someone for whom food can be a lovely gustatory experience but when it’s not, he has no problem settling for mere caloric intake. So I wasn’t surprised when, later that night, he said it was among the worst dishes he’s ever had: overcooked, tough and tasteless. A bottle of Bourgueil and a glass of Montlouis did little to wash down the ignominy. Never, never, never again.

Sunday lunch
40 € for two
I seriously owed G. after the previous night's beef-cheek debacle, so I caved on my plan to try Blue Valentine. We stopped in for tacos, expecting to crowd around the table in the kitchen, only to find out that they now have a Sunday brunch in the "speakeasy." Much more pleasant for hanging out, with the added bonus of cocktails; G. opted for a beer, but I tried their Pimm’s special, which, with the inclusion of ginger beer, was very nice indeed. We ordered guacamole, frijoles negros, spicy pork tostadas and huevos rancheros, all of which were satisfying and appropriately tongue-burning. I still think they could do a better job on their tortillas, which verge toward leaden, but still…it’s streets beyond what we get in Brussels.

Apr 01, 2014
Kelly in France

Vicarious review: 10 Greek Street, Soho

I sent my partner to London yesterday with a short list of restaurants to shoehorn in around meetings. He went to 10 Greek Street last night, and was largely disappointed. Here's his report:

My choices:

1) Beet root, blood orange, goat's curd & tarragon;
2) Crumbled lamb, yoghurt & cumin;
3) Seared scallops, bacon, beans & wild garlic.

...The salad is good but it should be better. Sour it has. But it really needs a shot of sweet, I think. Or maybe it just needs more beets.

...You know, there's quite a difference between crumbled lamb and crumbed lamb. The one makes me think of a loose kefta, the other is actually a breaded, deep-fried square of lamb. In my world, a loose kefta would be a marvelous thing. In this world, a breaded, deep-fried bit of lamb is not something I ever needed to have--but it's what I got.

...The scallops themselves were ok. But there was a bit too much going on. There was rocket that added nothing but volume (and, I suppose bitter to balance the sweet), and the garlic was actually a purée that wasn't much more than a green swoop underneath the rocket, the scallops, the beans, and the bacon. The beans added nothing, but the bacon was quite good.

...Even the coffee is bad. If it weren't for the 2011 Egon Mueller Riesling, this would be a total writeoff.

Now I feel bad. And I hope he gets to either Clove Club or St John Bread & Wine for lunch today.

Mar 21, 2014
Kelly in U.K./Ireland

Oh, dear--wine pairing for beer-braised chicken tonight?

If we'd had a light Beaujolais, I would absolutely have considered that. But all I had handy was a Fleurie from J.P. Champagnon that definitely punches above its weight.

Feb 17, 2014
Kelly in Wine

Oh, dear--wine pairing for beer-braised chicken tonight?

The arrival of The Guest and subsequent kitchen/kid/hosting duty juggling meant that I couldn't check back here before dinner--but I'm pleased to report that several great minds were thinking alike. :o)

We tested two beers and one wine with the chicken, and one of the beers and the wine were a very decent match:

VI Wheat from Jandrain-Jandrenouille (don't know if they do any export to the U.S., but they're about 60 km east of Brussels) -- some nice grapefruit/melon in the nose, citrus on the palate and a peppery finish. I'd tweaked the chicken with a serious hit of lemon at the end to keep it from being *too* beery-oniony sweet, so this was a decent match. A St-Feuillien Triple was a total wash--too heavy and burly.

2012 Kloster Eberbach Steinberger Riesling Kabinett--This isn't one of my favourite Rheingau producers, but I didn't feel like digging for anything else, and it did quite a nice job. Good concentration, honey, citrus, peach, good acidity. A very pleasant match, and it segued nicely into the cheeses afterward.

Of course, the star of the evening was the 2007 Clos de L'Eglise Cuvee Marie Pacherenc de Vic Bilh, which went marvellously with foie gras macarons. :o)

Thanks to all for your input!

Feb 17, 2014
Kelly in Wine

Oh, dear--wine pairing for beer-braised chicken tonight?

Tonight's currently-in-the-oven dinner was based on the assumption that our guest was a beer-only kind of guy. Chicken thighs braised a la flamande--in Belgian ale, onions, a touch of mustard, thyme and brown sugar.

Now, I just got a text saying, "no, no, he really likes wine." So...what on earth should we drink?

I'm thinking perhaps an Alsatian Pinot Gris or Riesling with a bit of heft to it; I'm trying to imagine a red pairing and failing miserably.

Please help!

Feb 16, 2014
Kelly in Wine

Singapore: Solo Sunday dinner in Little India?

I am very excited to be heading for my first visit to Singapore tomorrow (and have been wondering how much eating I can pack in around my work commitments...).

I land in Changi at 5.30pm Sunday and am staying near our office in Chinatown (Anson Road). If the jetlag hasn't killed me, I'm hoping to head out for a solo dinner that night.

Here in Brussels, we get NO good Indian food--so I was thinking of heading to Little India. From C'hound commentary, the two restaurants that really intrigue me are Banana Leaf Apolo and Madras New Woodlands.

For those in the know, would one or the other be more tolerant of/welcoming to a solo, slightly disoriented diner? If you were said diner, to which would you go?

During my stay (four nights), I'm also hoping to get to at least a few of the classic "greatest hits." Would love any recent thoughts or re-direction on any of these:

--Chicken rice at Maxwell Food Centre
--Xiao long bao at Crystal Jade or China La Mian in Smith St. Food Centre
--Chili crab at No Signboard in Geylang
--Char kuey teow (not sure where)
--Fish-head curry (not sure where)
--Roti prata (not sure where--the only solid rec I have is for a place out on East Coast Highway; would love something close to Chinatown, where work will keep me)

I think there's a work lunch lined up at The Blue Ginger, so I'm hoping to try their ayam buah keluak.


Nov 29, 2013
Kelly in China & Southeast Asia

"Est-ce que le chef peut créer un menu spécial pour nous?"

May I apologise most humbly for sparking this star-crossed conversation? The next time I go to CLAJ, I'm just going to grin ingratiatingly and see what happens.

Oct 21, 2013
Kelly in France

Chez L'Ami Jean. Orgasm schmorgasm

Deux petites questions, Parigi--asking M. Jego to take care of us is exactly what I'd like to do next time we go to CLJ. But I realise I don't know precisely how to phrase that request en français (et ça me gêne profondément). Can you enlighten?

And...is such a request more likely to be well received from a large party? Or is it also acceptable from a two-top?

Oct 14, 2013
Kelly in France

Sick Of Bistronomic- How About The Culinary Cocoon Of Tradition

Though I've been gobsmacked by the OP's approach and reaction to said approach, I reluctantly have to stand up for him here: the misspelling was in quotes...so I think he was consciously referring to a specific menu aberration.

At least I hope he was.

Oct 01, 2013
Kelly in France

2 Weeks in Paris, restaurant list critique needed

We loved the small plates on our visit in July. Still dreaming of the devilled eggs and Thai-flavoured endive. You can certainly plan a late dinner afterward...but don't be surprised if you end up hooked on the ambiance and the cocktails and just order second helpings. :o)

Sep 02, 2013
Kelly in France

Loire Valley report: Tours and Villandry

Happy to. I'll stick to the chow-related items rather than pure tourism...

It's hard to go wrong with markets in the Indre-et-Loire department. Some of my favourites are:
--Amboise (Sunday)
--Bourgueil (Tuesday) - there's a "transplant" marchand from the Auvergne who has some of the best Laguiole I've ever tasted
--Loches (Wednesday) - right at the start of the market, where the main arteries split in two, is a fantastic chèvre stand
--Tours (markets every day, but my favourites are Place des Halles (Weds.), Place St Paul (Fri.) and Place Velpeau (Sun.)) - I didn't see them this time around, but there's usually a FANTASTIC heirloom tomato grower, Monsieur Pelard, at the Weds. market. His maraîchère is in Montlouis-sur-Loire, close to the Chateau de la Bourdasière, also known (and heavily hyped) for their tomatoes. I think les Pelard are also at the market in Amboise, but on Friday.

In the covered halles in Tours, I love the caviste Les Belles Caves. Very knowledgeable staff and a great selection of wines from the region (and elsewhere). We also got some great trout from the fishmongers (there are two) at the shopping-center-end of the halles.

We go again and again to a tiny dairy in the middle of nowhere - La Bernassière, near Druyes. Their pepper-crusted chèvre is to die for. But in the Loire, it's really hard to go wrong with chèvre, full stop.

Widely available in stores and traiteurs are Fierbois yogurts, produced in Chedigny. I discovered these yogurts a decade ago at Barthelemy in Paris, and have loved them ever since.

Again, there's an embarras de choix. We go to a few new places every time we're there, but we keep coming back to Nicolas Paget (Touraine-Azay-le-Rideau, in Rivarennes), Jacky Blot (Vouvray, Montlouis and Bourgueil, in Montlouis), Philippe Foreau (Vouvray, in...Vouvray) and Olga Raffault (Touraine and Chinon, in Savigny-en-Veron). The only clunker we've had recently was Pascal Pibaleau, just outside of Azay-le-Rideau.

Aug 08, 2013
Kelly in France

Where to next?

You beat me to it! :o)

Aug 08, 2013
Kelly in France

Loire Valley - similar to, or as good as, Le Bon Laboureur

If you're taking the autoroute to Paris, Blois is on your way, and I've had a couple of very nice meals at the Bistrot du Cuisinier there...

Jul 26, 2013
Kelly in France

Paris report: Candelaria, Le Mary Celeste, Le Troquet, Compagnie de Bretagne, Les Fines Gueules, L'Antre Amis, Café du Dôme

Thanks, Parnassien. Good tip on using Cityvox; I should have thought of that. Although after the spring/summer we've had to date in northern Europe, I think I was subconsciously expecting the heat to break at any moment, replaced by rain, sleet and snow.

The worst part about eating at Café le Dôme? Knowing I was within striking distance of Chez Lucie, l'Affriolé, even any of the Constant places. The second worst part? The people I was with didn't mind the food. :o(

As you say, I'm taking l'Antre Amis as an aberration. I *am* gutted that my kid has developed a beige palate (I'm considering making him wear a sign that says "I ate foie gras as a toddler, I swear"). But over the probably 50 or 60 meals we've had in Paris with him, in restaurants both on and (way off) the beaten path, this is the only time nothing's been offered. And usually, it's offered as soon as we sit down -- the wisdom of chefs and servers who know that maman and papa will enjoy perusing the food and wine offerings more if the wee one is chowing down.

As disappointed as I was in Pottoka during our last visit there, they got super high marks for kid friendliness -- addressing our son directly to ask what he might like, and concocting seriously good food for him.

Jul 25, 2013
Kelly in France

Paris report: Candelaria, Le Mary Celeste, Le Troquet, Compagnie de Bretagne, Les Fines Gueules, L'Antre Amis, Café du Dôme

After a week in the Loire, we headed to Paris for three days earlier this week, braving the canicular temperatures (which made we wonder why we hadn’t just stayed in the Loire (as in literally, immersed to our necks). We had some really good food, though, which made the constant threat of heat exhaustion totally worth it.


Abandoning other family members to the tender mercies of a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus, my partner and I dragged his 23-year-old daughter and our four-year-old son on a one-two hipster punch (the fact that I denote them as hipster means these places probably aren’t anymore).

Starting at Candelaria, we sweltered through tacos and tostados with poulet aux épinards. I love, love, love Mexican street food, so I suffered a bit from visual/gustatory disconnect. It looked right, but tasted different (not bad, though). It’s good to know I’ve got occasional access for a fresh corn tortilla fix. Loved the salsas on the table: peanut-based (oddly like Thai fusion, but just yummy) and veracruzana (a touch sweet from the addition of citrus, but nicely balanced). The guacamole needed more oomph—more lime, cumin, jalapeno, something.

Cocktails in the deliciously air-conditioned speakeasy were fantastic – vodka/grapefruit/champagne, tequila/lime/cilantro/jalapeno/cucumber, gin/Campari/vermouth/triple sec. I poked my nose in to ask if we could come in with a four-year-old, who would be silent as the grave thanks to my iPhone, and they said no worries, it’s a quiet time, come on in and would he like some juice or a soft drink?

Le Mary Celeste

If Le Mary Celeste were my local, I’d never get anything done. I'd have a liver like a canard gavé and I'd be as big as a house.

Again, I love the fact that they didn’t bat an eye at the four-year-old bellying up to the bar. The guy who ushered us in regretted that they had no child-friendly munchies but pointed out the Proxi market down the street in case we wanted to pop over and get him some crisps. The bartender was delightful and talented (and handsome and charming, which pleased my partner’s daughter to no end).

We went nuts on the small plates. Pickled aubergine packed a serious chili/sour punch, and my aubergine-hating partner was instantly converted to fandom. The devilled eggs, with soy-poached eggs, puffed black rice, ginger and coriander were so good we immediately ordered more. Braised pork with Chinese barbecue sauce in crepes needed a touch of acid to lift it, but the meat was succulent and the crepes tender. Walnuts added a great bitter note to roasted broccoli. And the endive with tamarind and mint made me laugh out loud, it was so good (and yes, we ordered seconds). The only misstep: tuna tartare with tomato vinaigrette was sloppy and tasted only of tomato.

Excellent cocktails, too: two of us had the Yolo, with prosecco, matcha, sake and peach purée maison, and the other had two gin and tonics, first with Botanist and then with Death’s Door gin. We don’t see either of them in Brussels, so that was nice (though I remain a devout Martin Miller fan).

I asked the bartender before we left whether the bottle of Poutin up on the shelf was a gin, as I’d never heard of it. He clarified that it was a strong Irish liquor (at which point it all clicked: poteen!) and offered us all tastes for the road. Well, all of us except the young’un.

Le Troquet

We ate dinner here on a sweltering Saturday night – one of two occupied tables in a room without a breath of air. Ooof. It was decent food, but certainly not worth traveling for (luckily, our hotel was only a ten-minute stroll).

We all took the three course prix fixe at 32 euros. Starters included a veritable vat of gazpacho; a cannelloni of beets, salmon and crab;sautéed chipirons and a basket of Louis Ospital charcuterie. All workmanlike, none exceptional. Mains ranged from duck breast with potato purée to quasi de veau with summer vegetables and dorade with ratatouille. Ditto on the workmanlike/unexceptional profile. Desserts: lemon tart, apple crumble and brebis de Pyrenées with confiture de cerises noires. The brebis was lovely.

We drank a reasonably priced Irouleguy and a Colombard/Petit Ugni (both under 25 euros). Service was largely indifferent. And sweaty. But then, so were we.

Compagnie de Bretagne

People’s stomachs were on overload after 8 days of power eating (wimps), so I opted for something light on Monday night, within easy striking distance for our friends who were out doing the tourist thing all day. And…meh. I would not go back.

The food ranged from uninspiring to serviceable (we had, among us, a galette complete; a galette au chèvre frais, smoked red peppers and mache; carré d’agneau smoked over thyme with spinach gratin and potato purée; and côtes de porc with chestnut honey and more of that potato purée.

We drank an excellent premier cru Chablis (Domaine de la Chablisienne Fourchaume, 44 euros) and a very nice Finistère cider. But the service was totally indifferent—we had to ask three times for water, and they claimed they had no ice buckets available to keep the Chablis chilled. The only excuse for that? All the kitchen staff suffering second-degree burns at the same time. Honestly.

Les Fines Gueules

This is a completely vicarious and uninformative update – I sent friends there for lunch as they were spending the morning in the Louvre, and I’d enjoyed my meal there back in September. It was apparently good, and service was apparently cordial and welcoming.

L’Antre Amis

At 34 euros (two euros above Le Troquet’s prix fixe price point), this lunch was in another realm altogether. Two choices each for starter, main and dessert, with a couple of off-the-menu options shared by the server. Tasty but not precious amuse-bouche of wee croquet-monsieur batons, with chive blossoms adding a lovely allium touch.

Starters included marinated salmon with lightly pickled vegetables and an herb sorbet or a gazpacho with diced serrano ham, chèvre frais, Joel Thibault peas and pea shoots. Both were fresh, vibrant, awesome. Mains included a ginger-and-sesame-crusted dorade with red pepper sorbet (okay, I wasn’t thrilled to see savory sorbets twice, but hey, it was a heat wave) and melted leeks and a choice of either Corrèzes veal or Iberian pork with eggplant (puree and sauteed-wafer-thin) and kumquat compote. I found the dorade a trifle fishy, but both meats were amazing. Perfectly cooked and flavourful, and the eggplant/kumquat combo was fantastic. For dessert, we moved on to a perfectly, and I mean perfectly, aged Brie de Meaux aux fruits secs from Marie Quatrehomme, a tartelette au citron de Menton et espumas aux fruits de la passion and an assiette de fruits rouges that was heavy on gariguette strawberries.

Addled by the heat, I ordered a coupe upon arrival (Cold ! Fizzy! Refreshing!) without even looking at the price. I’ve never paid 18 euros for a glass of Champagne, but the utter deliciousness of the Moet et Chandon 2002 softened the blow. And I was exceedingly happy with the bottle of Riesling I ordered: Grand Cru Osterberg 2010 Domaine Agapé (53 euros). I will say that their carte de vins is thin on the reasonably-priced end…

Service was cordial and friendly; they didn’t bat an eye at us going next door to buy tranches de jambon and babybel for the small one.

The only drawback to the place that I could see? The fact that we had to make that foray because their only nod in our son’s direction was “maybe he’d like just a plat instead of the whole menu?” It’s the first restaurant I’ve been to in Paris post-Rhys that made absolutely no gesture toward a “child’s plate.” Every place we’ve been (okay, except Le Mary Celeste, but I expected that) has instantly offered something whipped up by the kitchen – pâtes au beurre, un petit steak, risotto, daube de boeuf, etc.
But I’d still go back in a heartbeat.

Café du Dôme

I KNOW. But I was facing open rebellion by tired family members who did not want to walk one more step down rue Saint-Dominique in quest of something I’d actually consider eating in the Eiffel Tower area. Ugh. Steak frites, moules frites, spaghetti bolo, salade nicoise, burger. Bog standard at best. Service nasty and terrible (I know! Let’s wait until we’re serving the entire table before bothering to mention that one person’s order is not available). Stay away at all costs.

Jul 24, 2013
Kelly in France

Loire Valley report: Tours and Villandry

Parigi, thank you! That's high praise from someone whose almost every post I've bookmarked.

Stay tuned - Paris report coming up in mere moments. And I'll get to work on the phone directory.

Jul 24, 2013
Kelly in France

Loire Valley report: Tours and Villandry

We're just back from a week in Ballan-Mire, south of Tours. The Loire is one of my favourite places in the world, and this latest visit just reinforced its position in my personal pantheon. We rented a superb gite, so ate out only twice. We spent the rest of the time drifting around our favourite towns, chateaux, markets, dairies and vineyards and eating/drinking the fruits of our foraging on a sunny terrace, gazing out at forests and fields. :o)

Tours – Le Deuvalière

Very pleased with this Le Fooding recommendation, just steps from the tourist traps on the Place Plumereau. We all went for the three-course lunch menu—an excellent QPR at 17 euros.

Starters were a tomato salad with Munster croquettes – juicy, salty, funky – or a salad of raw and pickled summer vegetables. Gorgeous plating on the latter, with shaved heirloom carrots, radishes, cucumbers and courgettes garnished with baby rocket and pea shoots. The vinaigrette could have done with a bit more salt, but still lovely and refreshing.

We all took the piece de boeuf with purée de pommes de terre for the main. Everything you want a steak and mashed potatoes to be, in the best possible way. Beefy, bloody, creamy and rich.

Third course was a cheese plate (nicely aged, served at the proper temp – two chèvres, a Camembert and a St-Nectaire) or an apricot tart with salted butter caramel ice cream. I’m not a big dessert fan, but I had to control myself from yanking my partner’s plate away from him.

We drank a 2011 Jacky Blot Bourgueil (Mi-Pente) for 29 euros, which worked perfectly. I know and love this producer, but U.S. family members (all fans of burly California wines) were really wowed, which was nice.

Villandry – L’Etape Gourmande

On a sunny day, the setting at this gite-auberge makes up for any and all kitchen missteps, which aren’t major in any event. Sitting in the farm courtyard under the shade of the lime trees, listening to the fountain plashing, watching one’s kid wander off to go visit the chickens and rabbits…it’s a textbook leisurely French country lunch.

I do confess to being capital-H horrified when we left the gardens at Villandry at 12.30 to mosey up the hill to lunch and found a LEAFLET FROM THE RESTAURANT. ON OUR CARS. Shades of Domino’s Pizza. But I just snatched them off the windshields before anyone saw them and crossed my fingers that they hadn’t done a 180-degree spin into dreadfulness in the couple of years since we’d been there. Thankfully, they hadn’t.

After snacking on rillettes de chevre maison, most of us opted for the very good QPR menu déjeuner (three courses for 16 euros):
Terrine de chevre (meh – lacked salt and a bit dry)
Pork tenderloin with orange sauce – tender and serviceable
Prune tart with buttermilk ice cream – delicious, warm, crumbly, buttery and not overly sweet

One person went à la carte, ordering shrimp wrapped in brik pastry with grapefruit gelée and baby vegetables, followed by rabbit, whose preparation I’m drawing a blank on. She raved about both—causing another in the party to order the shrimp…for dessert. I give our server credit for fielding this unorthodox request with aplomb. We drank a relatively undistinguished but serviceable Chinon blanc (22 euros), and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

They offered our four-year-old an off-the-menu hachis parmentier. Rhys turned his nose up, the little git, and the rest of us promptly passed it around the table and devoured it (spurring what would become a recurring comment from my brother-in-law: “I want what the kid’s having!”).

Jul 24, 2013
Kelly in France

[Paris] Quick drink before dinner at le 6 Paul Bert?

Hi 'hounds - I'm meeting a friend for dinner at le 6 Paul Bert next week. Dinner's at 7.30 (early because I've got a train back to Brussels at 10) -- but I can be in the neighbourhood even earlier, say at 6.30. Wondering if you've got any recommendations for a drink before dinner?

I know Les Funambules is just around the corner, but I hear differing reports on whether one can just have a glass of wine/cocktail there.

Jun 28, 2013
Kelly in France